Friday, December 14, 2012

All My Rage: Part 1

So, I'm rapidly shifting gears here, from happy hobbit feels to tragedy. The news today has put me in a rather disheartened mood and while I may seem to be a rather upbeat person, I've got a rather large reservoir for rage (that's my secret, I'm the Hulk. I'm always angry). Since I've got nothing constructive to say about the tragic events about the school shooting in Connecticut that are spilling across my Twitter page, my rage has refocused itself to other things. I feel like Anderson Cooper summed it up best in this tweet: "All our words seem so small, so meaningless in the face of such horror." I could go on about how this sort of thing terrifies me for an assortment of reasons - the tragedy of the event in general for all families affected, how the news is handling it, what's being said about people and minds and humanity in general, how people become portrayed as monsters and ideas of violence and mental illness and issues in society get all conflated and yet picked apart. The issues surrounding this incident need to be discussed, but not from me. I'm not up to the challenge of tackling the issues that are involved in this story, which we don't even know what exactly they are (other than the blatantly obvious topic of gun control) as this story is still unfolding, considering it just hit the internet around noon today. This event has nothing to do with me. Yes, I'm affected by it, I find it saddening, but I'm not a family who lost a child or saw their brother become a killer. I am caught between wanting to voice my thoughts and show support for those affected and keeping silent out of respect to those died.
However, I'm still angry, but mostly because I'm also angry about other things and this is just building into it. I was discussing dating issues with my dear friend Kevin last night before I left for the premiere and trying work through why the dating sphere is a mess, why bullying happens, why worldsuck exists. That sort of thing. And then an unpleasant incident occurred on the drive to The Hobbit midnight showing and, with recent events and all, my reservoir of rage is starting to brim over. So, with your indulgence, I'm going to outline The Hobbit movie event as it's the only one I can talk through since the other things that angered me didn't personally happen to me and aren't my tale to tell. If we're going all George Friedrick Hegel about how history and the news is made, I'm at least going to stick to historicizing what I saw, even if they are minor unimportant tales in the "grand narrative" of the world, rather than interpreting events I am secondary source, at best, for.

Anyway, here's the gist: I went to the midnight showing with a friend, his boyfriend, and the friend's former roommate, and also met up with other people my friend knew at the theater. It was kind of awkward because my friend didn't introduce me to anyone (I know his former roommate, had never met his boyfriend, and didn't know anyone else who was going with us) and wasn't really able to talk to anyone other than the roommate because they were all rushed trying to get everyone's tickets and drinks and things before we went into the theater. I was also fangirling hardcore and was feeling rather social, but an event on the way to the theater put me off.

I never caught my friend's boyfriend's name - he was never actually introduced to me and if my friend hadn't told me I'd be meeting his boyfriend that night, I'd have no idea that's who he was. This was a sort of precursor to bad karma to follow. On the drive to the theater, I told my friend that I had a check for the theater tickets, which he'd bought in advance, and this conversation more or less ensued:
Roommate: Kind of a small check, isn't it?
Me: Yeah, it is, but I didn't have enough cash. I had to buy a thank you gift for the professor I did my directed study with.
Roommate: You had to buy him a present?
My friend (something along the lines of): Who buys gifts for their professors? Trying to get a better grade?
The boyfriend (more or less these words): You could have just slept with him.
Me (responding to the Roommate): Well, no, I just wanted to. Figured I should after he put up with my fangirling all semester. 
Never before had I ever been more aware of my gender than sitting in a car full of men and having this said to me. All because I wrote a fucking check and didn't just say I didn't have time to go to the ATM. Needless to say, I didn't develop a very favorable impression of my friend's boyfriend.

There are many things that piss me off about this interaction and I'm going to try to outline them in the hopes of making myself feel a bit better and do some feminist thinking and evaluating and to maybe try to avoid ending up hating a person I hardly even met (coming from someone who used to be hardcore about instant judgement, this is a bit tough). So, here we go.
1) "Scoring" (innuendo purposefully implied): Forget the fact that maybe I worked really hard this semester and I actually care about the work I did, not the grade. This comment seems to imply that I need the extra grade boost and that I would do anything to get it. A bit of an insult to my intelligence, I think, and assuming that the gift was not out of gratitude but brown-nosing. This is why we can't have nice things...

