Tuesday, June 22, 2010
IS THIS A SEXIST THING TO SAY?
I think it's safe to say that I know a lot of women.
Not women I've slept with or dated, just an accumulation of women met through life, school, work and other general activities over the years.
From some of these women have come complaints of me being "sexist."
I wholeheartedly deny the charge of being a sexist on the grounds of the definition of sexist/sexism from Dictionary.com which is:
"THE BELIEF THAT ONE SEX (USUALLY THE MALE) IS NATURALLY SUPERIOR TO THE OTHER AND SHOULD DOMINATE THE MOST IMPORTANT AREAS OF POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE."
I do not believe in this idea at all.
I believe with my entire heart and soul that women should have equality of pay, health care, reproductive rights, educational opportunity and all other aspects of positive social, political and economic freedom in the United States (I would say the rest of the world, but that would be a case of cultural relativism and I don't feel like having that discussion today).
Anyone that knows me, knows that I believe in these things and have (and continue) to fight for these ideals for as long as I live.
Now, my problem arises whenever I say something that many people (almost universally) believe is true but are too scared or PC to say it out loud on the subject of sex/gender issues.
For example, recently, I pissed off a woman I know because I said to her "I don't expect you to know anything about video games, Star Wars or science-fiction in general because you're a woman."
She got really pissed off and called me a "chauvinistic pig" and a few other choice terms I won't repeat here.
Maybe I've just been unlucky in meeting women that like Star Wars or video gaming, but let's say I randomly pick 20 women I know from my Facebook page, I can gaurantee that less than 5 have any knowledge of -- or interest in -- any of the aforementioned hobbies that tend to be overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Whenever I bring these subjects to light around most women I know, I get that standard 10,000 yard blank stare, like the kind that people have after being bitten by a zombie (wait, how many women watch zombie movies?). In other words, they look at me like I just quoted the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation or something. They have no idea what I'm talking about.
And if I pick 20 random guys off my Facebook page and mention either: 1) Star Wars, 2) video gaming, 3) something from the world of sci-fi; I can bet heavily that there will be somewhere between 12-18 that will not only know what I am talking about, but will have some kind of smart-assed response ready to fire back at me.
If this is the case, is it truly "sexist" to say that a woman won't know a damn thing about those subjects?
Granted, there are some hardcore female gamers and Star Wars fans out there that not only know more about these subjects than I do, but also have almost bottomless passion toward these things. However, they are the exception, not the rule. As I am sure that there are a few straight men that watch PROJECT: RUNWAY, but that's the exception folks. Not the rule.
This becomes an argument of biology vs. socialization.
There is nothing genetic built into a woman's DNA that suggests that she wouldn't be able to enjoy a video game or Star Trek or Star Wars on the same level as a man.
However, there is plenty to suggest that women in most societies are immediately socialized into a gender role stereotype (as are men) and this leads to certain choices about what to "get into" in terms of the pop culture zeitgeist. From the time we are born, we are put into gender roles -- male babies wear blue, female babies wear pink -- and from that moment, human gender identity is further constructed by fashion trends, political movements, community culture, religion, economics and peer groups.
For whatever reason, action-oriented, high-octane, external-threat-based stories and toys have been marketed to boys and domestic-oriented, internal-struggle-based, and superficial-emotional-conflict stories and toys have been marketed to girls.
With that in mind, there also seems to be a conscious choice by both sides to follow certain types of shows because it is expected that they do so. Every now and then you get someone to break through the gender curtain, but its not a normal occurrence.
Case in point:
I never watched LIFETIME in my life. I don't watch it now. But for a short period of time in the late 1990s-early 2000s I watched that channel because they showed one of my favorite shows of all time- UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, hosted by Robert Stack (RIP). During the commercials, I would see about 27 different commercials for about 15 different Lifetime made-for-TV movies about how some insane White man tried to kill his beautiful blonde White wife and the movies always end with her driving the car through their living room and kills him while he was trying to assault: a) her mother (his mother-in-law), b) a concerned co-worker, c) a nurse, d) their dog, e) the kindly old detective who takes a paternal role in the story.
All these movies ended with a bunch of bruised, crying women standing in front of an ambulance while they were being wrapped in a blanket by an anonymous fireman.
There was a week when I watched this stuff. Honest.
I almost lost my goddamned mind.
And by the way if you think I'm making this stuff up, take a look at a random assortment of movies for Lifetime:
When he wears glasses AND has beard stubble, you know this guy is a serious @$$hole.
I don't think I need to post anything else because these are the general plots of 90% of Lifetime movies.
Why these are marketed toward women, I have no idea because these people don't behave like any woman or man I've known. Why this appeals to women -- who seem to have something against sci-fi because its "fake" -- I also will never understand.
My point is that I at least went over to the other side to see what the appeal might be. I can have a conversation with a woman about these kinds of stories. Now, guys, go up to the first woman you see at work/school/restaurant and ask them this question - "Was Episode II how you imagined the Clone Wars to be after hearing Princess Leia's message in Episode IV?"
I bet 1 in 75 will be able to give you an answer.
Or better yet, ask them this - "Do you believe Halo: Reach will be better than Killzone 3?"
Bottom line, I know that people have tastes and have every right to choose what they wish. But I don't believe its a sexist thing to say that women just won't know about certain things because they are women. Not things like science, math, economics, history or politics. I know lots of brilliant women that know lots about those subjects.
But how many women, seriously, do you know that get excited about the same things you do? Better yet, how many women do you know that don't mind LEARNING about those things and sharing them with you?
Go ahead and count, I'll wait... I have another 45-50 years in my lifespan. :)