Tag Archives: sexism

The Unforgiving Minute

Getty, CSA Images/Mod Art Collection

Laurie Penny | Longreads | November 2017 | 12 minutes (3,175 words)

“I’m sick of being asked to suffer so a man can grow.”

– Alexandra Petri

“Everyone. Fucking. Knew.”

– Scott Rosenberg

This is actually happening.

The so-called “revelations” about endemic male sexual aggression in Hollywood, in the media, in politics, in the tech world, and in communities large and small have not stopped, despite every conceivable effort to dismiss, discredit, shame, and belittle the survivors coming forward to demand a different world. The most uncomfortable revelation is the fact that none of this, really, was that revelatory.

A great many people knew. Maybe they didn’t know all of it, but they knew enough to feel tainted by a complicity that hobbled their compassion.

It turns out that this isn’t about individual monsters. It never was. This is about structural violence, about a culture that decided long ago that women’s agency and dignity were worth sacrificing to protect the reputation of powerful men and the institutions that enabled their entitlement. Everyone, including the “good guys,” knew it was happening. We just didn’t think it was all that wrong. At least, not wrong enough to make a fuss about, because the people groping their callous, violent way through life knew they’d get away with it, and most of the men around them were permitted the luxury of ignorance.

Except that now that seems to be changing. Now, Old Dinosaurs are wondering how to negotiate with an oncoming asteroid. Current or former Stupid Young Men are in a state of panic about their imminent introduction to the concept of “consequences,” leading to the question: what, precisely, is the age when men are expected to take responsibility for their behavior?

The answer, with any luck, is “The Digital One.”

Very few men seem sure what to do in this situation. I have been asked, repeatedly, what men and boys ought to be doing now. How should we behave differently? How guilty should we be feeling? What do women actually want?

Good. You’re finally asking. I suspect that if more of you had asked that question earlier, if you’d asked it often, and if you’d paid attention to the answers, we wouldn’t have to have this conversation — which nobody wants to be having — right now. It’s a shame, honestly, that it had to come to this. But here we are, and here we’re going to stay while powerful scumbags all over the world take a break from public life to spend more time with the police, and while people who’ve nursed private hurts for years start putting the puzzle pieces together until they recognize the shape of injustice.

I’m sorry; you’re new here. The notion that women’s agency and dignity might be more important than men’s right to act like grabby children whenever they want may feel like uncharted territory, but some of us have lived here all along. You don’t know your way around, and the whole place seems full of hidden terrors, and you’re tired and scared and being here makes you feel ignorant and powerless. You haven’t learned the language — they didn’t offer it at your school — and you wish you knew how to ask basic questions, like where is the nearest station, and how much is that sandwich, and do you know the name of a good defense lawyer? You wish you knew how to translate simple ideas, like: I’m hungry, and I’m lonely, and my entire life I’ve let my fear of women’s rejection control my behavior and that fear seemed so overwhelming that it didn’t matter who got hurt as long as I didn’t have to feel it and everyone else seemed to agree and now I don’t know who to be or how to act, or I think there’s a train leaving soon and I might need to be on it. Read more…

Weighing Justice With a Jury of Her ‘Peers’

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad, Photo by Blend Images/Getty

Susana Morris | Longreads | September 2017 | 20 minutes (4,997 words)

I received the notice for jury duty with mild annoyance. I hoped I wouldn’t get picked as I put the date of the summons on my calendar. I thought about how jury duty would throw me off my work schedule; how I didn’t want to participate in this particular part of civic life in small town Alabama; how I didn’t want to help someone, probably another Black person, go to jail.

But I didn’t spend too much time worrying. It was summertime and the date, during a week in the middle of September, seemed an unpleasant blip on the road far ahead. I pushed it out of my mind and tried to enjoy the remaining pieces of a waning summer in my sleepy southern town.

Eventually the summer break gave way to the fall semester, though the weather stayed oppressively muggy. Living in a college town where God and football are rivals for people’s undying devotion meant there was also an air of jubilance and anticipation everywhere. I care little for football and even less for their God, so I did not have much to look forward to except the return of my regular paycheck and the eventual end of sultry weather. Otherwise, the date of my summons — September 12th — loomed unpleasantly before me.

