My thoughts on sexism

Introduction.
I am a heterosexual cisgender male. I was born male, and I have never had any doubt that that's what I'm supposed to be, and that I am attracted to females, not males (not that there's anything wrong with that). However, I want to make it clear that I have also never had any doubt that men and women are equal, and should be treated as such in every way. So it confuses the hell out of me and pisses me off that there are still people on this planet that treat women as inferior. And I need to rant about that. A lot. (Please note that despite my best and most sincere efforts, I will undoubtedly make mistakes, and am always grateful to be called out- or called in- if I do, so that I may correct my thinking and try not to make the same mistakes in the future.)

I first wrote this page on May 28, 2014. (The next day, I almost completely rewrote it, and since then I've edited it several times. And I very well may do so again.) The biggest news story of the last few days has been about this guy who killed several people and injured several others, and then I guess he killed himself. And he left behind some kind of manifesto online. I haven't seen it, and I don't want to. But basically, he was pissed off because he was a 22-year-old virgin, and felt women owed him sex because he's a man. I guess. This story has caused a lot of reactions from a lot of different people, both men and women. It has also caused backlash against some of the reactions. And it made me think I should finally get around to writing a page about my own thoughts on things like sexism and misogyny. (Though things I say on this page may overlap with things I've previously said on some of my other pages, such as my thoughts on love.)

I originally included external links here, to articles, videos, etc. But the list was getting long, so I moved it to a separate page. I highly encourage you to go there and check out some of those links, to read other people's thoughts on sexism, feminism, and related issues. Seriously, I'm sure the links will provide you with better insights than I possibly can. Especially the ones that were written by women. Meanwhile... there will still be links throughout this page, some of them just to Wikipedia (to define certain terms), others to articles or videos related specifically to things I say at various points on this page.

What about the menz?
I'd like to take just a few moments to address the question: are women capable of being sexist, themselves? I mean, sexist toward each other, or toward men? Abso-frickin-lutely. (And no, it's not "reverse sexism." Not because female-on-male sexism doesn't happen, but because regardless of the respective genders, it's still just sexism. "Reverse sexism" would mean exalting one gender rather than demeaning it. So, when you think about it, it's almost impossible to be guilty of sexism without being simultaneously guilty of reverse sexism. ...Or actually, I think "sexism" technically means believing one sex is superior, though I usually think of it as meaning one sex is inferior, which is probably what most people think it means. So reverse sexism would actually be what most people think sexism is. But whichever way you look at it, sexism and reverse sexism amount to the same thing.) Is misandry any more acceptable than misogyny? Not even a little. But that's not what this page is about. Because sexism against men is negligible compared with sexism against women. It is far, far, far more common for women than for men to have reason to fear for their jobs, their reputations, their safety, or their very lives. Some of the talk about the rampant sexual discrimination against women in our culture might hurt some men's feelings, and I believe I could paint a scenario that proves that that fact bears some weight, and it would be unfair of women to dismiss those hurt feelings as entirely irrelevant. But for present purposes, sexism against men is so close to irrelevant that it would be a waste of my time to bother doing so. Also, while some women may occasionally perceive misogyny where it does not exist, it seems to be far more common for men to perceive misandry where it does not exist. (And for men to fail to recognize misogyny where it does exist, therefore accusing women of being overly sensitive when in fact they are entirely justified in their complaints.)

I should also address the recent prevalence of the phrase "Not all men." Of course not all men are guilty of sexual harassment, or rape, or any sort of discrimination against women. I very much doubt that anyone is suggesting all men are part of the problem, so for the love of all you hold holy, don't use that as an excuse to derail discussions about the misogyny inherent in our culture. "Not all men" is a straw man fallacy, pure and simple. If you personally are not part of the problem, cheers, mate! This conversation isn't about you, so you needn't act like it is. But to those who are part of the problem, let me just say this: You may believe all men think like you, and any man (like me) who says different is a liar. That is utter fucking bullshit. Consider: why would there be laws against rape, harassment, etc., if every man agreed with you? And why would any man feel compelled to lie about his feelings on this subject? Do you imagine we're all just trying to trick women into consenting to sex? If every man thought the way you did, there would be no need of tricking women, no need of hiding your misogyny. You could say or do anything you want to women with absolute impunity. (Legal and social impunity, anyway; there's always the chance one of the women you hurt would kill you, or something. And good riddance to bad rubbish.) But in the real world, there are (potentially) legal or social consequences. You may get away with some things you shouldn't be able to get away with. Some men may get away with far worse things than you do. But, to my way of thinking, the fact that every man doesn't get away with, or even try to get away with, the misogynistic crap you do, proves that the majority of us find your way of thinking about women absolutely loathsome.

