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Author Topic: Strange Sexism  (Read 1038 times)

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Offline SophroniusTopic starter

Strange Sexism
« on: April 26, 2012, 04:24:58 PM »
Something funny happened today that really have me an awful taste in my mouth and I feel that this is a good place to talk about it.  I was arguing with (or trolling, but that's besides the point) somebody on the Economist's comment section when the person I was talking to demanded to know my career status and gender, assuming I was an unemployed female undergraduate because I defended the discipline of gender studies in theory (I said that it was, in theory, a useful discipline).  Well, I made up a job that would sound impressve to him (I'm going to assume this person was a man and you shall see why below) to shut him up and said that my gender did not matter.

So, at this point, he says that I must be a woman.  At this point, I checked my genitals to be sure I am a man and found that I had not mystically changed genders.  But let's look at all the sorts of sexism in that claim of his:

1. My gender has some impact on the validity of my arguments.
2. Only a woman would be interested in the study of gender issues.
3. A woman would want to hide her gender online for no particular reason.

And then he implied that I could only work in an office as a personal assistant or secretary, moving the sexism from implicit to overt.  I'm surprised he didn't just say to make him a sandwich - if you're going to be a complete asshole, you might as well go for broke.  Right?

Offline SinXAzgard21

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 04:33:39 PM »
This is typical behavior you see from males online.  Though I will take that sammich.... ^^

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2012, 04:43:30 AM »
Yes, it's a very typical strategy to try to tag the person one is up against with some properties that make him/her look inferior, self-serving and whiny. For instance:

A is arguing that women should not be sacked or blocked from on-the-job promotion when they opt to have children. Troll P says "Girl, you have to choose whether you want to be at home with your kids on benefits or you'd like to make an effort and invest in a career that's gonna last. You clearly don't want a career, do you?"

B is arguing that it costs a fortune to even get a modest apartment, a roof over one's head, today and that the input of new, affordable apartments for young people needs a boost. Troll Q scoffs "Ah, you're one of those who want the state to buy you a posh place to live instead of you working a little for it? When my parents were twenty-two they married and bought their own condo by their own wages that's the way to go."

C is arguing against DADT in the (U.S.) military and saying the only sensible thing is to let people be open about their sexual preferences and that gays/lesbians are not more predatory than other people. Troll R says "Yeah, just like you and your buddies need to corrupt the military for your pervy purposes! We are supposed to fight, not to sob around or sleep with each other in the bunkers. Get out!"


And yes, sexism often goes into it. I remember with some amusement the first times I actually adopted a female ID online, it was on some forums about song lyrics. Even though I hardly made any gender-related comments at all I got a great deal of crap as a wimpy or uppity girl for posting irreverent comments about a number of acts (the guys got furious when "Cindy" opined that The Offspring's Self Esteem was a canard and the band a cheap rip-off of Nirvana).  ;)

It works impressively because online, on a forum or in a comments field, it is hard to prove or decisively counter-prove who or what you are, and with someone that's as disparaging as in those examples, you don't want to feed them or look like you're begging to be accepted: "No-o, I'm really not a jobless girl and anyway what would it matter?". And in an open online thread, it's often hard to force someone's POV down by arguing that it is self-contradictory or evades basic facts, that it proposes a solution that's already been tried and shown to fail, that they are skewing key facts or that there's a dirty underbelly to their case, something they lean on but don't want to fully own up to. Personal punches, 'stories' or "You're a LIAR - see these facts ->link" work much better and are easier to repeat: "you still haven't answered my demonstration that you're a self-serving liar" and so on.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 04:58:59 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline SophroniusTopic starter

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2012, 06:52:23 AM »
Really, the more I think about this, the more I think this is just a sign of my own privilege - given that I'm experiencing something new.  It just felt so weird to have someone ask "what sex are you," for me to answer "I don't want to say," and for the response to be "lol, ur a gurl."

I'd like to note that the moderators did remove the comment, unfortunately it was before I had a chance to yell at/troll the guy more.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 07:06:56 AM by Sophronius »

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2012, 07:24:23 AM »
I think it's happening on several other parameters as well. On IMDB (which houses discussions on a great deal of things other than just films - every single person who's ever been employed or appeared in a listed film or tv production - that is pretty much everybody in 20th century culture and history - and every listed film, they all have their own subforums, plus there are a number of non-cinema general forums, so there is ample room for discussion, trolling and gossip about celebrities, politics, music and so on) it often looks as if everyone is assumed to be either North American or British, or possibly Irish or French. At least if you're expressing yourself in decent English and not immediately giving away that you're from some other corner. As soon as you stick your neck out, you may enter some American/Brit turf war. Come to think of it, sexism and anti-LGBT prejudice are rampant on some of those forums too though.

