alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)
[personal profile] alexandra_thorn
Over in Facebook land today, there was a heated debate on the subject of whether or not it is sexist/unequal/whathaveyou to say that it's less okay for men to say "Real women have curves" than for a woman to say "Real women have curves."

My general response to this is as follows:

When a woman says "real women have curves," she is probably saying it because she sees herself as curvaceous and is building herself up after a lifetime of verbal abuse and microaggressions. It isn't a good framing, because it expresses a nasty contempt for women she sees as skinny, but the bitterness is at least understandable. When a cis man says it, he isn't going to be speaking from having experienced those microaggressions personally, and so I find it harder to forgive. Now, he may be expressing it in alliance with a woman in his life who fits the exact same profile that I've described above, which makes it less about his libido and more about compassion, but that doesn't alter my point that it's bad from everybody but sounds worse coming from a man.

One response I got back was that this is exactly the type of unequal treatment that gives feminists a bad rap, and that it's totally unacceptable to say that different people should be treated differently.

Here's an analogy that I hope might clarify where I'm coming from on this. How well do you guys think this works?

* * *

Imagine the following: last night two of Cindy's housemates, Andy and Beatrice, held a big dinner party, and left a massive pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink making it impossible for Cindy to cook breakfast the way you normally do without first cleaning up some of their dishes. Cindy's really super angry about this.

Sometime that day Cindy gets series of text messages from Andy, saying "Drunk driver totalled my car." "Stuck in emergency room 3 hours." and "Worst day ever."

That evening, Cindy gets home first, Beatrice second, and Andy third. Cindy goes to Beatrice and says, "Hey, I had to clean up your dishes from last night before I could have breakfast. That was super inconsiderate."

Beatrice apologizes profusely and immediately gets to work cleaning up the rest of the dishes.

Then Andy gets home.

Cindy says, "Hey, I had to clean up your dishes from last night before I could have breakfast. That was super inconsiderate."

Andy is nowhere near as polite. He says "Chr*st, do you have any idea what kind of day I've had?" Then stomps off into his room and slams the door.

Cindy turns to Beatrice and says "Well, geez, that was totally inappropriate of him."

Beatrice says, "You know he was stuck in the emergency room for 3 hours after having his car totalled, right?"

Cindy responds, "I don't see how that's relevant. It's not like *I'm* the one who totalled his car. He had no right to lash out at me."

* * *

So there's my little allegory. The question is, is this useful? Does the analogy break down anywhere? If so, where?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-06 11:32 pm (UTC)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
From: [personal profile] tim
I think it's a good analogy, but I have no idea whether it would convince anyone who benefits from not empathizing to try empathizing :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-07 04:51 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-08 06:12 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Okay, having had some time to think about this, I think that your analogy is logically sound, but won't be rhetorically effective, because it simply moves the goal posts.

It requires that the audience grant that women's lives are consistently "bad days", that is, that women's experience of sexism is pretty continuous and debilitating.

Your interlocutor is unlikely to grant that. He will almost certainly minimize the effect of sexism on women, discounting it as simply not that common, pervasive, or impacting. And by "that", meaning: enough to justify the dual standard. Which is how he will probably see it: that you're making a mountain out of a mole hill in order to justify enjoying a double standard to which you've become accustomed.

It seems to me there is a better line of attack in pointing out the issue isn't who someone is, but how the context from which they're speaking. You explain in your argument that when a woman says "real women have curves" its in a context that gives it a certain meaning. When a woman says that, she's generally defending someone from attack (possibly herself), and when a man says that, he's usually disparaging someone.

But not always. It's not okay for women to say "real women have curves" in ways and contexts which make it an attack on some women for not being "real women". And it's as okay for a man to say "real women have curves" to stand up for a woman being attacked, as it is for a woman to do so.

I feel there's also some way to make a fruitful analogy to the policing of masculinity, and "real men _______", but I'm tired and due to go to bed.
Edited (tyop) Date: 2013-11-08 06:13 am (UTC)


alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)

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