Is it really that bad, though?
Yes. Yes it is. (Note: I had written something here previously, and then rewritten it to try to make my feelings more clear. I was never quite sure I had; in fact, the rewrite wasn't as different as I intended it to be. And then a few months later- on Halloween, by random chance- I decided to rewrite it again, in a new way. Still, I'm leaving the old paragraphs here, just not visible. If you want to read them, view the page's source.)

*Sigh* Here's the thing: we all live, simultaneously, in two versions of reality. These versions of reality seem contradictory, mutually exclusive. It seems like it should be logically impossible for both realities to be true, but they are, and it's confusing as fuck. Some people are just incapable of accepting the fact that both realities are true, and it's even pretty difficult for me... but luckily (in this case), I'm quite used to accepting things that seem unacceptable. (Thanks, Asperger's!) On the one hand, we live in a world in which women face harassment and/or discrimination and/or assault (or threat of assault) for a great deal of their time. I cannot believe that it's 24/7, and I'm sure that it happens to some women more frequently than it does to others, and that it's more common in some places than others. (Some countries are worse than others, some states/counties/regions are worse than others, some cities are worse than others, some areas within a city are worse than others.) But on average, it's undoubtedly more common than most men realize. And there's a reason for that. Some people say it's because men are just oblivious, but I think that's oversimplifying it. The real reason is because of the other reality in which we live. The reality where men and women coexist peacefully, as friends, family, coworkers, couples. The reality where men treat women with respect, and women trust them. The reality where women enjoy sex (and raunchy conversations about sex) just as much as (and in some cases more than) men do, whether in mixed company or just with their female friends. The reality where women sometimes choose to dress in sexy outfits (especially on Halloween- oh look, I made it topical!) and enjoy being appreciated for how they look. The reality where women interact with men and assume themselves to be those men's equals or superiors (if the women are in positions of authority such as police or bosses or teachers, etc.) and the way they act or speak demonstrates no sign of doubting that they are safe and in control, even if they are aware that the men are physically stronger than they are. Because we live in a civilized society with rules and order, which the majority of men understand. (This applies not just to the male-female power dynamic; a stronger man may defer to a weaker man, too.) Yes, there are some men who still believe that "might makes right," but there have been times when that was more universally accepted as the natural order of things than it is now. We live in a reality where most of us (at least in my experience), men and women alike, behave as if we assume most of the people we meet will respect the civilized nature of the modern world. And most of the people we meet do. So it's not that good men aren't aware that women face all manner of unfair treatment and even possibly danger, and it's not even that we necessarily fail to perceive it when we witness it. For many of us, it's that that "other" reality doesn't fit with the reality in which we live our daily lives. The reality in which we have female friends, family, and coworkers, whom we treat no differently than our male friends, family, and coworkers. The reality in which our female friends treat us no differently than they treat their female friends. The reality where we talk, laugh, share common interests, and we all (male and female alike) just be ourselves.

We know that not everyone is like us. We know there is discrimination and harassment and even violence. We accept that as part of our reality (even if we wish it weren't). The problem comes when some people start talking about the other reality as being of such scope that it could not possibly fit into the niche we've assigned it, the small corner of the reality in which we live. When we hear talk of it that makes it sound just as big as the reality we see every day, that seems incongruous. It sounds like some kind of bizarre sci-fi or fantasy concept of seeing two worlds at once, as if half of the people we ever see are actually ghosts or aliens or five seconds in the future. It doesn't make sense. How could our female friends be our friends, if the other reality were as pervasive as they say? How could they trust us, or anyone? How could they laugh with us? How could any woman ever fall in love with a man? How could they raise families? How could they possibly dare to express their sexuality in any way (such as what they say or what they wear), if they live in a world where at any moment, any man could take that as an invitation to grope them or make suggestive comments? How could they spend so much time acting as if they live in the same reality as us, the reality that's mostly made up of safety, mutual respect and equality, friendship and love? That reality is not compatible with an opposite reality of the same size and scope. So we admit that horrible things happen. But we reject the notion that it happens as much as some women claim it does. Our minds only have room for one reality. Trying to accept that both realities are real, and equally pervasive, could cause a mental breakdown. So why the hell haven't the women who clearly live in both realities gone insane? The only explanation seems to be that they must be either lying or exaggerating the problem. Or perhaps they're even suggesting that the "good" reality doesn't exist at all, that just as we might want to relegate the bad things to a small corner of the (one true) "good" reality, they're relegating the good things to a small corner of the (one true) "bad" reality.

