All the “-isms” and Why They Matter.

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

– Scott WoodsScottWoods2748_small

This quote has spent the past several days circulating among my Facebook friends, and it in combination with some internet infighting has made me really want to address the understanding and use of “-isms.” Racism, Sexism, Cissexism, are all examples.

(It’s somewhat unfortunate that the above quote regards racism, because that is the one “-ism” that doesn’t follow the sort of language pattern I want to discuss. But, the description of the term as it is can be applied to most any “-ism.”)

There is an important actual and linguistic difference between individualized and institutionalized marginalization. Individual marginalization has terms like misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, etc. It refers to the ways in which a person or discrete small group of individuals are hateful to another. The “-isms” refer to institutionalized, internalized, ways of thinking and behaving that marginalize others without any conscious intent to do so. Here are some examples:

If a man tells a woman he’s going to rape her because she refused to accept his romantic advances, he’s a misogynist. If a person with no ill will toward women honestly believes women are “just different” and that’s why women are often less successful in science and math, they are being sexist.

If someone calls a trans* person a “trap,” or a “tranny,” they’re being transphobic. The fact that people actually feel the need to legislate the use of “correct” bathrooms because they’re really concerned about how genitalia align with bodily functions, they’re being cissexist. Or, for a more “polite” example, when every fucking interview with a trans* person crashes and burns because the interviewer asks about the interviewee’s genitalia, those interviewers are being cissexist.

Waving a sign that says “God Hates Fags” is homophobic. When a gay couple gets married and everyone legitimately wonders who’s going to wear the dress vs the tux (no matter the gender of the couple), that is heterosexist, though in this case the term more frequently used is heteronormative.

Telling a polyamorous person that she is “cheating” on her husband with her other partner(s) is polyphobic (I’m not 100% sure that’s a word, but it really ought to be). When filling out a medical form regarding sexual history, and there’s only one space for a “primary” or “main” partner, that’s monogamism.

And, as I mentioned at the beginning, racism is more difficult to parse out because there is only one term. If someone calls a black person the n-slur, they’re being racist.The appropriation of the cultural mores of another race because you think it’s fun and will make you cool, is racist. The prosecution of drug charges that results in an overwhelmingly black prison population, is also racist. The differences in behaviors and intentions all just have one word, and frankly throw my whole argument out of whack. But, it wouldn’t be the English language if a few words didn’t follow the rules.

The upshot of all this, as with any of my commentary about marginalized groups, is to check your privilege before you say something. No, you might not be transphobic, you might not be homophobic, you might not be polyphobic or misogynist or a hateful person of any sort. But, the insidious thing about “-isms” is that they can thrive without hate. They can be perpetuated without malice or intention. As Woods states, “It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you.” Whether or not we “like” black people, gay people, women, etc., we still view those who are different from ourselves in particular ways that can very easily become marginalizing.

If you are not a member of the particular marginalized group you’re discussing or interacting with, you’re liable to fall into an “-ism” trap because that’s just the way we’re brought up to think. Woods refers to this trap as a vast ocean we’re floating in, “a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it.” The privileged perspective that gives rise to the many “-isms” is an integrated parts of our lives that we have to consciously and constantly resist in order to truly support those who are not privileged in the same ways we are.

This last bit about “in the same ways we are” is important. A lot of people think they can’t be marginalizing because they are marginalized. Being poly does not make you magically a queer ally, being trans* does not make you immune from racism, etc. Every group carries unique sets of privileges that allow them to marginalize other groups. 

There are already a lot of resources addressing how to deal with privilege and be a true ally, and I don’t think I need to become one more. The simple point I’m trying to make is that a lot of us think that just because we aren’t hateful people means that we automatically do not marginalize others, and that’s simply untrue. Not being hateful is a solid baseline, but to work our way out of the deeply ingrained “-isms” that teach us what is normal and what is other, is an ongoing and difficult process. Though, I would argue, it is a necessary one to be an actualized person and full member of humanity at large.

 

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How to Acknowledge Privilege

As I have stated from the start in this blog, I find myself in a position of tenuous balance between privilege and otherness. On the one hand I am white, cis-gendered, educated, and middle class. On the other, I am a woman, queer, and poly. This means that I frequently find myself contemplating what privilege really means, and how to appropriately acknowledge the ways in which I view the world from a privileged position.

