When Men on the Left Refuse to See Their Sexism

leftfailpatriarchy

TRIGGER WARNING: This post cites examples of misogynistic language, gender slurs, sexual objectification, and other forms of sexist oppression.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article on Vice that was oddly titled, “You’re a Pussy If You Think There’s a War on Men.” It seemed clear that the author, Harry Cheadle, was referring to an awful “reverse sexist” and anti-feminist article about “The War on Men,” which asserts that women are to blame for the “dearth of good men” and must “surrender to their nature” while letting “men surrender to theirs.” Cheadle writes in defense of feminism and exposes the absurdity of claiming that men are “oppressed” by women. While I agree with his arguments that men need to stop blaming and fearing women, the sexist use of the word “pussy” in his title couldn’t be overlooked. After a brief conversation with friends who also found it offensive, I decided to write an e-mail to the author. I expressed overall support for his post and agreed that men need to be held accountable for their sexism, but I also pointed out that using the word “pussy” as a slur to characterize men as “cowardly” and “weak” is still misogynistic because it relies on degrading a woman’s body. It reinforces the sexist logic that being called a woman or, in this case, a body part of a woman, is always negative, demeaning, and shameful. It reminds us that in order for men to feel truly insulted, they must be compared to women because women, as heteropatriarchy teaches us, are weaker and inferior to men. I mentioned in my e-mail that I had no problem with calling men out on their laziness, lack of accountability, and insecurities. However, using the word “pussy” to describe their fear of women is counter-productive and perpetuates sexist attitudes.

I never heard back from him, but a few days later, a friend of mine noticed a status update on Cheadle’s public Facebook wall*, which read:

Just got an email from someone who A) assumed I was an ally in the “feminist struggle” B)Took issue with my use of the word “pussy” in my article “You’re a Pussy if You Think There’s a War on Men” and C) informed me that “the term is not only misogynistic, but also inaccurate since the vagina is actually quite tough, not weak.” asldkfjalsjf adlsj foiasj doia e

When it was asked on the comment thread about whether or not he identified as an ally, Cheadle responded, “I just hate whiners and knee-jerk anti-feminists. I don’t really feel that I’m a part of the whole feminist enterprise, and I don’t really want to be.”

Not sure what he meant by “feminist enterprise,” but I was taken aback when I read these comments because I felt that I was being supportive of his article’s overall message. The quote he used from my e-mail (point C) was actually me paraphrasing common anti-sexist responses to those who equate the vagina with “weakness.” I also pointed out in my e-mail that women have done a lot of work on gendered insults and the impact they have on society, so I was confused as to why he saw me as being a “knee-jerk anti-feminist.” What I noticed the most, however, was his refusal to acknowledge the sexism in his title, which he never chose to change.

I share the above as an example of something I want to discuss in a broader context: sexism and misogyny from men in Leftist spaces and their refusal to hold themselves accountable, even when they are called out on it. What does it mean when a man speaks in defense of feminism, but then, after being informed of his sexism, rejects being an ally in order to absolve himself of any accountability? What are the implications for women who self-identify as feminist when men can easily reject feminism or disassociate from it to excuse and normalize their own sexism? In this post, I will discuss how this refusal of accountability contributes to violence against women, beginning with the usage of misogynistic language, then addressing the various manifestations of sexist oppression, and concluding with points on doing work to end this violence.

1. Misogynistic Language

Whether we are men who self-identify as anti-racist, advocate against homophobia, hold leadership positions in radical movements, rightly express outrage against right-wing misogynists and patriarchy at large, write articles that condemn all forms of injustice, or all of the above, none of this gives us a free pass on sexism, including sexist language. Gendered insults like “pussy,” “cunt,” “bitch,” “slut,” “whore,” etc. are so normalized and acceptable that we hear them in classrooms, workplaces, activist groups, and from our friends and colleagues. In mainstream media, the frequent and increased use of the “b” word on prime-time TV shows over the past decade only reinforces this acceptability. Even in popular video games like Batman: Arkham City, women characters like Catwoman and Harley Quinn are repeatedly called the “b” word by both good and bad male characters (and when women gamers address sexism in gaming, many men respond by trivializing the slurs and making misogynistic attacks). The pervasiveness and normalization of misogynistic language is not simply limited to particular movies, games, songs, or novels, but rather reflective of the sexist and patriarchal values that shape society. These sexist values, as bell hooks explains, are “created and sustained by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

There is a long violent history of these words being used to shame, exploit, persecute, rape, and murder women, especially women of color, who face racism and misogyny simultaneously.  Sikivu Hutchinson explains that linking the word “bitch” with “bad girls” has strong racial connotations since “black women have always been deemed ‘bad’ in the eyes of the dominant culture, as less than feminine, as bodies for pornographic exploitation.” Azjones0210 mentions in her blog post that the Oxford dictionary includes a definition that states “bitch” is a “black slang” for “woman.” She elaborates:

[O]ur culture has attached the word “bitch” to the character of a black woman so many times that it deserves to be integrated into our formal language system. Regardless of the word “slang” existing within the definition, it is still there. This is not present for other racial groups in the way it is present for black women. This says to the world that when I walk down the street, and people see me and identify me as black, it is acceptable to connect the word “bitch” to me and everything that it carries way before I even open my mouth or complete any sort of action.

AF3IRM, a feminist and anti-imperialist organization whose membership identifies as “transnational women who are im/migrants or whose families are im/migrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa,” addressed the history of the word “slut” for women of color and how it continues to be used against them:

This label is one forced upon us by colonizers, who transformed our women into commodities and for the entertainment of US soldiers occupying our countries for corporate America. There are many variations of the label “slut”: in Central America it was “little brown fucking machines (LBFMs)”, in places in Asia like the Philippines, it was “little brown fucking machines powered by rice (LBFMPBRs)”. These events continue to this day, and it would be a grievous dishonor to our cousins who continue to struggle against imperialism, globalization and occupation in our families’ countries of origin to accept a label coming from a white police officer in the city of Toronto, Canada.

When white men and men of color who proclaim to be “progressive” and “anti-oppression” refuse to stop using misogynistic language, they participate in another form of violence against women and end up damaging activist spaces that are supposed to be safe. A typical response is to blame women: “But women say these words, too!” Another excuse is that they were using the “b” word as a “compliment” in a “reclaimed context.” A couple of points need to be addressed here: (1) Some women of color and white women believe in reclaiming gender slurs, and some disagree. (2) Whether or not the women in our lives say these words, men should never say them. A woman saying the “b” word compared to a man saying it is very different. Given the history and present day realities I mentioned above, men are in no position to “reclaim” those words nor do they have any right to tell women not to say them. I’ve seen white men and men of color who self-identify as anti-racist use the “b” word in ways to exert dominance over others, including other men (e.g. “Man up, bitch!”), or to “humorously” refer to a group of male and female friends (e.g. “Got a new phone, send me your numbers, bitches!”) None of this is “ok,” no matter what the “intent” is.

When describing racist and/or homophobic women, there are men with progressive politics, whether white or of color, heterosexual or gay, who somehow think it is permissible to use misogynistic language and slurs. Again, this is unacceptable. We need to go beyond “restraining ourselves” from using these words. Instead, we need to eliminate misogynistic language from our vocabulary and challenge the ways in which this language has shaped our perception and attitudes towards women. This doesn’t negate the activist work we already do nor does it diminish the racism of racist women, but rather calls for us to work against sexist oppression and take responsibility for unlearning the serious ways in which we’ve internalized sexist socialization.

2. Men on the Left Perpetuating Sexist Oppression

In addition to misogynistic language, sexual harassment, rape, and the silencing of women is disturbingly common in Leftist spaces. In a hostile white supremacist and heteropatriarchal climate where many women, especially women of color, cannot call the police because they do not want to strengthen the state or be further victimized by it, working collectively against misogyny and gender violence within activist movements is crucial. If a male activist threatens a woman, or follows her home, or sexually harasses her in a meeting or a rally, or tries to silence and shame her, or rapes her, this man must be held accountable. What’s disturbing is how white men and men of color appoint themselves as “leaders” and use their “activist credibility” or “celebrity” status to hide and excuse their own sexism. On one hand, there are male activists who reject feminism, as discussed above, but then there are men who consciously insert themselves into feminist discourse and assert authority over it. Hugo Schwyzer, for instance, persistently defines himself as a “male feminist,” yet doesn’t see the harm he causes when dismissing his history of engaging in sexual relations with students or writing about how he almost murdered his ex-girlfriend and then made himself the “hero” for not following through with it. Angus Johnston of Student Activism describes this crime as an act of gendered violence and explains that “in all his (Schwyzer’s) writing about this act he has never addressed its implications for his feminism — the feminism he professed when he committed the crime, or the feminism he professes today.”

