Avast! Feminist Conspiracy!

Monday, March 27, 2006

When I Answer the Door Wearing Saran Wrap, Will You Say "Leftovers!?!"?

Basic Instinct: Risk Addiction
Opens March 31.

Will You Still Respect
Sharon Stone in the Morning?

It's a money shot that lives in celluloid infamy: Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs in 1992's Basic Instinct. A woman using her sexuality as power over men -- if it wasn't exactly a new notion, at least it was a riveting interpretation of a familiar theme. The moment instantly became a touchstone in U.S. film depiction of women's sexuality. It's what everyone remembers about Basic Instinct.

It's easy to forget, however, that this wasn't why the film was considered so controversial when it opened 14 years ago. No, initially it was nationwide headline-making protests by Queer Nation and ACT UP -- both then in their heyday -- that compelled moviegoers to line up in droves to see Basic Instinct. Hot evil lesbo action, that's what the fuss was about -- the film's allegedly negative portrayal of lesbians -- and that was its draw. Another aspect of the original apparently forgotten as years have gone by is how visually sumptuous the film was; the dresses Sharon Stone wore throughout the movie, for example, were designed to match the dresses Kim Novak wore in Hitchcock's Vertigo. To judge by the promotional photos for Basic Instinct: Risk Addiction, moviegoers won't be treated to such wardrobe finery this time around. Instead, Sharon Stone is clad in too-tight button-busting shirts and tacky oversized plastic hoop earrings -- when she's wearing anything at all. Without the built-in controversy that fueled initial public interest in the original, Sharon Stone has had to create and market her own controversy to promote the sequel: Appearing naked in the sequel is a way of empowering older actresses who have been typecast as being too old to be sexy, she argues.

She chose to announce that she will appear naked in the second Basic Instinct at a March 8 joint press conference in Tel Aviv with former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres. Sharon Stone and the Nobel laureate ostensibly were promoting peace in the Middle East when the 48-year-old actress launched into the following manic babbling:

"People just are sitting there going, like, 'I don't care what she's saying, I don't care what she's saying, I just want to know, does she get naked in the movie? Is she naked? Nude nude nude naked Do I see her boobies? I don't care what she's saying, I don't care, I don't care, is she naked?' So let's just get through to that... YES!"

Maybe you saw it on CNN, or maybe it was Comedy Central. In any case, it has been reported that Stone, upset that some of her sex scenes had been cut from the movie, demanded they be put back in -- especially those featuring full frontal shots. "I wanted a lot of sex in the sequel. I was coming from a really kinky place. I wanted more nudity," she told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper. "When I saw a rough cut of the film they had taken a lot of stuff out and I asked, 'Where's all the crazy stuff I did? What are we toning it down for?' I said, Let's go crazy!' So we took some things out of the film and a lot of the kinky stuff and sex went back in. You'll see it." The actress added that she wanted to make sure that the sex scenes were just plain strange. "I felt the nude scenes should have a disturbing quality that is provocative but also bizarrely threatening and weird. I thought it would be intriguing to do it in a way that is just quite brazen."

The first time around her arguments that she was depicting an empowering form of sexuality for women at least were believable. This time I'm not buying it. Her preoccupation with her aging nude self trumps talk of Middle East peace -- it's self-absorbtion and vanity taken to an extreme, masquerading as a political statement. And it's an embarrassment.

The sequel, meanwhile, has received poor reviews from critics in London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, and Berlin. Things don't look much more promising on the home front. The liberal Newsweek magazine has already weighed in with this comment: "If you expect an erotic thriller, you may be sorely disappointed. But if you expect soft-core camp, you will be rewarded with a showstopper nearly in the league of the weirdly mesmerizing Showgirls." Go, Sharon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What lies beneath

I saw something the other day that I haven't been able to get out of my mind.

