Why aren’t there any great women Xs?

A new (for me) answer to the classic question, Why aren’t there any great women Xs, occurred to me when I saw a website for a small company of composers specializing in music for dance troupes (all four composers were male) shortly after a male friend of mine confessed that if he wasn’t getting paid to do it (write a book – he’s an academic with a university position), he probably wouldn’t, and another male friend confessed confusion at the idea of composing something just out of his soul (everything he’d written had been for pay – soundtracks for video games and what have you). Until then, the answer to that age-old question seemed to go to merit and/or opportunity.  Now I’m thinking it goes to money.

How many of those great-man achievements would have occurred if they had to have been done on their own time at home?  Discoveries, inventions – they’re done on company time at work.  When my friend works on his book, it’s just part of his job.  All those great men, who we know to be great because of the prizes they win, the fame they garner – they get those prizes and that fame for just doing their job.  And those prizes and that fame is in addition to the pay they’ve already received for whatever it is they’ve done.

In addition to the motivation factor (if they weren’t getting paid, they wouldn’t put in the time, the effort, that, occasionally has led to great things), there’s also the legimitizing factor: payment for your work is the stamp of quality – consider the dual meanings of ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’.  So even if you do make a great discovery or write a great book on your own time at home, no one will recognize it as such; getting paid for it is prerequisite for its identification as great.

And it doesn’t hurt that when you’re in a paid position, you have access to resources, such as a lab or a studio, that you probably otherwise don’t have.

And here’s the thing: men have, in far greater proportion than women, held paying jobs and received commissions; they’re the ones who have been getting paid for their time, their effort, their work.*  The work that sometimes leads to greatness.

*And why is that so?  One could say that women don’t get the jobs or the commissions because they’re not as good – it could come back to merit after all.  But we know that’s simply not true. 

It might come back to opportunity though: the people who get the jobs and the commissions are the ones in the boy’s club – being male (still) increases the opportunities to land the money, status, and resources of a job/commission (the people who are in a position to pay, the people with money, are men, not women, and men are more apt to hire other men than they are to hire women, unless they’re after some political correct currency).

But even the individual entrepreneurs, the guys who set up their own company to provide music for dance groups, for example — why is it that men, so much more often than women, have not just jobs, but careers?  Because that’s been their role.  They’re supposed to make a living.  Women are supposed to make a home. They’re supposed to support their family. Women are supposed to make that family.  Also, I think somehow men find out how to turn jobs into careers.  I don’t know how they do, but they do.  Perhaps it’s simply because their social network is more apt to include someone who has done just that, or perhaps it’s because they get informal mentoring more often than women.  But show me two composers, one a man and the other a woman, and I’ll bet it’s only the man who thinks to get some buddies and form a company.  (The woman is composing for free, giving her music away, to school groups or church groups or friends…)

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

Men who need Mom to clean up after them

I spend a lot of time walking on the dirt roads near by place, as well as on the old logging roads through the forest.  Twice a year, I take a large garbage bag with me to pick up the litter – mostly beer cans and fast food containers, but often whole plastic bags of garbage have been tossed in among the trees.  (Lately, I’ve had to take two large garbage bags.)

I typically wait until the fall, because it seems the summer people litter more than those of us who live here, and I typically wait until after the spring hunt, because it seems the hunters leave quite a bit of trash.

I have always suspected that men litter more than women, and I’ve come across a statistic supporting my hunch: males do 72% of deliberate littering and are responsible for 96% of accidental littering (http://www.greenecoservices.com/myths-and-facts-litter/).

Why is this so?  I think it’s because ‘cleaning up after’ is seen as a woman’s task.  This thought occurred to me when one guy slowed down as he passed me in his truck, while I was on one of my litter pick-up walks, and called out, “Good girl! Good to see you’re good for something!”*  After all, wasn’t it Mom who cleaned up after them when they were kids?  (Mom did the cleaning; Dad did the fixing.)  Of course the generalization from Mom to all women is a mistake: “Mom cleaned up after me, Mom is a woman, so women should clean up after me” is the same as “Princess is a kitten, Princess is white, so white things are/should be kittens”.  But I doubt these morons can think in a — well, I doubt these morons can think.