***

It was 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11th. The decade had rushed by impossibly fast, but there it was, on the news and emblazoned in public memory like an unwanted tattoo. I had been a college senior when the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon happened and now here I was, a grownup with a job. Maybe it was growing up with my mother always reminding us that “the days are being shortened for the sake of God’s elect” — those chosen for salvation — plus our being unaware of the day or the hour of God’s return, but even though I was scared, I was not shocked about terrorism on American soil. Or maybe it was having grown up in Caribbean immigrant communities where America was loved more pragmatically than patriotically. Curiously, when I moved to the white, rural South in 2007, far away from New York, D.C., and the Pennsylvania field where the third plane went down, there seemed to be more anger, more panicked rhetoric about terrorism and violence than in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale. At first it didn’t make sense. What would terrorists want with a state in which memories of the Confederacy were wistful and sweetly savored? Still, on the tenth anniversary, there didn’t seem to be any commemorations in town, aside from faded t-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming, “These colors never run,” and “Never forget.”

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On NYC’s Paratransit, Fighting for Safety, Respect, and Human Dignity

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad, Photo by Chris Sampson (via Flickr)

Britney Wilson | Longreads | September 2017 | 18 minutes (4,410 words)

 

He pulled up on the wrong side of the street fifteen minutes late for my pick-up time. I was sitting outside, in front of the New York City office building where I work, in a chair that the security guards at my job have set aside for me. They bring it outside when I come downstairs in the evening and take it back inside whenever I get picked up, so I don’t have to stand while I wait anymore. I was on the left side of the street; he pulled up on the right. I stood when I saw him, and taking a few steps closer to the tide of people rippling endlessly down the sidewalk that early evening, I waved one of my crutches in the air trying to get his attention. He looked up and down the street. I wasn’t sure if he’d seen me.

“Excuse me,” I said, taking a few more quick half steps forward, trying to catch the attention of a passer-by, “do you see that Access-a-Ride across the street?”

“The what?” the passer-by asked.

“The Access-a-Ride,” I repeated. “That little blue and white bus across the street.” I pointed my crutch in its direction, and his gaze followed its path.

“Oh,” he said. But just as I was about to request the man’s assistance, I saw that the driver had finally spotted me. He put his hand up as if to tell me to stay put.

“Nevermind. I think he sees me,” I said. “Thanks anyway.”

My Access-a-Ride driver, a skinny older Black man with glasses and a graying beard, exited the vehicle and crossed the street toward me. I bravely parted the latest oncoming wave of pedestrians and made my way to the curb to meet him.

“Come on,” the driver said when he reached me, urging me to step right out into traffic on Broadway and cross with him, but I was reluctant.

“I’d rather wait for the light to change,” I said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll stop traffic for you,” he said, moving toward the middle of the street, his right hand extended making a “stop” motion toward the oncoming cars. I tried to pick up my pace while also being careful not to place my crutch tips on anything slippery, or get too close to other pedestrians rushing to the other side of the street.

“Take your time. I’ll make them wait,” he attempted to reassure me. I wasn’t reassured.

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Ellen Pao Is Ready to Name Names

(Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women)

Ellen Pao, who sued her Silicon Valley employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination, was saving the names for her upcoming book Reset: Ajit Nazre, a partner who became hostile after she rejected his advances. Ted Schlein, a managing partner who explained he liked white, Eastern European sex workers — during a private flight in which a tech CEO in attendance bragged about meeting Jenna Jameson. In her six years at Kleiner Perkins, Pao was passed over for promotion, her clients were stolen, her performance maligned, and eventually she was fired after complaining about harassment to an independent investigator, who asked “Well, if they look down on women so much, if they block you from opportunities, they don’t include you at their events, why do they even keep you around in the first place?”

The competitive world of venture capital was familiar to Pao, and she played the game as best she could. But the game was stacked against her, she explains in an excerpt from her book featured at The Cut.

Predicting who will succeed is an imperfect art, but also, sometimes, a self-fulfilling prophecy. When venture capitalists say — and they do say — “We think it’s young white men, ideally Ivy League dropouts, who are the safest bets,” then invest only in young white men with Ivy League backgrounds, of course young white men with Ivy League backgrounds are the only ones who make money for them. They’re also the only ones who lose money for them.

Sometimes the whole world felt like a nerdy frat house. People in the venture world spoke fondly about the early shenanigans at big companies. A friend told me how he sublet office space to Facebook, only to find people having sex there on the floor of the main public area. They wanted to see if the Reactrix — an interactive floor display hooked up to light sensors — would enhance their experience. At VC meetings, male partners frequently spoke over female colleagues or repeated what the women said and took the credit. Women were admonished when they “raised their voices” yet chastised when they couldn’t “own the room.” When I was still relatively new, a male partner made a big show of passing a plate of cookies around the table — but curiously ignored me and the woman next to him. Part of me thought, They’re just cookies. But after everyone left, my co-worker turned to me and shrugged. “It’s like we don’t exist,” she said.

