Slutwalk and the Big Words: Benevolent Sexism, Privilege and Empathy

Today is Bloomington’s Slutwalk, which seems to have brought out some of the ugliest ignorance from a student “american facist” group. The Tradyouth group plans on protesting the walk. I’m not a huge fan of yelling unproductive confrontation such as that from neo-nazi-esque undergrads but at least I know how to deal with it, how to categorize it and set it aside. Tradyouth is an easy to categorize “other” that I can set on the opposite side of a binary scale from myself. For better or worse, I can block them out.

What I’m having a harder time understanding and dealing with the benevolent sexism coming from liberals on “my side” of the debate. Alright let’s be frank… I’m getting perturbed with the the liberal males on my side who have been telling me to “be careful” at the rally.

Look, I get it. Really I do. These guys aren’t trying to be sexists; they are trying to be protective and caring.  Neo-nazis are scary as shit. They are terrifying just in their sheer belief of supremacy and righteougness. They are a group you need to be “careful” around. But of course I know this. And that is why you don’t need to tell me to be careful. Because I’m an intelligent rational human being who has weighed the pros and cons of risk, and has decided this is a cause worth marching for. Telling me to be careful feels like you don’t believe in my ability to determine for myself what is risky or not; like you don’t understand my own autonomy.

But more than just feeling this benevolent sexism weight down on me like a depressing 1950s era wet blanket, I get a little pissed. Because in this “be careful” statement is also a way for these father-figure liberal males to separate themsevles from the movement. I can’t help but wonder “why won’t you be there?” If you are against the little neo-nazis, if you are for a culture free of slut-shaming, why don’t you march with us.

Yes I’m sure it relates to privilege, to not understanding why we really need to rally. Honestly there is nothing more infuriating than a man trying to tell you how you “should” feel about some from of cultural gender oppression. As if saying  “Don’t take it so seriously!” will suddenly open the eyes of a woman who really just has her panties in too big a bunch. There is a problem that we can never really understand the position of a minority group, we can never be them. But someone this also translates into not standing with them, and fighting with them. Because we don’t understand we sit on the sidelines and wag our fingers about being careful.

I say “we” because this is not a male/ female issue. I am a white, cis-gendered, middle class person. I have massive amounts of privilege. I think this often stops me of speaking up even when I see racism or other cultural forms of discrimination. It stops me from marching sometimes because I don’t know if it is my place, I don’t know were I fit in the movement, I don’t know where I should stand. It can be awkward.

My freshman year of college I lived on the multiculrual floor. One night a group of us were playing touch football and some white bros yelled the n-word at a group of men we were playing with. A fight ensued. It was dramatic and terrifying. But I remember most is afterwards the separation that came between races. I remember being offended. Why couldn’t I be part of the discussion? Why couldn’t I help?

What I didn’t understand was the need for this group of men to have their own space to process, to allow their minority identity to be front and center without having to explain to an outsider. What they needed from me was empathy, to understand what they experienced was angering, shaming, and a whole multitude of other emotions. They did not need me “to make it better” or to tell them what they should have done differently.

All they needed, all I could do, was to hear them, let them have their experience without my input. Sometimes we can be the best allies, we can validate other’s identities, just by listening without trying to solve anything. Empathy and silent listening is the cure to benevolent sexism and privilege.

some benevolent sexism from a mom

some benevolent sexism from a mom on facebook



Porn Study: Too Close to Call

I really wanted to post at least every other week about the porn study progress but you know…life. But really life just got really effin’ crazy. Or more accurately school did. This semester is pushing me in totally different, amazing, shoulder-pain-creating ways. And I love it but most I’m exhausted by it.

Also sadly I’ve found that with all my other porn study responsibilities, I don’t have time to code videos during the week. I only get to see an occasional few crazy videos as I’m sorting through everyone else’s data. I’m actually still shocked how much time and energy it takes to coordinate 10 coders, clean data, answer questions, and organize data. I thought coordinating would be the easy part. Turns out it is the mind-numbing, body-losing-muscle-mass part of this whole project.

But if nothing else it makes me feel prepared for when I do this by myself in less than a year. Several people have given me the wise advice of “whatever you do don’t do a content analysis for your thesis.” Well folks, I’m already knee-deep in shit so I’m just drudging my way through. At least I’ve gotten used to the smell.


The feminist debate inside my head: to spanx or not to spanx

Someday I’ll tell my kids about that time I passed out at Aunt Diana’s wedding and we’ll laugh and it will be great. And then I’ll get super serious and scary and warn them about the dangerous evils that are abdomen-compressing spanx. Because although passing out at my best friends wedding was probably more a mixture of uncomfortableness, dehydrations and glimpsing my own inevitable partnered end, I will always blame the Spanx.

And yet….there is an event coming up and I want to wear this skin tight blue velvet dress…will I spanx or not? I feel like this shall be the (rather silly yet poignant) debate of my 20’s.

wedding day

Read more about my thoughts on spanxing it at the RedEye.

I felt silly, shallow and super un-feminist after my little venture into Spanx. But we all negotiate our way through the continuing development of feminism. We all still have to live in a world that idealizes 24-inch waists; even if we understand that beauty standards aren’t realistic, sometimes we want to take a break from fighting the patriarchy even if it hurts our internal organs. It is silly and shallow, but we are real people who want to fit into the roles society makes for us at the same time we fight to deconstruct those roles.