A lot of folks balk at the idea of privilege, reacting as though acknowledging their personal privilege means abandoning the value of their opinions. This is a common view among the MRA (men’s rights activist) people: they reject the notion of their own privilege because they believe acknowledgment will require them to always be wrong. Thus, they insist they are not privileged, and rather trot out all their personal insecurities as weak arguments against it.

On the opposite side, which is where I sometimes find myself sliding, there is the overreaction to one’s own privilege that results in a fear of expressing opinions outside of my personal purview. I will sometimes completely avoid weighing in on any subject which I can’t address from experience, because I believe that my personal privilege colors my opinion enough to be not only invalid but potentially insensitive. For example, I would be happy to absorb, but resist ever engaging in, a conversation about trans* visibility, because I believe my cis-gendered perspective is incapable of presenting a valid statement on the subject.

That fear is not actually legitimate. I can educate myself and participate in discourse on subjects that I do not personally experience. And I can do so without disowning my experience of privilege. The how is a little tricky for me.

For those just tuning in to the world of useful life knowledge, when I talk about privilege I am referring to the ingrained perspective on the world which a person gains when they are in a normative position for their culture. For example, here in the US, and particularly in the Midwest where I make my home, the perspective on gender of a person who is cis-gendered is a privileged perspective. Sexuality for a heterosexual, race for a white person, religion for a Christian, etc.

My mind both rails against and shudders at my personal experience of privilege. Sometimes I feel like I should be allowed to relate to all oppressed groups, because I fall into several categories of otherness myself. The pride in me says, “I’m not normative, I’m alternative in all these ways, there’s no way I’m privileged.” Other times I see all the ways in which my privilege blinds me, and I just want to apologize to everyone, or find some way to eliminate my privilege, which of course isn’t possible without completely chucking out all cultural norms.

There is a balance to be struck. The experience of privilege can’t be eliminated or ignored. Most of us live with it in one way or another. At the same time, we shouldn’t hide from any subject on which we have a privileged perspective, because increasing our understanding will allow us to participate in important issues, even if they’re not ones we ourselves experience. I want to be a positive force for things like trans* issues, but I can’t do that if I believe my privileged position makes me incapable of it.

The fact is, privilege is ok. It’s not something I chose – I didn’t one day decide which normative molds I was going to fit and which ones I wasn’t. Privilege is not something to treat with shame or fear. It’s something to acknowledge openly, and factor into my daily experiences, seeing the ways in which it colors my opinions without feeling the compulsion to immediately negate those opinions.

I’m sure that for anyone with a background in women’s studies, queer theory, gender studies, etc, this whole post has been a 101-level snore. Personally, I have no academic background on these subjects. I gather my knowledge through blogs, articles, and experience. So sometimes my revelations are really a little bit basic. But I hope that for some folks, what I have to say can be as helpful as it is for me to get it written down.

Advertising, or Why Watching Television is Hard

nba-commercials

Isn’t it so funny? Because see, Asian men are short and basketball players are tall. Contrast is amusing!

I saw a commercial last night for some cel phone thing that let you get NBA information all the time. I don’t really care about sports, or confusing phone add-ons, so I don’t recall exactly what they were trying to sell me. But this was the story: an Asian family is coming downstairs for breakfast, only to see that their dad has transformed into some famous tall black basketball player – I didn’t catch his name. See? Don’t care about sports. Anyway, his pajamas are super short and he looks very silly, he has a dialogue with his son to the effect of “you look different!” The mother looks at him, and in sultry-voice says “I’ve got something for you to do.” Cut to him cleaning the gutters without a ladder. The end.

On the surface, it’s basically “ha-ha, that’s so funny, he’s cleaning gutters because he’s tall.” And what they’re selling you is a famous basketball player in your house. If you had this phone thing, it’d be like having this basketball player at your disposal all the time. How fun for you!