When writing about “slutwalk,” Schwyzer described his role as “herding sluts” and then gave racist responses to criticism from women of color. Elsewhere, Schwyzer wrote an outrageous article that tried to justify degrading sex acts against women (read Tiger Beatdown’s important response to his post). By declaring himself a “feminist” and advertising himself (as seen on his website) as an “author, speaker, professor” who “shatters gender myths,” Schwyzer dangerously tries to legitimize his sexism as feminist discourse. Refusing to check his white male privilege and power, which has undoubtedly contributed to his “celebrity” status, Schwyzer allows other men to see his behavior and beliefs as “feminism.” When it is taken into account that Schwyzer proudly sees himself as “paternalistic,” it isn’t surprising that he deflects criticism so defensively. His refusal to see this violence is evident in his own words:

Go ahead, call me paternalistic. I’ll wear that title with pride, thank you. I see my students not merely as independent, autonomous agents whom I need to empower, but as vulnerable young people whom I — and others around me — need to protect. And I still have the nerve to call myself a feminist.

I have seen similar refusal from white men and men of color that I’ve come in contact with. Last year, I wrote a post, “Unlearning Sexism and Other Oppressions,” where I mentioned a male photography “activist” who took an invasive, zoomed-in photo of a woman’s body and shared it on his Facebook for public viewing. When white men and men of color left despicable and sexually objectifying comments, I was alarmed to see one of my “friends,” a man of color who asserts himself as a “leader” in his local activist community, participating in this objectification. When I and another male friend/ally wrote to him about this, he responded by denying that anything ever happened. We went back to the photo and noticed that he had deleted his comment. We and a few other friends (women and men) who saw the comment earlier must have been “seeing things” (sarcasm). After confronting him on this, he went on about how his friend, the man who took the photo, is an ally in anti-racist struggle and has even gotten arrested for taking photos of the police. The troubling implication seemed to be that if a man does important social justice work and got arrested several times, it somehow “erases” his misogyny and the harm he caused by sexually objectifying women.

Along with shamelessly lying that he ever commented on the photo, this man never took action against the photographer. Despite the messages my friends and I sent to people in our network and asked them to report the image, it still remained posted. A couple of weeks later, this same man commented on another photo, this time of a woman modeling in a bikini (which appeared on my news feed even though the person who posted it is not on my friend’s list). As men left perverted comments, he encouraged their objectification by saying: “Be careful. some of the puritanical leftists will gouge our eyes out. we must remain serious at all times. after all, we are activists. humor is banned at all times :)” (smiley icon in original).

When friends and I wrote to him and voiced our outrage, we never received a reply. Some of us, including myself, deleted him, but still see his hypocritical “anti-patriarchy” comments posted on mutual friend’s walls. I sent out messages to many of these mutual friends and while some were definitely outraged, others excused his behavior due to his activist work and “leadership” role. So, men who perpetuate sexual objection or other forms of sexist oppression can get away with it just because they do “important work” overall? What does this say about sexism and misogyny? That these issues are “secondary,” “not as important,” and disconnected from struggles against other forms of oppression? What some failed to take into account was how men like him are not unique in Leftist movements.

As my friend Sitara wrote in reference to a white male activist in her community:

What does it mean for our movement that a known abuser (who has REFUSED to address his actions in any meaningful way) has put out a call to form a national revolutionary organization whose platform includes “rejecting patriarchy” in all its forms, including “familial roles”? Answer: nothing good.

In Courtney Desiree Morris’s very important post, “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements,” she describes the numerous encounters she had with abusive men:

There were men like this in various organizations I worked with. The one who called his girlfriend a bitch in front of a group of youth of color during a summer encuentro we were hosting. The one who sexually harassed a queer Chicana couple during a trip to México, trying to pressure them into a threesome. The guys who said they would complete a task, didn’t do it, brushed off their compañeras’ demands for accountability, let those women take over the task, and when it was finished took all the credit for someone else’s hard work. The graduate student who hit his partner—and everyone knew he’d done it, but whenever anyone asked, people would just look ashamed and embarrassed and mumble, “It’s complicated.” The ones who constantly demeaned queer folks, even people they organized with. Especially the one who thought it would be a revolutionary act to “kill all these faggots, these niggas on the down low, who are fucking up our children, fucking up our homes, fucking up our world, and fucking up our lives!” The one who would shout you down in a meeting or tell you that you couldn’t be a feminist because you were too pretty. Or the one who thought homosexuality was a disease from Europe.

Yeah, that guy.

While she points out that many of these men were probably not informants, “the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them.” I suspect that many male readers will read the examples shared above and think, “Well, I’ve never done any of that, so I can’t be sexist.” However, this belief is an “innocence” mindset that fails to address our responsibilities as well as the ways in which we are complicit in reproducing oppression.

3. Accountability

There needs to be clarification that not all men benefit from sexism and heteropatriarchy in the same way. Certainly, the ways in which gender and race intersect must be taken into account.The framework here isn’t “all men are the same” or “men are the enemies,” but rather that white men and men of color need to practice accountability and understand the different, though interconnected, effects interlocking systems of oppression has on them (e.g. heterosexual cis-gendered white men benefit from both white supremacy and patriarchy). Men of color are horribly demonized and victimized by racist forces in society (as are women of color), though this should not absolve them of sexism and misogyny. White women can exert power over men of color and women of color through racism and reinforcing white supremacy, though this doesn’t lessen the importance of dismantling heteropatriarchy (which is interlocked with white supremacy).

As Morris writes, “Dismantling misogyny cannot be work that only women do. We all must do the work because the survival of our movements depends on it.” Abusive male activist “leaders” maintain power not only by reproducing heteropatriarchy, but also because they are upheld by those who actively support them, which includes both men and women. This support is not always a result of passive or naive internalization of sexist oppression; there is active participation, too. When this complex process is failed to be understood, men may dismiss how harmful sexual objectification is, for example, and make excuses like, “Well, women were commenting on that photo, too” or “But, women weren’t offended by that photo.” Instead of using other women to justify our sexism, we need to challenge heteropatriarchy and work within a framework of accountability. Another mistake that many men (not just those with radical politics, but also those who consider themselves liberal or progressive) make is think they are “outside of patriarchy” just because they read feminist literature, attend patriarchy workshops, have women friends, etc. When we are called out on sexism, instead of getting defensive and claiming that we are “not sexist,” we should be more concerned about whether or not we are reinforcing sexism, either through our language, our behaviors, actions or non-actions, etc. I believe bell hooks’ words are relevant here:

All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another… While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for eliminating it.

This is not about men taking on “savior” roles, but instead taking responsibility for their complicity. We are complicit when we are silent about misogyny within movements; we are complicit when we tell women to ignore sexist oppression;  we are complicit when we laugh at misogynistic “jokes”; we are complicit when we encourage sexual objectification instead of challenging it; we are complicit when we continue friendships with these abusive men despite knowing the damage their misogyny is causing; we are complicit when we make the conscious decision to refuse listening to those who are calling us out on being silent or participants in any of the above.

Responsibility doesn’t mean we should speak for women either. As I was sharing with a friend, I often get tired of calling white people out on their racism all the time and think it’s important to have solidarity from anti-racist white allies. I don’t need white people to speak for me, for instance, though at the same time, I don’t want to be on the receiving end of racism while my white friends just stand around and do nothing. Similarly, it’s not enough for men to simply say, “Oh that’s messed up,” when they see or hear the sexism of male allies. It is important to confront these men, especially if these are men we work with, study with, have friendships with, etc. If we say or do nothing while women are struggling to address these issues, we are only resuming our complicity.

We need to seriously reevaluate and question what is happening in our communities. If a powerfully positioned “leader” in a radical space that strives to end all forms of oppression is a man who uses bullying, shaming, violence, and other oppressive tactics towards members in the group, why is this injustice allowed to continue? Why is he standing on a podium, dominating the mic, and leading a large rally of people who are seeking to end oppressive behaviors like his? Why is he held up as a “representative” for his community, being interviewed by the media, quoted in newspapers, or featured on popular blogs when there are women within the group who are not only fighting against the state’s racist, sexist oppression, but also against the misogyny within their communities? Oddly enough, when men tell women that they should “ignore” sexism or put their experiences with abuse “on hold” for the sake of “the greater good,” there paradoxically is an acknowledgment that abuse is taking place. And yet, despite this recognition of injustice, no action is taken.

We need to stop giving legitimacy to these men and start holding them accountable. We have to stop promoting them as “leaders” and start listening to the voices that matter. There needs to be collective action and communities need to work within a framework that understands that if we do not fight misogyny and heteropatriarchy, especially within our own groups, then our work will amount to nothing. Refusing to address these problems, as Morris crucially reminds us, has dangerous consequences and will work to strengthen the oppressive forces of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, imperialism and other systems of violence and domination that seek to destroy us. Whether its men who write articles about women’s rights, men making speeches about ending patriarchy at activist rallies, or men who just think they “cannot be sexist” because they are “nice guys,” our work and words mean nothing if we deliberately refuse to accept and practice accountability. As so many anti-racist women of color and white women activists, academics, and community leaders have articulated in their work, heteropatriarchy and other oppressions cannot be dismantled if we do not also work to eliminate them within ourselves.