Of course a mistake is made too in thinking that when you’re old enough to drink beer and buy your own fast food, you’re still a kid who needs Mom or a woman to clean up after you.  (No, wait, I’m making the mistake there – I’m confusing chronological age with developmental age.)

*Another man explained that no, that wasn’t it; the guy in the pick-up thought that since I was a lesbian (aren’t you?), I wasn’t fuckable.  That is, I was useless, good for nothin’.  That’s what his comment was all about.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

Brilliant Piece – “Little Women, Big Men” – check it out!

“…what many unthreateningly call “the male ego” (an inadequate term to describe the drive behind men’s collective undermining of women)…” – one of the many brilliant lines in “Little Women, Big Men: Sexism and the Language of Size” by Andrea Safran.  http://www.saidit.org/archives/vol4no2/language.html

What do you want me to say?

“What do you want me to say?” your pre-Nigel, Nigel, or ex-Nigel says helplessly, having obviously said the wrong thing, again.  “Just tell me what to say and I’ll say it.”

I want you to say what you think.  And if I don’t agree with it, then I’m outta here.  It’s that simple.  (Because why would I want a relationship, a friendship, with someone with whom I don’t agree?  On the important things.  Maybe even on the unimportant things.)

Why is it so hard for so many men to just say what they really think?  Because they don’t know.  They are so supremely unaccustomed to introspection. 

Because, in any case, the truth is irrelevant, useless.  That’s why it’s so difficult for them to know what to say.  “What do you want me to say?” means “What lies will work here?” 

They think that their relationship with you is all, and only, about sexual access, recreational and reproductive.  And they’re willing to say whatever it takes to get that access.  To seduce is to manipulate.  (If the woman really wanted you, you wouldn’t have to seduce her.  You wouldn’t have to manipulate her.)

And guys, if that’s how you get a date, a girlfriend, a wife—by figuring out ‘the right thing’ to say— are you really surprised that it doesn’t last?  That one day she realizes you’re bullshit through and through, have been since the beginning?

Brunettes, Blondes, and Redheads

So the other day I started reading Iron Shadows by Steven Barnes. He’s apparently a bestselling author. Which is really disturbing.

Because four sentences in, he describes a woman as “a small wiry brunette”. Seriously? Does anyone actually identify women by their hair colour any more? That’s so—1940s. Isn’t it? I check. The book’s copyright is 1998. Okay. Guess not. Guess the tradition of objectifying women lives on.

We don’t do that with men. We don’t objectify them by their hair colour (or anything else, for that matter). Their hair colour for godsake. She’s a brunette. Or a blonde. Or a redhead. As if all women with brown hair are what, interchangeable? Because they’re completely defined by—-the colour of their hair?

Not only that, but he had to mention her size. Small. Of course. If she’s going to be a heroine, she has to be small. I’m surprised he didn’t tell us how large her breasts are.

And whereas she’s small, he’s “enormous”. Of course he is.

Could we just reverse the description with nothing odd happening, that test for sexism? “The man, a small, wiry brunette with an ugly bruise on his left cheek, wore a yellow unisex utility uniform. The woman was enormous, but barely conscious.” Not only do you find it odd to hear a man called “a small, wiry brunette”, you no doubt found it a bit disgusting to hear the woman called “enormous”.

I am, goddammit, still a little forgiving, so I read on.

But the very next woman—or maybe it’s the same woman, since the next bit happens two months earlier—the very next woman “nibbles” on dry wheat toast. Because we can’t have a woman actually eating with guilt-free enthusiasm.

