Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Male Commuter Rage

[Content note: Misogyny, misogynistic slurs, assault]

In this article, which I first saw in a Shakesville blogaround, really struck a chord with me.

In it, the male writer describes his experience of having long hair, being mistaken for a woman, and thus being on the receiving end of disproportionate levels of male road rage compared to when he was readily read as male.

Male rage at women in public is something I've long noticed in my 10+ years of commuting in a major city.  Just in the past month, I've seen the following "male commuter rage" incidents on public transportation (race and gender noted, because I think the dynamics are relevant):

  • A white woman was trying to get off a crowded train by saying "Pardon me." Her tone was assertive and not what is typically thought of as, in my subjective opinion, "sweet." The white man who was standing in her way didn't move, so she repeated herself, this time more loudly. As she was leaving the train, the man shouted at her, "Fuck you, BITCH." As though he couldn't stand having to move for a mere woman.
  • A white man was trying to get off a crowded train. Instead of using his words, he began shoving past people. He happened to knock into a black woman and her young, approximately 5-year-old, son. The woman yelled, "Watch it!"  The man turned around, stepped back into the train and, I shit you not, slapped the woman on the head. The woman then went after him and the train conductor yelled at them both to back off. The man left the train platform without further incident or being in any way questioned or detained.
  • A white man was trying to get off a crowded train. Instead of using his words, he began throwing elbows as he passed people, to urge them out of the way. He ended up elbowing my spouse, a white woman, in the back pretty hard. He then exited the train without further incident.
I have dozens more examples witnessed over the years, which I could also share.

My point is that white men, especially, seem prone to feeling entitled to express their rage in public in ways that other groups are not.  I have literally never seen a woman start assaulting people on a train because they weren't moving out of her way fast enough. I have never heard a woman start screaming at people for merely being asked to move out of someone's way on a train.  I'm sure it has at some point in history happened. But, the sheer disproportionate numbers of men I have seen do these things compels me to believe that this is a gendered, and likely racial, phenomenon.*

Ultimately, such verbal and physical assaults seem similar to the anger that drives so many white men: The realization that all the resources/status/space/hot women that our male supremacist society engrained in them was uniquely their birthright was a lie. 

It turns out other people are human, too, and they/we also have places to go and shit to do of their /our own that might mean a white guy doesn't get to go to all of his important places in a completely un-impeded rose-petal-strewn path.

The horror.

[*Yes, I did do a cursory review of stats regarding road rage, and the studies I found in actual academic journals suggest that the expression of road rage is a male gendered thing.  See citations here, for instance - with 97% of the most serious incidents perpetrated by men.  Various "pop media" sources, like this Fox News article, try to present a counter-narrative where women are more ragey than men - citing an un-linked to CareerBuilder survey where people self-reported their "road rage."  Really, I think a lot of people joke about having "road rage," so I would be skeptical of the self-reported survey. That could mean anything from "I beat people up for how they drive" to "I get annoyed when people don't use their blinker."  A key distinction in these studies is whether the road rage is actually expressed and acted upon - and it seems men are more likely to act on it, even if we all get pissed now and then.]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Space Alien's Take on the CDC Alcohol Guidelines for Fetal Incubators

[Content note: cissexism, heterocentrism]

You may have heard of the CDC's recent guidance regarding "Alcohol and Pregnancy."

A snippet:
"It is recommended that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol at all. FASDs do not occur if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth. 
Women can:"
There's then a bunch of pixels spent telling women what they can do to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, and telling health care providers what they should tell women to do to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. Included is the much-maligned gem, in which the CDC recommends that health care providers "advise a woman to stop drinking if she is trying to get pregnant or not using birth control with sex."

Sex is not defined. The assumption seems to be that sexually-active women are engaging in penis-in-vagina sex - so, when I say yes to a health care provider who asks if I'm sexually-active, the CDC is advising health care providers to advise me to not drink because I, a lesbian, might accidentally get pregnant. And let me tell you, I have been oh-so-helpfully advised by more health care providers than you might imagine about "birth control" because they assume people are engaging in hetero sex until explicitly told otherwise. Is it odd to educate your health care providers? It is, right? And, trans people are assumed to be non-existent. Thanks CDC for servicing these narratives!

Anyway, my point here isn't to debate whether or not women should drink alcohol while, or while not, pregnant. Rather, the focus today is the guidances' prescriptive tone toward women solely.

If I were, say, an alien from space reading this guidance as a way to learn more about humanity I would think, Okay, clearly fetuses are transferred from the aether and into the womb due solely to the efforts of people with uteri, whom apparently are fetal incubators for humanity.  It does not actually take two humans for human reproduction to happen!

