Karen Armstrong is one of my favorite writers on religion. She’s also the inspiration for the founding of Charter for Compassion, an organization which works to put the call for compassion into concrete action.
There’s so much more to this comic by Razzy, but this is the part which resonates with me. This is changing the conversation. Let’s respect each other and practice listening to what we say to each other. There’s no shame in that.
My friends are all feminists. All of them. Especially the men. And we often get into discussions about the pornification of society and the expectations that for women to be deemed worthy they must adhere to impossible standards of beauty.
One of the communities I used to be active in was science fiction/fantasy fandom. While the people who welcomed me were some of the most accepting people I’d ever encountered, and were willing to teach me the not-so-secret handshake, over the years I noticed the cliques, the gatekeeping (by males), and even more sexualization of women, especially in cosplay.
It’s so sad this happens and people make up excuses for why it’s acceptable, when it isn’t.
In 2012, Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi held a pose-off to raise money for charity. The object, male authors attempting to pose in the same positions in science fiction/fantasy cover art as women are drawn. Of course, they’re drawings, because those positions are impossible to hold by real, actual women.
Today, I came across this on io9: 10 Stupid Arguments People Use To Defend Comic Book Sexism. (I look forward to the day when links and titles to articles no longer have numbers in them. Why couldn’t this have been simply titled “Stupid Argument People Use …”?)
The conversation continues to be the about objectification. Reducing women to only their body, and judging them on the impossible standards of beauty as enforced by society. We feminists rail against this all the time. We don’t want the children of the world growing up to believe that the only worth a girl has is based only on her appearance.
We need to understand that every person we meet is a fully realized individual with talents and interests that don’t show on the surface. It isn’t about sex. It’s about sexualization, and objectification. And those are wrong.
How do we change the conversation? As always, we start with ourselves. When we see someone handsome/pretty, do we think of them as people? Do we wonder what stories they might have to tell? Or do we just think of them only as something shiny and bright that would look good in a picture on our walls?
Changing the conversation means we train ourselves and those around us, especially kids, to see people as people. To see women as people. Seeing women as people means accepting that not every body is the same, and that no matter how much you think they should do something (lose weight, stop wearing stripes, wear tighter/looser clothing, etc.) to look good to you, they are under no obligation to do so.
Every person on this planet has a story to tell that is more than just how their body looks. We all have interesting stories, and we need to be asking about those instead of judging people by their looks.
Where do men get the idea that saying those things to women is acceptable? When called on it, men have said, “I’m just sayin’/I was kidding/Can’t you take a joke?” to me.
Men, it is not a compliment to stare at a woman’s body (in my case, usually my breasts). It’s not nice to stare and whistle. It is especially not good form to say things to women on the street/in bars/etc. you would not want said to your sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend. Why do you think this is okay? Trust me, women don’t respond well to this behavior, and would never date some jerk who said such things to her.
Instead of complaining, which I am really good at, I am going to make a suggestion. It’s one many advocates for girls and women make. Let’s change the conversation. Instead of teaching us how to survive this bullshit, let’s teach men and boys that this behavior is not okay. Let’s teach them that girls and women are more than their bodies, more than their appearances, and do not owe a man anything just because he whistled at her.
We are not bitches/frigid/sluts/etc. because we choose not to engage with you. Most of the time, we are afraid and disgusted by you and do not understand why you won’t just let us be.
It’s really not that hard.