And she has “an oval face framed by a cascade of small soft blonde ringlets”. Small again. And soft. And blonde. And ringlets. Ringlets?!

In case we missed it, “Her habit of peering out from behind them sometimes made her resemble a mischievous child peeking through a fence.”

In 1998. And published by Tor.

No wonder women can’t get published. As long as this insulting crap is deemed worthy. Is bestselling.

When will men finally get it? When will they finally get it right?

Robert J. Sawyer. He’s the only one. The only male sf writer who’s smart enough to create a non-sexist world.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

Grey’s Anatomy, Flashpoint, and Who knows how many others (I don’t – and this is why)

Why didn’t Bailey get the Chief of Surgery position? 

For the same reason Ed jokingly says to Greg, when he questions his rank, “Should I get you a dress?”—and they both laugh. 

Because in 2012 being a woman is (still) (STILL!) (STILL!) (STILL!) being subordinate.

I love that on Grey’s Anatomy,* so many main characters, surgeons every one of them – are women.  Actually they outnumber the men.  8:6.  And yet Owen gets the Chief position.  Richard, then Derek, then Owen.  3 of the 6 men get to be Chief.  0 of the 8 women.  Bailey’s been there longer than Owen.  And longer than Sloan, the other contender.  And yeah, okay, Kepner got the Chief Resident position even though she was there longer than Karev, but he didn’t want it.  (And we see it primarily a position of responsibility, not power.)  At one point, the Chief (Webber) said he was grooming Bailey for Chief of Surgery—what happened? 

And Sam gets to be team leader in Ed’s absence.  Not Jules.  Again, she has more seniority on the team.  And is just as competent (if not more so—she can shoot and she can negotiate a crisis).

This is why I stick to my Murphy Brown and Commander-in-Chief reruns.

(We’re going in the wrong direction, people.)  (And just when did we turn around?)

*And I LOVE that Christina does NOT want kids and is sticking to it with such integrity.  Which makes the subordination of Bailey even more upsetting.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

“If you’re feminine … “

“If you’re feminine, I gathered, you enjoy things that are fundamentally unenjoyable, take pleasure in actions that are intrinsically painful, and derive most satisfaction from the gratification of someone else’s desires, anyone else’s.” Class Porn, Molly Hite

Against the Rape Shield

[This was written quite a while ago, and I think I might add this: that “‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ means ‘Anal'” is actually chanted out loud by men should be considered part of ‘circumstantial evidence’, describing as it does the circumstances under which rape occurs–i.e. our disgustingly sexist society…]

Sexual assault, like many other crimes, usually occurs when no one’s watching.  Given the absence of a third party witness, how are we to decide guilt/innocence?

Circumstantial evidence is often not helpful because consent, that which differentiates between legal and illegal sex among adults, is essentially a mental event, and of this there can be no evidence: a brain scan won’t show us whether or not a person consented.

Considering consent as a behavioural event, a gesture or a word expressive of consent, is not much better: evidence is possible, but unlikely – even if an audio or video tape of the event exists, one must establish the absence of coercion for any consensual gestures and words.

In a way, things were better when force and resistance differentiated between legal and illegal sex: evidence of this is easily available – torn clothing, bruised body parts, etc.  However, we recognize that force and resistance, and perhaps more often torn clothing and bruised body parts, may be part of consensual sex; we also recognize that force may not be physical and resistance may not be wise.

Left without such circumstantial evidence, we must therefore base our decision of guilt/innocence on credibility – specifically (1) which person is more likely to be telling the truth, and (2) which story is more likely to be true.  In both cases, the rape shield law hinders rather than helps our decision.  Questioning the accuser about her/his sexual history, as well as about her/his character and motive, may indeed provide relevant information.  Questioning the accused about his/her sexual history, character, and motive may also provide relevant information.  Both lines of questioning should be common in cases that must be decided without circumstantial evidence.

