Friday, 28 January 2011

What about Teh Menz in Football!

Am I the only person who thinks, in the wake of all this uproar about Grey and Keys being deservedly sacked from Sky, that it is either indicative of our society and all its ingrained sexism, or at least highly ironic that the Guardian, most lefty of newspapers, has put out a call "Men... Have your say on Sexism!". Because they're really the most un-biased of people on this issue, and the ones most likely to understand how sexism operates in the real world, and may even have been targets of sexism themselves giving them a unique insight into today's gender politics.

The views that actually come out of that call aren't too bad. They certainly aren't brilliant, but they're not too glaringly awful. The general thrust is mostly in the right place - though one commentator does start whining What about teh menz with his piece about how negative male stereotyping is widely tolerated. For the record, yes, I think men are stereotyped badly in the media and it is something we need to tackle, BUT a) most of those stereotypes actually hurt women just as much, if not more than men*, b) the fact that NMS exists does not mean that we shouldn't also tackle prejudice and actual discrimination against women and c) This is totally off topic. I agree that NMS needs to be discussed, but it's not relevant here, and is just derailing.

The other thing that came up, and seems to be coming up a lot at the minute, is this idea of "banter". That something is "just banter", and hence Ok. Thing is, that's like saying that there are some forms of prejudice that are socially acceptable - and that's just not right at all. If something is prejudiced and wrong, then it's prejudiced and wrong, no matter what context it's in. You cannot use the excuse that "it was just banter" or the fact that you are among friends who ostensibly feel the same way (or at least talk the same way) to excuse your own complicity. It's just fostering a culture of Public PC, Private Prejudice, which is just as bad, if not in some ways worse.
I'm going to have to quote my favourite post again:
  • every time you don’t tell your buddies it’s not okay to talk shit about women, even if it’s kinda funny;
  • every time you roll your eyes and think “PMS!” instead of listening to whya woman’s upset;
  • every time you call Ann Coulter a tranny cunt instead of a halfwit demagogue;
  • every time you say any woman–Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Phyllis Schlafly, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, any of us–”deserves whatever she gets” for being so detestable, instead of acknowledging there are things that no human being deserves and only women get;
  • every time you joke about how you’ll never let your daughter out of the house or anywhere near a man, ’cause ha ha, that’ll solve everything;
  • every time you say, “I don’t understand why thousands of women are insisting this is some kind of woman thing”;
  • every time you tell a woman you love she’s being crazy/hysterical/irrational, when you know deep down you haven’t heard a word she’s said in the past 15 minutes, and all you’re really thinking about is how seeing her yell and/or cry is incredibly unsettling to you, and you just want that shit to stop;
  • every time you dismiss a woman as “playing the victim,” even if you’re right about that particular woman

You are missing an opportunity to help stop the bad guys.

You’re missing an opportunity to stop the real misogynists, the fucking sickos, the ones who really, truly hate women just for being women. The ones whose ranks you do not belong to and never would. The ones who might hurt women you love in the future, or might have already.

‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates womento the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

And that guy? Thought you were on

his side."

What you say in private matters.
I'm going to state for the record that I take people's right to privacy very seriously, which is why it's even more important for people who are publicly prejudiced to be called on it. And even more important than that is the everyday work of undercover Male Feminists**, calling people out over the unacceptability of Private Sexism. The fewer forums we have where prejudiced "banter" is acceptable, the fewer prejudices we will be handing down and around to other people.

Some people have been going on that it's not fair that these two have been pilloried like this for one little slip up - but let's not forget that this isn't just one little mis-timed comment; this is a comment that belies an attitude that is just not acceptable any more, and needs to be publicly seen as such. No, it's not fair. There are plenty of other people, more sexist, more racist, more despicable than them who ought to have been pilloried first, it's just bad luck that these guys got caught first. But what's even less fair, is that women should have had to put up with sexism from these two -or anyone - in the first place.

On one final note though, I think we have to end. Let's not overlook the fact that Grey and Keys are out. Football - that "dark spot in the universe that feminism is furthest from" - has taken a step towards saying publicly that Sexism is Wrong. Ok, I do worry that it's more of an exhortation of "don't get caught being a sexist prick", but it is progress. It's only a bitty baby step in the right direction - but look where it is.

* ie stereotype "men are all lazy slobs" is just as much about promoting the ideal of female domesticity as anything else. Yes, it's insulting to men to suggest that they can't clean, but look a little deeper at the implications...
** And white anti-racists, and abled anti-ableists, and everyone else who works against discrimination in all its forms, who are able to participate in private discourse and shut down the avenues of prejudice. Right On, people.

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