See also: I do not turn off my feminism.
This week’s takedown is one of those. It’s supposed to be funny because HAHAHA women want equality but they are too simple-minded to understand equality, HAHAHA! Gender equality is a joke!
Here you go. It’s not pretty. Just like a feminist. Get it? FEMINISTS ARE UGLY! HAHAHA!
In my house growing up, we had a bunch of cats and dogs, all living together in relative harmony. Most of the cats got along well with most of the dogs, but there was one dog who was a known cat-killer. We all knew that if a cat was having any issues with a dog, we had to take it seriously, because dogs are physically able to cause serious damage. If a cat was having a problem with a dog, it wasn’t like it was not important, but you couldn’t say it was the same. It wasn’t the same. Cats spent their entire lives on the lookout for the dogs, and much of their existence factored in the best ways to avoid conflict with dogs. Dogs had the luxury of thinking about cats when it was convenient for them.
The thing is, whether people want to believe it or not, men hold power in the world that women do not. In virtually all spheres of life, men are the “dogs” in the above analogy, and women are the cats. Suggesting that men’s actions in a man’s world should be treated the same as women’s actions in a man’s world is absurd. The world is set up in a certain way, and the way that the players act out within the norms of that world will be different.
Let’s talk for a second about power. Power, according to Joelle Ruby Ryan, a University of New Hampshire lecturer of Women Studies, is:
Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs in order to lead a comfortable, productive, and safe life. Power also refers to the ability of individuals or groups to induce or influence the beliefs or actions of other persons or groups.
Power comes in many forms; the fact that men have the upper hand physically, politically, and economically, among others, makes it impossible to compare women’s actions and their responses to men’s actions and their responses. They are not the same.
Let’s take a look at some facts and statistics, shall we?
Physically: “On average, males are physically stronger than females. The difference is due to females, on average, having less total muscle mass than males, and also having lower muscle mass in comparison to total body mass.”
We all want to believe that we live in a post-sizal world, that our biggest weapons are our brains and physical size doesn’t matter. That is simply not true.
According to the United Nations report on the World’s Women (summarized in Wikigender):
- “Violence against women is a universal phenomenon.”
- “Women are subjected to different forms of violence – physical, sexual, psychological and economic – both within and outside their homes.”
- “Rates of women experiencing physical violence at least once in their lifetime vary from several per cent to over 59 per cent depending on where they live.”
- “In many regions of the world longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept abuse.”
Men are physically stronger than women. So that top left square, where women are supposedly brave if they hit men, while men are evil, brutal perverts if they hit women? First, it’s inaccurate. Anybody who has ever seen Teen Mom‘s Amber and Gary knows that women are equally prohibited from hitting men as men are women. But the poster is trying to suggest that socially, women are “allowed” to hit men, and men are not “allowed” to hit women. This is bullshit, but even if it were true, it wouldn’t be because men are somehow discriminated against while women get to do whatever they want. Men tend to be stronger than women; they have a large advantage over women in this sense. People root for the underdog.
More importantly, take another look at the fourth bullet point above. In much of the world, women are expected to accept abuse. The person who made this poster may have anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but when the U.N. says that violence against women at the hands of men is a problem, and that women are just supposed to take it, I’ll believe them over somebody who thinks stick figures and opinions somehow make things true.
The second square (I’m going to go clockwise from the top left) is also bullshit, also because of physical power. Let’s remove gender from the situation, and instead focus on size. A large man suddenly kissing a small woman can be seen as a threat, and not romantic. Same as a large woman suddenly kissing a small man. This isn’t about gender, it’s about power, and men tend to have physical power over women.
There is another factor that trumps gender: the recipient’s desire. Regardless of gender, if the attention is unwanted, neither situation is seen as romantic. Is it wanted? If so, both situations are perceived as romantic. Has the artist never seen any romantic comedy/Disney movie/any movie ever?
If you suddenly came upon a situation like this, where one person unexpectedly kissed another, you wouldn’t judge it based on gender. You would judge it based on the reaction of the kissee.
The third square is equally absurd. Back to the U.N. report: “Women spend at least twice as much time as men on domestic work, and when all work — paid and unpaid — is considered, women work longer hours than men do.” The thing is, it’s not that men do all the work and women are weak little babies who want to be lazy so men can continue to do the work. It’s that traditionally, when men do work, it is valued (socially as well as economically). It’s not that men do more work, just the opposite. Women do more work, but get less credit. Gender equality, my ass.
The fourth box, about splitting the bill. First, I may be new-fashioned, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a date where splitting of the bill wasn’t done in some fashion (unless it was a specific gift as in, “Hey, I want to take you out to dinner because you are the most wonderful person alive, and I’m sorry I wrecked your car”). Are dudes really still expected to pay for the whole bill?
The truth is, they should be. Women are making an average of $.77 for every dollar that men make, for the same work and controlling for all sorts of variables. Women have less money to spend on luxuries, are more likely to be in poverty than men, and, oh yeah, are picking up all the slack at home so they don’t have any extra time to go out and get an extra job to pay for dinners at a restaurant. I personally can’t imagine not splitting the bill, because I’m a crotchety old feminist, but give us equal pay for equal work, and maybe everybody will look more kindly on bill-splitting.