And furthermore, I would think that this arrangement is why the CDC guidance does not also include guidance to people with sperm who, say, may engage in sexual activities with people with uteri on how they too may help prevent fetal alcohol syndrome (e.g. - "Don't have sex with a woman who has been drinking without using birth control" or, simply, "Don't have sex with a woman who has been drinking" or, I don't know be creative, since we're apparently limiting people's personal rights here).

The point is that the suggestion is that people with sperm, it seems, are irrelevant to the baby-making process.  In an argument that parallels "advice" surrounding sexual assault "prevention," pregnancy is something that "happens to" women.  Where is any concurrent preventative advice to men? Are all the men just fucking each other? I'm cool with that.

The guidance also discusses the harms of "drinking too much" for "women" in general - which, okay, but is there a concurrent guide discussing how alcohol also harms men in general?  I did a cursory search and didn't see one. Could this be an instance of sexism against both women and men? Oooh, perhaps! Feminists and MRAs unite! (insert mirthless laughter)

Nonetheless, the stated harms of drinking too much for women in general include: "injuries/violence" and "unintended pregnancy." 

Here, I would then envision, if I were an alien, that the mechanism by which the unintended impregnating happens is that, apparently, beer bottles jump out of women's hands, knock them over the heads, and then proceed to implant fetuses into them?

Don't you just hate when both "impregnation" and "violence" "happen to" you? Thanks CDC! I'll .... keep all of this in mind?


Monday, February 8, 2016

A Movie Non-Review

Via AfterEllen, Djuna Barnes' 1928 book about her Parisian lesbian social circle, The Ladies' Almanack, is being made into a movie:

Aren't we all a little bit that woman in the middle, stuck between understanding a Djuna Barnes plot and deciding whether to enter an awkward threeway?

I must watch it immediately, for entertainment and blog reasons.

But also, I admit that I read Barnes' Nightwood and understood maybe 10% of it.  That is to say, post-modern literature is probably not for me.  I did, however, greatly enjoy Andrea Weiss' more literal account of the Paris scene in her book, Paris Was a Woman.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Femslash February: Giant Lady Houses

When I was but a wee lesbian, I think I often imagined that as an adult I would live in a large house with a bunch of other women.

Sort of like a sorority for grown-ups where one did not have to attend frat parties or "rush" to get into (is "rush" the right lingo, I don't know). Honestly, I'm still not entirely convinced that one day I won't find myself living in such a situation. Even if it's at a retirement home for queer women. Which would be entirely amazing.

Anyway, some of my favorite examples of group female living scenarios from TV/Film include:

  • The Rockford Peaches' house from A League of Their Own.  Sigh. All those baseball players and not one lesbian or bisexual gal? I don't buy it! You know Doris was tip-toeing to Ellen Sue and/or All the Way Mae's bedroom after their nights out at the Sudsbucket
  • Nonnatus House from Call the Midwife.  Nuns + Nurses + Uniforms  + Simple, Communal Living + Do-Goodism = queer lady catnip. I just started Season 4 of this series and am glad the show is finally introducing an overt same-sex relationship. But will it end well?!
  • Miss Robichaux's House in American Horror Story: Coven. A Caveat. Imagine a different version, in which Queenie is the obvious Supreme and, instead of competing with each other, the witches join forces with Marie Laveau and legit take down the patriarchy.  In this scenario, I would also write myself in as Mary Sue/Advisor/Lover of Cordelia Foxx.
I am missing some, and I was going to include Orange is the New Black, but a key characteristic I think is that the living arrangement be voluntary. Although, I will admit that the whole prison/jail theme seems to be a lesbian/bisexual trope/fantasy of sorts.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Case of the Invisible, Non-Existent Misogyny!

It is a truism that literally every article, social media post, or tweet a woman makes saying some variation of how Hillary Clinton can be criticized but misogynistic attacks should be off limits will result in at least one male commenter feeling the need to contribute a claim that, while he does in fact hate Hillary Clinton, it is for other reasons that do not involve her gender, reasons that he does not, by special lucky chance, hate male politicians for.

The implication with this contribution to the convo is that (a) he, the man, does not require introspection into whether he might, in fact, have any inherent, subtle sexism shaping the way he compares male versus female politicians, and (b) women are mostly being irrational/paranoid/hysterical for suggesting some people might hate Clinton because of her gender.

2016 is shaping up to be a neat election cycle, isn't it?

In case you were wondering I will be voting for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

I'm not super interested in debating that, but I will elaborate that (a) I believe she is by far the most qualified candidate of all parties; (b) I'm a pragmatist, so as much as I might agree with Sanders' agenda, I think his capacity to implement his vision will be limited given how the legislative process actually works; and (c) I think Sanders' more radical vision for the US would end up making him less electable than Clinton in the general election versus the Republicans.

That said, if Sanders' wins the primaries, I would vote for him over any of the garbage Repulican contenders, obvs.

Don't worry, tomorrow will feature some femslash fun.