Unfortunately, commercials (and all of television) are always rich with layers, usually exploiting negative cultural expectations regarding race, sex, and class. In this case, we’re given the Asian mom supposedly coming on to the big black man. This resonates with our expectation: big black men are virile, Asian women look cold on the surface, but are all secretly wild and kinky in bed. But it turns around! She wants him to clean the gutters! That’s funny because while it doesn’t follow the expectation of the dialogue, we’re still not surprised: this is a woman with a child, and a woman who looks her middle-age. Those women don’t want to have sex, they just want their husbands to do chores for them. So it’s a funny twist that doesn’t take us outside our realm of anticipated stereotypes.

This is how I watch television. All the time. On one hand, it’s incredibly frustrating, because I can’t just laugh at a joke. I can’t just sit through a love scene without picking apart its implications. On…well, not the other hand, but maybe the other side of the other hand, it’s also incredibly frustrating because I know that so many people just DO laugh at the jokes, and enjoy the scenes, and just buy it all without examining what their entertainment is telling them.

The worst culprit, of course, is advertising, because it is specifically aimed at selling you something, and only has a very short time to do so. However, whenever I see an ad get called out for encouraging dangerous cultural biases, there will inevitably be some detractor telling us that we’ve got our collective panties in a twist and it’s “just a commercial.” For example, this delightful ad for Audi aired during the Superbowl this year.

audi-superbowl-commercialThe commercial creates a subtle environment, in which every moment plays a part. The kid starts out anxious, unhappy that he’s going to prom alone. The mother’s reassurance is ineffective, but the father hands him the keys to the Audi and says “have fun.” A look of shock passes over his face, but now that he can drive the Audi, he’s more confident. He parks in the principal’s space, marches into the prom, and kisses the prom queen without introduction or overture. He’s cheered by the general assembly, but the prom king gives him a black eye. He drives home, exultant, and fades out to Audi telling us: “Bravery. It’s what defines us.”

Let’s go over what this kid did, and someone please tell me what was brave about it? He parks in the principal’s parking space. This is defiant, not brave. It exemplifies bravery as willingness to take something that does not belong to you (that part’s important, read it again). He kisses the prom queen, who does not even know he’s there until he’s touching her. That’s not bravery, that’s assault. It is again exemplifying bravery as willingness to take what you want regardless of the consequences. It frames the prom queen as a “what,” rather than a “who.”

The commercial was posted on the Slutwalk Facebook page, saying:
“Grabbing someone and kissing them without their permission is not Brave, it’s Cowardly, and it is Assault. Just because we’re women doesn’t mean that our default state of existence is community property. No Thanks to Venables Bell & Partners for creating this Audi ad, and inspiring a generation of consumers watching the ads at the Super Bowl to think that grabbing and kissing someone without their permission = Brave.”

One of the first responses was from a man who said, “It didn’t look as if she minded? And being a fictional account I don’t think anyone playing with a full deck would somehow misunderstand the message. Sex sells and we’d be tilting at windmills to try and stop it.”

This comment demonstrates two of the most popular flaws in thinking, first about sexual assault, and the second about the media’s impact on our consciousness.

So, the first comment: “it didn’t look as if she minded,” is an incredibly common response to an unexpected and non-consensual sexual interaction that is generally considered minor, such as a kiss. Lots of people in this internet discussion echoed that sentiment. The first issue with this comment is that consent can’t be given retroactively. That’s not how consent works. “Go for it, if s/he likes it then it was consensual,” is not an acceptable way to approach sexual contact. You’re rolling the dice that the girl you’re assaulting is into that kind of thing. And that’s just backwards thinking. The bigger issue with this comment is that he is himself forgetting his second statement, that this is a constructed fictional account. Of course she didn’t mind, she was scripted not to mind because we’re being fed a scenario in which the assailant’s behavior is lauded as “brave.” If she didn’t smile, it wouldn’t be a good ad.

The second half of his argument is that “being a fictional account I don’t think anyone playing with a full deck would somehow misunderstand the message,” and that “Sex sells and we’d be tilting at windmills to try and stop it.” He’s right about that second half, but what he’s not considering is what kind of sex is being sold here.