Photo Credit: #Leftfail

*I was reluctant to share this status message since I’m not friends with the author, but it was pointed out to me that his Facebook wall is open to the public. After verifying this myself, I decided to re-share.

UPDATE: Other readers have pointed this out already, but I recognize that “Vice” is not a leftist website. I apologize for the confusion and meant to clarify that. Later in the post, I mention that it is not only the sexism and misogyny in leftist spaces that should be a concern, but in all spaces, including on popular websites.

117 thoughts on “When Men on the Left Refuse to See Their Sexism

  1. Sexism, ableism, racism etc is a huge problem on the “left”. Even men in radical feminist groups have been disclosed to me as abusive when in relationships. This is a refreshing read on a a topic often not broached upon.
    It is my assumption that the universal human disease of intellectual knowledge but the hinderance of its application is cultivated in western society wherein it’s theological roots is often in a lazy type of spirituality where the lack of character transformation is acceptable.

    • Thank you for your comment. I have heard of men in radical feminist groups being abusive as well. It’s disturbing that many men like them are in “leadership” positions and refuse to be held accountable.

      • I think a big part of the problem is that very few of us know how to be human. We learn our messed up relationship roles from our messed up parents. Everyone needs therapy :)
        When we can come to terms with our true animal nature we will be able to begin to change it some. Most of our responses to other people are automatic, chemical responses. That’s not an excuse to be a jerk, just an observation by behavior theorists. Neuro linguistic programming is a good thing to share with all our friends because it helps us get in contact of our brains, instead of the other way around. Our bad politics is a symptom, fearless self exploration is the cure.

      • I really loved your insights, however, the word pussy comes from the word pusillanimous which means showing a lack of courage, and therefore when a guy calls another guy a pussy for acting in a cowardly way, the insult is actually correct. The only fault in using the word pussy is when it is linked to a woman’s vagina. Instead of getting guys to stop using the term in reference to each other because its degrading to women, the word really just needs to stop being used in reference to a female’s vagina. And then don’t get me started on the word vagina which comes from a Latin word meaning a sheath for a sword… that word definitely needs to be nixed from our vocabulary too— my anatomy is definitely not a covering for a man’s sword! Cunt is actually the best and least degrading word in its original context for it simply means a woman’s genitals and therefore includes the clitoris which brings in the notion of pleasure and so much of this world is against a woman enjoying sexual pleasure. Another reason why we need feminism! So thank you for being an ally! We need more like you!

  2. Great post bhai. On the comment from the Vice guy: I don’t think he was calling you an anti-feminist but rather explaining that he didn’t write his article because he supports feminism, he wrote it because he hates “whiners and knee-jerk anti-feminists”. That is, he wrote his response to “The War on Men” more out of frustration with the idiocy of anti-feminist men than out of solidarity with women, if that makes sense. Also, while your point about the sexism and misogyny of men within supposedly leftist spaces is absolutely right on and is needed, I would just point out that Vice is not a leftist magazine, nor does it claim to be. It’s a hipster magazine that is mostly written by and for the kind of people who think any earnest engagement with politics (whether in the form of feminism/anti-racism/liberation struggles, or partisan Democratic or Republican politics) is tacky and embarrassing. (Obviously that is a reactionary attitude that comes from a place of privilege.)

    • Thanks, Eskandar. Yeah, I’m not sure where he was going with those comments. It seemed all over the place. I can see what you mean about him writing the article more out of frustration than out of solidarity with women.

      You’re right about Vice not being a leftist magazine. I wrote in my post that I’m not just talking about men on the left or men with radical politics, but also men who don’t see themselves as sexist in general. But yeah, I should have clarified that better in the post.

      I was trying to show how easy it is for men to do both: self-identify as feminist (e.g. Hugo Schywzer) and reject being a feminist ally in order to absolve themselves of sexism.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

  3. Reblogged this on Salt On Your Wound and commented:
    This piece on Muslim Reverie hits very close to home for me. In the recent past, I have been shocked to discover that many people who consider themselves not to be sexist, will defend sexism, and otherwise support sexist messages. I’m glad to see I’m not alone in being concerned about this issue.

  4. Pingback: Misogyny is Dead. And so is Racism. Really. (Not)
  5. Really good, useful piece – very relevant at the moment, sadly. (Oh for the day when it’s not relevant any more!)

    NOTE: A Twitter friend noted that you link to “radicalhub” – or their image hosting, at least, in the “racist responses to criticism from women of color” link in the Hugo section. I don’t know how much you know about RH, but it is a hotbed of bigotry and transphobia, and it would definitely be better to host the picture somewhere else. :/

    Aside from that – again, great piece, and one I’ll be referring/linking to in future, I predict.

    • Hi Jo,

      Thank you for your comments! I didn’t know anything about “radicalhub” or their bigotry and transphobia, but thank you (and to your friend) for pointing that out. I will remove the link right away. Sorry about that!

      It’s always upsetting to hear about other so-called radical groups perpetuating oppressive attitudes.

      Thanks again!

  6. Would you please define feminism and what is means to be a feminist? There are just so many definitions out there and I think its important to be clear on which definition you had in mind when you wrote this piece. Thanks.

      • Carol – I found it strange that Danish was asking a man for the “definition of feminism and what it means to be a feminist.” He asked me to be clear on what perspective I was speaking from, so I recommended “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.” Women of color, specifically Muslim women of color, introduced me to feminist politics and to radical anti-racist feminist literature written by women of color. Much of my politics are informed and influenced by radical women of color and so much work has already been done by them on defining feminism. That is why I suggested the book by bell hooks as a starting point (which was the first book I read on the subject).

      • Would you say that her statement “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” is a good summary?

  7. Oh Jesus Christ. That piece was so solemn and long winded that reading it felt like a tedious chore.
    (Am I a religionist now?)
    I can understand how some women might have objections with a title like that, but is it really worth getting that worked up about?
    What’s important is how the guy treats people, right?
    If “pussy” and “bltch” are unacceptable and sexist, what about “prick” “dickhead,” arsehole, etc etc.
    Some women are friendly, some are quiet, and some are bltches.
    Some men are friendly, some are quiet, and some are @ssholes.
    Yes they are crude words but they are just slang for mean woman/man.
    There’s nothing wrong with a vagina being a vagina and a woman having one. Nothing at all.. But a grown man should not be like one.
    The hypersensitivity to these interpersonal issues can be quite suffocating and depressing. It’s gotten to an extreme point in the left. I’ve met so many stern activists who took all that personally and got completely absorbed in their emotions about it.
    Please. Can we lighten up a little and forgive us for not being perfect equalitarians all the time? Arseholes like me who make insulting generalizations and rude comments need to be put in our places, but everyone does that.I know you do it- make demeaning and condescending remarks about big groups, full of individuals you’ve never met. It’s not that big a deal, but try not to.
    Men should be more like women and women should be more like men, no need to scowl about it.Try not to be a bltch or a dickhead please. Can we just treat each other with love and respect and not be so hypersensitive?

    • That piece was so solemn and long winded that reading it felt like a tedious chore.

      Then why did you read it?

      I can understand how some women might have objections with a title like that, but is it really worth getting that worked up about?
      What’s important is how the guy treats people, right?

      You don’t seem to understand the dangerous impact sexist and misogynistic language has. I suggest you read the post again and educate yourself by reading other literature on sexist language. There’s a lot of work done about this. What’s next, are you going to tell people to stop getting “worked up” about the n-word and other racial slurs? Language is powerful and plays a significant role in the oppression of others.

      If “pussy” and “bltch” are unacceptable and sexist, what about “prick” “dickhead,” arsehole, etc etc.

      Seriously? Calling a man a “prick” or “dickhead” is nowhere near as degrading as the “b” word is for women. How many times is Batman called a “dickhead” in Arkham City, for example? ZERO. How many times is Catwoman called a “b” word in the same game? More times than you can count. Do you seriously feel shamed or degraded if someone calls you a “dickhead”? These terms carry different meanings. When people are described as brave and courageous, they’re told to “have balls,” but if they’re cowards, they’re called “pussies.” Do you see the difference here? Don’t bother with those ridiculous “reverse sexist” comments. Like “reverse racism” arguments, they are not welcome here.

      Some women are friendly, some are quiet, and some are bltches

      What the…? On a post about sexist language, you are attempting to normalize it. Why is it so important for you to describe women with gendered slurs? Do you seriously feel oppressed when people tell you to stop being a misogynist?

      Yes they are crude words but they are just slang for mean woman/man.

      No, they are not “just slangs” and the words carry different meanings for women and men. Again, read what I have written above.

      There’s nothing wrong with a vagina being a vagina and a woman having one. Nothing at all.. But a grown man should not be like one.