Consider Woman A: she is sexually active and often goes to bars to pick up men; she cruises, chooses, and queries – if he consents, they drive to her place.  Suppose she changes her mind on one occasion, and the man persists.  She may, quite reasonably, decide not to lay charges of rape; she would not expect anyone to believe her.  Given her past practice (her sexual history), it would, in fact, not be reasonable to believe her.

Consider Woman B: she is celibate and solitary.  Suppose a man were to enter her residence and rape her.  She, reasonably enough, would lay charges; she would expect to be believed.  Given her past practice (her sexual history, or rather the lack thereof), it would be very reasonable to do so.  It is crucial, therefore, for that past practice, the fact of her long-term celibacy and solitude, to be admissible.

Likewise, the past practice of the man should be admissible: a history of habitually raping women, for example, is relevant; a history completely devoid of aggression is also relevant.

Such information is relevant, however, only insofar as we are creatures of habit, people with tendencies.  To say past practice is relevant is to assume that people by and large are consistent in their behaviour.  This may not, in fact, be the case: people are inconsistent, people change, people do things for the first time, people do things out of character – all of this is true.  Just because a woman consented to sex with twenty strangers before this one doesn’t mean she consented to this one.  And just because a man raped twenty women before her doesn’t mean he raped her.  Just because the sun has risen every day until now doesn’t mean I can know with certainty that it will rise tomorrow; but probably it will.  And probabilities are all we have, especially when there are no witnesses.  If a person typically gets drunk on Saturday night and becomes very generous, lending cash and car keys, then his/her charge of theft some Sunday morning is going to be a tough one to make stick; people will reasonably conclude that probably s/he consented to the transaction.

Yes, information about one’s past may be misused; but this isn’t a good reason to prohibit its use: baseball bats can be misused too, but we don’t therefore make them illegal.  Rather, it’s up to the court officials to say ‘Wait a minute, that’s a non sequitur, that’s irrelevant’.  And if the case in question involves consent, sex, and a stranger, probability based on past practice with regard to consent, sex, and strangers is what’s most relevant; information about such past practice should, therefore, be admissible.

It may, however, be the only information that’s relevant: arguments to character are of questionable validity – ‘She’s sexually active, therefore she’s a slut, and sluts lie’; ‘She’s a teacher, therefore she must be morally upright, therefore she would not lie’; ‘She’s an atheist, therefore she’s immoral, therefore she would lie’; etc.  Arguments to motive are also questionable, if only because this takes us back to the unknowable mental event.

Most of the items mentioned in discussions about the rape shield would also be irrelevant – medical records, adoption files, child welfare records, and abortion files.  A personal diary, however, may be relevant: if the woman had written in her diary the night before the alleged rape, “I intend to get laid tomorrow night and it doesn’t matter by who – and the more it hurts and the more afraid I am, the better – and I’ll lie about consenting just to make my life a little more interesting”, then that entry should be admissible; likewise, if the man had written in his diary “Tomorrow is Victim Number Ten – I’ve got my knife sharpened and ready to go – I get hard just thinking about raping whoever it’ll happen to be”, then that should be admissible.

However, hearsay has always been inadmissible, so entries such as “He said he was going to rape me” or “She said she wanted me” would not be admissible.

If judges do order such irrelevant records to be turned over, then that’s the problem – and the solution is not a restriction on the admissibility of all personal records/history but mandatory Logic 101 for court officials.  (To use one example, drug use does not show general disregard for the law.)

To summarize, (1) we can’t have certainty, we can have only probability; (2) past practice can be (not is) relevant to probability; therefore, (3) information about relevant past practice, of both the accuser and the accused, should be admissible in court.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

Power or Responsibility?

Several years ago, a local arts centre ran an ad for the position of General Manager.  It caught my eye – for a second, I must’ve thought of applying.  But then my conscious self must’ve recognized it as being out of my league and I read on.

