[A note to readers: this is the article that led me to move my blog, as a massive downpour of personal attacks and threats was heaped on me. I'm not going to be the submissive little boy that pseudo-feminists seem to expect all men to be, however, so here is the re-edited version with additional content]
I find myself compelled to revisit the feminism argument after my potentially notorious column on women's common choices in popular literature and television after some recent events. The first was a friend contacting me while I was playing a game to tell me that she was being attacked for her character somehow being anti-feminist. A beer-swigging dwarf priestess in an online video game was somehow anti-feminist. This accusation was leveled in (apparently) a personal attack by controversy generator Anita Sarkeesian, who's been at the head of feminist interpretations of video games for a long time. Sarkeesian has been the target of a number of brutal anti-woman campaigns, including a sick video game where you could "beat up" an image of her. I know nothing about Sarkeesian herself, but a very well-reasoned argument from another blogger pretty much says all I need to know: http://tinyurl.com/SarkeesianGame Sarkeesian may have good intentions, but she's letting her crusade and bias color her interpretations of games and is creating controversy where none exists.
Then, I found an Internet review that is the poster child for Completely Missing the Point: the Nostalgia Chick's review of Charlie's Angels - http://tinyurl.com/nchickangels
Normally I don't like to criticize comedians unless they say something truly cruel. My opinion is, even if they say something with which I don't agree, it's generally in good fun and I can respect that they hold differing views. A comedian preaches to his or her audience, so any issues I prefer to address in the consumer rather than the provider.
However, the Chick likes to portray herself as more of an intellectual, touting a film degree and analyzing issues. Even if I don't think she's the funniest, she usually has interesting insights. This time, however, she is entirely off the mark.
At the beginning of the Chick's video, she declares feminism to be dead, but for an entirely different reason: she claims that since sexual objectification hasn't ended feminism has failed, and includes remarks about the "get back in the kitchen" jokes. In this case, I believe that being a pretty, young, white woman has placed her in a disadvantageous place from which to give commentary. The first issue is that objectification goes both ways, as boy bands and Twilight-style fiction show. Just because it's in text or subtext rather than in images does not make it any less tangible, but it's exactly because of the third wave of feminism that women are allowed to do this while men are not:
Current-generation pseudo-feminists have drawn a line in the sand: you cannot criticize a woman for anything or you are a misogynist pig and deserve to die.
Now, the above statement does not apply to all women, but it does apply to those who seem to think that any criticism is automatically sexist or driven by jealousy; and to those who believe that feminism means granting women privileges that men cannot have instead of the crusade for complete equality espoused by the first and second waves of feminism.
We'll get back to that point, but first, the true objectification of women needs a new title. The word "objectification" is so bandied-about that it's lost its impact. In addition, as women increasingly objectify men, we need to let that word have its own application so we can address objectification as an individual problem. The exploitation of women, therefore, could be better worded as the "possessionizing" of women. In truth, the image and the tangible are the least of a true feminist's problems when it comes to this. There is a staggering minority subculture in this nation who believes women to be fundamentally inferior. It is not based on sexualization, and attacking that angle is not only disingenuous, it's plain stupid. That's like getting gangrene and thinking that painting your leg pink again will fix everything.
The possessionizing of women is based around the idea that women are not people, but things. Since they are things, there is no issue in exploiting them physically or sexually, whether through repeated childbirth, homemaking, sexualization or rape.
Furthermore, attacking this surface only further lends to the dichotomy not only between men and women, but between women and women.
To readdress the point I earlier delayed, modern pseudo-feminism has transformed the world of criticism. Nowadays you can't legitimately criticize a woman without at least one rabid zealot suddenly decrying you as evil. If you're a man it's because you're a chauvinist pig. If you're a woman it's because you can't stand someone else being empowered, or you're jealous because she's prettier than you, or any number of other arguments.
Dear god, in an online fashion column I said that an actress looked lovely, questioned that the slit of her dress might rise too high, and stated that her heels were hideous and did her a disservice. I had not revealed my gender, but I was immediately decried as being an ugly and jealous woman, bitter that I couldn't look like that. Modern pseudo-feminism tries to shield any woman from criticism, reasoned and legitimate though it may be. However, that "any woman" has to be someone in power, apparently, just as the Tea Party defends the rich while ignoring the poor. When zealotry like this is the norm, that is when I declare a movement to be a failure.
Ms. Ellis - in case my constantly referring to her as the Nostalgia Chick is somehow seen as sexist - also seems to be making the wrong interpretation of the "kitchen" jokes. Now, I welcome to be refuted on this, as it may just be my inherent optimism, but these jokes seem less like an insult toward women and more of an acknowledgement of the possessionism that women face every day, the deep-seated idea that women belong in the kitchen and bedroom to serve men.