2) The implication that women use sex to get what they want, especially in academia: This is not the first time I have heard comments of this kind; it's just the first time I can recall them being directed at me. I'm sure the boyfriend said this to be funny, because for some reason this concept is considered to be comedic, but I'm not laughing. After taking women and gender psychology where we discussed quid pro quo sexual coercion at length (situations where women (generally speaking) are rewarded (with promotions, better reviews/grades, etc) for sexual favors. I find this sort of sexual harassment perhaps the most disgusting, especially because women are already have certain disadvantages in workplace and academic settings. It's also a betrayal of trust and a massive amount of manipulation, all things that are a bit not good. The fact that anyone would imply that women would happily go along with this makes me pretty sick. Not to mention the level of awkward it creates when someone who hardly knows me would imply that I would do this.

3) Everything between men and women is simplified down to one common denominator: As a student who really likes queering up relationships and exploring all the nuanced identities out there, I find it really limiting when people reduce everything in the world to sex. C'mon guys.

This is annoying, too, because I was feeling so good about the world after seeing The Hobbit and having renewed faith in humanity and then this kept lingering in my mind after we'd left the theater and I realized that it's totally awkward to be invited to an event where you and half the other people don't know each other because your friend just invited a large group without thinking about how they'd mesh. And then the roommate was being kind of weird about my love for The Hobbit. So it was a weird situation all around. At least it didn't influence my view of the movie.

This comes with the realization that I think I've truly reached my limit for how college-aged men treat women. I specify college-aged men because they're the demographic I'm around and some of the things they say are appalling. Still thinking that blondes are not as smart or that women all become lunatics on their periods or that we are somehow vastly different beings because we have two x chromosomes. Give me a break. I would never think to insinuate that a man - or anyone, for that matter - would sleep with someone just to better their grade or position and I find it extremely insulting that a such a passing comment can be made by someone who doesn't even know me.

Compounded by current events and (probably) my lack of sleep, I'm feeling more dismayed than usual. However, I'm finding this all segues nicely into a fandom-related post I was going to type out, so, with your indulgence, we'll go forth into that in a following post. So, I'll end here with a song by one of my favorite musicians (and the inspiration for this blog title).


  1. Is it possible you are over-reacting? It seems that a majority of the problems you had with what was said deals with the fact that someone made a joke that you didn't like. Was it a little crass? Yes. Does it seem like something to have any sort of sustained anger towards? To me, the answer is no. I think you rush to conclusions faster than I rush towards some sort of clever analogy. You can't base what kind of a person a man is by one joke. Most of the conclusions you make are based on speculations about the intent behind the joke, and from there you spin it into something that borders on the absurd. There is an irony to the post, in that you are willing to fight against the stereotypes you perceive as being behind the joke, yet are more than willing to lump a rather large and diverse group of men together in order to dismiss them. Is this some sort of parody of an angry and incompetent feminist? Because if you are, it could use some work. If not, I think you might be the reason we can't have nice things.

    1. I don't know who you are, anon, but if you happen to be someone I know personally, then I'm sorry if this seems passive-aggressive and we should talk about this. If you are just a reader passing by, then I'm sorry that you read this as an angry, incompetent feminist. Maybe I am one. My intent is not to make a broad, sweeping gesture of men at large or to make a judgement of this man's character based on one incident. I don't think I will have sustained anger towards what happened. What occurred was a build-up of frustration from a variety of events and the fact that I am tired of being told I am over-reacting.

      The intent of the joke and who made it matters less to me than the fact, that because it's a joke it means I'm being oversensitive by not liking it. I, for example, avoid making jokes about men. I don't like them, I think they're crass, in just the same way that I think this jab at me was crass. Yes, my conclusions are based on speculation, speculation that is inherent in our culture. These references are contained in the joke in the same way that teasing someone's appearance may reference a whole plethora of hegemonic themes in culture. It isn't the individual who said the joke or what he believes; I don't think he's a bad guy, I mean, I hardly know him. What I have a problem with is a society that allows it to be okay to make jokes like this, that allows for my sexuality to prefigure who I am as a person. Yes, I may be jumping to conclusions in speculation - but didn't this joke also jump to conclusions about me? Again, it isn't the person that made the joke, it's the culture that permits it. It's the culture that's the reason we can't have nice things.

