I don’t want to be a predictable feminist here or anything, but I’m fully behind the new “Yes means yes” bill passed in California. There’s this bizarre, slippery slope type argument that it will be the end of sex. We’ll be accusing innocent people of rape left and right on college campuses. It seems bizarre to me that people argue we need a vague amount of consent to enjoy or participate in sex. “What if they have to make sure the person is enjoying it the whole time?! What will happen?!” Get a grip guys. This will not be the end of sex. This will not be the end of rape. Will it help? God I hope so. At the very least it will draw attention to the subtleties of consent and motivate people to be more aware of their desires in every moment of a romantic encounter, not only at the start.
I can’t count the times I’ve heard “but it’s just a joke!” as an attempt to absolve any responsibility from sharing a disparaging joke. The fact is, jokes against women and/or people of color are not just a joke, but have real life consequences to the people targeted, and to those who laugh at their expense.
A recent study examined the effects of sexist jokes on men, particularly their attitudes about our current gender dynamic, after reading a conversation including sexist jokes. Two other groups of men read the same conversation, but with neutral, non-sexist jokes or non-humorous sexist statements.
The results showed men with antagonist attitudes towards women (those agreeing to statements like “women seek to gain power by getting control over men”) report greater acceptance for the current gender dynamic (in other words, feel there’s nothing wrong with it) after reading sexist jokes than after reading a neutral joke or a sexist statement.
The same lead author published a similar study in regards to anti-muslim humor. As to be expected, participants scoring high in anti-Muslim attitudes tolerated prejudice against a Muslim person more after reading an anti-Muslim joke than after reading a neutral joke or an anti-Muslim statement.
Humor has the chance to reduce stress, boost our immune system, and connect us with our friends. However, it’s also a strong transmitter of prejudice, stronger than sexist/racist remarks, because it makes light of serious struggles.
I apologize for this past month or so of radio silence. Belén was attending wedding after wedding. I was in the process of a break up and moving. Now we’re back though! And we don’t even want to go out anymore because Portland winter has begun, meaning it’s time for constant drizzle and hot toddies.
The above comic derived from a joke I made to a friend about how a woman can be a bitch forever, and it’s true. We’re a bit more conscious as a society of how calling a woman a bitch is essentially writing them off as a variety of things, but always, always someone who does not deserve our time or attention. I appreciate attempts to reappropriate the term bitch, Bitch magazine coming quickly to mind because it is usually a quick and cutting insult. The word may be used as an intended barb, but to transform it to mean a fiercely opinionated person who doesn’t take shit from anyone, well then, I wouldn’t mind being called a bitch forever.
While waiting for weeks to find out if my unborn child would be declared a son or daughter, I scoured the internet for insider information. Pouring over potty shots on various baby websites, I learned from other genital-obsessed, with-child women that sonogram technology has advanced in recent years; identifying a fetus as female no longer rests on the absence of a penis, but now includes the detection of definitive labia. This is nothing short of a victory.
I like to point out to my I’m not a feminist, but acquaintances that until relatively recently men could legally rape their wives in the United States and that workplace sexual harassment was made unlawful in my lifetime. Earlier this year, a sexually assaulted student at one of our country’s most prestigious universities gave up her fight to have her attacker relocated out of her residence hall. After months of pleading, the university told her that she, the victim, was free to move if she wished and washed their hands of any responsibility.
Even in utero females have historically found their identity in absence, they are categorized as not male, the second half of an if/then statement, the other. They are marked as lacking before they take their first breath. We tell ourselves things have changed, that women are no longer second class. Women, we say, are out-performing men in schools. They are capable, respected, and present in every possible industry. They say we have come so far.
But in darkened rooms we still look at screens with images that tell us when there is something damaged, something suspect, something missing; the result is often girl.
Shannon J. Curtin is a displaced Yankee currently residing in Portsmouth, Virginia with her husband and dog. Her poetry has been featured in various publications including Short, Fast, and Deadly, Vox Poetica, y’all’d’ve, and The Camel Saloon. Her first chapbook, File Cabinet Heart, is forthcoming from Emerge Literary Publications. She holds an MBA, competitive shooting records, and her liquor. She would probably like you.