Thursday, October 26, 2006

Feminism needs a comeback

Oh, the Uppity Woman is pissed tonight. In addition to Rush Limbaugh's jaw-dropping remarks about Michael J. Fox (don't worry, I'm building up a slow burn on that, too), this little gem just slipped out the mouth of a major figure in Australia:

"If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem....If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen."

Just in case anyone out there wants to argue that the battle of the sexes is over, that feminism is pointless and that equality has been achieved: half the world has just been compared to a piece of meat. A PIECE OF MEAT. The rest of the speech is just as lovely. If you feel like throwing things, you can read it here.

I'm glad that so many people in Australia and around the world have condemned his remarks; it doesn't take much to figure out the speaker's religious affiliation, but it's heartening that most people seem to recognize that this has less to do with religion than it does with misogyny, a misogyny that transcends religion and culture. A misogyny that's as at home in America as it is anywhere else.

It's a point Bob Herbert makes well in his recent column on the execution of several Amish schoolgirls. Herbert points out that, in all the coverage, no one batted an eye about the fact that the killer targeted women. "Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews...None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected."

It's true. The only information we heard about the Amish shootings over here was a little surprise that it happened in an Amish community. Never mind that the killer released the boys before he shot the girls.

It all fits into a picture painted by Ariel Levy, the whipsmart author of Female Chauvinist Pigs. I read the book over the summer; some of it is a little "well, duh," but it is nonetheless an important book because it finally connects the dots between all of the little things which degrade women in society: our voluntary participation in shows like Girls Gone Wild; the hypersexualization of Halloween costumes, music videos and makeup ads; the ridicule you receive if you dare suggest that Eminem's wife-beating lyrics are hateful and disturbing.

Individually, sure, they aren't that dangerous. But that's the thing, and this is what makes me so angry: we aren't receiving them one at a time. We are living in a world which is saturated by misogyny. We are drenched by audio and visual stimulation which suggests that women are nothing more than hypersexualized boytoys who exploit and enjoy being exploited. We're told that we are pieces of meat. And we should celebrate it.

I can't stand it when I see girls grinding each other on bartops. Correction: go on and do it, if you want to. Hell, I have. But don't insist, between hip thrusts, that you're doing it because you're so Liberated, that somehow this ability to participate in your own sexual exploitation means that you've come a long way, baby.

Here's what matters. We still make a quarter less in our jobs than men. We are still raped and beaten and murdered every goddamn day at rates that should make us scream. Yet, how many of us would call ourselves feminists? Don't we all think feminism is a joke, something that went out with burning bras? Funny. I'm not laughing.

Pieces of meat, going merrily off to market. Just remember that when someone gives you a hard time because something just feels wrong about GGW, Marshall Mathers, Abercrappie t-shirt slogans, or women who say equality means getting to act as raunchy as frat boys. Aren't we a little tired of being on the menu?

1 comment:

Suebob said...

Feminist. And proud.