    2. I feel that what ultimately leads to our difference of opinions is that our opinions on the culture at large differ. The over reaction is not based on the fact that you found a joke unfunny, but rather because you felt the existence of said joke justifies such a pessimistic view of society. I wish I could elaborate further, but I feel I am too tired to deliver the sort of well thought out response you deserve. I can tell that even when I am at my most clearheaded I probably couldn't utilize language as effectively as you can, so I will try to remember to continue this post later.
      As for who I am, you are correct in that you do know me, but I get the feeling that I'm probably not who you think I am. The reason for my posting anonymously was due to the hope that it would allow you to focus on what I had to say in an objective way, which you have.

    3. Not to be insensitive but *chuckle* our desensitization levels are a few worlds and many bottles apart... Lol, literally I cannot even form my own opinion into sentences because I am leaning back basking in the pre-drama high emanating from this and the rare rays of sun on my third-party porch in the fucking arctic.

      Cheers ребята ;)

    4. Sarah: I'm sure this incident is certainly an anthill compared to the mountains you've dealt with. My apologies for that. But then again, my reaction is stemming from a lot of things beyond my place in the States and reading your blog influences that. :)

      Anon: I don't want my writing style to keep anyone from voicing their opinion, so I'll try to avoid using buzz-words and unnecessary complicated rhetoric. On this being a pessimistic worldview - maybe my reaction to this joke is reacting as justification to this view, though there is a lot more influencing this reaction than this one little instance. But is it pessimistic? I don't think of myself as a pessimistic person. Part 2 of this post discusses this a bit. I believe that there is a great deal of difference between being a pessimist and being critical,in believing that the world is a terrible place and believing that there are problems but there is good in the world. Sexism is a problem, though the way it presents itself in the States is more subtle than in other parts of the world. It is present in our culture, it is a serious issue, and it shouldn't be ignored. Does that mean I think our culture as a whole is terrible? No, not at all. There are great and wonderful aspects of our culture and good being done, but there are also problems that should be critiqued and both thought and acted upon. Culture isn't merely good or bad; it's both.

    5. First of all, I apologize for the insults I used. They were uncalled for. I don't wish to come across as some sort of asshole, though that ship has not only sailed but arrived at its destination a fortnight ago, nor do I want to come across as angry or upset.
      I keep having trouble trying to say what it is I want to say. For whatever reason, the thoughts I am having are refusing to form any sort of coherent structure. Which means I will ultimately be as convincing as a five year old standing next to a broken lamp.
      I think you are incorrect to say that the intent behind the joke is not important. In humor, such context can be extremely important. Without knowing or understanding the intent behind the joke, I feel that it is actually impossible for you to understand what the object of the joke is. Perhaps the young man in question meant the joke to mock the ideas you were actually offended by. Even you admit that you are speculating, but what confuses me is the fact that you defend your speculation by arguing that it is inherent in society. You appear to defend yourself behind the very walls you seek to shatter, namely that you wish for society to stop making assumptions about people. This strikes me as hypocritical. If you feel that it is time for society to stop making assumptions about people, to stop reducing people to a series of bullet points based on their sexuality, then you better be prepared to do the same.
      Furthermore, I don't think that humor should be limited by what is deemed offensive. Humor shouldn't be limited to the safe, to the completely non-offensive, because I feel it is humors job to make you think about the absurdity inherit in society, and one of the ways it does this is by transgressing societal boundaries. Besides, this would also raise the problem of what defines being offensive. Is it the presence of certain words? Certain concepts? Does the context of the joke matter? Is a joke that contains the word nigger offensive, even if the target of said joke is racists themselves? Where does this line go?
      Also I decided I might as well post as myself. I told you I probably wasn't who you thought I was. I look forward to seeing myself being banned by you on facebook. Ha ha ha. Man, I really wish we could develop a series of fonts that would each represent a different tone of voice, because I'm always afraid I sound like an asshole.

