Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Isla Vista and Systemic Misogyny (your wives, sisters, mothers,daughters).

With the awful news coming out of UCSB, there has been a lot of chatter. And many people have already expressed outrage and anger at all of the apologists out there. Of course, it is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly share.

For those unfamiliar, there are people blaming women for what this individual did-- basically saying that if only women had given him sex or love, this wouldn't have happened. 

When you break down the logic of these misogynists and rape culture perpetuators, it actually becomes really terrifying.

Let me just take a minute to explain what some people [mostly men] are ACTUALLY saying when they say that women are--at least partially, if not wholly--to blame for what happened in Isla Vista. They are saying the following:

Men are entitled to a woman's body, to sex from women, to affection from women-- otherwise this could happen. [this being murder]. Therefore, women have a responsibility to men to give them sex.

Women, by contrast, are not entitled to walk down the street alone, to get drunk at parties, to wear provocative clothing (all entitlements granted to men, I might add) --at least, they are not permitted to do so with the expectation of not being raped. 

Basically-- women are entitled to NOTHING. We are not entitled to the rights to our own bodies, we are not entitled to the right to our privacy, we are not entitled to even expect our own safety, let alone enjoy our own safety.

There was a study recently that demonstrated that when men look at scantily clad women, the part of their brains associated with tools lights up. That's right-- tools. Things that you use.  Objects. Their brains actually dehumanize them.

This is, of course, frightening. I have had many conversations with men who are content to tell me that men and women are biologically different, and sure. I admit that biological differences do exist. That's how there is procreation, after all. But to say that a biological difference is responsible for the way men view women as objects to be used rather than people to be respected is something I just can't (and won't) subscribe to. No, a biological difference is not responsible for men viewing women as objects to be used--it's that, in society, through government (you'll never win, unless you get the votes of women!), marketing ([attractive] women as tools to sell products),the entertainment industry ('hot' women in music videos to give the audience the idea of success)--men are taught that women are tools, that they are means to an [a man's] end, and that what they want doesn't  actually matter.

Recently, I came across a post on Facebook that said the following: 

"Some girls be [sic] complaining about having kids or having to buy certain things for there [sic] kids. Well a friend told me [redacted] that you can't get pregnant by swallowing, lol keep that in mind ladies."

Followed by a comment from [redacted] that said: "...anal works too plus with both they can't use its [sic] that time of the month shit either."

Because... Heaven forbid women should withhold the sexual gratification of males-- even during times when the lining of their uteruses are vacating their bodies, often causing great pain, the primary concern for a woman should be the pleasure of a male. (Not to mention that the burden of pregnancy prevention is entirely with the female). This, people, is what living in a society where women are treated as commodities produces: careless young men, who see women as present only for their needs or enjoyment. 

If you look at the society in which these things are happening (of course, these things happen all over the world to varying degrees, but for the purposes of this piece, I am concentrating on American culture), it becomes clear that the misogyny present--the misogyny that led this individual to commit these crimes, is systemic. We have never had a female president. Women in this country make 75 cents to every dollar that a man makes. There are few women in leadership positions in the Fortune 500 companies that wield so much power. Despite the fact that we are half of the population, we are treated as second class citizens.

1 in 6* women will be raped. 1 in 4* women will be victims of domestic violence (or relationship violence, etc.)--to think that these staggering numbers are unrelated to the fact that we reside in a society in which women are treated as prizes, as commodities, and as tools for sexual gratification, for marketing, for men to use-- is a gross oversight. 

When thinking of women as tools, it is important to understand the role marketing plays. Specifically, Carl's Jr. commercials come to mind-- we never see a toned, muscular firefighter with a six pack eating a burger by himself, ketchup falling off his burger onto his hardened pectoral muscle as he swiped it up with his finger, and licks it off with a seductive gaze into the camera. 

No. That role is always played by women. In fact, there was a commercial like that with a woman as the star during this years Super Bowl, one of the most watched television events in the entire world. Carl's Jr. paid millions of dollars to place an add objectifying women (because that somehow sells burgers?) that was downright uncomfortable to watch with my father, brother, and grandfather sitting in the same room. 

What message does this send to people watching? Both men and women can see that clearly women exist for the visual gratification of men--and if you can sell a few burgers in the process, why not.

It may seem like I've gotten off topic, but that's kind of the point: I haven't. It's systemic-- men are taught by society (namely other men, as they are the ones usually in charge of government, advertising, financing), that women are objects to be used. 

And if a woman will not allow you to use her. If she asks you to think of her as anything more than a sex object, or marketing tool, then she is to be condemned and hated. She is a bitch. Or she is a prude. Or she is any number of negative things.

Let me just get freaky for a second: the only responsibility we, as women have, is to ourselves. The only person who can use us as a tool is ourself. 

We are not looking to outsource the ownership of our bodies, our desire, our selves. You have done that enough for us already.

So, who is to blame for the shooting? The shooter. And society. And the men who stand idly by as women are used and abused and made to feel Less Than. The men who sit idly by saying women should give sex, that women can't wear provocative clothes and still expect to maintain the right to their own bodies. The men who sit idly by and say and do these things without realizing that women are their wives, their sisters, their mothers, their daughters. Or worse, ones who do realize and sit idly by.

I am reminded of a spoken word poem by Andrea Gibson about rape that ends like this:

"She's not asking what you're going to tell your daughters--she's asking what you're going to teach your sons."

So, teach your sons that a woman doesn't owe anyone but herself any damn thing. And that's just a starting point.

*these statistics are constantly in flux, and it's impossible to know the true numbers because crimes of this nature are largely underreported. 

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