Takedown: Interpreting women

Get ready for another two for one, because ridiculous crapdates keep sliding across my news feed in themes. This week’s theme: boys do boy things and girls do girl things, and oh yeah, the things that girls do are manipulative and frivolous. Hooray, gender-based stereotypes that reinforce the patriarchy!

First up:

Quiet
Beware the quiet woman (but go ahead and hire the quiet man).

This is one of those insidious graphics which looks fairly innocuous at first, but it’s what lies behind it that is awful. Men think. Women emote. No big deal, right? Except it is a big deal. Women are being paid less than men in part because there is an underlying belief in society that men are capable and women aren’t. If you know nothing about a person other than their genitals, you are thus able to draw the conclusion that the person with the penis is smart and logical, and the person with the vagina can’t stay focused because of her irrational emotions.

And those irrational emotions are, of course, negative. Nothing about “a quiet woman is planning out her next vacation to Mt. Everest” or “a quiet woman is joyful.” Duh. Women are bitches.

Beyond that, there is something to be said here about women’s lack of power: according to the stereotype, when men get mad, they do something about it. When women get mad, they get quiet. Men get things done, women are passive. There is no room in these stereotypes for strong women – just women who are either unable or unwilling to change their situation.

Quiet men are smart, quiet women are not to be trusted.

And then this came across my screen (blanket [sic] is probably in order):

Deadly Terms
BEWARE! WOMEN! BEWARE!

I go back and forth between thinking that I should just lighten up and find this annoying rather than harmful, and believing that this kind of message takes us all a huge step backwards. Then I think about what the real meaning of this graphic is, and imagine if it said “5 Deadly Terms Used by an Imbalanced Manipulative Person”: women play games, they trick people, they are manipulative. You can’t listen to what a woman says, because they never say what they mean.

Which not only reinforces the stereotypes above, but can have much more dangerous consequences. If a woman cannot be trusted in what she says, if what she implies is more important than the words coming out of her mouth, how is anybody to believe that no means no? This graphic teaches us that women use language in ways that contradict their real feelings. If you are dealing with a woman, don’t pay attention to her words, but imagine what she really means, and go from there.

I’m not trying to imply that this type of graphic LEADS TO RAPE OH NO! Instead, it’s an indicator of the way that women are seen in our society, further evidence to the belief that women are either vapid and untrustworthy, or shouldn’t be listened to.

In the end, both of these graphics aim to teach people how to interpret women without paying attention to their words. At the same time, they are reinforcing the stereotype that women are emotional and irrational, manipulative and unbalanced. I wish that we could just assume that a person who is quiet is quiet, and a person who says “fine” means “fine,” regardless of gender.

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Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

6 thoughts on “Takedown: Interpreting women”

  1. My first thought with the first image was ‘I would have preferred ‘angry’ over ‘mad’.’ I don’t know. Maybe because mad for me is closer to crazy while angry can be ..there for a reason. Doesn’t mean it’s still unbalanced.

    Quiet men don’t think, they’re asleep but you haven’t noticed yet. Quiet men are staring at your boobs, or your telly. Quiet men try to remember what you were asking when you look at them like them. Oh dear, was that stereotyping?

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