    6. Hi Dan. First off, this isn't going to result in Facebook banning or anything of that nature. I'm not angry or upset, just a bit confused.

      You are right about the intent of the joke being important in this aspect of the argument. If it was made to mock the ideas presented, that would be a completely different phenomenon and I'd hope I'd pick up on the irony behind the joke. Given the context, the situation, and the delivery, it didn't feel like it was mocking sexism, but rather unknowingly reaffirming it. This is my interpretation of events but interpretation really matters. This is where a lot of misunderstanding occurs. I don't think I misinterpreted the joke. Again, I'm not saying that the guy was sexist or that he necessarily meant to sound sexist; I'm saying that this connotates sexism because of the way women have been regarded and treated.

      Let me use another example to try and parse this out. The word "slacker" has a really interesting history. It used to be used to describe people who resisted the war effort or were draft dodgers in WWII. While the meaning has changed in its usage, the connotations are concealed but the fact remains that slacker has a history of certain ideas of work ethic in America.

      Of course, jokes are different than words and change and develop differently. I don't think humor should be limited by what is deemed offensive either, but who tells the joke is just as important as the audience it is directed to. Sometimes jokes can be used to overcome racism and sexism and homophobia, but it matters how the joke is told. Dave Chappelle telling a joke about black men to his friends is going to have a much different effect than if I were to tell the same joke to my friends. The thing is I felt offended by what the guy said and, while there's a possibility of misinterpretation, that didn't feel like the case. It felt like a reminder that girls are portrayed in terms of sex in society and that they need to be sexual to be successful. It was an utterly minor incident in the course the night but still- I was offended, my offense is real, and it stands to be recognized.

      I'll admit I'm a bit baffled as to how I'm being a hypocrite. I'm not assuming all men - or that only men - are sexist, I'm not even assuming that this guy is sexist. I am, however, assuming society is sexist. Because it is and it has been for a very long time. Women still make 70 cents to every dollar a man makes. Portrayals of women in the media are not so great. It's not even so much that people act outwardly sexist, it's things they say are sexist and, because it's so much a part of culture we don't think about it or question it. I don't see how I'm reducing people to a bullet point when I'm not talking about individuals but the space they inhabit. I'd be happy to talk about this more but this comment is already getting pretty lengthy so I'll leave it here for now.

    7. The reason I called you a hypocrite was because I felt that you argue against society speculating about who you are as a person based on your sexuality, yet you appear to feel that it is okay for you to speculate into the motives and mind of the young man based on your interpretation of one joke. I realize I might not be completely clear on what it is I am exactly trying to say.
      Honestly I don't have much else to say. You have made a rather good series of points about society, several of which I agree with. Reading your blog entries and your responses to by comments has been very interesting and informative. Thank you.
      (I really hope this doesn't come across as sarcastic)(That either)

    8. We could probably debate the hypocrisy claim further but I don't want to be rude or tedious so I shan't and this seems like a good place to wrap up. So thank you for reading and I'm glad you found it interesting/informative! It's my primary motivation for running this blog and I'm always appreciative to hear it does just that.

    9. All right all right fine I'll get into it.

      I feel like this was the most important thing said (Dan): "I think you are incorrect to say that the intent behind the joke is not important. In humor, such context can be extremely important. Without knowing or understanding the intent behind the joke, I feel that it is actually impossible for you to understand what the object of the joke is."

      All the theory behind the comment as a tool of sexism is valid. There is no reason to argue that. Society is sexist and the world continues to turn. What interests me, though, is 1) why you, as Gina Musto and not Woman, interpreted the comment that way; and 2) why you didn't say anything to the young man! I think that is the most important variable, looking at the situation. Your reaction is just as revealing as the comment itself and illustrative of the absolutely critical inclusion of context on the topic of feminism.

      YOU matter in the situation as much as HIM.