I’m going to concede the fourth square. The sad truth is that male victims of sexual assault aren’t taken seriously. I’m not sure what this has to do with gender equality, though; every person I know who would fight for gender equality would like to see this rectified. It’s not like the feminists are winning if male victims of sexual abuse are kept invisible. But you know what would help to fix this situation? If everybody starts thinking that domestic violence is an awful idea and needs to be stopped, for everyone. Using it as a punchline does the opposite.
The next square — if a woman stares at a man’s crotch, it is flirting? I’m so confused by this. I’ve never heard of women staring at a man’s crotch in order to flirt, and when I tried to Google search it, what I came up with were a bunch of people asking, “Do women stare at men’s crotches?” and other people saying, “no,” as well as some seemingly hopeful blog posts by men about women doing this. I think that… the artist of the cartoon is just mistaken.
And finally: men going into women’s bathrooms versus women going into men’s bathrooms. I can’t find statistical evidence about this, so I will tell you a story that I haven’t told a soul for the past 20 years. In junior high, two of my friends and I were in the bathroom in the shower area of the locker room. The locker room was set up so there were two changing rooms separated by an open shower area with a small bathroom stall. We were the last ones left in the locker room, we were doing our makeup in the bathroom stall, and somehow, the high school men’s basketball team came in to get ready for their game, or maybe they had just finished their game, I don’t remember. We were mortified. We pushed our bodies against the stall door so that nobody could open it, because we were terrified that somebody would know it was us. We screwed our eyes up tight so that we wouldn’t accidentally see some boy parts. We waited in the bathroom until all of the guys had left, and then we ran out. We were mortified.
When it comes to accidentally being in the wrong bathroom, if somebody is mortified, they are going to be treated like they made a mistake. If somebody is leering around, ogling all the potentially naked people, and drooling, they’re going to be treated like a pervert. It has nothing to do with gender.
So. The picture is inaccurate, and not clearly thought through, and yet, because it is telling a “joke” about gender equality, it is being spread around Facebook. Just in case we need a refresher on the current state of gender equality, here are some facts about power. Women make up over half of the world’s population. Gender equality would mean that women hold 50% or more of all of the following positions:
- “Becoming the Head of State or Head of Government remains elusive for women, with only 14 women in the world currently holding either position.”
- “In just 23 countries do women comprise a critical mass – over 30 per cent – in the lower or single house of their national parliament.”
- “Worldwide on average only one in six cabinet ministers is a woman.”
- Barack Obama is the 43rd man to be president of the United States. Compared to zero women.
- “Historical researchers say more than 2,000 men have served as governors compared to 19 women — five of whom are in office today.“
- “Only 13 of the 500 largest corporations in the world have a female Chief Executive Officer.”
- “In Silicon Valley, the ratio of female to male stock option ownership is 1 to 100.”
- “After the career years, women are only half as likely as men to receive a pension, which will be half the amount awarded to men.”
“Two thirds of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women — the same proportion for the past 20 years and across most regions.”
Linguistically, we refer to a culminating work as “seminal” — you know, semen. “Having the balls to do something” means being brave. Calling a man a pussy is the same as calling him weak. The very way we speak reflects the way power is split in society.
Symbolically, men are also at the top. Quick, think of your five favorite authors. And your five favorite historical figures. And your five favorite scientists. And your five favorite painters. And your five favorite athletes. And your five favorite businesspeople. The readership here is skewed to feminism, and I’d still bet that most people can’t think of half women and half men off the top of their heads. In school, we talk about men. We learn about men. We write essays about men. To suggest that there is parity in today’s world is laughable.
And legal power: last I checked, men weren’t getting fired for knocking up their partner out of wedlock, and then being forbidden by the Supreme Court to file discrimination lawsuits. Men weren’t paying more for health insurance and then having the government fight to keep it that way. Male victims of crimes were still considered victims instead of accusers. Health care providers that cater to men weren’t constantly on the chopping block. Legislators weren’t fighting to allow men to die rather than perform surgery on them. Kids weren’t losing government support because the legislators think that men should be at home with them. After an unexpected pregnancy, men weren’t expected to keep the child and become impoverished or abort the child and put their own lives at risk.
The crapdate of this week fails on so many levels, but it isn’t just its failure that is infuriating. It is the fact that so many people find things like this to be “funny,” find feminism and the idea of gender parity to be a joke, that they don’t even need to think critically about the truth of the cartoon. It’s not funny. I am the breadwinner in the household, and because that’s not how society expects things, my household is 23% more poor than other households. My daughter is going to spend her entire life knowing that sexual confidence means she is a slut, means that she deserves to have violence against her, and that modesty means that she is frigid, means that she is asking for violence against her. She will go to bars knowing that there are bigger, stronger people out there that can hurt her if they want, and she will always be looking over her shoulder. Gender equality is not a joke. And as long as crap like this gets spread around and people are unwilling to think about what gender equality really means, nothing is going to change.