I was in line at a store, and there was a Muslim woman in front of me. She was traditionally dressed, with a full scarf covering her hair and neck and a dark, heavy, ankle-length, long-sleeved robe. Her face and hands were all that were visible outside her clothes. I noticed her apparel in particular because it is beginning to get hot here, and I wondered if she wore a lighter weight robe in the summer. Then, as I had nothing better to do while standing in line, I noticed what she was buying.

She was purchasing several ornate bra and panty sets, complete with lace, fringe, bright colors, thong panties, and push-up bras.

I vaguely remember reading something, or perhaps hearing something on NPR, about the popularity of Victoria's Secret-esque lingerie stories in majority-Muslim countries. The idea, from what I remember, is that it is a Muslim woman's responsibility to keep her body hidden in public, but in private, with her husband (or, I assume, under her clothes), lingerie is fine, perhaps even encouraged. What went through my mind then, and again as I watched the heavily clad Muslim woman in line in front of me pay for her purchases, was that it was the worst of both worlds.

Obviously, my views on this, as someone who grew up in a Christian, Western culture and has little idea about the teachings of the Muslim faith, are going to be skewed. But I can't help but think it would piss me off to live in a society that dictates that I wear heavy utilitarian clothes, even when they are climate inappropriate. I would be even more pissed off, though, if it was also expected that I wear fancy, uncomfortable underwear. Aside from the general comfort issues this brings up, it seems to also underscore the idea of a woman's body as property of her husband, to be protected from the leers of strangers (even to her discomfort), but also to be showcased when shown to him (again even to her discomfort).

Seeing the woman I saw buying what she was buying also provided a clear illustration of the variation in uniforms women are forced into, in order to prove their appropriateness as wives, or as sex objects, or just as women. Though I've never worn a hijab, and I feel free to show my arms, knees, and whatever other parts of myself I deem appropriate, I know about the uncomfortable underwear. It is only in my mid-late 20s that I'm secure enough to throw out the panties and bras that don't make me feel good. But how much worse would it be if, rather than just a vague social pressure to be sexxee, I had to deal with that pressure for my underclothes as well as a more real, faith-based pressure to cover myself on the outside? To have both types of mandated uniforms pushed on me at once? How much worse would I end up feeling about my female body, which is both to be hidden and to be exploited?

I could be making a mountain out of a molehill here. I know nothing about the woman I saw in the store--it could be that she is 100% pro the fancy panties, she is not hot in her long robe, and she likes covering her neck and hair with a scarf. That's certainly possible. But the illustration remains, and it bothers me. When what lies beneath doesn't match what is on top, and when neither of them are freely chosen, we are in bad, bad shape.

Monday, March 20, 2006

How do you solve a problem like South Dakota?

Via bitchphd, I came across this post of the DCeiver's, arguing that the smart course for Planned Parenthood would be *not* to challenge the South Dakota abortion ban in the courts. Since I both disagree and think that the points where I disagree are worth explicating, I'm doing so here since otherwise I will clog up her blog comments.

DCeiver writes:
Taking this matter to court is a fine way to make a big showy pageant of deeply held principles, but it's a trap--the path inevitably leads to showdown in the SCOTUS against a panel of judges that are, in all likelihood, not predisposed to rule in favor of abortion rights. It's the one battlefield where victory is certain to be denied and it should be avoided at all costs.

First of all, to be clear: this case won't lose at the Supreme Court if it gets there right. now. It will lose if it gets there once Kennedy, Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer or Souter dies or retires (most likely, let's face it, Stevens). As of now, we have five sitting justices who joined in Casey in upholding the basic substance of Roe--and while some of them (or rather, really just Kennedy) are likely to accept additional restrictions on abortion, they won't accept this drastic a law, because it directly contradicts their exact precedents right on its face. This law is a stupid, stupid way to challenge Roe, because there is no grey area within which a justice like Kennedy can find a way to say that he isn't contradicting himself. In fact, if it gets to the Supreme Court, it may do its backers more harm than good by resulting in a reaffirmation of Roe that the Supreme Court is unlikely to embrace right now. My best prediction is that this case will result in an injunction on the law's operation at the district court level, which will be upheld by the circuit courts, and that the Supreme Court will not take certiorari and will never hear the case. There is no ambiguity in the law, and thus no reason to hear it--and by not hearing it they can avoid this issue, which even those who want Roe overturned eventually will wish to do if it's presented in this form.