Are they ever exaggerating? Maybe just some women? Sometimes? I would venture to say, probably. But all women? Every time? Hell no. Both realities are real. We all live in them, even if not all of us can see both realities. Yes, it's insane, but that's life, for you. Sometimes you just have to (ahem) man up and deal with the fact that we live in an insane, often illogical, paradoxical world. Is it really that bad? Yes. Yes it is. (But that doesn't negate the fact that it's also that good.)

I now return you to Stuff I'd Previously Written.

Rape & rape culture.
I'm now going to expend just a moment addressing the question of whether any woman "deserves" to get raped: No.

Do women ever say or do things, or dress in ways, that make it more likely for them to get raped? Undoubtedly. Does that make it their fault if they get raped? OMG, no. It remains 100% the fault of the rapist, and anyone who thinks differently... basically doesn't deserve to live. And rape prevention should be 100% the responsibility of the would-be rapists. As for rape statistics, I know some people argue with the numbers. I'm not going to do that. I have no idea how accurate they are (probably more accurate than I'd like to believe), but in a certain sense, I find numbers sort of irrelevant. I mean, the only acceptable number is zero. If one in six women gets raped, it's unacceptable. If one in a hundred, or a thousand, or a million, or one woman out of the entire population of the world gets raped, it is entirely unacceptable. And it wouldn't lessen my outrage. I also want to address the fact that rape is commonly said not to be about sex, but about power, control. I'm sure there's truth in that, but I can't help believing it's somewhat about sex. Still, to anyone who wants to prove himself strong by raping (or otherwise abusing) a woman, I'd like to point out that self-control is obviously much more difficult for you, so if you really want to prove yourself strong, you should overcome this deplorable, pathetic weakness of yours, and learn to exercise restraint. I also want to mention that for many years, there has been a saying "no means no," but more recently, in 2014, I've heard about campaigns particularly on college campuses to change that to "yes means yes." That is, not only should you back off if the person you're with says "no," but you shouldn't even move forward unless you first get a clear "yes." There's been some backlash against this, but I think the backlash is bullshit. If you have a problem with obtaining specific consent, then you are the problem.

But sexism isn't just about rape, or any kind of physical assault. It is, first and foremost, about the idea that women are in some way inferior to men, which is absolutely absurd. But it is the prevalence of this absurd belief that makes possible the rape culture in our society. And before I go on, I want to mention my suspicion that probably one of the reasons some men get offended by some of the things some feminists (men and women alike) say, is that they misunderstand the term "rape culture." Tell someone that he's contributing to rape culture, and it kind of sounds like you're calling him a potential rapist, and it would be, I think, fair for a man to get offended by that suggestion. Except that that's not what the term is suggesting at all (well, not necessarily, anyway). You can contribute to rape culture without being capable of rape or even of sexual harassment. Does this mean open conversations about sexism would be easier and more productive if different terminology were used? Ideally, perhaps, but the world we live in is far from ideal. If you use weaker terms, the problem of rampant sexism won't sound as bad as it actually is, but if you use sufficiently strong terms to get across the severity of the problem, it will sound to some people as if you're exaggerating the problem, or as if you're maligning them personally. It's kind of a catch-22. The only way I can see to get past this sticking point is to be as clear as possible in defining what the terms you use actually mean, preferably before you use them. But this may not always work, because some people will persist in refusing to accept the true meaning of certain terms. This is the same problem I have with Joss Whedon's otherwise excellent speech about the word "feminist". He ultimately says the word "sexist" should be replaced by "genderist" because of a middle ground where many men don't think of themselves as sexist in spite of certain beliefs they may hold about women. But my feeling is that it doesn't matter what word you use, people will still perceive that middle ground, and still refuse to truly grasp the meaning of the word. That being the case... I think we might as well just continue using the terms we already have.

So, rape culture exists largely due to the objectification of women. But what do we actually mean by "objectification"? To be clear, I definitely don't think it's synonymous with "finding women attractive," or even with commenting upon their looks (as long as it's not done lewdly). There is nothing wrong with finding women attractive, the only problem comes when you feel entitled to receiving sex or love from the woman or women of your choice. Because you think their feelings about you are irrelevant... because you find them inferior. Objectification means believing that sex is the only reason for a woman's existence. Which. Is. Bullshit.