      Umm, what do you mean a “grown man should not be like (a vagina)?” You’re perpetuating the sexist logic again that being associated with a woman is a negative and shameful thing. Fail.

      The hypersensitivity to these interpersonal issues can be quite suffocating and depressing.

      Ha, here comes the typical “tone arguments.” People are being “too emotional,” “too hypersensitive,” and “too angry.” We need to “lighten up” and stop getting angry about things like misogyny, sexual violence, racism, and other forms of oppression. Let’s just chill out and let men say all of the sexist things they want. Because men are so bloody oppressed. Google “tone arguments” and learn about how problematic, condescending, and dismissive you’re being.

      Arseholes like me who make insulting generalizations and rude comments need to be put in our places

      Yeah, you sure do.

      Can we just treat each other with love and respect and not be so hypersensitive?

      Love and respect goes against your arrogant and condescending judgments of people. Love and respect doesn’t mean you call people “hypersensitive” as an attempt to dismiss their views, experiences, and/or feelings. You obviously don’t understand what it means to treat people with love and respect if you’re simply trying to justify and normalized the use of sexist and misogynistic language. Love and respect means LISTENING and being conscious of your own privileges and complicity, especially when you’re called out on it. Love and respect doesn’t mean you act like an arrogant, condescending know-it-all and accuse people of “getting worked up” about serious issues.

      Lastly, if you’re going to comment again, please review the comment policy guidelines.

      • @Mast Qalander

        I’m surprised at how aggressively and poorly you react to criticism of what is clearly a contentious argument. You appear unable to respond in a way that doesn’t fall into the same sort of narcissistic, egotistical, brook-no-argument totalitarianism you apparently want to argue against.

        p.s. stop using Batman Arkham City as your reference point for the validity of your claims about the degrading nature or otherwise of the term bitch.

      • Nick – So, I’m being graded now on how I respond to comments that attempt to perpetuate and normalize sexist and misogynistic language? I’m called “aggressive” for advocating anti-sexist politics?

        I will write a post on this because I get lots of comments like yours (not just on posts about sexism, but racism and Islamophobia as well). But I’ll say this for now: saying that it’s “ok” for men to say the “b” word or “p” word is SEXIST, and that’s not up for debate. Reinforcing and excusing sexist language is not up for debate. This blog is unapologetically anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-Islamophobia, anti-classist, anti-ableist, and anti-oppression.

        If you want to “debate” on whether or not saying the “b” word is sexist, then you’re on the wrong blog. If you don’t like my referencing of Batman Arkham City, then you’re missing my point about how powerful media is (Batman is such a popular character and there’s no doubt, despite the Teen rating of the game, that children play that game – it is Batman, after all). Look at Hollywood films. Look at TV shows. Read the link I shared about how increasingly common it is to hear the “b” word and other sexist slurs on popular TV shows.

        By making assumptions about my “tone” and characterizing it as “aggressive,” you are making a pathetic attempt to make this about me. My responses to criticism is more upsetting to you than the actual problem of misogyny and sexism within leftist movements (which is what I addressed in the post). Your silence on that is the most disturbing part here.

      • This was just as awesome as the article itself^^….keep up the good work and try not to let these assholes raise your blood pressure, but of course retain the passion. See…asshole is accurate, because the only thing that comes out of them is shit.

      • Mast –
        Please please please stop references Arkham city or whatever.

        Next point, Charles Gadfly made a really good point: that negative terms for both genders are widely used, and that there are just as shameful and degrading terms for male as female – see “creep” or “dickhead” or “penis” or “prick”.

        His point that you failed to address at all was that being incredibly thin-skinned about language is not actually helpful for equality, as language will always be harsh to some mild degree – stupid, lame, dickwad, pussy, asshole crazy, all reflect categories of people, as do many other words.

        Either bite the bullet and say negative terms based off of gender (and anything else) are ALL unacceptable (male included) – a Utopian pipe dream – or accept that there are negative terms based off of gender that are widely used on for both genders, just as there are negative terms based off of intelligence, size, weight, socioeconomic status, etc, which are also widely used.

        This is not to say that language can never hurt (see negative racial terms) because clearly it’s case dependent or word dependent. What words we find acceptable (or should find acceptable) in a public-sphere is based on far more complex notions than you give thrift to here.

        And to say that someone feels more “ashamed and degraded” after being called a “bitch” vs being called a “dickhead” or “creep” shows just how biased you appear to be. No one likes a hypocrite.

        And honestly, this talk kind of undervalues women as free agents. Just because a girl finds out pussy is slang for weak I don’t expect them to turn out weak, any more than a boy, finding out dick is slang for a forceful, arrogant person will turn out to be forceful and arrogant. There is no evidence that the negative language in our culture, which is about so many things, somehow impacts women moreso than it impacts any other group for which there are mildly negative terms against them (crazy, lame, stupid).

        There are plenty of things left to fight for in ensuring gender equality, such as longer maternity leave (and paternity leave!), changes in work schedule, changes in education, etc, but honestly, this obsession with slang language is academic in the worst way.

      • “Please please please stop references Arkham city or whatever.”

        In other words, please please please shut up about sexist language in immensely popular video games that reach a wide audience of people of all ages! There’s no way people are influenced by popular media, especially a video game based off of one of America’s most iconic superheroes! No way at all!

        Next point, Charles Gadfly made a really good point: that negative terms for both genders are widely used, and that there are just as shameful and degrading terms for male as female – see “creep” or “dickhead” or “penis” or “prick”.

        Again, calling a man a “dickhead” is simply not the same as calling a woman any of the slurs I mentioned. When men want to really insult each other, they use anti-woman and/or homophobic slurs. Because society teaches us that being a woman or gay are horrible things. There are plenty of excellent articles and blogs written about this “reverse sexism” myth that you’re trying to push here. It isn’t my job to educate you about it. Do the work yourself and understand that, like “reverse racism,” there is no such thing as “reverse sexism.” Men are not systematically oppressed by women. PERIOD.

        His point that you failed to address at all was that being incredibly thin-skinned about language is not actually helpful for equality, as language will always be harsh to some mild degree

        Typical ad hominem attack and characterizing people who speak out against oppression as being “thin skinned” or “hypersensitive” or “reading too much into things.” In other words, you’re saying that we should just let things be and not make any effort to unlearn oppressive language. We should not do any work at all.

        Either bite the bullet and say negative terms based off of gender (and anything else) are ALL unacceptable (male included) – a Utopian pipe dream – or accept that there are negative terms based off of gender that are widely used on for both genders, just as there are negative terms based off of intelligence, size, weight, socioeconomic status, etc, which are also widely used.

        “Utopian pipe dream”? What? Anyway, I am quite against ableist language too. I’ve written about it elsewhere on this blog, too. There’s another post I wrote on why eliminating sexist language matters. And again, “reverse sexism” doesn’t exist.

        This is not to say that language can never hurt (see negative racial terms) because clearly it’s case dependent or word dependent.

        You contradict yourself, lol. Racism and sexism are interconnected. Study up on that.

        There are plenty of things left to fight for in ensuring gender equality, such as longer maternity leave (and paternity leave!), changes in work schedule, changes in education, etc, but honestly, this obsession with slang language is academic in the worst way.

        In other words, we should be fighting against sexism in workplaces and schools, but when it comes to sexist language, it’s ok for men to use sexist slurs against women??? Did you miss the part in my post where I said nobody gets a “free pass” on sexism just because they do activist work?

    • Women would not have to go on ad nauseum if it were’t for dicks like you Gadfly. Rather than blather on about how fucking bored you were, how ’bout you just stop calling anyone a pussy–because of all the reasons the author stated. And it does make a difference how one uses language–see how I called you a ‘dick?’ It’s because you are acting like a tool that has no brain.

  8. Enjoyed reading your post.

    In India, I often hear feminists, many of them women activists, using bitch, pussy or cunt to put down someone quite casually. It is part of the “liberated lingo” of the progressive women here. And if you aren’t comfortable with that, then you are branded conservative. About a year back, i had interviewed Germaine Greer, and one of her remarks was: “… the most powerful word in English, the word that makes men pale, is the word ‘cunt’….” Use the word as a weapon, she said :)

    Really liked your piece Mocking “Foreign Accents” and the Privilege of “Sounding White”.

  9. I would argue that the word “pussy” in this context has nothing to do with female genitalia and everything to do with “pusillanimity,” i.e., cowardliness; from the latin pusil (little boy) + animus (spirit).

  10. interesting article. as someone grounded in southern male bigotry my own struggles with friends and family have been difficult to say the least. and i would like to raise a question because after reading your post i am uncertain whether i have proceeded in a way that disarms them or simply reinforces them.
    the use of sexist terms is flagrant. so i began some time ago, and before id really read any literature on the subject, to turn the phrase back on itself. so when someone was called a ‘pussy’ i would respond by asking them how weak they thought that was since it passed them, the size of a football, into the world. they would make comments about growing some balls or ‘she has some balls’, to which i would try to append the comment ‘she has ovaries of steel’.
    its difficult b/c on the one hand i am keeping to the language of genetic difference to describe strength, yet at the same time, i feel that turning the image on its head is the only way to get through at some level.
    would be interested as to your thoughts.
    thanks.

