Monday, March 12, 2012

verbal assault is not necessarily misogyny

Kathleen Geier wrote "The New Misogyny"

I lose it.

This is a long and detailed post and I am going to type a long boring comment. I stress my complete ignorance. I was born and bred in the USA, but I've lived in Italy for the past 23 years.

I find the post completely unconvincing.

The stated topic is the change in misogyny in the past 20 years, but there it largely focuses on the existence of sexism and misogyny in the present. With the exception of laws restricting abortion, the quantitative data do not indicate regress but rather stagnation, disappintingly slow progress or just progress. I quote with ellipses

"But ... little or no progress in some areas ... and outright backlash in others (most notably concerning abortion rights [and ? ...])...are ... it seems like ... still ... are ... Yes, ... but .. still

'Women remain ... women max out ...'"

All of this is presenting slow progress as regress.

One exception which I didn't flag is the survey of what men say they want in prospective wives. Appearance was far down on both lists (that is from memory). Checking I see that, in the recent survey it ranks 8th after "education intelligence" (4) (was 11th) and way behind "mutual attraction, love" (now 1st was 4th !!!). The men in the survey claim they care more about intelligence than looks (I suspect they are really saying they think they should care more about intelligence). The (claimed) interest in education & intelligence has skyrocketed. The other really dramatic change is that "chastity" went from 10th to 18th and last. I guess that shows markedly declining acceptance of women's sexual autonomy and the legitimacy of non reproductive sex.

You have picked the one datum you don't like out of the results and ignored the rest.

Also the older data are from 1939 -- the data just don't contain information on what has happened in the past 20 years, the ostensible subject of the post. Uh don't you remember that an earlier blogger here told us to "always click the link."

Then there is the anecdotal evidence. I note that female bloggers did not suffer abuse 20 years ago for an obvious reason. The web makes it possible for people to be jerks anonymously. It doesn't mean they weren't jerks.

You claim that misogyny via electronic media is common and suggest it is rarely punished. You present four examples. One you consider an exception. Of the other three one (Schultz) lead to a week long suspension and another (Milbank) cased the offending web feature to be cancelled. The case of Limbaugh isn't an exception (yes Schultz and Milbank have jobs -- so does Limbaugh). Your standard of adequate punishment is "career consequences" (for using an offensive word and using it with misogynistic intent once). You present no evidence at all that 20 years ago there would have been career consequences.

I note that Limbaugh was on the air 20 years ago. He might have become a super media star a bit fewer than 20 years ago, but the striking news is that he is in trouble as he hasn't been before.

In the whole section following the claim that there is more misogyny, you present no comparative evidence at all -- oh except for Archie Bunker. You define Norman Lear as the epitome of sexism 20 years ago (and Archie Bunker was created about 40 years ago -- I recall meathead saying "it's 1984" and Archie replying "no stupid it's 1974". The possibility that the founder of "People for the American Way" wasn't quite the cutting edge of sexism is not worthy of your consideration. Do you really assert that 20 years ago Tabloids did not " obsessively police the bodies of female celebrities" ? What tabloids did you glance at in the checkout line 20 years ago (I liked the Weekly World News, the National Enquirer wasn't absurd enough) ?

The whole post is based on conflation of "bad" and "getting worse." These are not similar concepts. Furthermore, you don't have to prove that something is getting worse to argue that it is unacceptable.

OOops update:

Ah I see I hit publish. Uh oops. Now I reread

"have we progressed much in the past 20 years? It’s my contention that we haven’t. Ah I see the claim is not that we have regressed as I assert at length.

Never mind.

Well some of the above comment might still be interesting. In particular the LA Times survey doesn't at all show what you suggest it shows. The cases of unpunished electronically transmitted misogyny are all cases of careers not being ended (oh you forgot Imus).

Also I might add that much evidence of the allegedly new misogyny is on the web. There is no evidence that men said such things less 20 years ago. The striking change is true freedom of speech due to the web. Now people can make public statements and can make them anonymously. Some use that freedom to express misogyny, but neither you nor I know what people say, rather than write, when we aren't around.

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