Thursday, April 8, 2010

Women Are What You Frak, Not Who You Dorm With

[Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault]

One of the aspects I appreciated about Battlestar Galactica (2004) was that it created an (arguable) sex-blind society.

On the Galactica military spaceship, male and female military personnel live together in integrated barracks, use the same restrooms, and change in the same locker rooms. All of this happens without sexual incident as males, rather than being predatory, have seemingly come to accept the equal humanity of women. Although a strong argument could be made that recognizing the humanity of women really meant assimilating women into manhood, as all female soldiers and officials are called "sir" just as the men are, hierarchy in Battlestar Galactica is not based on biological sex. The best pilot is Starbuck, a woman, as is the President. No one questions whether their femaleness helps or hinders their competence and abilities; it is just taken as a given that it does not.

Despite its sex equality, Battlestar Galactica represents a society wherein hyper-masculinity, as represented by male and female "sirs," reigns supreme and is still equated with violence and domination. It is hardly an ideal scenario, as many traits associated with femininity have been suppressed, but it is a demonstration of women performing masculinity. Just as the observable fact that traits in the real world that are considered to be "masculine" or "feminine" vary throughout time and culture, Battlestar Galactica suggests too that it is society, rather than biology, that primarily teaches us how to be men and women.

Thusly do we arrive back in the real world, 2010, wherein some colleges are allowing some male and female students to share dorm rooms. Our old friend Playful Walrus, gender defender that he is, is not at all happy about sex integrated dorms. Although unsurprising, his opposition to mixed-sexed housing on his precious dime is incredibly telling, both in his desperate desire to maintain strong, exaggerated distinctions between the sexes and in his negative stereotyping of men as sexual predators.

First, in response to a female student who dared express her belief that a roommate's "personality and study habits are more important than gender," observe Walrus insist that nope, gender is what's most important about a person:

"People like this are in denial of human nature, part of the mistaken mentality that there really isn't much difference between males and females."

Here, Walrus tells us that there is, in fact, "much difference" between the categories male and female and that anyone who thinks otherwise is, unlike him, living in denial and possessing a delusional mentality that prevents them from seeing Things As They Actually Are. It's interesting, his view. If so "much difference" truly exists between males and females, then surely he isn't at all threatened by what this foray into male/female platonic dorming might reveal about the sexes, is he? Surely, that's not why he's so vehemently protesting it, right? Surely, he's totally confident that this experiment will implode, the gulf of differences between male and female proving too large for the average college student, raging with hormones, to overcome, right?

It's "human nature" after all.

So we see, not only does Walrus allow for no individual variation in the expression of gender, he completely denies the idea that biological differences between men and women might be exaggerated within a culture that teaches humans how to perform male and female. In his worldview, all "differences" are biologically determined.

This insistence is extremely important to those who perpetuate male supremacy. Without the pervasive self-evident commonsensical folksy folks "truth" that great inherent, biological differences exist between the male and female, a society finds it difficult to impose a sex hierarchy. For, the greater the real or alleged differences between human categories of male and female, the greater the justification for that man-on-top hierarchy. When those differences between male and female become less exaggerated, being a man in a hierarchical society becomes less of a Big Huge Deal. And that, I believe, is what Walrus is really protesting here. A gender-blind world is a damn frightening place for men who grew up believing that to be a male was to be something incredibly important.

Sex hierarchy did not exist on the Battlestar Galactica precisely because "much difference" was thought not to exist between men and women. Despite the sexual attraction between men and women, they fought together, slept together, boxed against each other, and died together on the battlefield. Relationships were between two human beings (or Cylons as the case may have been), as opposed to a man and his "complementary" and submissive "other half." Contrasted with the Evil Cylons, human beings were humans first, and sexed beings second.

Sadly, a bit later, Walrus goes on to mock the goal of encouraging such genderblindness:

"Hmmmmm. If you had free time on your hands, isn't that what you’d do with your time and energy? Let's see... save the rainforest... register voters... ah, yes... Genderblindness!"

Again, another defense mechanism of those who seek to maintain gender heirarchy. Despite his protestations that there are More Important Things to talk about than genderblindness, Walrus seems to be comfortable devoting a certain amount of time and energy toward opposing it. The liberation of women and men from oppressive and constricting stereotypes and gender roles? Hardly a trivial aim in my book. The unappealing alternative, of course, is to keep humans in a state of imprisoned sexual immaturity and repression wherein the relationship between male and female is, first and foremost, a sexual one because OMG boys have a penis and girls have a vagina and we can't possibly ever get over that and just treat each other like people!

The second item of note about Walrus' over-infatuation with the gender binary is the main reason he seems to oppose male-female dorm integration. Responding to a male student who insisted that living with a female roommate was "not much different" than rooming with a man, Walrus discounted this student's experience and continued to mansplain that yes, actually it is. He opines:

" [the male student] going to tell a newspaper reporter (and thus her and the world) that he'd 'hit it' if given the chance? If he is a heterosexual and normal male, he's attracted to her on some level, unless she is highly unattractive."

Here, I question whether Walrus bothered to read information about this dorm policy at the website of the National Student Genderblind Campaign, the organization that is behind this gender rebellion. The purpose of this mixed-sex housing is to allow students to choose for themselves living situations that are the most comfortable and safe for them. The small percentages of students choosing sex-integrated housing are LGBT and intersexed, thus not "heterosexual" (and therefore not "normal," eh Walrus?).

Yet, assuming for the sake of argument that the male student in question is hetero and "normal," Walrus literally says that the male student is harboring a secret yet "normal" and inherent urge to "hit it" with his female roommate. Notice too how Walrus assumes that the male student objectifies the female by calling either she or her fuckable lady parts "it." What a nice dehumanizing touch. Thus, males, if we are to understand from Walrus' less-than-flattering depiction of them, are not biologically capable of seeing women as "not much different" than men, because (a) women are "its" and (b) men can't get over the fact that women have vaginas that they could, like, "hit it" with.

It's human nature after all!

That bears repeating. These words are not uttered by a feminist, but by a conservative heterosexual man who does not demonstrate any understanding of feminist thought other than what Rush Limbaugh tells him feminism is. If we are to believe Walrus's fascinating fauxbjective take on the human male, men and women are inherently incapable of dorming together because all men are sexual predators just waiting to "'hit it' if given the chance." His words, not mine. Ironically and ignorantly he ends with this:

"I wonder how long this [gender integration in dorms] will be voluntary? I would think the radical feminists of the type that think all men are predators would have prevented it from going this far if they could..."

So you see, it isn't him that paints men as predators, it's the radical feminists! Wow. Insight doesn't seem to be some people's strong suit.

The missing nuance, of course, is that many feminists would actually argue that sexual predation is not something that is inherent within men, but rather is something that results from a society that condones and normalizes male domination and sexualized violence, especially against women. And furthermore, part of living in Rape Culture means that women are expected to learn how to keep themselves from "getting raped" since men are just inherently hyper-sexual and can't control themselves, which funnily enough, is why the onus for rape prevention is on women rather than men. Which, again, makes it funny (in a not very funny way) when dudes like Walrus claim that it's somehow unfair of women to portray men as predators, when many of the women who do portray men as predators are doing so as a measure of self-preservation.

But back to who really thinks all "normal" men are predators. Judging by his own depicition of men, Walrus did a pretty damn good job of thinking that one up all on his own.

It's human nature after all! Hit it, champ!

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