What he’s trying to argue, that anyone “playing with a full deck,” should supposedly be able to see, is that this is a kid with low self-esteem who just got to kiss the prom queen. You can kiss the prom queen too, if you drive an Audi. That simple. But advertising is not that simple. Rooms full of people spend lots of time and money planning and scripting these ads. There’s a reason that the prom queen didn’t approach him as he got out of his car, saying “Nice car, wanna fuck?” That would still be selling sex, and the nerd would still get to kiss the prom queen, but the message would be completely different.

The message Audi wants to sell us is that this kid is brave. And being brave, he is defiant. He takes things that don’t belong to him. That includes the principal’s parking space, and the prom queen – even when he gets punched in the eye by the person that prom queen belongs to, it was worth it, because he was brave.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Audi is trying to make the boys of America into rapists. I’m not calling them malicious. I’m saying that this is a culturally acceptable message to send, and by including it in their ad, they are keeping it alive while organizations like SlutWalk are trying so hard to kill it and replace it with consent culture.

While people like the Facebook commenter want us to believe that commercials are no big deal, that anyone “playing with a full deck” can see that it’s just fiction, the problem is that most people (him included) don’t put this much thought into the media they consume. I’d guess most people saw this commercial and thought “that’s so sweet, the nerd got the girl.” They thought, yeah, he is brave. Go you, boy in the Audi. They did NOT think, for a second, hey maybe that prom queen is a person. Maybe taking a kiss from the prom queen isn’t the same as taking the principal’s parking space. Maybe there’s something wrong here.

Popular culture and entertainment media feed each other in an endless loop, and accepting unacceptable behaviors in media representation makes the jobs of feminism, racial equity, consent culture, or any other group trying to prevent their own marginalization, so much harder. So, maybe it is “just a commercial,” but there are millions out there like it, and they keep getting made because people keep buying into their messages.

On “Guyland,” and how Michael Kimmel has some catching up to do

This blog was originally posted on the Feministing Community blog on January 23, 2013.

cover3Today I finished reading Michael Kimmel’s book Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. I wrote a previous post calling out Kimmel for his failure to speak out for women as valuable human beings, blaming this failure primarily on his choice to narrate his book from the perspective of the (awful) men he’s depicting. Now, though, I’m not sure that’s the only reason.

Kimmel has moments in this book where behind his progressive pro-feminist front, his lingering chauvinist ideology peeks through. In his chapter on sports, he tells us that:

For decades girls had heard that sports was where it was at, the same way that their mothers heard that the workplace was where real life happened. And so, naturally, if those fields were the place to be, they wanted to be there too. (p. 136)

Obviously, girls want to play sports because boys play sports. Also, women want to get jobs because that’s what men do. In his view, women are drawn to historically male-dominated areas by some sort of “anything you can do I can do better” drive, as opposed to actually, maybe, wanting to do those things. In the very chapter where he tells us that women are under-represented and under-supported in sports, he makes this patronizing assumption that the only reason women play sports in the first place is because men taught them that sports are “where it’s at” (and by the way, when’s the last time you heard anyone use the phrase “where it’s at?”).

In a more generalized sense, Kimmel feeds us his chauvinism through gently pushing traditional gender roles as his ideal solution to the “Guy Code” problem. Though he’ll usually backtrack, reminding us that single-parent or same-sex-couple households are just as capable of raising healthy well-rounded people (p. 274), his overall arguments rely on traditional heterosexual parenting. Mothers, he tells us, represent “compassion, empathy, love, and nurturance” (p.20), and fathers must teach their sons how to be real men, with “honor and integrity […] responsibility and accountability and self-respect” (p. 277-278). I’m really not comfortable with the pioneer of masculinity studies falling back on such dated views of what men and women are, and ought to be, like. Of course, mothers nurture their children, but so should fathers. And the reverse is equally true. A father absolutely should teach his children accountability and self-respect: and so should a mother. It’s not a woman’s job to teach a man to be “vulnerable” or “open about [his] feelings” (p. 275), because to place her in that role is to teach that man that vulnerability and emotion are feminine traits. Though Kimmel’s argument is to encourage young men to bond with their mothers, by assigning these traits to the female parent he is perpetuating stereotypes about how men and women treat their emotions. If the author’s goal is to encourage emotional openness and maturity in young men, the way to achieve it is by either/both gendered parents teaching these values so that he will not see emotions as gendered traits.