Again, I see very few if any ads that depict sexy women in the kitchen, so this isn't caused by the sexualization of women; it runs far deeper than that.
For many women, the ability to look really sexy, kick ass, and be respected for both is a major empowerment fantasy, but the confused morass that is feminism will also attack this for pandering to male fetishes.
Let me be very clear: men are visual and sensual creatures by nature. What we can interpret through sight, smell, touch, etc. is the most significant to us, particularly when it comes to the opposite sex. Women are naturally appealing in all of these areas; biology has designed us as such for prime procreative opportunities. Men obviously go too far in wanting to see women, but as we are left with fewer and fewer aspects to legitimately debate without being crucified, many men latch onto the same arguments women make about one another, namely based on appearance and sex appeal.
Attacking all men for acting as nature built us, particularly when boys are maturing and beginning to understand sexuality, is to color their interpretation of women as angry harpies who want to look sexy but will crucify you for noticing. Moderation in the argument against objectification is what is needed, not the Spanish Inquisition.
And that's the crux of the matter. Feminism should be about wanting to be respected and welcoming legitimate criticism, not shouting down any dissent or opposing viewpoints.
I believe above all else, though, that Ms. Ellis made the biggest error in using a burqa (or niqab, as she claims, though it's actually not since a niqab doesn't conceal one's face) to make her empowerment statement that men can't sexualize you if they can't see you. Not only is the option to hide yourself using that a massive insult to women who are forced to wear them every day regardless of whether they want to or not - and who are killed or driven back into burning buildings for not having them on, even if their coverings have also caught fire or have already burned away - it is also blatantly and provably wrong. Arab malls, particularly the high-end ones, can have sex shops that stretch across multiple floors, all of which women are forbidden to enter. Men select what clothes and toys they want to use on their possession, and women are required on pain of violent punishment or death to acquiesce. When completely covered, these women are more viciously sexualized and objectified than any American woman is in this day and age, even in the most ass-backward redneck towns.
So, Ms. Ellis - Lindsay, if I may be so bold - if you ever read this, please take into account that you are held in some genuine esteem as not only a comedian but a sociological commenter. To attack the barest symptoms of a problem without even addressing the genuine issue; to use a symbol of enslavement as a symbol of your own personal freedom for the sole reason that you have the choice of whether or not to wear it; to accuse a director of being racist or making a fetish piece seemingly only because you think of him as anti-feminist; all of this is an insult not only to your viewers but to all women. And I'm not just talking about women around the world who are enslaved by your own image of empowerment; I'm talking about women in this country who are treated as second-class citizens or worse simply because of their gender. This problem is not at all about sex: it is about turning a person into an un-person, and sex just happens to be an avenue through which to exert that oppression.
Following this article I was told in many vulgar and violent terms not to insult feminism, that I had no right to speak for my fellow human beings since I don't have a vagina, and that no one is allowed to insult Anita Sarkeesian. In a truly amazing bit of hypocrisy, more than one man and woman in the flurry of insults admitted that they disagreed with Sarkeesian but were unwilling to speak out on it because they would be destroyed by other rabid fans. How can people justify to themselves that they shouldn't issue genuine criticism because people won't like it?
Ellis herself accused me in her Twitter account - unwilling to insult me directly, while she linked it exclusively to other men to get them to gang up on me, confusing in that her message is that women shouldn't need men to protect them - of wanting all women to shut up and just take it. Like Sarkeesian herself, it seems that Ellis refused to actually look at the content and made up her mind immediately about the message and purpose of my blog. On her Twitter account and on a LiveStream, she was gladly speaking that she didn't care that she was attacking someone with clinical depression and wouldn't bat an eye if I killed myself.
In conclusion, what you do when you feel you're free from repercussion proves the kind of person you are, and Miss Ellis is a horrible one indeed. In looking at her history I have seen that she has a blowup like this about once a year, attacking the people she thinks she can get away with hurting and then hiding among men who reaffirm her status as being some sort of feminist valkyrie. I saved the Facebook assault and private messages, though I was unable to get screenshots of her LiveStream. The Twitter messages are still buried in her account. In my first post to her, I said that I did not mean to attack her and did not think she was a bad person. I change that position now. I do think she is a bad person. She got all of her fame through a man - Doug Walker - and relies on other men for protection and emotional support while declaring that women shouldn't have to rely on men. She stands against anti-gay bigotry but doesn't care about anti-male bigotry. She releases a film on having an abortion in 2007 and acts surprised and offended when one of the most controversial topics in the nation incites some people to anger.
Fuck you, Lindsay. I hope you and your boyfriend succeed in starting that other website so you can stop polluting a comedy site with your divisive, sexist and smugly self-superior filth.