There was a great article in The Daily Beast on Tuesday by Arthur Chu, about the misogyny inherent in geek culture and how that culture needs to grow up. Believe it or not, women are not rewards to be won for good or chivalrous behavior, but people in their own right with goals and personalities that are entirely independent of the men trying to pursue them. Not supporting characters in the story of some self-proscribed protagonist.
Romantic stories always seem to end with the guy getting the girl and rarely delve into what happens when that coupling actually moves into the future. What happens next? What about the work, effort, and mutual understanding that goes with the maintenance of a relationship? What about building a foundation of friendship, trust, and forgiveness that will sustain those two people as they inevitably grow and evolve into different people as time ticks by?
You know, actual respect.
If you view the attainment of a woman as THE goal, not as the beginning of a partnership, well then, in the words of a certain ski instructor, you’re gonna have a bad time.
But this is an ongoing narrative in our culture. Be a “nice guy” and “be there for her” and eventually she’ll come around. As if there’s something inherently wrong with her that she needs to be cured of. This is a thought a lot of guys still have and it’s really time we just stopped.
That got me thinking about conversations I can’t believe we’re still having. There are a lot of opinions and phrases that get bandied about that I’m shocked to find are still given validity, and it’s really time we just stopped.
Last week, comedian Todd Glass was on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast and posited a worthy opinion that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to. He attributes real roadblocks to social progress to what he calls the “90%ers,” people that are OK with social change to a certain extent, but just have a teensy problem yielding complete equality to certain groups without some small caveat or complaint. They’re OK with 90% of a movement.
He used the example of those who are appalled by an act of hate as extreme as what happened to Matthew Shepard, but say shit like, “I wish they didn’t have to act so flamboyantly.” In essence, picking and choosing bits of equality that you’re OK with are more of a hindrance to equality than extreme acts of violence, because those nit-picky opinions can sounds reasonable by comparison and win people over to intolerant views.
There’s more than a few of these floating around the narrative ether and I’d like to put forward a few that, in 2014, just need to STOP.
- “I just don’t find women funny.” – Shut up. Just…shut up. There is a wealth of hilarious women in the comedy scene these days and I’m not going to list them here because I don’t want to differentiate between a “comic” and a “lady comic.” It’s a stupid argument. Funny is funny and not being able to relate to a female comic says more about your own truncated life experience than it does about the comic on stage.
- “I support gay rights, but I just don’t think they should call it ‘marriage.’” – Stop. Right there, just stop. Calling it anything other than “marriage” negates the entire definition of equality being, you know, equal. This also goes for “love the sinner, not the sin,” which is unfathomably condescending.
- “Just because I have a problem with their lifestyle, it doesn’t make me a bigot.”– Yes it does, you bigot. This is no longer an acceptable opinion to have. In 50 years, you’re going to look like this. Actually, we might already be there.
- “Do they have to be so uppity/butch/flamboyant/etc.?” – Insisting that a group adhere to your social norms to gain any kind of traction is the ultimate in paternalistic horseshit.
- “Why should I have to press 1 for English?” – Because it takes two seconds, shut up.
- “You should be flattered to get cat calls.” – Being viewed as a walking piece of sexual wish fulfillment must be a BLAST. There’s no way that comes with any kind of underlying fear. Can we please accept that there’s a difference between, “You look nice today,” and “Yo girl, nice ass. Wanna fuck?” without screaming about oversensitivity and sexual harassment hysteria? Yes, we’re all sexual creatures and can view our fellow humans as potential mates from time to time, but it’s not a woman’s job to be constantly on display for appraisal, so fucking STOP.
There are probably about 100 more of these statements that are viewed as no big deal to a lot of people, and that’s why it’s time to change the conversation. Some of these are more prevalent with an older demographic, some with younger, but they all stem from the same place and are all equally damaging.
Age or education isn’t an excuse. If you hear this kind of stuff, even from people you love, politely disagree instead of being silent. The fact that misogyny and sexual objectification permeates a group as generally well-educated as nerd culture shows that intolerance and ignorance is nowhere near as eradicated as we all like to pretend it is. Saying that women aren’t “real” fans of this or that is as subtly damaging to equality as saying black people can’t swim (We Are Comics, by the way, is a great movement to rid gender divides in the comics community). Ignorance knows no IQ and you don’t have to be a moron to be an asshole. We are all part of a whole. We contribute to the cultural conversation on a daily basis and we have the ability to steer it in multiple directions in the decades to come. If you consider yourself educated or progressive in any way, try to take extra care of which direction you’re steering it.