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‘They Used Deadly Force to Subdue Her’

Photo by Bosc D'Anjou via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

LitHub has an excerpt of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, by Andrea J. Richie, just out from Beacon Press.

Titled “Mental Illness is Not a Capital Crime: On the Disproportional Impact of Police Violence on Women of Color,” the chapter addresses the devastating impact law enforcement’s common misconceptions about women of color can have on the women’s safety, especially when mental illness is an added factor. Police officers often are misinformed about mental and physical disability, and because of that, tend to be violent toward women who aren’t dangerous.

At least half a dozen cases of police shootings of Black women documented in Say Her Name, the report I coauthored with Kimberlé Crenshaw, arose from police interactions with women in actual or perceived mental health crisis: Shereese Francis, killed in New York City in March 2012; Miriam Carey, shot in Washington, DC, in October 2013; Pearlie Golden, shot in Hearne, Texas, in May 2014; Tanisha Anderson, killed in Cleveland in November 2014. Although no official statistics exist, based on my experience tracking cases over the years, it appears that police responses to mental health crises make up a significant proportion of Black women and women of color’s lethal encounters with police. As was the case for Eleanor and Deborah, these encounters often reflect police perceptions of Black women as volatile and violent, portrayed, in the words of historian Sarah Haley, as “daft,” “imbecilic,” “monstrous,” “deranged subjects,” “lacking essential traits of personhood and normative femininity,” to be met with deadly force rather than compassion, no matter their condition or circumstance.

Indeed, disability — both mental and physical —is socially constructed in ways comparable to, and mutually constitutive of, the construction of race and gender. As disability justice and transformative justice activist Mia Mingus points out, women of color are already understood as “mentally unstable,” regardless of whether or not they are actually “disabled.” “This kind of racialized able-ism inherently informs how police (and society at large) interact with Black and Indigenous women, and women of color.” Actual or perceived disability, including mental illness, has thus served as a primary driver of surveillance, policing, and punishment for women and gender-nonconforming people of color throughout US history.

Scientific racism has been fundamental to conceptions of mental health and disorder. According to Vanessa Jackson, the first asylums for “lunatic slaves” were created in response to a case of a Black woman found to be insane after she allegedly killed her child. Indeed, resistance to slavery was pathologized as mental illness inherent in African-descended people. The same resistance-equals-insanity trope was projected onto Indigenous people. In her pamphlet Wild Indians, Pemina Yellow Bird, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and psychiatric survivor activist, describes how, from 1899 to 1933, Indigenous people who resisted reservation agents, refused kidnapping of their children to Indian Residential Schools, or violated laws that criminalized traditional spiritual practices were sent to the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians in Canton, South Dakota. There, “Indian defectives” were incarcerated and subjected to torture and physical, cultural, and spiritual abuses.

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Exile in Guyville

For Interview magazine, singer-songwriter Liz Phair talks with author Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose first book, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, originally published in 1997, has just been re-released with a new afterword by the author.

The two touch on a variety of topics, from taking risks in your 20s, writing memoir vs. writing fiction (Phair herself is at work on a novel and a book of linked essays), music, motherhood, and the rise in sexism ostensibly ushered in with last year’s presidential election.

PHAIR: I think what we’re seeing politically is the result of people having developed atmospheres around them that make them untouchable, to the point where they don’t feel empathy for people who are in a more vulnerable state.

WURTZEL: I see sexism everywhere, and I think it has to do with that. I’ve begun to blame sexism for everything. I’ve become so overwhelmed by it that, even though I love Bob Dylan, I don’t want to listen to Bob Dylan, because I don’t want to listen to men anymore. I don’t care what men have to say about anything. I only want to pay attention to what women do. I only want to read women. I’ll tell you how intense my feelings about this are: You know The Handmaid’s Tale, the show, which is feminist in its nature? Because men are behind it, I don’t want to watch it. That is the extent to which I am so truly horrified by what is going on.

PHAIR: I have felt that same wave coming through. I’ll try to rent a movie, and every single title is for men, by men, about men, and I’m just like, “Where’s my world? Where’s my zone? Where has it gone?”

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(Re)Merchandising NASA as a Feminist Act

Four Women on the International Space Station, 2010
Four Women on the International Space Station, 2010 via NASA

On Women You Should Know, Dr. Katie Hinde shares the responses she received after tweeting about moving some NASA shirts from the boys section to the girls section in an unnamed big box store.

A whole lot of criticism.

