I’m really tired of sexism. I’m also tired of feigned outrage in response to perceived sexism. Look at this Bill Maher routine, in which he mocks what he sees as the “feminization” of American values. Everything that he says is totally true, yet he is widely criticized for his misogyny. What his critics call “misogyny”, I call being a guy. People write off his complaints because he’s straight, white, male, and (culturally) Christian. They don’t seem to realize that he’d have a whole lot less to complain about if, you know, they’d stop writing off all of his complaints. It’s that Catch-22 that always seems to hamstring people who stand up for their rights. I tell people who don’t support gay rights to fuck off, and in response, people tell me I’m intolerant. No, I think I’m just defending myself. What is at the root of this problem is, I believe, an inability to distinguish between assholery and bigotry. I am an asshole. But I am not a bigot.
What gives rise to this gulf in our collective understanding? I think it’s the inherently judgmental nature of our culture. Video clips leak of, say, Lily Tomlin and director David O. Russell fighting on the set of I Heart Huckabees and suddenly, everyone is talking about how horrible it is that David O. Russell would treat someone that way. Nobody asks what business it is of ours to judge someone we don’t know and will likely never meet based on an event that, by all rights, never should have even been filmed, let alone released to the public. How would you like to have the worst moments of your life broadcast to the world? Don’t defend your position by saying that you would never call a woman a “cunt”, because that just proves my point. Not doing what someone else does does not make you better than they are. When watching that flare-up, nobody says, “Well, David O. Russell may have lost his temper, but at least he’s not a womanizing alcoholic like I am.” We raise celebrities up to impossible heights, then scold them for failing to meet our unreasonable expectations.
I don’t know about you, but I am not offended by the use of “faggot” as an insult. In fact, I often use it myself, just to see the looks on my friends’ faces when they hear that slander coming from my mouth. I guess I have bigger fish to fry. People don’t generally say hateful things unless they are themselves hateful, and I think it’s important that we learn to look beyond the words that people use and analyze their intent. Adam Lambert gave a performance a couple years ago that marked his break from the family-friendly world of American Idol and emergence as a sexualized pop icon. For that, many parents scolded him for exposing their children to something that was, admittedly, a little risqué. Except that he didn’t expose their children to it; they did. It isn’t his job to babysit other people’s children. He does what he thinks is best for his career and creative interests. It is our place only to decide whether we like it or not. I’m not a fan of his music, but I have to say, I enjoyed his performance at the AMAs. After seeing so many straight musicians parade around with girls onstage, it was nice to see the same thing done to men for a change.
When it comes to tolerance, everyone talks the talk. A columnist at my school wrote an outrageously homophobic article a couple years ago, then defended it by saying that he supports gay marriage. Yeah, that makes everything okay. Have we really learned so little from the decades of racists defending their comments by saying they have black friends? Finding one member of an oppressed group willing to excuse or rationalize your bigotry doesn’t excuse your comments, it means either that you are lucky, that your friend is a coward, or both. Standing up for the rights of women is not the province of women alone, nor are they the only ones who are allowed to call out misogyny. I don’t refrain from calling women “cunts” if I think they’re acting cunty, and doing so does not make me any less of a feminist (yes, I actually identify as such.) Don’t like it? Go and make friends with someone who tells you what you want to hear. It’s not like facing unpleasant truths is an essential part of equality.
I’m going to disappear into the nerd hole for this last part, so bear with me. Last night, I finished watching Torchwood: Children of Earth, a terrific miniseries that succeeds in being everything that the popular Doctor Who spinoff was trying to be for its first few seasons. For those who haven’t watched Torchwood, just imagine a bunch of people trying to defend the Earth against aliens and having lots of sex (sometimes with aliens.) People I respect have bashed Torchwood for its portrayal of queer characters, and frankly, I’m just not seeing it. There’s a certain point at which I stop caring about what the representation of a female character says about women in general and just go with it. I don’t give a shit. I tried, but then I got distracted. Even when a character takes a distinctly feminist viewpoint, people are bound to criticize the show for pandering to feminists. There’s just no way to win unless writers simply stop caring about what they’re saying and…say it. If there is something racist/sexist/homophobic in the art, it will show through no matter how much the creators do to cover it up. And if there isn’t anything offensive, then everyone who pretends to be offended is just participating in a circle jerk. What’s gayer than that?
Photo Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/news/bulletin_110419_01.