So that's the first thing. But secondly, it isn't up to Planned Parenthood whether someone is going to challenge the South Dakota Law. Someone assuredly is; any woman who wants an abortion in South Dakota and can't get one has the option of filing a suit, and will probably find a lawyer to do so for her without much trouble, whether or not Planned Parenthood agrees with what she's doing. Any South Dakota specific women's group can file a suit, too, and has an incentive to do so since any suit is sure to result in an injunction on the law's enforcement while the case is being litigated (which will take years). Not to mention, other states are enacting similar laws also; Planned Parenthood can't restrain womens and organizations in all of those states from filing suit even if it wants to.

Next, whatever the ultimate outcome, a lawsuit can keep women's rights at least in their current (not great) state in South Dakota until the suit is resolved, as I mentioned above. And that's worth something. The main point that I think DCeiver misses is that we aren't fighting, now, for women's rights in Massachusetts--and we won't be after Roe is overturned, which I do believe will happen sooner or later (I just don't believe this case will be the one). We'll be fighting for women's rights in the states that want to take them away--South Dakota, Mississippi, and Missouri, for a few--just like now. And we'll be fighting for the rights of poor women, just like now. After Roe is gone women who can afford to will still travel to the blue states for abortions; the blue states will still allow abortion, and women like men who live in them will still have access to abortion; poor women in South Dakota will still be screwed. They are who we will have to fight for after Roe, and they are who we should be fighting for now. Even were it possible for one organization to decide for all women not to bring suit in this case, there is no point to refusing to litigate against this law for fear that the Supreme Court will ultimately use it to overturn Roe. And were we to so refuse, we'd be trying to secure our own illusory safety on the backs of poor women in the red states. A refusal to fight this one just leads to a post-Roe world a little sooner--the states that would pass anti-abortion laws after Roe's demise will pass them now, unchallenged. If South Dakota is successful--in the courts or because we don't go to court--other states will follow. They're following now. Honestly, I'd rather go down fighting.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hollywood's Prom Night

True, it's almost two weeks after the Oscars, but I'm a new blogger and lost my original post on this subject halfway through writing it on Oscar night. That's the night when we watch adults -- the vast majority of whom do not have a high-school education -- don their best prom-wear and exude the desperation of those sweating to be accepted by the ultimate in-clique. Why the newly crowned Prom Kings and Queens and Princess starlets ever thought we'd want to hear their political views as they present or accept a statuette of a naked gold man is beyond anyone's guess. But I digress. This year's Oscars were notably absent politicization -- a fact largely attributed to the already highly political nature of the films up for awards and the sense that Hollywood was backing down from the heavy-handedness of the political statements embodied in the nominated films.

It is the cult of celebrity that interests me, generally, and the fact that the vast majority of our stars are so terribly undereducated. It is a bubble world of high-school mentality and maturity. A few years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow proudly told the press about meeting President Clinton and sharing with him a high-school history class factoid about Thomas Jefferson and how Clinton fawned over her comment in awe. It was clear to the reader, and it was evident in the way the reporters wrote this news story, that the Jefferson-obsessed Clinton could not have been impressed with the information but instead was doing what charismatic leaders do best: make the powerful feel like, well, stars.

And even though it's painfully obvious to consumers looking at the covers of the near-weekly-multiplying tabloids of celebrities that the United States does not love or even like its celebrities, this is far from clear to the celebrities themselves. Week after week the tabloid covers cast celebrities in the most unflattering storylines possible. Some examples from the past two weeks alone: "Nick's Revenge Romance," "How Kevin Ruined Brit!" "Why Angelina Hates Her New Body!" Bad photos are another top cover seller: "All New! Extreme Celebrity Flaws! 50 Shocking Photos!" "Top 10 Weight Winners & Losers!" It's scandal that sells. You want a puff piece on your favorite celebrity? Go to Entertainment Weekly, People magazine, or the aptly titled Vanity Fair. You will not find such pieces, however, in the multiple tabloids that sell millions weekly.

