First off, a little groundwork. Cracks about me having misogynist tendencies aside, I am all for, 100% behind equal rights and fair treatment for all people capable of handling the responsibility that comes with it, and I’m laissez-faire enough to think that just about anybody thirteen and up ought to meet that criteria.That’s anybody thirteen and up regardless of gender, race, religion, or socio-economic background. Idiots are the target of my personal bigotry, and I don’t really lose sleep over that. However, this means that if you’re inclined to think I’m being sexist it’s best to take a step back and make sure I haven’t just fumbled my delivery. Yeah, I get touchy about stupid women, I’m flat out mean to them, but let’s be serious here folks, I have dozens of relatives ready to remind me of how things were when they were bright young thangs and any self-respecting woman was married by my age. Stupid women make me look bad, and I’d like them to shut-up and go away. Stupid men are obnoxious too, but they can’t, as a generalized group, take me down with them the way stupid women can, so they don’t bother me nearly as much. /caveat
Back to the article, honestly, the first thing that bugged me about it were the inaccuracies (though I caught the typos too, and that’s never good because I can’t proof-read to save my life). Ursula wasn’t after Ariel’s voice, she was after Triton’s kingdom. She took Ariel’s voice because she thought that would be enough to keep her from fulfilling the terms of their agreement. Check wikipedia if you don’t believe me but I assure you, I can quote that movie end from end, I’m right. If Ms Ehrenreich can’t be bothered to watch a movie that turned the original wilting ornamental heroine into a “headstrong feisty girl” and track the plot, do we really trust her with analysis of social trends? Her not-so-subtle attempt at insinuating racism with the comment about Mulan and Pocahontas is a pretty big mark too. I’m not sure whether she thinks Jasmine is Caucasian, marrying a Prince doesn’t confer a title, or the upper crust of colonial Powhatan tribes doesn’t measure up to standards of royalty used elsewhere. Either way, it gives away her slant going into the piece, which is best expressed as “foaming at the mouth” and discredits her as somebody who actually knows what she’s talking about.
This is the kind of feminism that really pisses me off. Bring in the line “Pass the Rohypnol-laced margarita, please,” we we’ve got somebody I’m likely to punch in the face after introductions. This woman is so afraid of the world, the people in it, and the idea that maybe it’s possible to have tits and a vagina without having your life ruined by them that she can’t help but foam at the mouth when confronted with something as overwhelmingly feminine as the Disney princesses. Now, I’ll agree that the whole shtick is entirely too pink and rather disgustingly saccharine, but I can promise her that the five year-olds running around in princess dresses aren’t out to get laid. Playing dress up and dreaming about being pretty is not unhealthy unless that’s all the kid is doing. But let’s keep in mind, that’s true for most things children do that adults freak out over. I played with Barbies and I assure you, my self-esteem is not damaged because I neglected to wind up with her proportions.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you; women are not genetically programmed to obsess over how they look. Women are not forced to behave badly every time their reproductive systems hiccup (with the exception of the women who kinda are, but that’s a medical problem and ought to be classed with ADD or bipolar disease or something along those lines in terms of how you react to them). And here’s the one that really sets me off – women, as a group, are not inherently less capable of inflicting/defending against violence than men, as a group. Statistically men are taller, stronger etc. etc., but in a world of firearms, mace, and weekend self-defense seminars, the playing field is pretty level.
Enlightened men don’t get up in arms, foam at the mouth, and write nasty (and largely inaccurate) articles about the latest line of hyper-testosterone toys and how it forces macho-sexual social images on young boys. It’s not that they don’t think those images are as disgusting as the frilly pink princess garbage (though I’ll take the GI Joe’s if forced to it), it’s that they don’t see themselves as particularly prone to being victimized by it. We might worry about turning our little boys into the next mall shooter, but that’s almost always framed as a “protect the children” campaign, not a “save our boys” campaign. So, given that boys seem to hold up against the sexist toy stereotypes thrown at them via marketing, I have to ask Ms Ehrenreich why the fuck she thinks girls are more vulnerable. Is she really going to capitulate right at the outset by saying that girls are more impressionable, or that their self-esteem is naturally more fragile?
Probably not. She’ll pull out her Rohypnol line again. Because all women are constantly in fear of being raped, murdered, and dumped in an alley, or barring that, waking up in their guy friend’s apartment and wondering where her panties are. All men are potential rapists, and all women are just murphy’s law away from winding up a victim. And she’s got some hefty statistics to back her up, too. I’m talking, 1 in 5 level statistics. I could go into a long tangent about how easy it is to lie with perfectly accurate statistics, but I don’t think it matters much because ultimately it doesn’t matter which four women are safe, as long as women are getting raped significantly more frequently than men (1 in 10 the college posters say), and anybody’s getting raped at all, there is a problem there. It is important to point out something nobody seems to pay attention to because they’re too busy implying the opposite: 1 in 5 women being a victim does not mean 1 in 5 men is an offender. I have no idea what the alleged stats on the number of men who are offenders are. Interestingly, that doesn’t get posted on fliers all over college campuses. I say it’s interesting, because that’s a useful piece of information. Telling me what my odds of winding up a victim are does a lot to make me feel like a potential victim and worry about my safety. Telling me what the odds that the guy sitting next to me is a massive creep are actually helps me get a sense of how big the problem is.
One offender successfully attacking ten women out of fifty is easier to deal with, and much less frightening, than ten offenders successfully attacking one woman in every five. One offender means one person to catch, one person to try, one jail cell to throw the creep into, instead of ten. It’s a problem either way, but the second scenario makes hiding behind a bolted door much more likely. Interesting that the second scenario is the one everybody leans toward as the accurate one.