Employed/unemployed is a big one too, often translated into capable/no-good, however absurd that is today. Someone put it that it's easier today to come out as gay than to "out yourself" in public as someone who is not running your own economy comfortably, who doesn't have a good job and the typical shoppy middle-class attributes. I don't want to put two groups against each other but I believe there's a lot of truth to that assessment, at least in northern Europe where homophobia has weakened a great deal during the last twenty years while belief in the self-made career has strengthened.

But yes, sexism often is the key one. I'd like to think it's a good learning experience to feel what it's like to be on one's knees and looked down at as "just a chick". Probably once in a while, but hardly if it's a permanent condition.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 07:44:01 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2012, 10:30:55 AM »
The proper response to when someone accuses you of being a girl on the internet?

"Half."

And watch them freak out. ;D

Offline SophroniusTopic starter

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2012, 11:20:36 AM »
I guess the thing that was most jarring was the idea that a woman should be ashamed of her sex/gender.  And not as a group, like saying "I am ashamed of all other men" but as an individual.  It just was just shocking.

And yes, that would freak them out.  I'm sure implying that you are transexual, transgendered, third-gendered, or that you "don't like to be labeled as a certain sex/gender" would also really bother most people - though then it would probably degrade into much more hostile bigotry.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2012, 12:04:22 PM »
I guess the thing that was most jarring was the idea that a woman should be ashamed of her sex/gender.  And not as a group, like saying "I am ashamed of all other men" but as an individual.  It just was just shocking.


I reckon the defence line of the guy who called you out on this (and I'm sure you're right it was a male) was that by defending academic gender studies and the assumptions made by some of its theories, you were trying to exploit a bogus set of values and differences and sell it as solid points of view, and only a woman would want to do that, for only a jobless, ugly or obstinate girl would feel she had something to gain by this. So under the skin, his insult really meant "you're begging for your own sick mom, you are inventing some non-valid arguments to make men feel guilty because that's what gender studies is about". Women who really make it, on their own merits, don't need any gender talk and by succeeeding they disprove the whole thing.

If you had replied "no, I'm a man" he might have said "If you really are, then you disqualify yourself according to the whole gender business thing. Genderists think men are inferior to women, and they also assert a man can never understand what it's like to be a woman, so you don't really have anything to build on here, pussy!" (note: these put-downs about gender studies are the way it's seen by some "pick-up artist men" or wannabees of that tribe, they are not something I would buy into as blanket statements).

 In the same vein, I remember a lively thread on the IMDB Alicia Keys board where someone had stated that Ms Keys was trying too hard to be black. Now, she is black, as someone pointed out (she's of mixed race, but at least half her parentage is black, and the rest hispanic isn't it?; she grew up largely in black neighbourhoods, and chose long before she broke through to assert that part of her background). The allegation - many people agreed with it - was really: she is trying to buy into something she has no right to, and for dubious reasons, to victimize herself, or something.

Another thread on the same board said, Alicia Keys speaks and behaves like a lesbian. The idea was that she was not feminine: she was not girly in an accepted way, not flirty, too head-on, not acting as if she'd wanted to be part of the dating game or stepping a bit to the side of the boys.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 12:13:42 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline SophroniusTopic starter

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2012, 12:32:29 PM »
Maybe it's just me, but when I think of stereotypical annoying, misinformed gender studies undergrad I tend to think that person is a gay man, not a woman.  Though, that's probably because the annoying, misinformed gender studies undergrad I knew was a gay man.  But I definitely understood why he was asking and all, but it was just really irked me.

But the Alicia Keys thread is really funny.  You know, in a sad, ironic way, since it's incredibly easy to imagine that if she "acted more white" people would be complaining that she's black and should "act black" because she's "black" by the one drop rule.  It's a problem that is, I'm sure, especially difficult to people who sit outside of well defined (and popularly well known) labels, since any move to either side represents both a "betrayal" and trying to be something that you "aren't."  But really, it can also be true of anyone acting outside of the expected or socially acceptable realm of behavior.

And yes, the person I was "speaking" with was also slamming the idea of what he called "victim studies."  An audible sigh.  At least it was fun to continuously call him a philistine.

Offline SilentScreams

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2012, 12:42:10 PM »
I don't think that it's sexism, however. The majority of internet boards, especially the ones I've sen and that are attached to news articles or opinion pieces, are absurd. Everyone is angry, all the time, and no one seems to want or even try to engage in any discourse. Rather, as soon as you say something someone doesn't agree with they are immediately a "liberal", "conservative", "woman", "fag", "bastard", "dyke", "Christian", etc. etc.

I've been ridiculed by total strangers before when I'm agreeing with the general point of their argument but it a roundabout, nuanced way. I don't believe that the person on the other end is incapable of understanding what I'm saying, rather they can't, or more likely won't, take the time to understand what I'm saying and that I'm agreeing with them.