Every few years I manage to touch the 3rd rail of the internet and I am reminded how aggressively histrionic so many men can be toward women disrupting the status quo. Since this tweet I have been called repeatedly (offensive terms warning) “idiot”, “ass”, “whore”, “piece of shit”, “dick”, “moron”, “twat”, “bitch”, “crazy bitch”, “asshole”, “motherfucker”, “garbage”, “cancer”, “psychopath”, “faggot”, “dyke”, “dyke ass”, “cunt”, and “retard”. I’ve been told to “shut up” and “fuck off”. I was told I should be “punched in the head”, “raped”, “euthanized”, that I “needed a bullet to the brain”, and “should kill myself”. I was sent cartoons of Nazis kicking women on the ground.

It wasn’t all straight up sexist hate; Hinde was also criticized for making extra work for retailers, “white feminist BS,” and not doing the right thing to create change. Some of it she thoughtfully considers — and she follows up with the store the next day.

But other comments solidify her case.

And many times while they were cursing at me, they included the assertion that what I was doing was useless, didn’t matter, and was totally insignificant.

A personal note: my NASA t-shirt came from the men’s section. So thanks, Dr. Hinde.

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The Teenage Dreamland of ‘Twin Peaks’

A.N. Devers | Longreads | May 2017| 9 minutes (2,206words)

When the first episode of Twin Peaks aired, I didn’t see it. It was the spring of 1990 and I was in shock. My grandfather and grandmother had just died unexpectedly of different causes less than twenty-four hours apart, on April 1st and 2nd, respectively. I was 12 years old and felt as if I was in a fever dream. Their deaths were ghastly and remarkable and strange and heart wrenching and I felt like for two weeks my body had left the earth, a pre-teen balloon, floating above their home of Ft. Worth, Texas watching streams of mourners as they arrived with potato salad and Ricky’s BBQ and chocolate cake.
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‘Let Them Buy Louboutins’: Ivanka Trump and Working Women

ivanka trump
Photo by Cvent (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In a scathing piece in The Nation, Amy Wilentz methodically eviscerates and examines the guts of Ivanka Trump’s brand, and her efforts on behalf of working women — a specific brand of privileged, white, upper-class working women, that is.

IvankaTrump.com does have a section called “Wise Words” (“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’”—Audrey Hepburn; or “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” wrongly attributed to George Eliot; or “Challenges are opportunities”—so anodyne it’s not attributed to anyone.) But you’ll never read anything here about processing chickens or serving up burgers or sewing jeans, or what it’s like to be a secretary, a receptionist, a nurse, a hairdresser, a teacher, a saleswoman, a waitress, a bookkeeper, a cashier, or any of the other jobs at which most American women work.

IvankaTrump.com prefers to address style and fashion, what you can buy for work and what you should wear to work, rather than the substance of work. It includes tips on how to get promoted and tips for thinking like a Harvard Business School graduate; it includes pages about yoga for the workday, as well as about entertaining and lifestyle and exercise and what to eat and what to serve. So far, wages, discrimination, and sexual harassment have not been on the radar, not even in a Lean In–lite kind of way. That’s not the purpose of the website. It should be hashtagged #womenwhobuy.

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The High Price of Breaking Ground

McMahon hired her in 1997, and Chyna became the first woman to battle male wrestlers in the WWF ring, much to the chagrin of many fans, who protested Chyna’s presence by throwing batteries at her and spreading nasty rumors. (One was that she had the world’s largest clit; another, that she had a penis.) But the abuse didn’t seem to stop her. During one 1999 fight, Triple H kicked Chyna in the breasts. The announcer said nothing; when Chyna retaliated by socking Triple H in the balls, he gulped: “I still don’t know if I’m comfortable with this.” After Chyna beat Triple H a few minutes later, retired wrestler Mick Foley, in character as Mankind, hit on her. She hit him in the balls, too, and said, “In case you don’t get it, that means, ‘no.’”

“I let the boys do their thing,” Chyna said in a 2015 interview with Vince Russo. “My job was to keep my mouth shut.” Most the time, she beat her male opponents and became known as the “Ninth Wonder of the World.”

“She was in there not only wrestling guys but beating guys,” says former WWE host Jim Roberts. “She was doing stuff that only guys were doing at the time, and that I don’t believe any female has done since. What she did was incredible. She was really revolutionary in the wrestling business.”

At Broadly, Mitchell Sunderland examines WWE star Chyna’s accomplishments, struggles and legacy, and the complex challenges women face in a world fraught sexism. She died on the same day as Prince, but his passing isn’t what might eclipse her.

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