But what about the ubiquitous sexual objectification in the media? It's an obvious trusim that sex sells. And it's not like women are the only ones who are sexualized to sell products, or movies, or whatever. I don't really see it as misogynistic, I see it as business. I don't always like it (nor do I always hate it), but it's a two-way street. Are women more sexualized or objectified for the purpose of selling projects? Probably. Maybe it is misogyny, but it's hard for me to worry too much about that when men are simultaneously being objectified, even to a somewhat lesser degree. In point of fact, as much as I generally loathe the misogynist culture in which we live... there are cases where I just sort of feel like... so what? You know, we were all raised in the same culture. Maybe our experiences have been different because of our specific families, or where we're from, or our religions, or any number of other factors. But ultimately, we've all been inundated with the same crap. Some of us grow up to be sexist, and some of us don't. At least not to any directly problematic degree. Most of us (men and women alike) can enjoy seeing people who look sexy, whether in the media or real life, and even be enticed to buy certain things or watch certain shows or movies, in large part because they're being sold by or are starring sexy people... and still be entirely appalled by the idea of rape, or even by the idea that one gender is in any way inferior. We can see people as sexy and value them for entirely different reasons. If you find a woman sexy, it doesn't make you an asshole or a potential rapist. It's important to be clear about that. What makes you an asshole or a rapist... is being an asshole or a rapist. Blame society all you want, AND THERE IS A TREMENDOUS DEGREE OF TRUTH IN THAT. The "sex sells" concept plays into the rape culture, for sure. But I really think it's like saying that playing violent video games is going to turn you into a violent person. Sure, a lot of people may be encouraged by the fact that society seems so permissive of certain concepts... but society also has laws, and it has morals, and everyone who commits crimes is just as aware of those laws as they are of the permissiveness of the media. And they make a choice. People, more often than not, are swayed in whichever direction they want to be swayed. And I don't believe the situation would be in any way improved by a return to Puritanical values, or anything like that. (After all, making women cover themselves from head to toe has worked so well in Islamic countries.) No, sex sells, and that's really not such a bad thing. That said... it really wouldn't hurt for the media's objectification of women (and men) to be a little less blatant. Don't you think?

Edit to add, September 4, 2014: A big news story of the past few days has been about the hacking of celebrity nude photos, which were put online, I believe, on August 31. And of course, there are some asshats who have said that if the women who were victimized by this hacker didn't want such pictures made public, they shouldn't have taken such pictures of themselves in the first place. (Chuck Wendig has a good response to that argument: *Tasers you* *steals your shoes* "SHOULDN’T WEAR SHOES BRO.") ...As for my own response, I should make it clear that I can be a bit of a prude, and I personally have trouble understanding why anyone would want to take such pictures of themself (or their sexual partner). I also think it's kind of risky to use phones to take such pictures and have them end up on your personal cloud service. But does that mean I think the people who take such pictures are to blame if those pictures are then stolen and publicly disseminated? Hell no. Those pictures are still private property, and technology is supposed to provide adequate security to ensure they remain private. (It should also be noted that some of the photos in question are reportedly fake.) It's kind of hard to muster as much outrage over this as I should, because there have been naked celebrity photos online pretty much as long as there has been a World Wide Web. And it's often difficult to be sure whether the photos were made public consensually or not. But when we can be sure that it wasn't consensual, it is absolutely unacceptable for it to happen, and it is further unacceptable to blame the victims of this crime. /Edit 9-4-14

Inequality... it boggles the mind.
You know, I vaguely recall, when I was a very little kid, at recess the boys (probably including myself) would chant in a sing-songy way, "Boys are better than gir-uls! Boys are better than gir-uls!" I can't for the life of me imagine any of us took it seriously. I'm sure we no more really thought boys were better than girls than we thought the people whose heads we tapped while playing "Duck Duck Goose" were really ducks and geese. But then I got older, and realized many men do consider women inferior. That they really only exist to provide men with sex, or to bear children, or even just to look pretty, to be "decorations" or "rewards" (as mentioned in any number of other people's articles, including some that I linked to at the top of the page). This is not a concept I've ever been able to truly comprehend. I have never seen any significant difference between men and women in terms of personality or psychology or intelligence or anything like that. I see men and women as fundamentally equal in pretty much every way that means anything. I have always thought of my male and female friends exactly the same way. Same with male and female relatives, coworkers and bosses, or any other type of relation. There could be any number of reasons why I feel this way, but I think the main one is that I have this wacky tendency to look at the world logically. (You know, not a Vulcan level of logic, but at least more logically than the average human seems to.) And I can't see any logical basis for thinking of any one group as inherently superior to any other group (whether you're talking about gender or anything else). All the evidence I've ever seen both in real life and in the media makes it seem conclusively, irrefutably, glaringly obvious to me that all people are equally likely to possess any trait, whether positive, negative, or neutral. Anyone can be smart, anyone can be dumb, anyone can be nice, anyone can be mean, anyone can be any bloody thing. So I can't help feeling that it takes a special kind of stupid not to see that perfectly plain fact. (But a more likely explanation than simple stupidity can be found in this article about scaly llamas.) And btw, to any man who tries to convince other men to treat women equally (and not harass or rape them, or anything) by reminding them that there are men (fathers, brothers, husbands, sons) who care about those women, so you shouldn't treat them differently than you would want anyone treating your own mother/sister/wife/daughter, that sounds like a noble sentiment, but it overlooks the single most important point of feminism: women's worth is not based on their relationship to men.