We live in a sound byte world where it's more entertaining and more satisfying to insult people rather then to attempt to understand what they are saying or their point of view.

I would argue, Sophronius, that wherever you steered the conversation the results would have been the same. The person you were arguing with was most likely just looking for an uncivil fight rather then actual discourse. Had you told the other that you were male you still would have been insulted.

I don't see it as sexism so much as incivility.

I have been insulted in some truly bizarre and laughable manners before. Including one time where I was accused of being a tranny because "no educated girl" could argue what I was arguing and, therefore, I "must have a dick".

The majority of what's online is just shouting matches of nonsense.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2012, 01:14:47 PM »
I have been insulted in some truly bizarre and laughable manners before. Including one time where I was accused of being a tranny because "no educated girl" could argue what I was arguing and, therefore, I "must have a dick".


That's too funny!  :-) You should have replied "I don't need no dicks around - least of all on myself!"  8-)


Quote
I don't think that it's sexism, however. The majority of internet boards, especially the ones I've sen and that are attached to news articles or opinion pieces, are absurd. Everyone is angry, all the time, and no one seems to want or even try to engage in any discourse. Rather, as soon as you say something someone doesn't agree with they are immediately a "liberal", "conservative", "woman", "fag", "bastard", "dyke", "Christian", etc. etc.

I've been ridiculed by total strangers before when I'm agreeing with the general point of their argument but it a roundabout, nuanced way. I don't believe that the person on the other end is incapable of understanding what I'm saying, rather they can't, or more likely won't, take the time to understand what I'm saying and that I'm agreeing with them.

Yes, that's happened to me too - the person you're arguing with won't have anything less than total acceptance of their own thesis in its bare form, and if you don't accept that, while still agreeing with some, or much, of the specific criticism they make, he/she turns at you in anger. Like, "You refuse to understand how scientifically true my analysis is". I've come across some advanced examples of that, people who had a really far-out agenda at the bottom, who could be perceptive but who were completely hellbent on selling their own punchline.

Punchlines and dramatically far-out statements are what sell a text on the internet - and also in the non-virtual media of today. Shouting "The Department of Justice wants to make us all into sex slaves!" or "Sarah Palin is my Fuehrer (and she's yours too, dear public - only you don't want to own up to it)!" pull readers in a lot more efficiently than any reasoned thinking. (The second of those two headlines is genuine, it was put on here in Sweden by a newly hired tabloid columnist trying to sell her person, incidentally Palin is/was even less revered here than in the US; the first one is my invention but it's in the style one gets to hear of course). Reasoned debate isn't easy to do in a completely open space where everyone is anonymous and any John Blow can get in and post any number of rude comments - or invent a story about who he/she is. It's a totally different kind of debate space than a newspaper or panel debate with a number of qualified speakers and a silent, but attentive, audience whose members you're supposed to try to convince from the stage, and to show that you can stand up to scrutiny from the others.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 01:25:30 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline SophroniusTopic starter

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2012, 02:11:39 PM »
I don't think that it's sexism, however. The majority of internet boards, especially the ones I've sen and that are attached to news articles or opinion pieces, are absurd. Everyone is angry, all the time, and no one seems to want or even try to engage in any discourse. Rather, as soon as you say something someone doesn't agree with they are immediately a "liberal", "conservative", "woman", "fag", "bastard", "dyke", "Christian", etc. etc.

I've been ridiculed by total strangers before when I'm agreeing with the general point of their argument but it a roundabout, nuanced way. I don't believe that the person on the other end is incapable of understanding what I'm saying, rather they can't, or more likely won't, take the time to understand what I'm saying and that I'm agreeing with them.

While I agree with what you're saying here (and elsewhere in this post, I just didn't want to quote it all), I'm not 100% certain it applies.  If he had simply made offensive comments I would have simply chalked it up to someone being uncivil.  To a certain extent, I would have been left with a much better taste in my mouth if I had simply been called something.  I suppose because, like you said, name calling is just a fast recourse to someone who does not want to think.  But I guess what stood out as strange was that he wasn't only name calling - he was also making basic assumptions based on something I admitted I have little/no interest in but defended in theory (not in practice) I was instantly of one gender?  I suppose, though, the fact that he quickly degraded to more casual, run of the mill offensive comments means that perhaps I am wrong.  Perhaps if I said I was a man I would have been a "queer" and things would not have changed. 

Almost certianly it would have been a better example of what I meant to illustrate if he had assumed I was a woman and then made no explicit, negative comment based off of that assumption.  If it was just, "Alright, you're a woman.  Now that that's done with..."  Then the sexism would have been something subtle and more interesting than just degrading into bland offensive territory.

