April 11, 2012

Casual Sexism for the . . . Win?

After all these years believing that I am a person despite sensibly keeping my gonads on the inside, the sexism is getting to me.

There are the obvious laws: various attempts to figuratively and literally get inside women's reproductive systems, Wisconsin's regressive non-equal pay shocker, and other legislation that baffles the mind. There's the mud-slinging and conversation that goes along with these things: Limbaugh and other horrible trolls, that cracked.com article about misogyny, Amanda Marcotte's lovely response. In the SF genre, there's this thought-provoking take on the Christopher Priest rant. And many, many more.

I can almost handle most of these things, filing them under "discourse about important topics." In fact, many of the responses do an amazing job of delineating oft-invisible things. But lately I feel like that kid in The Sixth Sense. Except instead of seeing dead people I see sexism. All the time. Some of them don't even know they're sexist.

"So, I should judge her by her attractiveness?"

But really, a lot of them do.

Like the beer commercial that just came on, which ended by saying: "Why are we focusing so much on our brewmaster's hands? Because she's not an attractive woman." Facepalm. I can almost see the makers of this commercial thinking they were subverting expectations by having the brewer be a woman. Maybe they were so shocked by their own daring that they retreated into the comfortable zone of judging women by their appearance.

Or the diet soda commercial, rife with stereotypes about "male" movies, that says explicitly that the product is not for women. I mean, really?

Now that I'm seeing sexism, I see it everywhere. It's on my bookshelf, both in the authors I've read and, as it turns out, in the covers. It's in superhero poses, and embedded in our language. It's in my friends' casual comments--without intent, I'd like to believe. It's in the television.

Finally, a realistic portrayal of male sexuality.


Mad Men is back on the air, and I like the show as much as the next person, which is to say rather a lot. The fascination we collectively seem to have with bygone years has puzzled me since I started raiding my mom's vinyl collection in high school. But now it's downright upsetting me. I don't think I need to explain that the show is rife with casual sexism. It's so overt that it's easy to look at it from our evolved modern perspective and dismiss it, congratulating ourselves on having come so far. Or it was easy, until we started RUNNING backwards. Until I'm living in a world in which senators say things like, "money is more important for men," or compare women to livestock.

And this is the part of the blog post in which I try to clumsily bring it back to fiction. Because TV shows like Mad Men are fiction, are entertainment, are escape. For these things to be popular, they must be giving people something that they crave.

"Tee-hee! I'm just an object."

Retro clothing? Sure.
Unlimited boozing and smoking and extramarital sex? Why not?
Sexism? Please, please no.

I don't know what to do. I can't just help the ghosts avenge their deaths (or whatever) and make them go away. Help me, Bruce Willis! . . . Wait, that didn't sound very empowering, did it?

5 comments:

  1. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being judged favorably because of my looks. I'm more than just a peace of meat. I mean, I am a piece of meat, but that meat does stuff. Interesting stuff. Occasionally.

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    1. Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head: you're joking about being judged by your appearance. It probably seems ridiculous to you, because you're so used to being looked at as an individual. And I'm not saying, "OMG, no one sees me as human because I'm a woman." But it is disproportionately an issue for women. True fact. And it becomes tiring. In fact, I am so tired of noticing sexism that I'm trying hard not to.

      Operation Ostrich begins now.

      (And yeah, I know you're just trying to be funny. No offense taken.)

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    2. I think the best way to fight the badness is to mock it.

      It just sucks because 100% of our society tells us every minute of every day to judge women by their looks. Ever notice that men's magazine's covers have pictures of women on them, and women's magazine covers have picture of...women on them? I try and fight it and sometimes I slip up, but considering the constant bombardment we're under, I think I'm doing pretty well.

      I have no idea how the hell to change this. It's a self-reinforcing circle. Ad execs know that a good looking woman sells product, so they show a lot of good looking women in their ads, which trains boys (and girls) to judge women by their looks, and when those boys and girls grow up to be ad execs...

      Just one more reason I'm totally glad to be a dude. Wow, that last sentence sounded pretty insensitive, didn't it? But at least I'm a dude who >tries<....

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    3. Also, those superhero images you put up broke my childhood. So thanks for that.

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    4. Bwa ha ha! Google "men in female poses" for oodles more (thought-provoking) hilarity.

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