Another reason I can't help thinking of men and women as equal is that art and entertainment are the most important things in life, to me. They are what is chiefly worth living for, and many of the people I most respect as writers, actors, musicians, etc., are women. The idea of living in a world devoid of any female contributions to the arts is... just about the most horrific thing I can imagine. Of course, the same can be said of women in any profession. Imagine a world without any contributions from female scientists, for example. Yeah, that'd suck, too.

But speaking of careers... the fact also exists that in some careers, women still earn less than men for the same job. That is, of course, unacceptable... though I think it's sometimes more about corporate greed than sexism. Still... I don't know. Apparently the pay discrepancy happens way more commonly than I'm capable of wrapping my head around. I assume it mostly happens in jobs that are far better than anything I could ever aspire to. I've never heard of the kind of entry-level, no experience necessary jobs for which I'm qualified paying men more than women. So there's a good chance, I think, that even women who make half of what men make at their jobs are still going to make more than any man would make at the kind of jobs in my own experience. I could be wrong, and even if I'm not, it's still grossly unfair and is one of the countless aspects of misogyny that just boggles my mind. I mean literally shakes up my head like a bunch of dice with letters on them and scrambles the contents until they make no sense. Boggles... my... damn... mind.

#GamerGate
I'm adding this little section in late October, 2014. I guess the whole GamerGate thing started in August, but I don't recall having heard of it until at least late September. (Or maybe I just didn't hear much about it, so it didn't stick in my mind. I'm not sure.) And I still have only a vague notion of what it's all about (which is to say, no more or less idea what it's about than #GamerGaters themselves.) But I have read several articles about it, which explain why the movement sucks, far better than anything I could say. At first I was just going to add a link to one article about it (by Chris Kluwe) up on the main list of links at the top of the page, but since then I've decided to add more, which is why I'm making this section. I wasn't quite sure where to insert it, within the flow of the page, in relation to the topics that I've already written about. So it's a bit random, and I hope... it doesn't distract too much from the flow. (Then again, maybe I'm crazy to think there's any kind of coherent flow at all, considering that I only added section headings some months after starting this page in the first place.) But before I get to the much more eloquent links, here's what I've been able to glean: Some gamers think there's a big conspiracy among game developers and game journalists, to give good reviews to games based on personal relationships rather than whether the games are actually good or not. (Or something like that.) Others are just annoyed that there's some effort to fix the rampant sexism in the video game industry, because they like the industry as it is. And they don't want to share their personal escape from reality. They seem to think that if the industry starts catering to anyone other than them, that it will stop catering to them entirely. Which is bullshit. But mostly, the movement just seems to be a vague excuse used by misogynists to fight back against feminism. They claim it's about ethics in journalism, and then they themselves act in the most unethical ways imaginable. They spout hate against women, and every kind of slur they can think of. They engage in
doxxing (a word I don't recall having heard before all this), when anyone (particularly any woman) says something they don't like. They issue threats of death and rape (not just against the people saying things they don't want to hear, but against anyone who even listens to the things those people are saying). They get mad that people refuse to listen to their legitimate grievances and instead focus on the unconscionable shit they (or other members of the movement) have said, done, or threatened to do. (Some people have surely abandoned #GamerGate, realizing that the movement has become about something they don't want to be associated with, but others stick by the name because, I suppose, it would be too much of a bother to start a new movement, one that actually focuses its energy solely on voicing their grievances without threatening anyone who disagrees with them.) I mean come on, how hard is it to start your own fucking hashtag? Anyway, whatever. I'm done. If you want to know more, read these articles. (Some of the articles I link to will themselves include links to still other articles you might find useful.) But don't necessarily believe what you read on Wikipedia, because of this terrible decision.

Gamergate controversy, Wikipedia
Why #Gamergaters Piss Me The F*** Off, by Chris Kluwe
The Only Thing I Have To Say About Gamer Gate, by Felicia Day
Folding Ideas S4E7 (a video about base assumptions)
10 Reasons Gamergate Has Failed, by Chris Brecheen
I’m not “that creepy guy from the Internet”: How Gamergate gave the geek community a bad name, by Arthur Chu
I'm Brianna Wu, And I'm Risking My Life Standing Up To Gamergate
Bianca Anderson: Struggles for Women in the Video Game Industry
Almost No One Sided with #GamerGate: A Research Paper on the Internet’s Reaction to Last Year’s Mob
GamerGate is killing video games
What Gamergate should have taught us about the 'alt-right', by Matt Lees

And now, back to your regularly scheduled flow of the page (such as it is).