Those are the more innocuous of his frustrating chauvinist comments. The more infuriating is the way in which he lumps sexual assault into the overall grouping of “dumb things guys do because they don’t want to grow up,” on par with hazing, binge drinking, or online poker. After explaining a “Social Norms” program, (wherein college students drinking levels have been successfully reduced by clarifying students’ ideas on how much is a “normal” amount of drinking, and thus allowing them to not feel like they have to “keep up” with anyone) he suggests implementing similar programs to reduce “hazing or sexual assault” (p. 287). To lay that out a little more clearly, Kimmel just suggested that a good way to reduce the instances of sexual assault on college campuses is to teach guys that not as many people are doing it as they think. It’s ok, you don’t have to rape that drunk girl, because your friends aren’t all doing it! Great!

Or, for a better example of not treating sexual assault like the real crime it is, here’s a nice bit of nostalgia from Kimmel’s boyhood days:

If she says no, keep going. If she pushes your hand away, keep going. You only stop if she hits you. […] I followed it assiduously, although, alas, not especially successfully. […] In the years since, of course, the rules have changed. Completely. My generation’s “dating etiquette” is now called sexual assault. You can’t keep going if she says no. You can’t keep going if she says stop. You can’t keep going if she pushes your hand away, or if she hits you. Today, guys know that the rules are completely different. (p. 217-218)

Oh, those good old days when women didn’t have rights. Never does Kimmel say that the things he learned as a boy were wrong. He doesn’t once say “I can’t believe I ever thought such awful misogynistic things.” He simply says the rules have changed. You can’t just go around raping women anymore. His only regret is that he never got to do it himself before the rules changed. He really and truly uses the word “alas” to express his regret at never forcing himself on a woman. I’m sorry, Mr Kimmel, but the rules aren’t different. Your buddies back in the 60′s were little rapists in the making, and you were complicit. You believed it, you followed it, and you don’t express once that every one of you was absolutely wrong. On the very next page, he tells the story of a college guy raping a semiconscious girl:

[…]one time this girl was so drunk she was near passed out, and I kind of dragged her into my room and had sex with her. When she sort of came to a little bit, she was really upset and started crying and asked why I had done that. […] it was because, well, because I was drunk and wanted to get laid. And she was, like, there. (p. 219)

This is a completely clear case of rape that Kimmel chooses to describe as a “gray area,” and when he does call it assault, he puts it in softening quotation marks. Having sex with an unconscious woman is rape. It’s not a gray area. It’s not “assault,” it’s assault. That man should have been arrested, and if Kimmel had any decency he would find a way to encourage that victim to press charges.

What Michael Kimmel set out to do with his book is a good thing. It truly is. There are a swarm of entitled, privileged, heterosexual white young cis-men in the world doing incredibly stupid things, and not learning to recognize other human beings as agents with rights. This is bad. He was hoping, by delving into this culture, explaining it, and exposing it, to help subvert it. The trouble is, he is coming from a perspective that is too stereotypical, heteronormative, protofeminist, and just plain dated. If he wants to really help raise idiotic, cruel, entitled young men into worthwhile adults, he needs to catch up on becoming a worthwhile adult himself, and what that means in a world where feminism has evolved so far that some people are even calling us postfeminist.

“Besieged by Gender Equality:” The Poor Unfortunate Privileged.

This blog was originally posted on the Feministing Community blog on January 18, 2013.

I’m currently dragging my angry feminist brain through Michael Kimmel’s book Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, which may have been more aptly titled “those poor privileged heterosexual white men.” Every page I remind myself that Kimmel’s heart is in the right place – or at least he wants us to believe it is – and that he believes in gender and racial equality. I have to remind myself of this because he makes a point of narrating his book from the perspective of the men he is attempting to portray: white, middle-class, heterosexual males between approximately 16 and 26 years old. This demographic he represents as abandoned, without leadership or role models, left without any real way to understand or express their manliness in a world of upward mobility among women and racial/sexual minorities. Feminism has left them feeling constrained by “political correctness,” and trapped by the women who have infiltrated all parts of their lives.

Pardon me if I say, boo freaking hoo.

