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"Fed up"

Kathleen Geier on the new misogyny in The Washington Monthly, of all places:

In recent weeks, I’ve been participating in many earnest conversations about these issues, online and off, with other feminists. One issue we’ve discussed is whether women are still making progress toward equality, or whether that progress has halted, or even reversed itself. For a lot of reasons, this is a difficult question to answer. ... [M]y argument, which thus far is more impressionistic than data-driven, is that women’s progress has indeed stalled. Are women better off now than they were 50 years ago, in the bad old retrograde, Mad Men days? Absolutely. But have we progressed much in the past 20 years? It’s my contention that we haven’t. ...

One way in which things are much, much worse for women these days than 20 years ago is the sheer amount of virulent misogyny that is openly expressed, and tolerated, in our society. It feels to me that, in many ways, our culture is much more openly sexist now that it was then. ....

There’s an extremely nasty edge to much of this running media commentary about women. It’s not just garden variety sexism, because it’s very conscious of itself and a lot of it is clearly driven by pure hatred. ....

Well-known men have publicly referred to women using terms that they never would have thrown around openly, say, 25 years ago. Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank calls Hillary Clinton a “mad bitch”; Bill Maher calls Sarah Palin a “c—-“; Ed Schultz calls Laura Ingraham a “slut.” This kind of viciously sexist insult is thrown around casually by many men in public life, who almost never suffer negative career consequences for it. (That Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers are deserting him en masse for his comments about Sandra Fluke is a striking anomaly). ...

ometimes I think the new misogyny is actually a sign of feminism’s success, and that most of the sexism is perpetrated by old white guys bitter about using the patriarchal power they once had, yet refuse to go gentle into that good night. But plenty of young men engage in this kind of behavior as well — witness the ugly behavior of those male students at Columbia University. Perhaps the horrible economy and the increasingly stressful lives and economic insecurity of the 99% have made people in general a lot meaner, and specifically made men more likely to scapegoat women for the problems in their lives, financial and otherwise. Who knows.

What I do know is that the women I talk to and the women writers I read seem to be getting increasingly fed up. And it’s not only self-described feminists who are angry and frustrated; a lot of women with more moderate political views are every bit as disgusted. You know things have really gotten bad when you read that the venerable Southern Poverty Law Center is now including misogynists as one of the “hate groups” it monitors.

Nice post. Sweetie.

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Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

I went to link, read article, and then read the comments. The comments all in all are just great! Very much worth reading, imho.

Just as a personal reflection, when Larry Summers offered his opinion that women aren't able to "do science" as well as men, because they lack the genetic endowment, that was a point of profound and personal discouragement for me. It started me thinking that it is simply a lose lose situation for women to become scientists. I had fought this battle for so long, since the early 70s, that it made me conclude that the battle is no longer worth fighting. And, that I could no longer counsel in good faith that any woman to go into Academic Science.

I got my share of this starting way back when. These a few personal experiences, which are simply some examples- sexually harassed by a Bio prof in college, told by my thesis advisor that he paid the guy in the lab b/c that was the only way to make him do the work, whereas he could count on me to do it for free. Told after one grad school interview "you are the only girl we didn't make cry", and then got hit upon repeatedly by one of the interviewing profs, who continued to phone my mother to try to get in contact with me, after I'd chosen another grad school.

Being horribly bullied by two different male Dept chairs, after I had tenure, with no recourse b/c no "Ombudsman" to take complaints to. It's a hard to case to make that "bullying" is sexual discrimination, b/c these two bullied males, where they could get away with it.

I have come to the conclusion that even the "nicest" of men (not the two above!) can act in ways that are sexist, and don't even realize that they are doing so. Because they simply don't "get it" to how their behavior resonates with women. And, I would also say that there are women in Academia (elsewhere too, I expect) who have totally aligned themselves with the worst of male behavior, and practice that. Putting down other women, so that they can be successful in a "man's world". Queen Bees.