But then I thought, wait a minute!  I’m 37 years old, I’m a multidisciplinary artist who has published books, produced and marketed cassettes, and run music and dance studios, I’ve been Chief Negotiator for a union, I’m intelligent, I’m efficient – surely I’m capable!  Even though I’ve had no experience specifically as a General Manager, surely I have the skills “to be a team leader, to balance the arts and business, to be sensitive to multiple art forms, to be a host at ease with the community and the industry….”

So why then was I reluctant to apply?  Well, I thought, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of responsibility (the ad said the centre was “a $1 million venue”) – and that daunted me.

But – and this is the point I want to examine – a man with half my background, and probably ten years less experience, wouldn’t think twice about applying.  Why is that?

Perhaps it’s that women see responsibility where men see power.  Women see burdens where men see benefits.  Women see work where men see privilege.

Hm.  And why is that?  One, women haven’t had a lot of power – so they’re not used to looking for it, seeing it, using it.  Two, women have had a lot of responsibility – so that’s what they’re used to noticing.

Wait a minute – men haven’t had a lot of responsibility?  But they run the government, big business –   Yeah.  Ironic, isn’t it.

What I mean is, consider this.  As girls, we got jobs as babysitters: that’s a lot of responsibility – what if the house catches fire, what if the baby starts choking?  On the other hand, as boys, men got jobs as ‘paper boys’: they were responsible for getting a bunch of paper onto someone’s porch.

The trend continued in adolescence: the women became camp counsellors and recreation leaders, while the men worked on maintenance crews; the women were entrusted with the physical, social, emotional, and artistic development of children, while the men were entrusted with shrubbery.

Then, or later, in matters of sex, it’s the woman who has the responsibility – for deciding yes or no and for contraception.  Men have the power – to rape.

It goes on.  Which parent is primarily responsible for the child?  The woman.  Sure, the man is responsible too, but his responsibility is usually limited to financial matters (and even then, more to getting the money than to managing it).  It’s the woman who is primarily responsible for emotional matters – for providing attention, affection, love; and for physical matters – for seeing that the child doesn’t get hit by a car, for seeing that it doesn’t put its finger in a socket; and for intellectual matters – for seeing that the homework gets done, for planning and making trips to the library.  The men’s responsibility can be fulfilled in 8 hours each day; the women are responsible 24 hours each day.  And yet, should he decide to make his car payment instead of his child support payment, he affects, in a big way, the quality of life for at least two others besides himself.  That’s power.

So it’s no wonder we see responsibility where men see power.

And it’s no wonder we don’t apply for the positions higher up.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

Making Taxes Gender-Fair

Since men commit 90% of the crime, they should pay 90% of the tax that supports the judicial system. Prisons are expensive to build and maintain. As are prisoners – they don’t work while they’re in prison, so we have to support them. Then there’s the expense of the police forces and courts that get them there. We already require that they pay the bulk of car insurance premiums because they’re the worse drivers. So what’s stopping us from going further, making the system even more fair?

And since a large percentage of their crime is violent, it follows that men are responsible for far more ER visits than women (assuming no gender differences with regard to illness and other injury) (actually, since men take more risks than women, there probably is a gender difference with regard to injury) (don’t forget the driving thing), so men should pay more of the tax that supports the healthcare system.

Oh and the military. Men are the ones who thrive on aggression, they get off on the excitement of fighting. They want to join the military. They want to go to war. So let them pay for it. Let them pay the $530 billion required by the military budget.

Then there’s all the environmental stuff. All those beer cans, empty cigarette packs, fast food cartons – most of the litter along the highways was put there by men. As they continue to drive their big gas-guzzlers with the high emissions. And the companies that dump toxic waste, and clear cut forests, and dam river systems? All run by men.

We could call it the Gender Responsibility Tax – a $5,000 surtax could be levied on each and every male. Payable annually, from birth to death. By the parents, of course, until the boy reached manhood.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

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