  11. As an advocate for better treatments and supports for people with serious mental illness, I have the same problem with people on the Left who use the words Schizo, nutcase, psycho, crazies, nuthouse, looneybin, etc, when expressing frustration over people whose extreme views are not in line with their own.

      • i agree with this empowerment of the individual to state what their particular feelings are concerning specific words and phrases.
        at the same time i believe there is a necessary difference between acceptable social discourse and what we privately feel. social discourse should of course not be allowed to disempower an individual’s response. instead social discourse is an agreed upon means by which we may all communicate in ways which are comprehensible to each other. if you will, it is the social grease that smooths the ability to hear each other. if words or phrases are being used which simply shut down communication then these should be carefully reconsidered.
        of course these boundaries can and should always be tested and expanded or contracted depending upon an overall agreement. for instance, a minority of a particular group may find a particular word is acceptable or currently not in describing themselves. there will be tension over this, and there should be, but the greater virtue is for the majority to take this understanding seriously and to adapt to the minorities request even as this request is being debated internally.

    • On one hand I agree totally – it’s so important to work to undo the stigma of mental illness.

      On the other hand – there undoubtedly IS a lot of severe mental illness and ‘disordered thinking’ that’s usually being described with those unfortunate slurs. Paranoia, sociopathy and psychopathy spring to mind as obvious examples (there’s even interesting research into the prevalence of psychopaths and psychopathic traits amongst CEOs, etc).
      With some on the extreme right, their statements even read like psychosis. (especially those who are ‘right wing religious’.)

      And of course there’s the less clinically severe but still quite pathological examples of projection, transference, denial, confirmation bias, and so on.

      So on one hand, important not to use slurs, and to understand the prevalence of mental health challenges. On the other hand, I don’t think we can achieve meaningful change in the modern world without understanding how interwoven mental illness is in the fabric of society (political, economic, and elsewhere..)

      • I’m not sure what your point is. What needs to be unlearned and challenged are the ways in which we use ableist slurs and deny people their rights. What kind of characteristics and stereotypes do we associate with people who are “diagnosed with mental illnesses”? The main point of rejecting ableist language is to challenge oppression.

        Also, the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses do not commit violent crimes. In fact, only 4% of violence in the U.S. can be attributed to “mental illness.”

  12. YES

    And for the asshole men who say b*tch and p*ssy are no big deal, you don’t get to dictate how I feel about those words. You don’t get to dictate if I feel degraded or not, just like a thief doesn’t get to dictate or define what theft is.

  13. Vice is not a leftist space. It is a libertarian magazine that embraces hipsterism as the highest form of capitalism. Its motivating idea is “too cool to care”.

  14. I’ve had so many men tell me that the word,” Pussy” means weak or coward, not woman like, so there is no reason for us to be offended. I think it’s great that they don’t see women as being weak, but they really need to understand the misogyny behind those words and why we have a right to be offended.

  15. Wow. This was very eye opening. Thank you so much for writing this. Everyone needs to read this and learn from it. I was very moved by your passion.

  16. Fantastic piece! BUT, I wonder what words we will be allowed to use in the end to some extent. When someone does something that doesn’t make sense and we want to emphasise this with force, we can’t use crazy? I have had all sorts of MH issues, and have physical deformities too, but I don’t get offended if someone says ‘Hey, Tony Abbott (the Aus PM) is Crazy’ Because frankly, I think he is way more crazy than any person I know who has diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues….but is it also Ableist to call a pattern ‘crazy’. I am a feminist, and I am definitely for everyone’s rights and respect, including not putting down men simply for being male, or lesbians or large people, or slim people, or disabled, or people of each and every race (I am Irish, how many Irish jokes have you heard about how stupid they are? They were considered lower than African Americans in America for some time, and were repressed within an inch of their lives and still are in some parts, even though many of them are ‘white males’. Yes, I do study Irish dancing and listen to tiddlee dee music and play a Bodhran, and I am very proud of my culture). But I do honestly wonder what words will be left in our language if we go too far. I am NOT supporting the use of negative gender slurs at all, and I do not use them, but I don’t like calling (males or females) nasty things about male genitalia either, I see it as a very important part of equality and feminism and trying to be a decent HUMAN. I am not being facetious or a smarty, but I am somewhat concerned that after we clean up these parts of language (which is great) that we will censor ourselves into pure conservatism bordering on fanaticism equal to that perpetrated by the current male dominated cultures we are currently trying to break down. I don’t want anyone to tell me I haven’t done my homework, or tell me I am doing it all wrong or insinuate my ‘stupidity’ a genderless word I find more offensive than many words we are fighting against, I have been doing this for a long time, I am a female and have been exploring and learning feminism for 40 years. I have seen people suggest that any acknowledgement of any gender identity should be abolished altogether! I personally find this odd as I really like my gender and being a woman, and all the other genders as well. Doesn’t mean I like everyone on the planet though (i think arseholes might be a good word, everyone has an arsehole except jelly fish)…..I do hope we can band together, work out a decent but not over the top code of ‘manners’ (that is what they were called in the olden days) and finally finish bickering about the minutae and get on with making real social change, and I absolutely understand the relevance of language within this, but we also have some pretty giant fish to fry at the moment that might need as much if not more attention over the next few months/years/decades. I do reiterate that I think this is a great article, but I think we need to assist our fellow friends who are taking an honest interest (and are not trolling, but really trying to enter into discussion as I am now) instead of alienating them or trying to make them feel bad (I see this happen to women as well, and recently changed my profile pic to a famous male ballet dancer to test out some of my own theories, I was smacked down for being a white male who had no idea). The more men of any colour/ability/age (and of any gender identity) and other people that we can all collaborate with and educate the better. This whole movement needs to be more inclusive and understanding of people who are trying to change their thinking. This is a learning curve for all of humanity. Not just those who have read more or spent more time doing this than everyone else, or who has suffered the most, such people should be thoughtful educators and be perhaps more patient with the privileged and unharmed as they often have the least experience to help them understand what we are all yelling about. They won’t understand if we keep dismissing them and their honest questions. Then maybe they will begin the process to educate the trolls and haters too. As mother would say, ‘this is not a competition it is a group effort’.

    Have a lovely day. Keep The Faith. Be excellent to each other.

    • A historical note* I was did not want to be or sound offensive (or even racist) to African Americans when I said ‘Irish people were considered lower than African Americans for some time in America’ as re-reading my post, that could sound really dismissive of the massive issues that have been faced and are still being dealt within America and many other countries, and even simply rude, but the Irish were enslaved as well, had their children stolen and put into slave camps, men were slaughtered and land stolen by the rich, and it is often forgotten how many groups of people are discriminated against in very severe ways globally. It was just an observation that many cultures of people are considered unequal historically and currently, and not just because of their gender/identity or skin covering. When i get angry about something, people would blame the colour of my hair (red- part of my genetics), not the actual context of my outrage, like blaming female outrage on hysteria and pms. I hope I am being clear enough in this amendment.

      Solidarity is where I am trying to get to. Peace.

    • I think we need to move away from the concern that we will become “fascists” or promote “censorship” if we are advocating against words that are harmful, damaging, and oppressive. I was also speaking from my position as a man and arguing that men should not use sexist slurs. There are women who still use the terms, however it is much different than how men use it.

      Racial slurs are another example, and it continues to amaze me how I still hear so many white people complain about how black people “use the n-word more than anybody, but when we say it, we’re racist.” A lot of amazing black scholars, writers, activists, and individuals have explained over and over again about how its different when the word is used by black people.

      By calling on men to stop using sexist slurs and asking white people to stop using racial slurs, it cannot be “fascism.” Countless people of color sit in classrooms and hear racial slurs being used by their classmates. They also witness the silence of their teachers when these words are used. I think that if we label anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist, and anti-homophobic efforts as “censorship,” we divert our attention away from how seriously damaging and harmful these words are.

      I had a linguistic professor in undergrad who would always challenge people whenever they tried to triviliaze the impact language has upon people and society. It is not about “bigger fish to fry” versus “language” – it is about understanding the interlinking dynamics of how oppression operates, both on subtle and explicit levels.

      I did find your statement about Irish being oppressed “more” than African-Americans to be extremely problematic. I know you clarified on it in your next comment, and like your mom said, “This is not a competition.” What we do need to be mindful of is how African-Americans are still facing racism and the effects of slavery today. We do not see systematic racism or prejudice targeting the Irish, but we do see laws, policies, media images, high incarceration rates, and police brutality that is directed towards black people.