Kimmel represents these young men as a group who “hate [their] lives” (p. 164) because they feel constrained by the need to be “politically correct:” a buzz-phrase used over and over throughout the book, which I have best interpreted as “not a terrible human being.” Any time an interviewee expresses a sexist or homophobic opinion, he points out that it is “not PC,” and laments the inability to state his not-PC opinion where it might be heard by the person it’s aimed against. This external morality is pervasive. They crave environments where they can be truly themselves, which seems to entail fantasizing about male hegemony through demeaning everyone else but them. The guys being interviewed apparently feel stifled by the intrusion of women into formerly man-safe spaces, like the workplace, sports, and bars. They can’t be men in the presence of women, because being a man means being sexist, homophobic, and emotionally bereft, so they resent rising gender equality.

The men that Kimmel cites seem to hate the presence of any woman they can’t fuck. One actually said that when he walks down the street, and has to look at attractive women, it makes him angry because they’re not for him. “’Not violently angry, but just pissed off. It pains us every time we see another woman we can’t have sex with’” (p.175). (It’s interesting how he says “us” instead of “me,” to distance himself from his sociopathic opinion.) I promise I didn’t make that up, and I’m pretty sure the author didn’t either. Whether or not this man went on to become a felon is not mentioned, but I get the sneaking suspicion that if he hasn’t ever coerced a woman into sex, he’s apologetic toward men who do.

The author does have the decency to insert his own voice, every now and then, reminding us that “the idea of white male privilege still hasn’t disappeared,” (p. 162). Weak, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. He may water down the fact of white male privilege by referring to it as an “idea,” downplaying its prevalence by saying it “still hasn’t disappeared,” as if it’s oh-so-close, but at least he doesn’t skip it altogether. Though it does pain me a little to accept such minor concessions.

My issues with this presentation of young-masculinity are, well, myriad. The biggest one is that by focusing on the most privileged and dominant group in his age-demographic (white, middle-to-upper-middle-class, mostly educated or in the process of becoming educated), he’s also presenting an overwhelmingly negative view of an age group that really isn’t completely full of worthless human beings. A man who’s never experienced real disadvantages may turn the rights of his equals into slights against him so that he isn’t forced to confront his own privilege. By refusing to include in his focus the men who actually suffer legitimate disadvantages (racial minorities, the poor, etc), and thereby see the world through a somewhat more realistic lens, Kimmel makes “guys” look like monsters. In fact, he’s simply creating an insanely restrictive definition of the word “guy” – and, by his definition, they are.

The other big problem largely only occurs when he’s dealing with issues between men and women, as opposed to the chapters on things like hazing, which are about male competition among peers outside the realm of female interaction. When Kimmel deals with questions of female equality, or a “guy’s” sexual interactions with women, he consistently speaks in the voice of these guys, and inconsistently reminds us that he knows better; this makes him look like an apologist, condoning disturbing behaviors by explaining them from the actors’ perspectives. When quoting stories about hazing, he will frequently follow up the story with a comment about how tragic, misguided and wrong these guys are. When he tells us a story about misogyny, not a peep in defense of women. He relates this story from a guy, regarding porn:

I love where these stuck-up college bitches are like drunk and finally just give head to like 20 guys and get fucked by the whole football team and all. It’s like they’re always walking around campus in their little shorts and you can see their shaved pussies sometimes, but they they are like, way too hot for me. But then these films, man , they’re like these same bitches, and they finally get what’s coming to them. (p. 183)

If we were playing rape-culture bingo, this quote would win the blackout round. But about this young man, who basically just said his favorite porn to watch is the kind where all the men involved need to go to jail, Kimmel has no negative comments. What he says instead is that this degrading form of pornography (which by the way is NOT always staged, and often is depicting real live instances of coercion and rape), is “a way to level the playing field just a little bit.” Because obviously in this world where we women hold all the power, men need to raise their own position to level the playing field against us. Oh, wait, no. That’s the complete opposite of true.

I picked up this book because it was favorably quoted in Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth (which of course everyone on this site can agree with me was a phenomenal volume), and so I hoped for some sort of helpful discourse regarding the male perspective on an increasingly feminist world. I will confess, I still have about 100 pages left to read, but my hope is rapidly dimming.