Traditions & expectations.
After I first posted a link to the original version of this page (or after my first rewrite), a friend of mine (who happens to be a woman) pointed out on facebook that women have been brought up in the same culture as men. They've been taught to think about themselves the same way men have been taught to think of them. That's certainly true, but while I know many women don't think they have any choices, many women realize they do. They may completely freely choose for themselves to take on certain traditional roles, roles that other women basically have forced upon them. Roles that aren't inherently bad, like being wives and mothers and homemakers. I find it unacceptable that any woman thinks such roles are her only option in life, but I find it equally unacceptable that anyone would think of women who choose such roles as necessarily doing so because they've been programmed by society to do so. And, many women choose completely different roles, choose whatever kind of career they desire, or choose both career and family. That is what I think is right: that women should have exactly the same options as men. Not that they should choose non-traditional roles specifically because they see traditional roles as sexist. Traditional roles are not sexist. The lack (or perception of a lack) of any other option is what's sexist. ...Then my friend and I got into a bit of a debate about the connotations of the word "traditional" (among other points), and while I saw her point, I can't say I completely agree. She seems to see "traditional" as inherently implying an expectation of what women will choose to do with their lives, of a traditional role being seen as "the norm," as if choosing a "non-traditional" role is necessarily viewed in a negative light. To me, both "traditional" and "non-traditional" are terms that can be positive, negative, or neutral, depending on the context. I certainly don't think it should be seen as "the norm" and therefore "the proper choice," and I think that if anyone does mean to imply that, they're part of the problem. I just don't see the word "traditional" as necessarily implying any such thing. (But that may just be because I'd rather not believe that that's how most people mean it.)

But um... there are lots of other things besides feeling obligated to be wives and mothers, that women are taught. My friend mentions wearing crippling shoes (which I am against), and using various beauty products (I'm not a big fan of makeup), and waxing various body hair. I, uh... I'm generally against waxing. I mean, I don't even want to think about what areas a woman would even think of waxing besides her legs, and I don't see any reason not to just shave one's legs. Or armpits, I guess. Those are the only two areas that I'd be specifically in favor of women shaving. And I would be against them feeling it necessary to shave their legs or armpits. But I admit, I do prefer it. Not that it's any of my business. But if I were in a relationship with a woman, I wouldn't lie and say I didn't have a preference. I would, however, make damn sure she knew it wasn't a deal-breaker. It would be 100% her choice, and I'd never want her doing anything just to please me. (Not just in terms of physical appearance, but in any aspect of our relationship.) The important thing is that I wouldn't be in a relationship without being in love, and being in love has nothing to do with physical appearance.

But I'm guilty, too.
As much as I loathe misogyny, I'm only human. And I'd like to share a few examples of how I fall into this trap, to some extent. Such as the fact that, sometime in the Aughts, I started a gallery on my website for anime & cartoon girls I found attractive. I had been an otaku for years (before I ever even heard that word). I have never and will never stop loving animation... and the girls are just one small part of the reason for that. Over the years since starting my gallery (or group of galleries), I have occasionally deleted galleries, for various reasons. And I will probably do so with some of the few galleries that still remain on my site (but perhaps not all of them; I can't imagine not at least keeping some pics of Tinker Bell, with whom I am kind of obsessed). One of the reasons I choose to delete my anime galleries is because I feel that they objectify women (and girls). Even if those women aren't real, I do see that as kind of a problem, and a product of the misogynist culture in which we live. I justify having the galleries in the first place by telling myself things like "well, they're not real girls, so it's not like they're harmed by this" or "well, I'll always be alone, I need to have some kind of outlet for my attraction" or "well, attraction isn't an inherently bad thing, and there's nothing wrong with appreciating female beauty, as long as that's not all you think women are good for." I want to be clear about this: I see all of these excuses as true and reasonable. I also see all of them as, well... excuses. And while I can say with absolute certainty that maintaining such galleries has no effect on my perception of the true value of women, I can't deny that it could very possibly contribute to the perpetuation of male objectification of women. And that's not something I'm comfortable with... even if I'm also not comfortable with the idea that I should feel compelled to curtail my interests just because those interests might reasonably be misconstrued by others. Because that would possibly enhance my already unhealthy feeling that attraction to women is inherently misogynistic.