      I do want to make some quick points about the notion of how we need to educate one another. From a person of color’s standpoint, I’ve experienced and witnessed how oppressive it can be to force someone into an “educator” role. Something I emphasize is that people are human beings, and expecting a person of color to always assume the “educator” role is dehumanizing. It doesn’t take into account that this is a huge burden for us, that we cannot be treated as spokespersons for our diverse community, that we cannot have emotions like anger. Something that I, and many people of color, request of white allies is to understand our anger. Some people may very well respond to you and tell you to do your homework, but that should not be taken as a personal attack. It can exhausting for people of color to constantly have to challenge racism and then expect to be “educators,” no matter how uncomfortable and difficult the conversation is. There is an excellent blog I have listed on my blogroll called “Whites Educating Whites.” Similarly, when it comes to sexism and misogyny, it is often women who are speaking up against it. Male allies should join that struggle and talk to other men about ending sexist oppression.

      As I have learned from others, being an ally is a process. It is something we need to maintain and constantly work on daily. Whatever community we try to ally ourselves with, we need to *listen* to that community instead of trying to speak *for* them or dismiss their experiences. I think this is an excellent post on being an ally:

      http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-01-on-being-an-ally

      • I thought what AAC said was really good. Any sort of movement can go too far. I appreciate your points too though, Mast. You definitely have passion and intelligence to match it.

      • The main point here was that men should never use gender slurs. I’m not sure how that’s going “too far”? It’s not oppressive to tell men to not say these words. It’s oppressive for men to continue using these slurs.

      • It’s not “fascism” or “censorship”, but it is assuming an inflexible moral authority on the issue that doesn’t appear to have room for conflicting subjectivities, alternative perspectives, or discussion on the topic. Words should be taken seriously, and they are part of systemic oppression, yet meaning is also fluid and changes over time, and words can mean different things to different people. Both these things are true, yet flatly claiming X word always has X connotation regardless of context seems to reject the later in favor of the former.

        When people recoil from and/or criticize what they see as – if not “censorship” then at least a censor’s attitude towards language – one thing they might be objecting to is the sheer inflexibility of the rhetoric. Such inflexibility arguably belies a level of *certainty* on these issues that feels hard to reconcile with a respect for subjectivity. Saying we respect different perspectives, saying we embrace subjectivity, but then collecting and cataloging all known subjectivities into some “final meta-subjectivity” is objectivity by a different name.

        I get the impression reading discussions like this that such inflexibility is a response to people of privilege (predominantly white, cis, male, etc.) systematically hiding behind ambiguity, subjectivity, and context as a cheap tactic to evade accountability. One very effective way to fight people who hide in ambiguity is to eliminate ambiguity, and it seems like some activists feel they have to resort to this tactic to fight oppression. It certainly works, but it also runs the risk of not being able to regain the flexibility it has abandoned.

        I do not believe such a hard lined attitude towards language is required to fight oppression. Definitions for oppressive use of language should be focused more on specific contexts, less on specific words. Having (flexible) guidelines is fine, saying “Hey, be careful with language, here are some examples, but it ultimately really depends on context.” That communicates a very different attitude, a very different mentality, than a kind of final, immutable list of do’s and don’t’s.

      • It’s not “fascism” or “censorship”, but it is assuming an inflexible moral authority on the issue that doesn’t appear to have room for conflicting subjectivities, alternative perspectives, or discussion on the topic.

        It’s really telling how men have this reaction when being told they should not use misogynistic language. Challenging power and privilege means that there are often those who are afraid of losing that power and privilege.

        You say: “Words should be taken seriously, and they are part of systemic oppression”

        But then you say: “I do not believe such a hard lined attitude towards language is required to fight oppression.”

        Then you talk about the context of how these words are used. Why is your criticism so focused on finding ways to justify using misogynistic slurs? Do you not see how concerning that is? Rather than asking ourselves, “What ways can we use these words?” we should instead ask, “Are we perpetuating sexist oppression?” When we place more emphasis on resisting to perpetuate sexist oppression, we are able to hold ourselves accountable.

        Your last sentence is a “tone argument.” You’re saying that you would agree with me only if my “tone” was “nicer” or “calmer.” Read this post because that is what you’re doing (it focuses mostly on racism, but applies to sexism, too):

        http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/the-tone-argument/

  17. I just got so thoroughly annoyed with reading “white men and men of color” so many times that I couldn’t finish. I’m not even a male! YOU of all people sound like you’re smart enough to know you should write “men” instead of “white men and men of color” as though there are two types of men in the world.

    • My reasons for writing “white men and men of color” was to recognize the different privileges and disadvantages that those men experience due to their positionalities. It is drawn from bell hooks’ work where she argued against the construction of the “universal woman” – because there is no “universal woman” or “universal man.” When we write “men and women,” it is often assumed that white men and white women represent the “norm.” It also simplifies our experiences and ignores the diversity of experiences we have due to factors like race, class, sexuality, religion, ability, and so on. hooks presented this critique to white mainstream feminism because women of color were marginalized and/or ignored. She also raised this critique to challenge the notion of wanting to be “social equals of men.” She writes: “This broad definition, popularized by the media and mainstream segments of the movement, raises problematic questions. Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?”

      Similarly, when I write “white men and men of color,” I’m alluding to the racial privilege that white man have, and the racism that men of color experience. I chose not to write “men” because it would be too simplistic and overlook the intersection of racism and sexism.

  18. A very good read! But doesn’t the term “pussy” originate from the term “wet” and not an insinuation that someone is acting like a literal vagina – I mean I’m not even sure how being like a vagina could even be a diss…

    I’m not saying it’s no longer sexist terminology as based on the context I assume “wet” is just another word for soppy or emotional, which exists to openly criticise and ridicule men who display typically female traits, but this one goes deeper than “balls are strong; vaginas are weak!” He’s basically saying “don’t cry about women being in control of how you act when really it’s your fellow man who create and enforce ideologies (y)” – making “pussies” by any definition victims of misogyny not of reverse sexism.

    • The use of the term in contemporary times is often to insult men and degrade their masculinity. We still hear it being used in schools, workplaces, sports, TV shows, movies, etc. Regardless of where the term originates, it is largely used as a gendered slur.

      Just like the author of the post I critiqued did, using a woman’s body to insult men and perpetuate sexist stereotypes is what needs to be challenged.

  19. Admin Note: Your comment was deleted because you wrote:

    “I find it very discouraging that Blacks have “empowered themselves” by using the word n****r so casually that members of the white power structure feel justified in allowing the thoughts that are associated with that word be a part of their thought process again. Just as I feel angry with women who call themselves Feminists call other women “ho” or “slut.”

    This is more than a reflection of your privilege. It’s an attempt to reinforce your dominance in spaces where your opinion on these issues are not only irrelevant, but also racist and sexist. I am still amazing that we are still having this conversation about the n-word and how black people choose to use it. You are not black and you have no right to dictate how black people choose to use or not use the word. Isn’t it ironic how white people first began projecting the word unto black people, and now white people want to take it away from them?

    Also, you are not a woman, and you should not be telling women what they can or cannot say. That was addressed in this post and it’s concerning that you didn’t seem to pick up on that. This post is not about policing women. It’s about how men need to recognize their privilege and complicity, and how they need to hold themselves accountable for it. I hope you take the time to read the post again.

    • Admin can delete all they want, but the same dynamic applies when gay people (LGBT people) go self-identifying as “queer.” GAY, and LESBIAN, have, as words and as self-identifications, attained the same dignity that “black” has attained within society in general.

      I’m gay, though I have lived almost all 64 1/2 years of my life identifying as straight, or sometimes bisexual (I have had two wives, and one daughter now 21, herself bisexual). According to “Jimhadstate” ‘s criteria, I DO have the right to question and speak about this. If gay people insist on calling themselves a slur which to a huge, probably majority, swath of American people connotes weird child-molesting wrist-flippers, well, I don’t guess I can stop them. But it’s a spang ignorant way to conduct public social relations, and empowers homophobe bullies.

      I very definitely take the point of view expressed by what Jimhadstate (if he was the “Admin” in question) deleted:

      ““I find it very discouraging that Blacks have “empowered themselves” by using the word n****r so casually that members of the white power structure feel justified in allowing the thoughts that are associated with that word be a part of their thought process again. Just as I feel angry with women who call themselves Feminists call other women “ho” or “slut.”

      • Wait, it was made clear on this blog that we are not going to police black people on what word they use. Why… are we going over this again? Do you realize that shaming black people and women for those words they choose to use also means that you are saying they are not intelligent enough to have these conversations themselves? White people and non-black people of color have NO place in making judgments or deciding whether or not Black people should use the n-word. Similarly, men have NO place in making judgments or deciding whether or not women should use the words mentioned in this post.

        Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yDMd9g1oSA

        White people need to get over this obsession with the n-word, and men need to get over their obsession with trying to police women. Otherwise you come off sounding like you know what’s best for them, which is racist and sexist, respectively.

        Put this conversation to rest.