Weirdly, celebrities apparently don't notice that these articles are far from fawning or that there is no small element of Schaudenfraude -- delight in another's misery -- among the tabloid-reading population. Well, this might be explained in part by the typical celebrity mindset, which is still stuck in the high-school mentality and maturity dynamic. Jennifer Aniston, for example, only this week complained that she is tired of being stuck as third wheel in the ongoing tabloid saga of that celebrity Bermuda Triangle that is Brad-Angelina-Jennifer. I don't want anybody to pity me! she wailed to the press. Don't feel sorry for me! The thing is, is there any tabloid consumer who felt sorry for Jennifer? Did it ever occur to anyone other than Ms. Aniston herself that tabloid readers might take pity on her? Aniston on the cover of tabloids last year looking bitter in the chosen photos and seeking "Revenge!" as the copy declared is what readers wanted, my Friend. They wanted the dirt on her misery, to put it bluntly. The Vanity Fair puff piece last summer in which "Jen Finally Talks!" was largely regarded in the industry as the equivalent of one of her movies: a stinker.

In future posts I would like to go deeper into the political significance of such a powerful elite having no real education. Is it by accident or design that such a powerful class -- in regard to wealth and reknown -- has no real ability to think critically or make pronouncements that the rest of the nation will regard as educated and important? And I'd like to go into the shallow stuff too.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A little good news from New Hampshire

The New Hampshire state Senate has rejected a proposal that attempted to implement two restrictions on access to emergency contraception: a parental notification requirement for minors requesting EC, and a provision permitting individual pharmacists to refuse to fill EC prescriptions.

When I read about this in the Boston Globe, I was amazed to see that some of the Democrats actually made statements that sounded...feminist.
"Every young woman in the state should have a right to make a decision that's not abortion or childbirth," Cornish Sen. Peter Burling, a Democrat, said.

"Incest, rape. These are things that happen and young women need a way to deal with that. It's not going to promote promiscuity," Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, said of the medicine known as the "morning-after pill."


Under existing law, pharmacies elect to participate and get special training before they can offer the medication over the counter. But some lawmakers wanted individual pharmacists to be free to decide whether to fill a doctor's prescription.

That angered Durham Sen. Iris Estabrook, a Democrat, who noted pharmacists cannot opt out when it comes to filling prescriptions for any other kind of medicine.

"Really, stop and think about how you are discriminating against women with this bill," she said.

As a nearly-lifelong New Englander, I have to say that this was a surprising read. Not only did Senators Burling, D'Allesandro, and Estabrook oppose this bill, they defended their opposition using solid pro-woman arguments. And these weren't the statements of sore losers, either - they prevailed.

These Senators and their colleagues won one more battle, preventing the Forced Pregnancy Agenda from running roughshod over their state. Well done, New Hampshire!

And if you happen to see any of your federal Democratic counterparts, maybe you can give them a few pointers on how to have, like, a position on something without equivocation.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sexism in our lives

Today is Blog Against Sexism Day! And that makes this a perfect moment to talk about my law school.

As vegankid noted in her list of ways in which we have *not* achieved equality, in the link above, women remain underrepresented in the law. She wrote:

Women have been 40% of all law school students since 1995, and over half since 2001, but are only 15% of partners in law firms nationwide. Many female lawyers attest to double standards and discrimination.

One clear reason that women don't make partner at law firms is that the law firm partnership schedule is just a good schedule for anyone, male or female, who wants to have a family. Or, at least, who wants to have a family that they spend time with, ever. Another contributing factor, though hardly the main reason, is that women (including myself) are more likely to opt out of working at big firms--in part because it's so well known that they are not supportive of family life (or any life that doesn't include billing your hours) and in part because we are more likely to go into public interest work.

