12 Comments

On The Feminine as an insult

[this post was originally posted on Shakesville with the title Seriously, Learn To Equality ]


In an uncanny timeliness, given today’s discussion thread, I got an email earlier from Shaker PatC, who provided last night’s QotD. Quoted with permission:

Thank you so much for using that as the QOTD! I’m so excited to have been quoted as “her”! I’m working on a paper on 18thC sexuality right now and so gender bending is topical for me (full disclosure, I am biologically and identify as a man). Regardless, thanks for using my idea. Shakesville kicks ass.

Cheers,
PatC

I had no reason at all to assume PatC was a woman, and I’m frankly not sure why I did; I’ve had female and male friends called Pat, and my email correspondents collectively skew slightly more male. So big wev to me: lol my gender assumptions.

What was more interesting to me was my reaction to PatC’s email: I was surprised, relieved, and grateful that he wasn’t insulted by having been presumed a woman.

And it was sad to me that I found it notable when his response wasn’t aggrieved.

I can understand people who aren’t playing with or challenging gender getting distressed at or annoyed by being mistaken for the opposite sex in public, to their faces; if one isn’t consciously bucking convention, to be wrongly identified might feel like a negative commentary on one’s general appearance, being called ugly—and that can be a separate issue from being offended at being perceived as the opposite sex. (Though certainly they are intertwined.)

It’s the affronted objections I’ve seen men raise when someone refers to them as “she” or “her” online that never cease to really amaze and dismay me—because there is no offense to take at all, unless one perceives women negatively.

And that’s something I’ve seen happen so often that I was actually surprised when it didn’t.

I don’t know if men can fully appreciate what it means that so many of them regard being mistaken for a woman as a slight, what it does to a woman to read such indignant protestations—”I am not a woman!”—and feel the slithering creep of memory up the back of her neck, as the first time she ever heard a childhood male companion cry out with disgust, “Eww, I don’t want to be a girl!” rings in her ears, recalling that first instance when she began to suspect there was something wrong with her by virtue of what was (and what wasn’t) between her legs.

It’s a total mindfuck. And it never goes away.

I have played video games with men who refused to play female avatars; I have been with a man who was miffed that I classified his predisposition to copiously pre-cum as being “like a woman”; I have been talking about some female bodily function to a male friend or lover only to have him make a face and inform me he’s so glad he’s a man; I have heard male coworkers grousing about how “being a woman sucks,” because of another male coworker with a groping proclivity; I have been exhorted to “not be such a girl” about things; I have known men who refuse to wear pink; I have been told by men who consider themselves feminists that they won’t be raising their daughters “to be girls” but instead raising them “to be people”; I have been told flatly that women are inferior in intellect by virtue of our biology; I have been “complimented” by being told how very much like a man I am in my humor, or rationality, or some other quality; I have listened to men express directly to my face in every way imaginable that they would never want to be a woman.

And most of them have been surprised when I had a problem with that—because, you see, we’re all supposed to take it as read that no one would want to be a woman, given the choice, since we all know they’re the inferior model.

It’s just another indication of how far away from real equality we actually are, that one of the sexes is still largely considered anathema to the other.

Thank you for the glimpse of what could be, PatC.

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12 comments on “On The Feminine as an insult

  1. To be fair, I have a son who I intent to raise as a person, not as a boy. I do see how the same statement, but about a daughter, would trigger the association with other negative assertions about being female, but I don’t think this one could be meant negatively coming from a self-identified feminist man.

    If my child closes to be a boy, that’s fine, but deliberately *raising* him to be one doesn’t jibe with feminist ideals I hold. I’d expect it works the same with the father you quoted.

  2. It does seem that the feminist man didn’t mean anything insulting by saying he won’t raise his child as a “girl,” unless he thought it was ok to raise his boy as a boy. And I don’t know if it’s always a bad thing to say it would suck to be a women. Like, I list reasons why it sucks to be a guy or girl, so long as it’s equal. It probably isn’t though. I agree with the rest for the most part, and have noticed a lot of these things in my life. My brother has even taken up “women” like it’s a curse word, but I’m cracking down on that. But yeah, “be a man” is a compliment, “be a girl” is an insult.

  3. I think that’s a matter of context – I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Anne Coulter being referred to as a man, and I doubt those were compliments.

    Or the amount of times I’ve seen women roll their eyes and say “men!”, I doubt those were all praise either.

    “She’s such a woman!” can be a compliment as well.

    Seems the trouble is not fulfilling your gender role and with “he’s such a little girl” you get the added insult of being called a child as well.

    I think maybe the reason you don’t hear “she’s such a little boy” or “she’s a real man” (aside from with reference to Coulter) all that much is because feminists have made gender-based insults directed at women “political”, so people steer clear of them.

    • So Christer, any idea why men are referred to as “p*ssies”, if they behave in a fashion that is perceived as incompetent or weak?

      Is that all about “context” too?

      • For clarity: the “all about context” thing was directed at the last line in sadiew’s comment.

        I guess “pussy” means “weak and cowardly” because those are negative qualities associated with femininity.

        Just like “dick” means “agressive, malicious and self-centered” because those are negative qualities associated with masculinity.

        And they’re both mostly used at men, since gender (or sex-) based insults directed at women are so “political”.

  4. And they’re both mostly used at men, since gender (or sex-) based insults directed at women are so “political”.

    Oh???

    Good god, please DO net-surf into the vicinity of YouTube (for starters). Better yet, go watch that atrocity known as “Family Guy”. Gender-based insults are launched at women on a daily basis. What rock have you been sleeping under?

  5. PS And you don’t think it’s insulting to women when guys call each other “p*ssy”? I, for one, am VERY insulted by it. It makes me extremely angry, because it implies that someone like myself is weak, useless & easily frightened… just because I have a vagina.

    • “Good god, please DO net-surf into the vicinity of YouTube (for starters). Better yet, go watch that atrocity known as “Family Guy”. Gender-based insults are launched at women on a daily basis. What rock have you been sleeping under?”

      — good point, I guess they do get used against women as well.

      “PS And you don’t think it’s insulting to women when guys call each other “p*ssy”? I, for one, am VERY insulted by it. It makes me extremely angry, because it implies that someone like myself is weak, useless & easily frightened… just because I have a vagina”

      — It goes both ways, though — some people just enjoy using genetalia-and-gender-role-based insults precisely because they’ve got that extra spice of controversy.

      Your efforts are better used against those gender roles than in trying to shame these people in to changing the way they cuss. The latter will probably only cause headaches :p

  6. On the “p*ssy” as a casually-tossed-out insult topic:

    Do you have the same attitude toward someone using the word “gay” as a casual slur?

    I always point out that I find “p*ssy” (or, indeed, “gay”) offensive, and while I harbor no illusions about my feminist outrage resulting in a change in the behavior of misogynists, it has been my experience that thoughtful/pro-feminist men are very agreeable and open to discussion on this, and that they will often think seriously about their own use of language for the first time. I know several men who stopped using these terms and, indeed, now call out other men.

    • On the “p*ssy” as a casually-tossed-out insult topic:

      Do you have the same attitude toward someone using the word “gay” as a casual slur?

      Gay, lame, weak, mad, idiot, spaz, native, hysterical, trannie, dyke, gangsta, redneck, chav, bogan, devil-worshipper, cultist – I’m an equal-opportunity objector to casual slurs.

      There are other words – macho, butch, femme, reactionary, bigot – which I think are more general descriptors of broad behaviours that are not necessarily slurs, but even those I’m careful about.

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