Interesting tangential anecdote – about a week after I went ahead and told Mom that Don and I were doing the “living together” sort of living together, Mom completely interrupts herself in the middle of a sentence to say, “You know to be careful around him, right?” “Around who?” I ask. “Don. It’s usually somebody you know.” This is the point where I roll my eyes so violently that she can hear it over the phone. “Mom, do you seriously think I have anything to worry about from Don?” “Anaea, I know you’re smart, and he’s a nice boy, but you never know.” To which I reply, “No, I mean it. The boy’s a tooth-pick. He’d have to drug me, and if he wants me to hold still he just has to ask.” “Anaea! I don’t need to hear this!” Okay, you probably didn’t either.
But there’s something to that. “You never know,” says George Bush when we want to know why there’s a wire tap on our phones,”they might be terrorists.” “You never know, Iran could launch nukes at your local landmark nobody else cares about.” “You never know, your best friend might be a closet rapist.” “You never know, you could be one wrong move away from being a mutilated corpse in a slasher flick.” “You never know,” is the watch phrase for rampant paranoia. “You never know, because you are a helpless victim, and there’s nothing for you to do but cower in fear and hope somebody takes care of you.” Women are allowed to run companies and play sports and have premarital sex, but if she tries to walk home at night she’s either stupid, reckless, or naive. Doesn’t she know that she’s a victim? Bookworm Belle couldn’t fight off a pack of hungry wolves by herself, so all women are helpless against their beefy male counterparts if they wind up alone in an alley.
Talking about feminism with a group of people once, I mentioned a night when I was out with three other girls. It’s midnight, we’re heading out from a party on the north side of Chicago back to the South side, and some guy I’d literally met three hours before offers all of us a ride because four of us aren’t going to be safe on the CTA, through the South side, at this hour. When I tell the story I mention that three of us have martial arts training, turned the guy down, and merrily took our train ride. The group nearly unanimously agreed that I was both naive and arrogant.
So I should have gotten into a car with a stranger and let him know where I live instead? Yeah, right, fuck you. I’m sure the guy meant well, wasn’t out to get us, etc. etc., but he was interested in at least one of us, and having to bring a strange guy that close to your home turf creates as situation that, at the best, is awkward, and at the worst massively dangerous. Maybe I’m naive (let’s all snicker together a moment), but I think I’ll risk the lone mugger ready to take on four, or the freak chance of a group big enough to bother us over the close interaction with the strange man. And if neither of those is right, what should I have done? Brought a guy I know with me? Wait, when did I have to have a man to safely go to a party? Fuck that, Queen Victoria died, like, last century. Do you see how warped that is?
Which brings me back to my original point. Women are not, in fact, necessarily easier victims than men. They are more common victims, but that’s an important distinction. If you tack a “kick me” sign on somebody’s back, then put them in a crowd and see how many people get kicked, who do you think will get kicked more, guy with the sign, or everybody else? To be fair, there was probably a reason that guy was the one you tacked the sign on, he probably stole your favorite eraser, but now everybody knows that somebody thinks he’s a douche. Soon everybody else thinks he’s a douche too. And they kick him. Even if he’s bigger and badder than everybody else, odds are that he’ll forget that after enough people start kicking.
That’s my problem with feminists. They scream at length about imagery this and interpretation that and oh woe, women just don’t have it as easily as men yet, but they don’t actually believe their premise. If women are the equals of men then they don’t need special protection under the law, they don’t need special recruiting efforts, we can go ahead and treat them like everybody else. I mean actually treat them like everybody else, which means expecting them to put in the same hours for the same pay, do the same number of push-ups for boot camp, and not caring one way or the other that they’ve got tits under that shirt. The laws and special programs and constant cries for special involvement with your daughter all mean to make that happen, but it doesn’t actually exist until they’ve gone away. The feminists are holding us back because they’re so busy whimpering about how much help women need. Ladies, seriously, stop trying to help me, I’ve got this on my own, thanks.
Social linguistics class several years ago now – I’m arguing, half-seriously, that gender marking in English actually favors women because they have their own space that men can’t be included in whereas men can’t really linguistically exclude women because their pronouns are inclusive. Between that and the material we’d read being based on a seriously outdated corpus the argument about English being sexist that the professor was making was unbelievably weak. “I’ve never had a female argue against this before,” the professor says. “A young man did once,” he continues “but then he couldn’t get a date with any of the girls in the class.” Flummoxed, I reply, “I’m not here to get a date with the girls in the class. And I’m arguing because this theory is stupid.” Heads nod around the class, but one girl who’s been taking a couple ling courses and never done the prof ass-kissing routine before swoops in. “I worked in a diner for two years and you must have never been sexually harassed because then you couldn’t say that.” Apparently victimhood makes stupid politicized arguments relevant to an ostensibly rigorous scientific-ish theory. Chew on that for your gender theory. (Think maybe we can harness this power to bend the laws of physics and develop FTL drives in my lifetime?)
Ms Ehrenreich doesn’t like the Disney princesses because she thinks they teach girls to let the prince’s come and rescue them, that all they have to do is be pretty, or sexy, and the world is set. She’s terrified of that idea. It’s scaring her because she’s already terrified that it might be true, because she knows that all women are potential victims, and she thinks that makes them special. Ms Ehrenreich, all people are potential victims. Everybody needs to be smart about taking care of themselves. Your gender will not protect you when the statistics fall in favor of the other four/nine people in your bracket. The Disney Princesses are gross because they promote the idea that being passive and pretty is enough for anybody. Oh, and if you don’t know how to teach your kids how to hold pink tulle in disdain, what kind of feminist are you anyway?