Those reasons have a lot to do with sexism, of course. Companies' or firms' familiy policies have a lot to do with whether they can be considered woman-friendly. And men, in my experience in law school, are substantially more likely to feel pressure from families to make enough money to support a wife and kids on their salaries rather than assuming that they will be partnered with someone who also has a job--factors that tend to lead toward firms and away from the uncertainties and low salaries of the public interest world. Of course, the assumption that women will partner with someone who also earns a salary, while in some cases freeing since we don't as often solely financially responsible for the whole family, means that women's work can be treated as a cute hobby if it isn't strictly necessary for the family's survival. A surprising number of people assume that my work must mean less and be less important to me because it is less well paid than my SO's is. This is not the case, though certainly the salary is one indication that society values my work less.

So those are some reasons. And then there are some other reasons that the legal world is not friendly to women, some of which I can speak to first-hand.

My law school keeps a steady rate of 45% women. I don't believe that this is because 45% of their applicants are women.

In a study completed in 2004, it was revealed that women talk far less in class than men do. 10% of the students do 40% of the talking; by far the majority of that 10% is male.

Women's grades aren't as high.

Many people respond to these numbers by reproaching female law students with their lack of confidence, their lack of drive, their timidity and fragility. This is especially true of women who attended law school 20 or more years ago; I hear from them often, if not in so many words, that we really just need to toughen up. I don't think the problem is just that we're not tough, because we are. The problem is that we are made to feel less welcome and less valid in our profession, day after day.

I could list all of the things that people have said to me in law school that I found to be sexist and exclusionary, but that would take a long time and become both nitpicky and annoying. Instead, here are some brief anecdotes from one particularly exemplary trial advocacy class.

The class was aimed to build advocacy skills. Every day, each of us would prepare a presentation (an opening statement, a closing statement, a cross or direct examination). We would then perform it, and our performance would be critiqued by a panel of practicing trial lawyers. One professor frequently commented to men whose performances were especially strong, "You have great natural talents for the courtroom." When specified, such "great talents" often included a deep voice, an energetic appearance, tall height and imposing presence. Which, I'll grant, may be assets in a courtroom--but talents? This comment was never made to a woman, despite the presence in our class of many extremely talented women.

Comments made to women included:

(praising) "You weren't shrill at all!"
(following criticism regarding presence) "Don't worry, you're not too small to be a trial lawyer." (As the student to whom this particular gem was addressed, I immediately began to fear that I was, indeed, too small to be a lawyer, any kind of lawyer. The fear lasted until class ended and all of the other women in the class began to make fun of the professor).
(neutrally commenting) "E. is very...brassy." (What happened to the "great natural talent" inherent in energy and loud voices?)
(frequently repeated) "As a woman, you want to make sure that you don't come off as too (insert slightly pejorative term frequently used to describe women here)."

I learned a lot about trial advocacy. But I also learned a lot about sexism in the law. This was a setting in which professors and practitioners talked openly about their impressions of us all--they had to, because the point of the criticism was to let us know how we would come off to a jury. And the double standard--in which men have great natural talents for the law and we're always a little bit...off, somehow--was right there to see.

Early Indoctrination

It amazes me how naive I can be at times, especially when it comes to how other people raise their kids.

Little Circus is almost 4 and is in preschool for the first time this year (she was in an at-home daycare previously), and I've been noticing things creeping in to her behavior that I thought came from her peers - the Disney Princess fascination, asking to wear a dress so she'll be "pretty", coordinating all her clothes and accessories so they match - but now I'm starting to realize that a lot of it is coming from her teachers.

Every few weeks, the class focuses on a different color, and they use that color exclusively to paint, draw, and learn what things in the world can be that color. At the end of the phase, they'll have a day to celebrate that color. The kids are supposed to wear something with that color on it and bring in a toy or something for Show and Tell, and they have a party featuring food of that color. Blue Day went by without a hitch, so did Green Day, and Brown Day.

Then came Pink Day.

