Women are so sensitive!
You poke somebody with a stick enough times, and they’re eventually going to lash out at you. That’s kinda how human beings react to things, and it has nothing to do with gender.
The problem is, that it’s a vicious cycle. A lot of women, especially feminists, have their sexism-radar heightened due to our awareness of sexism around us in the first place, so things bother us that wouldn’t bother us if we weren’t aware of sexism. Round and round it goes!
Think about it. How many of the following would bother you if you had never heard them before, or any stereotypes or history related to them?
“Get back in the kitchen.”
“Women are so over-emotional.”
“Cover yourself up; you’re not treating yourself with respect.”
“You look like a slut.”
Frankly, if I had never heard those or any other generalizations about women before, my reaction would be more of amused shock, and I would possibly chuckle. After all, it’s obviously absurd, and not related to anything. Nobody would have ever told me that women are over-emotional before, so I would laugh it off and assume it was a joke. It would be like me saying, “Men wear socks too much.”
Now, imagine it’s all you hear. Or all you see on the internet. Sexism is much more prevalent here in cyberspace due to anonymity. Women were treated like domestic slaves for centuries, waiting on men hand and foot. The fact that this isn’t the norm in many places anymore is evidence of feminism’s strengths, of how hard women have fought for equality. But we are still told to keep our mouths shut, and that our opinions don’t matter. In fact, men on the internet who say feminist things are often mistaken for women, so they get the brunt of some of this sexism, too.
We are not allowed to object to sexist culture. Even if I want to point out sexism, it is best that I hold my tongue, because I will start a shit-storm that will no doubt eventually involve the words, “women are so sensitive!” Instead, a lot of women who wish to point out sexism resort to sarcasm and aggression, because we feel like it is hopeless and we are pissed off.
I have had the following things said to me, both on the internet and in real life, during conversations ranging from gender dynamics to evolution to buying sunglasses:
“STFU and get back in the kitchen. Make me a sandwich.”
“You’re only saying that because you’re a woman.”
“All women believe that.”
“Curvy women are better, cause you have something to grab onto.”
“Do you have PMS right now?”
“Wow, you’re smart for a woman.”
“Women are like delicate flowers.”
“Women are all so over-sensitive.”
“Women are too irrational for science.”
“Men have better spatial reasoning than women, so that’s why there are more men in science.”
“All men cheat on their partners. If you believe he hasn’t, he’s just a really good liar. Good for him! Women are just so naive.”
“Women can’t drive.”
“Women don’t have the same reasoning capacity as men, which is why there are so few women in philosophy.”
(The last two were said to me by an ex-partner). This has all been said to me during conversation, so I am not including the thousands of examples of full-blown sexual harassment that were random and done by a stranger or passerby.
Now, imagine that you’re bombarded by this kind of gendered thinking all the time. Now imagine that you also are aware of more general cultural problems regarding women, such as rape culture, body shaming, slut-shaming, income and job inequality, and the general tendency for women to be seen as inferior to men*, and for (white) men to be seen as the default for human. Perhaps, then, even the most mundane comments might make you want to punch a wall? How about this one:
“Women are so hopelessly imprecise.”
This was in response to me commenting on my partner’s picture. A picture…of coffee. I said that my partner was odd, and the person who responded wanted to know who I was referring to.
How absurd, right? I mean, there is no stereotype that I know of that says that women are imprecise. Obviously it was just a silly joke.
Except not. Why was it necessary to bring gender into it at all? A conversation about photographs of coffee? Why is it that the vast majority of the time, other equally absurd comments generalizing about a gender are about women? Because you cannot separate statements about gender from our culture. If you have heard negative generalizations about women all your life, you might be fed up with people who want to be “edgy” and “ironic” and who make up yet even MORE statements about women. What was he thinking? Probably that it was so silly that nobody would take it seriously. But I wonder if he had said the same thing about Black people or Jews, if it would have gone down that way.
Now imagine a couple of goyim** talking, and a Jewish person chimes in. One of the goyim says, “Wait, who were you talking to again? Jews are so imprecise.” In real life, I imagine he would look knowingly at the other goy. There are no stereotypes about Jews being imprecise – yet, it is still highly inappropriate. Why? Because he is – jokingly – generalizing about an entire group of people who have been oppressed on a regular basis, and – this is the important part – their oppression was legitimized by stereotypes. Generalizations. And if a goy said something like that, many Jews, and even goyim, would be able to feel it in their bones: That was not okay. So why is it okay to apply it to women?
One of the big problems with stereotypes is that it reduces individual people to their gender/race/etc. Suddenly, I wasn’t a person making a comment. I was a woman, a representative of all women, a homogeneous group of people who have a hive mind. I was being reminded that this is the way I am seen much of the time. When I speak, it’s a woman speaking, not an individual. When I have thoughts, they’re a woman’s thoughts. Never mind the fact that there is more variety between individual women than there is difference between men and women.
*All of these problems are even worse for Women of Colour
**Goy = Non-Jew; goyim is plural
~ by owlcat on 2 September, 2012.