Offline Shjade

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2012, 02:30:12 PM »
There's nothing strange about this, really. It's in the same vein as being called "kid" when you argue with someone because they want to condescend to you and feel that assuming you're younger than they are will accomplish that goal (and, of course, if you note your age and turn out to be older than they are, then you're too old to be doing whatever it is you're doing and need to GTFO), or a fag, or whatever other term they feel is sufficiently demeaning to "win" the argument for them. Pretty standard ad hominem, just given a sexist flavor, and all too popular these days.

Offline SophroniusTopic starter

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2012, 02:33:14 PM »
I was referring more to the group of assumptions that led to the name calling rather than the name calling itself, particularly the assumption that one group has more to gain by hiding their identity within it than another.  As I said above, I would have thought it less unusual if I have been out and out called a name.

Offline SilentScreams

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2012, 02:42:41 PM »
I believe, without much reflection, that what I'm most upset about (I won't say offended because I don't get offended) is how easy it is to marginalize someone and assume that they must think and act a certain way because of their race/gender/sexual orientation.

I'm highly educated and female and extremely liberal when it comes to some things and very conservative when it comes to others. I'm not a whore or a slut because I'm sexually liberated and engage in some things others call taboo. Conversely, I'm not a fascist because I believe in a largely isolationist, conservative foreign policy.

If I have to identify myself I'm a libertarian, I believe in a small federal government that provides extremely limited social services to people relying instead on private charity. I'm pro legalization for prostitution and most soft drugs. As a result, I often am the target of the ire of adherents of both parties on message boards. The most frustrating thing I find is that any sort of rational discourse is impossible. People use words they don't understand the meaning of, resort to name calling, and all too often repeat the same trite nonsense that their respective parties propagate time and time again. 

When I say something liberal, I'm automatically a typical lib bitch, and when I say something conservative I'm an uneducated, out of touch Christian. It's all a bunch of nonsense.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2012, 03:41:25 PM »
Interestingly, a guy once told me in the check-out queue of the supermarket "Don't be such a woman" and then went off into a brief rant about how men are being feminized today by being raised by divorced mothers, in a society that doesn't exult he-man virtues: the cowboy or the hard-drinking, hard-working factory guy etc. You guessed it: I was not looking the least womanly at that point, and wasn't giving any clue to my inner leanings toward femininity.

 I think what triggered his remark was that I made a casual, quick gesture to clear the check-out rolling tape of some item that had been left there by accident because I realized that the little tube or chocolate bar would get in the way of everyone coming next,  but that no one would know where to put it and some would feel nervous about touching it because they might think "what if the guy who bought that one is just on the other side of the counter?". People around here tend to feel up-tight about that kind of thing sometimes, no one wants to attract the attention of strangers in a queue by making an apparent blooper, or even by getting into a lively conversation with them. Well, caring to manage things, to make it neat for those who come after must have seemed a woman thing to him. Men just aren't supposed to bother to make things tidy if they don't have to.

Now, that guy didn't sound condescending to me in tone (if he had said "Don't be a prissy missy" or something like that, I would have made him shut up at once) and very few people heard the exchange between us. But what he said was condescending to women as a group, of course.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2012, 04:38:27 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Shjade

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2012, 10:33:01 PM »
I was referring more to the group of assumptions that led to the name calling rather than the name calling itself, particularly the assumption that one group has more to gain by hiding their identity within it than another.  As I said above, I would have thought it less unusual if I have been out and out called a name.

The assumption is more about your refusal to respond: if you're a guy (which would have defeated his question), you would have said so. Thus, because you didn't, you must be a girl.

It's not rational, but it is logical, in a twisted sort of way.

Offline Cythieus

Re: Strange Sexism
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2012, 04:29:15 AM »
Something funny happened today that really have me an awful taste in my mouth and I feel that this is a good place to talk about it.  I was arguing with (or trolling, but that's besides the point) somebody on the Economist's comment section when the person I was talking to demanded to know my career status and gender, assuming I was an unemployed female undergraduate because I defended the discipline of gender studies in theory (I said that it was, in theory, a useful discipline).  Well, I made up a job that would sound impressve to him (I'm going to assume this person was a man and you shall see why below) to shut him up and said that my gender did not matter.

So, at this point, he says that I must be a woman.  At this point, I checked my genitals to be sure I am a man and found that I had not mystically changed genders.  But let's look at all the sorts of sexism in that claim of his:

1. My gender has some impact on the validity of my arguments.
2. Only a woman would be interested in the study of gender issues.
3. A woman would want to hide her gender online for no particular reason.

And then he implied that I could only work in an office as a personal assistant or secretary, moving the sexism from implicit to overt.  I'm surprised he didn't just say to make him a sandwich - if you're going to be a complete asshole, you might as well go for broke.  Right?

I get mistaken for a woman sometimes because I write articles on a feminism website and care about sexism. I've also been called outside of my race for things I've said too, people are just too stupid to realize you can support equality without being the group you're fighting for.