In the same vein, I have long allowed my reviews of various TV shows, movies, etc., to be an outlet for my attraction. And I always included a disclaimer (which I've edited a number of times over the years) to explain that when I indicate my attraction to female characters... well, you can read it. It says a number of things, one of which is that I don't think of it as objectification. Because it's not what's most important to me, about women. It's just one of the things, a perfectly natural thing, that I may appreciate about them (and therefore about the show/movie/comic book/whatever in which they appear). And I truly don't see anything wrong with that. But, as is the case with my galleries, I can't help thinking that it could potentially play into our misogynist culture. So, again, I have rather mixed feelings about it. Any number of times over the years, I've considered editing all my reviews (which would take quite a long while) to give no indication of finding women or girls attractive. (There are other reasons for this besides just my fear of perceived misogyny, such as a desire not to slight any women I don't specifically mention as finding attractive.) Maybe someday I will undertake this massive editing project. I'm just not sure. (Part of me feels that linking to this page will let me off the hook, and part of me feels... it won't.)

Oh yeah, and about my links pages. For various entertainers (especially actresses), I have in the past included links to sites that are pretty much exclusively about pictures of the entertainers. I've always said to myself, "Well, I'm sure there are no pictures on these sites that the women didn't choose to pose for" or "Well, you can't choose a career in the public eye without expecting people to take an interest in how you look" or things like that. And again, I'm not saying these things are necessarily untrue, but... there's always been a part of me that felt it was kind of misogynistic, and I'm now kind of done pretending it isn't. So I'm removing the links to a couple of sites. Plenty of the sites I continue to link to will surely have pictures of the entertainers, but as long as that's not the main point, let alone the exclusive reason for the site's existence, I don't think it's so bad.

Conclusions.
I'm sure there are countless other details it would be good for me to go into, if I could think of them, and maybe at some point I will. But I really should start wrapping this up. So I'll reiterate that men and women are equal, and should have all the same options in life, and should treat each other completely equally. It's not a hard concept. Yes, there are some details that are a bit more complicated, but the fundamental concept is simple and obvious. So obvious, as I said before, that it pretty much takes an idiot not to grasp it. But the real question is... how do we change our society so that everyone does grasp it? There are probably any number of little things people could do, even if most of them seem like they wouldn't have a huge impact. I rather wish someone would tell me exactly what I can do about it, because generally speaking, I feel powerless to do anything, aside from writing a page like this, which few people will ever read, and which isn't likely to have any effect on the problem at all. Do I think kids should be taught that sexual attraction is wrong? Hell no. They should, of course, be taught that boys and girls are equal. That, I think, is the crux of it. Seems simple enough, but somehow I fear most parents aren't going to even do that one simple thing.

Or... do I think the media should be forced to completely de-sexualize female characters? Oh my, yes, burqas for everyone! ...Um, I mean no. Media should just make it clear that it's possible for women to be sexy and simultaneously be valued for so much more than that. And that women can be sexy, and it's okay for men to find them sexy, without it being expected- by anyone- for women to be obligated to provide men with sex just because men find them sexy. This... could digress into my own general discomfort with sexuality and my feeling that everyone, male and female equally, put far too much emphasis on sex. (While it's undeniably true that many women feel obligated to do things they don't want to do, it's also true that many women do the same things because they want to.) I wouldn't mind living on a world where no one has sex without being in love, and no one considers themselves to be in love unless they are certain they have found their soul mate. But I absolutely don't think that should be seen as some kind of moral imperative. Just because I personally wouldn't want to have sex with someone I wasn't planning on spending the rest of my life with, doesn't mean I think it's wrong for others to be less strict about such things. People should do what's right for them, and not judge anyone else. So... the point is, sex and sexiness are not bad things. Sex is only bad when it is forced on others, either by rape, or by instilling certain ideas in an entire culture. Sex should only ever be a choice that two (or more) people make together, with all parties feeling completely free to make whatever choice they're comfortable with.

And for the love of whatever you hold holy, don't make kids think certain shows, or toys, or any other aspect of culture or entertainment, are just for boys and others just for girls. Case in point: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I adore this show, and so do many boys (and men). We bronies recognize that it's not a girls' show, it's a show for people who like awesome shows. (And you're never going to see Spike kill Rarity for not reciprocating his crush on her.) But in the last few years, lots of boys have been mercilessly tormented for liking that show, which is absolutely unacceptable. You know, a little thing like what show a kid likes doesn't seem like it should be such a big deal. But it kind of is. It can actually be a huge part of changing our society. If our kids learn that it's okay for them to like whatever they like without worrying about whether it's "supposed to be" for one gender or the other, then maybe they'll extrapolate from that the fact that girls and boys are basically the same.