Great description of "Queen Bees"

snip ~~This paper suggests that moving some women into senior leadership is insufficient to promote women in the workplace. Especially in a culture with ongoing reminders of gender bias, some women leaders may become less likely to advance (and may even hinder) the careers of other women.~~

~~Women’s advancement in academia and corporations has generally been limited to the lower tiers. Upper levels of leadership often lack women or include just a few. Often these women become Queen Bees who emphasize how they differ from other women. These differences from the rest of the females has allowed them to succeed in a male-dominated culture. Indeed, thy may often deny the existence of sexism and blame lack of advancement for others on their “girly” qualities.

Obviously, these women leaders do not help other women get ahead.~~~

Above is my report and impressions from the Academic Arena.

And, uh, no, I don't think sexism and misogyny has altered much from the 1960s onward, though the "tone" of the conversation has changed.

Submitted by Fran on

Susan Faludi wrote a widely read book on the subject, called 'Backlash'. I have actually not read it myself.

Right after 911, I felt a notable increase in bullying. It was like they felt it was OK to come out of the woodwork. Then I found Susan Faludi's book "The Terror Dream', which validated my feelings. She says that 911 led to a call for manly men heroes and withering females in need of protection - witness Jessica Lynch myth. If you are not an adoring female, they cannot be manly men - they are counterparts.

In both books she puts events in historical context, and talks about why there are ups and downs in different periods of history.

I think that the economic pressures add to it, in that more dominant groups always start to dump on what they perceive to be 'others' when there is competition for jobs.

I personally have been distressed to see girls, with their Mothers' encouragement, acting and dressing more 'girly girl' than we ever did in my day.

Pkeg's picture
Submitted by Pkeg on

It seems worse to me than 30 years ago -- the culture is far more militaristic. It's almost as though the misogyny was always there but, as women advanced (however little), men had to get super macho in order to distinguish themselves from the hated Other.

Which sucks for them, actually, because a man who aspires to the misogynist ideal is pretty easy to push around.

Submitted by Hugh on

Misogyny is an aspect of class war in that it splits us up and sets one group against another. In doing so, it devalues and disempowers all of us.

We can't have a national discussion on misogyny, racism, wealth inequality, societal fairness, or really anything not sanctioned by our elites. They wouldn't hear of it. They would erect a wall of noise as they always do.

I think the net can help us get past that wall and get the message out that to overcome the forces that are keeping us all down we need to pull together, and that means valuing each other and all our contributions.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

in ways which allow people to further dismiss this perception that things are getting worse. The words that Rush used to describe Sandra Fluke are just called "naughty", rather than sexist. They seem tame compared to what is heard every day in the media, after all. So-called liberals I know are defending Rush, as though his hate speech is the same thing as free speech. And when you try to challenge them, they put their fingers in their ears and yell to drown you out. Feminist arguements are hardly ever perceived as reasonable. The moment you mention any such thing, you're a wild-eyed irrational dreamer/man-hater. It's so discouraging.

I really think that commercialism has contributed significantly, too. It leads to the idea that the created reality is total, and natural, and impervious to challenge, because marketing gets into every crack and cranny of almost every house in the nation. I've had other mothers say to me (regarding the pinkification of girls), "Well, how do you keep it out of your house? They *want* to wear it." It's like saying, my dog loves to eat rat poison, so how can I ever say no to him? My mom has been horrified by how hard it is to find non-pink clothes for her granddaughters.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

In the 70s when I was a teen, women and girls were being assisted in getting into math and science, having opportunities not available to us before in leadership positions. Yah, we worked twice as hard to get in positions created as a quota for equality's sake, and twice as hard to stay there - but at least we were in. And men either assumed we should be there or shut up about thinking we shouldn't.

Now, there's no way I would advise a female to get into software development or any sort of technical position. Not worth the hassle/harassment, the continuous drip of having to prove every instant of every day to folks with a penis that you can think without one.

Although it's also true that I wouldn't advise anyone to go into tech right now, since all the jobs are being offshored.