  20. Great article and lots of food for thought. I have one query re: the bell hook quote, “All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another.”
    I can see that this might have been true thirty years ago but I would find it profoundly depressing if I thought that not one feminist mother had managed to raise one son who doesn’t support or perpetuate sexism! I agree that it is not the norm, but I think there are some conscious and aware men out there, who challenge sexist oppression and work hard to ensure they do not inadvertently support or perpetuate sexism. I even count some of these men as friends.

    • Raising kids is hard! It’s difficult enough to stop them eating all the raisins, making sure your male assigned babies don’t turn out to be misogynists must be super hard, although possible. I agree it’s depressing. Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it.

      • I agree, raising children is hard, and I truly wasn’t blaming mothers for any sexism their sons might exhibit. I just feel that more boys are being brought up in a feminist environment and more men are educating themselves or are being made more aware of gender equality issues by people around them. Maybe I’m being idealistic but I think credit should be given when it’s due.

    • Hi Loisfriday,

      Those are great points. There definitely are mothers who have raised their sons to challenge sexism, sexist notions of masculinity, patriarchy, etc. As a man, I remember when I read that sentence in bell hooks’ book several years ago and it got me thinking about how pervasive sexist socialization is. I think that is what her point is – that sexism is so embedded in our patriarchal society and understanding of men and women; it’s impossible for men to remove themselves of male privilege and power. With her intersectional analysis in mind, there are always unearned privileges and advantages I will have because I am a heterosexual man. There are also always going to be disadvantages I will have because I am Pakistani and Muslim.

      Even writing and/or speaking about ending sexist oppression reveals some of the privileges I have only because I am a man. For instance, when men talk about ending sexist oppression, they are viewed as having “more credibility” or perceived as being “more objective.” Meanwhile, the women who have been addressing these issues for so long have to fight through the hostile attempts to silence, marginalize, and vilify their voices.

      Just yesterday, a friend told me that sexist men have been sharing this very post I wrote and are *agreeing* with me. They are agreeing with me because (1) I am a man and (2) they view themselves as not being complicit in their sexism. This is really disturbing and I hope that my post gets them to do more introspection and take responsibility for their sexist behaviors, attitudes, and views. I’ve been thinking of ways to follow up with another post and addressing this. How do we challenge sexism and misogyny when men like this view themselves as being “outside of patriarchy” and deny the way they’ve passively or actively perpetuated sexist oppression? Also, women who have written about these same problems within leftist groups get far more attacked and shamed than I do, so there’s also that double standard that needs to be challenged.

      You’re right that there are conscious and aware men who do work against sexist oppression. Though it also disheartens me that all of the comments attacking me on this blog are from men.

  21. I found this piece to be well written and informative. Thank you for presenting this information in an educated manner. I agree with you. Don’t let the “negatives” stop you.

  22. Admin Note: Your comment was deleted because you were defending Hugo Schwyzer’s sexism and misogyny. Defending Schwyzer? Seriously? That is extremely disturbing.

  23. So insightful, and well-articulated. It’s especially relevant given the whole Tejpal drama unfolding in India. High time one begins a conversation about activist men and their sexism – sextivists. Many thanks.

  24. It’s your blog, but I will probably choose to not comment in any forum where there exists a policy that excludes people from taking certain positions, whether or not you believe those positions to be valid. It is well established in argumentation that nothing can ever be proved absolutely, so I consider your comment policy to be a systematic attempt to avoid having to counter certain arguments simply by the virtue that you believe them to be invalid. I also read frequent responses here where you tell people to “educate” themselves about this or that, which I consider to be simply a red herring and an attempt to shift the burden of proof away from yourself. That is all. :)

    • Aw, I’m so sorry that you feel so oppressed on a Pakistani Muslim man’s blog. I had no idea my blog had systematic power to completely silence anyone who holds sexist and misogynistic views. You’re right, when we don’t understand how patriarchy operates, why can’t we just get other people to do all the work for us, right? Let’s derail this important conversation about sexism and misogyny within leftist spaces and turn our attention to how men like you feel so oppressed on a brown man’s blog. It’s all about you after all, right?

      • Mast, I completely agree with Lucas H’s comment. I find it very disturbing that you are deleting remarks instead of addressing them. For someone who claims to be so interested in ending oppression you seem to do a lot of silencing and not a lot of listening.

      • I have been allowing comments – I only delete those that are (1) repetitive (circular arguments that go nowhere), (2) invoke “reverse sexism” or “reverse racism,” (3) anti-feminist, and (4) personal attacks. But even I’ve allowed the latter to go through.

        Look at the people expressing outrage over the picture I used in this post. Just yesterday I was told that I should “hang myself” or kill myself with “bullets” just because someone disagreed with my post and the picture I used. These are remarks coming from men who identify with leftist movements. Isn’t this disturbing? I let these comments go posted here:

        https://muslimreverie.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/when-men-on-the-left-refuse-to-see-their-sexism/leftfailpatriarchy/

        I may be deleting some comments, but I am not issuing anyone death threats nor am I telling them to “go kill themselves.” Why are these men so angry at a post that calls out their sexism and patriarchy, and not about these death threats and personal attacks? I receive Islamophobic hate mail all the time (people who tell me they want to “slaughter all Muslims”), but I know women bloggers, writers, an activists have been constantly attacked on their blogs/sites for talking about these same issues and more. That is what I find really disturbing.

  25. Besides your often repeated “white men and men of color”, what other kind of men are there? I mostly agree with the article, but this little bit of verbal blunder is very telling to the same kind of observant eye that would see the misogyny you rightly call out. And my only point is, take the gloves off and stop dancing. Call men men and hold them responsible regardless of color.

    • I’m not dancing around anything. Within white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, we need to be conscious of how these interlocking systems of oppression generate diverse experiences. When I write “white men and men of color,” it is not a “verbal blunder,” it’s acknowledging the anti-racist feminist critiques about generalized constructions of “white people” representing the “universal man” or “universal woman.” I’m not sure where you see that I’m not holding all men accountable regardless of color. If you read my post, that is what I am saying. Read this part in section 3 for instance:

      “There needs to be clarification that not all men benefit from sexism and heteropatriarchy in the same way. Certainly, the ways in which gender and race intersect must be taken into account.The framework here isn’t “all men are the same” or “men are the enemies,” but rather that white men and men of color need to practice accountability and understand the different, though interconnected, effects interlocking systems of oppression has on them (e.g. heterosexual cis-gendered white men benefit from both white supremacy and patriarchy). Men of color are horribly demonized and victimized by racist forces in society (as are women of color), though this should not absolve them of sexism and misogyny. White women can exert power over men of color and women of color through racism and reinforcing white supremacy, though this doesn’t lessen the importance of dismantling heteropatriarchy (which is interlocked with white supremacy).”

      Furthermore, I suggest you read “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” by bell hooks. She discusses this in her chapter on men.

  26. So i found the article interesting, but I am having a little problem with it. So as and undergrad i studied philosophy, and one of my favorite classes was philosophy of language. One of the first thing you are taught is that language is arbitrary, So there is no inherent quality of utterance X that forever binds it to a meaning. Hence the utterance ‘Dog’ only refers my 4 legged furry friend outside because that is the agreed upon utterance that refers to my 4 legged furry friend. The Utterance ‘Spoon’ has the same potential to refer to my 4 legged furry friend as ‘Dog’ all that is needed is us to agree to the meaning for the said utterance.

    Now this is where my problem comes in, by making said words taboo you try and in effect link one meaning to a word and all the negative stigma attached to the said meaning. Now as i studies the logic of language I quickly realize that spoken language is a nightmare for information transference, which is the basic idea behind communication, at least as i understand it. (hell i could be wrong and many times are.) Now this cementing of a utterance with one meaning is a problem because it doesn’t take into account the fluidity of language. Lets face it meaning of words change, and they seem to change at an increasing rate given the massive increase in communication the internet brings. So shouldn’t we look at the intent of the speaker before deeming the utterance as misogynistic or racist, remembering that language is fluid and utterances often misunderstood and intent of the speaker is often lost in the transfer. (especially given the horrible communication skill 90% of the population has…)

    I mean, i hate to refer to this but, South park had a episode about this and the word ‘f@g’, where the kids ascribed and completely new meaning and completely threw of the homosexual slur intent of the word. (even to the point where when someone else made that homosexual slur intent known to they they got upset that anyone would use that word in that way.) I mean in their understanding and meaning there was no homophobic intent Where they wrong in using it? I mean are we doomed to have to be chained to our parents and grandparents usage, meaning, and intent behind a word?

    • As I said to others on this thread, you speak as if men who use misogynistic language are intensely stigmatized in our society. On the contrary, we hear this language everywhere – in schools, at work, on TV, in movies, on the internet, etc. Language is powerful and it shapes the way we perceive and treat others. Rather than asking ourselves, “What ways can we use these words?” we should instead ask, “Are we perpetuating sexist oppression?”