In fact, inculcate in your kids a love of awesome stuff in general. (Especially stuff I personally declare to be awesome, because I am the best judge of such things.) Like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Many Avatar fans love the fact that in the very first scene of the series, Katara calls her brother sexist. And it's not too far into the first season before he stops acting quite so sexist. And there are a ton of freaking badass awesome girls in that show. And once your kids have seen the whole show, get them to watch The Legend of Korra, a spin-off that network executives were wary of making because its protagonist is female, and they didn't think boys would want to watch it, and then it became uber-popular with both genders and made the network a ton of money and stuff. And when they're a bit older, get your kids to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because it has awesome female characters and because there is no such thing as Joss Whedon having too many fans. Speaking of which, get them to watch The Avengers, and make sure they grasp what an amazing character Black Widow is for reasons other than her being hot. You know... people complain about the dearth of good female characters in movies and TV and books, but while the gender is often underrepresented and/or poorly written... there really are lots of awesome female characters out there, if you know where to find them. The problem is that some people refuse to watch or read certain things specifically because they're not interested in strong female characters, which is stupid. Or that some people see and like strong female characters without seeing past the fact that they happen to be hot. (Guess what? The majority of all characters in TV and movies, male or female, well or poorly written, are going to be hot. That's just how it works. But it's less common for people to think hot male characters can't also be smart or strong or have other good qualities beyond their looks. Why is it harder for people to see hot women as anything other than hot? Um... did I mention that people suck and are stupid?)

Anyway, I'll say again (just in case I haven't said it enough already), I cannot possibly know what women go through. (I do think that everyone's experience is different, so there are probably some women who don't even truly understand how much some other women go through, but it's especially impossible for a man to understand.) There are so many reasons we don't get it, though. I don't get it partly because I've led a relatively sheltered life. And because no matter how cynical (or realistic) I may be about how many horrible people are in the world, I still have a certain degree of optimism. No man that I personally know has ever demonstrated any reason, in my presence, for me to think he'd be capable of rape or even condone that behavior in others. I can hear or read stories (like this, for example) and not have any trouble thinking "wow, that dude probably wants to rape her" (I didn't figure out "the question," but only because I thought it was like some kind of trick question, and the scene that the question refers to seemed so obvious to me that I couldn't imagine anyone not getting it... ergo, that couldn't be the question in question). But in spite of my knowledge that the world is full of seriously sick, horrible people, I can't possibly get my head around the idea that there are quite so many horrible people. Which brings me back to the question of why we don't get it. Well, misogynists are often good at hiding their true nature from other men. And even when it's not well-hidden, basically good men may still turn a blind eye, for various reasons. You know, not particularly good reasons, but not all of them are much worse than the reasons women keep silent about what they're going through, themselves.

I have always understood, to some extent, the reasons that things like rape and sexual harassment often go unreported. And yet, I've also always thought that in spite of the very serious risks, the problem cannot be changed without more women being willing to come forward and talk about what's been done to them, whether than means talking with friends and family, or reporting crimes to the police. But recently, various things (including this article, as well as facebook discussions) have made me rethink that. I've never thought women who choose to keep silent should be blamed in any way, but... some of the things I've said have certainly sounded like that's what I was saying. So I want to be clear about this: NOT reporting rape or other assaults or harassment is usually the most sensible thing a woman can do. Reporting the crime can put women at further risk of attacks, harassment, victim-blaming, and can even strain or end relationships with people they care about. And more often than not, reporting it isn't worth the risk, because it won't achieve any kind of justice for the victim. And instead of inspiring others to report things that have happened to them, seeing how other victims have been treated by society and the legal system may just demonstrate to them exactly why they shouldn't come forward. I still feel that reporting these sorts of crimes is the right thing to do, philosophically speaking, and in some cases it does result in justice, just not nearly as often as it should. As much as I hate to admit it, speaking up is probably often the wrong thing, in a practical sense. ...Which is completely unacceptable, and one of the many reasons I believe all of us, men and women alike, must strive to change the world for the better. Not just to make it less likely for rape, assault, harassment, discrimination, etc. to happen in the first place, but also to make it safer and more productive for women to report it when it does happen. We need to create a society that doesn't blame victims. A society where women are believed when they speak up. A society where the perpetrators are punished for their crimes, every time. A society where philosophy and practicality coincide, rather than diverge. ...But yeah, a society where none of that shit happens in the first place would be even better. Because damn, it's not like I'm describing some amazing utopia, I'm just describing a world that meets the bare minimum of what it means to be a civilization. Achieving a society where everyone is treated equally and fairly and isn't killed or raped just for being a woman wouldn't be some new golden age. All it would mean is that the world had finally clawed its way out of dystopia status to just being neutral.


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