Equal Opportunity Jackasses

Recently, a Houston newspaper put a contentious article in their online blog – the 10 Hottest Woman on the Texas Sex Offender List. Like most pieces of sensational journalism, clearly the title was designed to be a controversial but intriguing attention grabber. The editor knew that there would be people upset, and that was surely meant to be the point. I must admit, when I read the headline, I was disgusted myself. How could they trivialize such a heinous crime? How could they acknowledge, and shrug off, that these woman raped children? How could they objectify a woman to the point where her actions became irrelevant in comparison to her photo?

This woman was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a two year old boy.

And then, I read the addendum by the editor.

…it’s a way of getting readers to look at the info, maybe get them to realize there are people out there like this and they all don’t look like the obvious stereotypical pervert.

I really struck me. Indeed, the women in those photos look like they might be your real estate agent, or your kid’s t-ball coach. They don’t look mean, let alone like someone that would violate a kid or rape a teenager. We’re using to kids coming forward to accuse priests and male celebrities of sexual abuse. We’re used to male coaches of sports teams perpetuating heinous crimes on their charges. We expect the pedo-stached loner with the white van with that teardrop window. We don’t expect our accountant. Maybe they had a point.

After all, we’re using to fighting for equal consideration for women. However, a sort of idealist undercurrent pervades feminism. I was educated in a girls-only environment, one that was strongly supportive of female ambitions and challenged us to break the stereotypes. On numerous occasions, my friends and I would muse about a “woman run” world, where it wasn’t a big deal for a woman to be elected leader of a country, and how women could prevent all these petty wars through diplomacy. Who hasn’t entertained such notions? And yet, they are so clearly wrong. Could anyone seriously say that Sarah Palin would actively end the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, even if she could? Would Elizabeth May liberate society from its male-dominated shackles (real or imagined)?

"Okay, but first I need to ban all that life-saving medical research because it uses animals. And replace medicine with homeopathy. YAYYYYY!"

So why is it that women get this sort of free pass, where we assume the best of them, and the worst of men? Women are murderers too. Women can be foolish, ignorant and self-centred in a massively destructive way too. There are ten photos of women at that link who raped children. If you still can’t grasp the horror, imagine reading a news story about a male kindergarden teacher who sexually assaulted his student. Capture that rage and revulsion, and apply it to Sharon up there.

If we’re willing to believe that women can be equally good, it’s time to also fess up that women can be equally bad.

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3 responses

  1. Hi Flora.
    Quite some time ago I read this post as my first attempt at trying out the feminism category of this blog. Just today with much trepidation I finally made myself listen to the “Why Feminism Matters” episode of LUEE. I have to say that I was actually really pleasantly surprised by what I heard. It was a very well done program with some minor exceptions, namely the laughter and joking mood while talking about rape vs men’s magazine. I can’t help but wonder if some people who have had the personal experience of being raped would have found that demeaning or hurtful. Possibly a minor point, but perhaps not. I can’t speak for others.

    At any rate, after having listened to the show I remembered this post which I remembered being very problematic from a feminist perspective, so I felt compelled to find it again. After having re-read it, I still see the same problems, but I think I feel a little better about being able to talk to you about them. I’m more willing to consider that perhaps your thoughts have changed over time, and to listen to what you might have to say about it. I hope we can have some dialog.

    Firstly, regardless of what your intent may be, I believe that the way your written this piece lends itself to some bad misconceptions. This is not to say that what you’re saying is wrong in some technical way, but more that it lends itself to a toxic cultural narrative about what feminism is and isn’t.

    I’m seeing a fallacy whose basic mechanic is that women = feminism. The anecdotal example of your peers jestfully musing about a “woman run world” does not mean that this “idealist undercurrent” is truly pervasive in feminist culture. I won’t pretend for a moment that profession feminism circles are without their issues. Every movement of every kind has issues, quite simply because they are made up of people. This doesn’t mean we simply excuse flawed behaviour or thinking, but we also don’t want to form an ad hominem-style misjoinder in our minds.

    Certainly we do need to talk about, and not avoid or excuse sexual predators simply because they are female and would wreck our utopian feminist ideals, but is this really the case? I’m really not convinced of this. Not that I would excuse it if it is happening, but I could also imagine that it’s harder to talk about this candidly when MRAs are jumping all over it saying “See! Women do bad things too, so gender problems don’t exist!!11!1!11ELEVeNty”.

    As with just about every meaningful movement in our society, there are persons and organizations co-opting them both intentionally and absentmindedly. One great example of this is Cosmopolitan and other such magazines. In the “Cosmocking” series of posts on pervocracy (http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/search/label/cosmocking), we can see this kind of thing in action. Essentially they take toxic gender normative and even misandrist ideas and either directly or indirectly dress them up as neuvo-feminism. Another example being what I would call “empowerment through self-sexploitation” as discussed in “Female Chauvinist Pigs” by Ariel Levy. So, often when people are attacking feminism, they are often just attacking a straw-feminism that’s been pre-fabricated for them.

    Even if this really is the case, the answer would be to call out the individuals spinning these false notions and try to redefine and hone the ideology to be more philosophically purposeful which is what I see many feminists doing. Obviously you haven’t jumped ship yourself, but I’m not against doing that with any movement should it veer to far off course. Some people, womynists for example, have jumped ship and for some pretty convincing reasons. I simultaneously support them while not yet giving up the label myself which I don’t necessarily puts me in ideological conflict.

    I just don’t see what you’re talking about. I don’t see any over-arching theme of feminism being reluctant to call abuse abuse regardless of the gender of the offender. I just see horribly broken, badly socialized men who won’t stop dehumanizing and sexualizing women even when those women are molesting children.

    If you can convince me otherwise, I’m all ears.

    • You’ll have to forgive me if my reply is brief as I have a lot going on, but essentially the point I was trying to make is that it is equally sexist to place women on a pedestal of goodness and virtue, and that our high school notions of feminism were a straw man of what feminism actually is. This is not a criticism of feminism but a criticism of those who would dehumanize women by minimizing their capacity to be living, thinking, acting human beings who are capable of doing wrong. You’re quite right on all accounts and I have to admit that I wrote this before I ever discovered that people actually consider themselves Men’s Rights Activists and they minimize the violence on women by claiming that women can be violent too.

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