      To diffuse sexist situations, I believe it is critically important to approach "the object" without assumptions -- no matter how many books we've read or experiences we have had. A tool is a tool and it is nothing without a hand to guide it -- and even more importantly, you can't just give anyone a screwdriver and expect them to know how to use it. You felt objectified by the comment. All right, I know, it's okay. But you also let it go in the moment and ran like lightning in the other direction with a label hanging around your neck.

      You ran so fast, sweetie, that they had all gone home by the time you were ready to take it off. You know I am not unaware of the very real emotional and physical effects of sexism, and so when I say that I would have liked to see you speak up and ask the young man, it is because I want you to find that strength in yourself; that power is the most valuable one of all...and often no one needs to take it from us, because we ourselves give it away.

    10. 1) Why I interpreted this as Gina Musto and not Woman: Probably because it seemed weirdly personal and my gut reaction was to interpret this way. Also, I hesitate to speak for women was a whole because though it would be offensive across the board, I think different women would interpret it different ways.

      2) Why didn't I saying anything: I hate myself for not speaking up. I really, really do. But as soon as I'd realized what he'd said, it was too late. The conversation moved so fast that I had only managed to respond to the roommate's reaction about "you had to buy a gift?" before I even processed what the boyfriend said. By then it was too late, the guys in the front seat had already moved on to another conversation and I was left realizing there was nothing I could do. I know that actions seem to speak louder and words and I just look like a silly little feminist out here blogging about it and making all these outlandish connections (it's not that these are what went through my head; I didn't have time for that. These are the connections I made in trying to explain why such a comment offended me. Again, I'm not saying the guy meant to imply it. It's what the comment gestures towards without stating it). It's not that I wouldn't speak up - it's in that moment, I couldn't. And maybe that's what bothers me more than any of the things I discussed in my post. Maybe that's the real problem. Maybe the problem is that I've read all this text and theory and see it all around me and haven't fully integrated it to use it effectively in my life. Maybe academia has created a monster in me and I'm only now learning how to control it. I don't know. I really don't.

    11. So I feel like some things need to be said on my part after thinking over all these comments and reconsidering this post. So, if you are interested in reading a few more thoughts, check this out:

    12. Lol the point of question one was that all women interpret it differently so that's why I asked you AS YOURSELF.

      The trick of not becoming an academic is knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. The Great War Between Theory And Practice -- a thin-ass line no one can see that's covered in oil. THAT is what is so clear in the question, "What is an activist?" THAT is the underlying debate in asking whether a joke is funny because sex is funny sometimes or not funny because I am not a whore. THAT is what drove Kony 2012 into the ground. THAT is why women are afraid to be perceived as feminists. THAT is the cross of the "white liberationists". THAT is the story of every revolution ever. IT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL BASIS OF THE WORLD ITSELF.

    13. I think I must have misinterpreted your first comment. Sorry about that. No, wait - not sorry! Gah... here I am apologizing again. Shoot.

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  3. I don't think you're overreacting. I find these sorts of statements troubling myself, and the mask of "its just a joke" gets pretty old after awhile. It reminds me of the Feminist Frequency video of "Ironic Sexism", where popular culture takes sexist things and makes them seem like a joke that everyone's in on to make it "okay" for them to perpetuate these ideas in culture.

    Then again, I'm an idealist. People aren't ideal. They say things that I don't like all the time, and I usually try to speak up but sometimes I get lost in my world too.

    I guess this sort of issue is why all of my internet writing is anonymous, for better or for worse. IRL people tend to think you're hating on a specific person, when really its the idea behind their words that is troubling. I'm sure you're aware of the fact that most people don't have evil agendas, so I don't see an issue there. Yes, generalizing the behavior of college men can be troublesome, but we all make mistakes (including the guy who told that joke), but the expression of these ideas is still important even if they come out imperfectly. So write on!

    -A fellow feminist

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, anon! I'm an idealist too and I do easily get wrapped up in my own world. I also often feel the need to play defense, instead of offense and act instead of reacting. But I find I learn a lot from my mistakes - so write on I shall. Thank you for reading and for sharing your support; I greatly appreciate it :)