      As for intent – it’s not about intent, it’s about impact. Read: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/07/intentions-dont-really-matter/?upw

      • No, what i am saying is that to simple say this is a bad word and shall for every be labeled as such is simplistic in its approach.

        I think that maybe you are ascribing too much power to language. I mean what if you had a person who every day call the women around him the b word but never the less worked to pass measures like Equal Pay Act or Violence Against Women Act. How we shape our perception of the world is more complex than just the words we come across on an everyday bases.

        Secondly The article on intent verses impact is somewhat of a straw man. The examples they gave seem to be problematic., the first example with the Frisbee,is especially bad because the intent is clear with the thrown Frisbee, she even said,”You don’t know me, but I walk right up to you holding a Frisbee.,I wind up – and throw the disc right into your face” The intent is clear. Now tell me that language is not more nuanced and complex that this action. Hell changes in inflection of a sentence where you are saying the same exact words can leave to vastly different meanings!

      • I’m not interested in cyclical arguments. I don’t have time to repeat myself over and over again. I do have to say that it’s very telling that most of the people who have issues with this article are men. I just got a super long e-mail from another male reader who just can’t understand why saying sexist and misgoynistic words are unacceptable. I think it’s really pathetic and disturbing that many of the comments from men are so focused on trying to justify the usage of these words. Are you seriously going to feel oppressed if you can’t use these words against women? You need to ask yourself why you’re investing so much energy into excusing sexist language.


        I mean what if you had a person who every day call the women around him the b word but never the less worked to pass measures like Equal Pay Act or Violence Against Women Act.

        Well, that’s the point of my post. I’m saying that no matter what men do, they do not get a “free pass” on sexist and misogynistic language. Like that photography activist I mentioned in my post – are you implying that we shouldn’t hold him accountable for taking an invasive photo of a woman just because he attends rallies, speaks out against police brutality, etc. Attending a patriarchy workshop magically erases men’s sexism? Being anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, etc. are not “one time” things. It’s a process and something we need to work on daily. Read this article on being an ally:

        http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-01-on-being-an-ally?fb_ref=.TyjRHgUVMOY.like&fb_source=home_oneline

        Especially this line: “[A]s an ally you must be willing to recognize that your status as such is only as good as how you are acting right now. If you’re straight and you march in the pride parade every year and cast votes in support of gay marriage, but right now you are saying something transphobic, trans folks have a right to call you out on not being a good ally. It you’re a man who avoids using sexist language and encourages other men to consider the limiting nature of traditional gender roles, great, but if right now you compare something you disagree with or find unpleasant to rape, don’t be surprised if the women whose side you thought you were on suddenly question if you really are.”

        Also, intent versus impact is not a new concept. That’s kind of anti-racism and feminism 101. Intent is not more important than impact. It’s very telling that you refuse to make an effort to understand what that article was explaining. I don’t consider people who focus on “intent” over impact as allies.

  27. i thought the vice guy’s title was
    A)Funny
    B)clever
    C)ironic
    D)purposefully crass
    E)totally in keeping with the language/style of the magazine he writes for.

    as a woman with both a vagina and a sense of humour, i am not offended by his use of the word pussy, but i do generally find feminist articles a bit of a bore.. does that make me a bad person? am i contributing to the patriarchy?

  28. Thank you, THANK YOU for writing this! This covers so many of the really important points that nag at me when I’m in conversations with “ally” male friends who can put on the feminist flag when they need it but still call women “cunts.” I’m reluctant to call them out on it in fear of being labelled as a “crazy feminist” who’s “seeing attacks where there’s no bad intentions,” but everything you covered in this article are really important things that more people need to be aware of!

    I don’t think I can contribute constructively to the discussion here (not in a writing mindset right now) but I’m definitely sharing this with everyone I know.

    • Thank you for your comment and support! It is really disturbing how common and normalized sexism and patriarchy is. Men, including myself, need to be more concerned about working AGAINST sexism instead of being defensive when called out. It’s terrible you’ve had those conversations with so-called allies. :/

      Thanks for sharing the post!

  29. So when are we getting married (if you aren’t already)? Because you say all the right things lol. Every response and all the blog posts make me fall in love with your brain more and more. That’s all I had to say.

    • lol, thanks for your kind words! (No, I’m not married yet, haha) I know lots of women have been addressing this for the longest time and I owe a lot to women activists, scholars, and friends who have taught me a lot. And I am still learning. Thanks for your support!

  30. This is definitely the best article I have read on white man privilege etc to date. I was very pleased to read about the myth of reverse sexism because I never knew what to say to men who try to turn the tables. As for me I don’t use the word whore or slut or pussy anymore and try my best not to use the word bitch or use ‘girl’ in place of ‘woman’ and also try to use ‘womyn’ instead of ‘woman.’ Eliminating sexist and racist behavior in our groups has really created a safer space knowing that you will not be attacked ingnorantly or deliberately, especially in a punk community.

  31. Reblogged this on Civil Rights Advocacy and commented:
    There are two fronts occurring in the War on Women. The first front is ALEC and right-wing legislatures creating bills and laws that impinge on women’s reproductive justice, economic sustainability, marriage, etc., etc., etc. I have done several blogs on this issue; the most comprehensive one focused on 20+ years of attacks on women’s lives in Pennsylvania. The second front is the use of right-wing rhetoric that uses misogynistic language that results over time in sexist oppression of women. This rhetoric includes pejorative words that focus on “lady parts” and statements that either degrade women and their position in society or place them on a paternalistic pedestal where these women need to be “protected.” People on both the left and the right—sometimes without awareness—incorporate this rhetoric into their everyday language. Which then feeds into the first front I mentioned: legislating rights away from women.
    About a year ago, Muslim Reverie, a blogger who advocates for an “anti-racist, anti-colonial feminism,” wrote this blog on how men on the left of the political spectrum refuse to see or acknowledge their sexism. This focuses on this second front of rhetoric in the war on women. It includes several ideas for thought – use of white privilege; use of misogynistic language without taking into account its effects on women, particularly women of color; and how this rhetoric perpetuates the sexist oppression of women.
    Take a moment to read this thought-provoking blog. I think this is a great summary of this frontal attack on women’s lives.

  32. Pingback: Women and Power Differences Within Revolutionary Groups | Facing Reality
  33. Pingback: Welcome to Monday ~ 2 December 2013 | feminaust ~ for australian feminism
  34. FWIW, regarding:

    “When it was asked on the comment thread about whether or not he identified as an ally, Cheadle responded, ‘I just hate whiners and knee-jerk anti-feminists. I don’t really feel that I’m a part of the whole feminist enterprise, and I don’t really want to be.’”

    He isn’t calling you an anti-feminist. He was asked if he was an “ally” Consider his response this way: “[No,] I just hate whiners [like this emailer] and knee-jerk anti-feminists [which is why I wrote the article]. I don’t really feel that I’m a part of the whole feminist enterprise [i.e. not necessarily an "ally"], and I don’t really want to be.’”

    He knows you aren’t a knee-jerk anti-feminist. He addressed the knee-jerk anti-feminists in his article. You are the “whiner” that he addressed in his FB post for being so sensitive about his use of the term “pussy.” Thus, he positions himself between folks like you on the one side (the feminist struggle / enterprise / alliance / whatever-you-call-it / etc. people) and the knee-jerk anti-feminists on the other side. (Presumably, he’s willing to entertain non-knee-jerk anti-feminists.) He doesn’t agree with you about the term “pussy”, which is why he didn’t respond to you about it and didn’t remove it from the title.

  35. 99.9% of the time being called a pussy occurs when someone shows their unwillingness to do something reckless or plain stupid so if anything it should be a positive for women.

  36. It’s hard to decide whether to call out people who are angry because they romanticize The Way Things Used To Be (whether or not it treated women like children, or oppressed men, too) or to let the world know that these angry people are saying embarrassing things. In the way, it gives them a voice, but a clarification of the roots of embarrassing things can highlight why angry people are yelling about losing something. I made the same decision and wrote a piece on chivalry, and I think that there is a point. Thanks for posting!

  37. We are proving that humans are still foolish animals. Our logic using brains are just a thin layer over our emotionally chemical driven brains. We do stupid stuff, say stupid stuff, then justify it with our ethics or logic. Hopefully we can get over all this. Until we realize and come to terms with our true natures and really learn how to operate our amazing and messed up minds, ya know,gain some kind of congruency between our nature and our actions, there will be war. War and judgement between individual, group, state and country.
    Sincerely,

    James
    A political non-euclidian

  38. Pingback: Cleverly Named Bunch o’ Links 12/6/13 | Gravity's Wings
  39. Reblogged this on Oscar Hates Sexism and commented:
    Yup Yup. Facebook is a perfect place to spout hypocrisy. One moment there is a photo up of a smiling father and his daughter, and the next moment said father is posting a meme of a bouncing ladies asses. While that latter shouldn’t exist at all, the two existing in tandem is extra disheartening. This article is about much more than that, and way smarter than my ramblings.

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