Disclaimer: the words below are inspired by a similar idea and subsequent video published by CollegeHumor. To see where this idea began, watch the video “Kinda Racist? Try Diet Racism!” on YouTube or go to http://www.collegehumor.com for more details.
The video begins with two white men watching the Black Entertainment channel, and one of them says to the other “If there’s a black entertainment channel, shouldn’t there be a white entertainment channel?”[i], and I personally couldn’t think of a better way to introduce this topic.
In the spirit of still-persistent racist attitudes in this culture taking on the new form of diet racism, which CollegeHumor describes as perpetuating “the same ignorance of regular racism with none of the guilt or self-awareness,” it’s vital we recognize that racism is not the only problematic mindset undergoing this renovation.
The more feminism enters the public spotlight, whether by music sensation Beyoncé or inspirational activist Laverne Cox, the less fashionable it is to be outright misogynistic. But what’s easier for perpetuators of misogyny to do: give up their discriminatory ideals and accept the rights of others, or maintain their current oppression of others in a more subtle way? This is a rhetorical question; the answer is of course the latter.
Aside from exclusively all-men environments and those where women feel too silenced to speak against it, it’s no longer silently accepted to be indisputably misogynistic: former Republican Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri was thoroughly castigated when concerning the issue of rape victims getting pregnant he made a statement in 2012 saying “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut the whole thing down”[ii], the six women murdered by Elliot Rodgers in 2014 in response to the fact that women wouldn’t pay sexual attention to him[iii] lit fires in feminists across the country, and things such as denying women the right to vote seem outrageous now. Good. These things are good. This is proof that we as feminists have made progress.
Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends. While it is no longer socially acceptable to deny women the right to vote, it is still considered acceptable to deny female employees birth control insurance coverage under the guise of “religious beliefs.” It is no longer socially acceptable to stone a woman if she cheats on her spouse, but it is still considered acceptable to tell a rape victim she was asking for it. It is no longer socially acceptable to burn a woman at the stake for being a “witch,” but it is still considered acceptable to tell girls they should be ashamed of themselves wearing certain things in school. The list goes on and on.
There’s a trend developing in this nation’s society; blatant oppression towards women is out of style, and many have taken this as a sign that misogyny is no longer relevant or present. I wish they were correct.
The truth is, misogyny is as alive as ever, thriving in the shade of this blissful unawareness. Too often I hear questions, honest confusion, such as “women are legally allowed to vote, serve in juries, own gun licenses, and work in any profession they choose…how can you say America is still misogynistic as a society?” Allow me to break it down for you:
- Just because women can vote and serve in juries and are viewed as equal to men in courts of law does not stop Congress, 82% of seats of which are currently held by men[iv], from making decisions on whether women are legally allowed the right to things which have a significantly greater impact on women such as abortion and birth control coverage.
- Just because women can acquire a gun license and buy guns, thereby giving them equal tools to protect themselves, does not erase the fact that 15% of women are injured from intimate partner violence compared to 4% of men, 3 times as many women as men will at some point report being victims of assault from a partner, and 4 of every 5 victims of intimate partner violence were women as of 2010[v].
- Even though women can work in any profession they choose, that does not change that, as of 2013, 14% of architects and engineers, 35% of surgeons, 33% of lawyers, 13% of police officers, 3.5% of firefighters, 2% of construction supervisors, and 26% of chief executive officers are women[vi].
You would be correct to point out that women are legally allowed to serve in any of these professions, so what then is causing these grave statistics? The answer, the problem that is suppressing women from success far more than any law ever could, is the misogynistic infrastructure that still holds up our society.
So, with all this in mind, you’re probably asking yourself if you have unknowingly added cement to this infrastructure and how you can stop building it up and instead bring it crashing down (why else would you still be reading by this point?). The solution is self-reflection: do you imply women should change their appearances (i.e. wear makeup, dress a certain way, stand a certain way, walk a certain way, etc.) especially to get the attention of a man? Do you ever make a woman feel ashamed for anything (what she wears, what she does, where she works, how she acts, etc.)? Do you ever imply that women are unequal to men in any way that goes beyond their genetic makeup?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are supporting this discriminatory infrastructure. But fret not, you can change how you approach this very easily by simply monitoring yourself. Think before you speak. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say might reinforce social inequality in some way, shape, or form. Furthermore, educate yourself. There are so many opportunities to learn about true gender equality on the Internet, in the library, from your peers, and so on. By taking a genuine effort in learning how to be more open-minded and progressive rather than simply claiming you are, you help bring this society towards a real state of gender equality.
[ii] Jaco, C. (2012, August 19). [Radio broadcast]. St. Louis: FOX2Now.
[iii] Valenti, J. (2014, May 24). Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree: Further proof that misogyny kills. Retrieved November 1, 2014
[iv] Women in the U.S. House of Representatives 2914. (2014, January 1). Retrieved November 1, 2014.