The night before, when we were picking out her clothes and trying to find the pink stuffed dog that had gotten lost in her toybox, LC informed me that the boys don't wear pink, so they didn't have to participate in Pink Day. They didn't have to wear pink or bring in an object, but they could eat the food at the Pink Party. She said it again, to make sure I understand: Boys can't wear pink. It's a girl color. ONLY for girls. Her teachers said so.

I guess I shouldn't be so surprised, but a part of me still is. We live in South Florida, home of old men who wear pastel guyaberas while they play dominoes, and young men who wear light-colored linen suits with sherbert-colored shirts and ties. Even the homophobic Catholic school boys wear "Nantucket Red" (meaning: pink) polo shirts with the collars flipped up, like they're living in some kind of John Hughes retrospective. I wasn't expecting little boys to come to school in a Strawberry Shortcake dress, but I don't see what would have been so outrageous about bringing in something pink like a Dora the Explorer toy or even a card from the game Candyland. I understand that this is the age where kids are really honing in on gender, but I guess it was just asking for too much to assume that the teachers wouldn't vehemently reinforce gender stereotypes for kids who are still fairly androgynous.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Lost your virginity? Find it again!

I've been hearing a lot about this article on the feminist grapevine recently: apparently, it's now all the rage for women to get hymen surgery so they can "lose their virginity" all over again.

Hymenoplasty is not licensed by any official plastic surgery or gynaecological association, it is not officially taught and it is so new and on the fringe that there are only anecdotal statistics. All the operations are done privately and paid for in full by the individual.
None of which bothers Jeanette Yarborough, who decided to have her hymen reconstructed in a combination operation with vaginal “rejuvenation” tightening. She looks adoringly at her husband, Louis, as she says: “What an awesome gift to give the man in my life who deserves everything. It was the most amazing thing I could give him as a woman,” she says.

Where do you start with what's wrong with this?

First of all, there's the assumption that all virgins have a hymen, in which case, I lost my virginity when I was nine, when my hymen broke bloodily and alarmingly all over my Rainbow Brite knickers after an energetic bike ride. (Damn, I was mad - they were my best pair.) I'd be amazed if most women still had a hymen by the time they got to their first partnered sexual activity. I mean, it's a teeny itty bitty little piece of skin, and if you've ever ridden a bicycle or a horse, fallen on a fence post (v. painful - I don't recommend it), inserted a tampon, or (gasp!) masturbated penetratively, chances are you don't have one. I'm sure most women have done one or some or all of these things prior to their first partnered sexual experiences, so there's got to be a lot of hymenless virgins out there.

Secondly, there's the assumption that there's only one way to "lose your virginity" is to have PIV sex, which smacks of heterosexual privilege to me. Since when was a woman's sexuality All.About.A.Penis.?

Now, are we supposed to be grateful that plastic surgeons have thoughtfully, paternalistically come up with an operation for a) reconstructing what's been broken by non-sexual activity, to conform to an absurd stereotype, b) reconstructing what's been broken by sexual activity, because women who have sex before marriage are evil sluts, or c) reconstructing what's been broken by whatever means because of some ridiculous, nauseating fetishization of "virginity" by people who have more money than they know what to do with? Are we supposed to buy into the idea that women's sexuality is so dirty and so yucky that their first experience of intercourse has to be painful and bloody, otherwise they're not doing it properly? Are we supposed to thank these ever-helpful surgeons for giving women who face persecution for not being virgins a chance to avoid this persecution? ("Oh, great, thanks so much for that, now we don't have to face the tiresome bother of overhauling society's ridiculous, hypocritical double standards re: women's sexuality.")

Now that surgeons have come up with ways to "improve" virtually every part of a woman's body (facelifts, breast implants, liposuction, cosmetic dentistry, gastric bypasses, etc), the last frontier, made possible by porn-saturated Western culture, seems to be trying to give them "better" vaginas. They can have those nasty protuding labia trimmed. They can have their vaginas sewn up tighter to accommodate that all-important, magical penis (because apparently PIV intercourse is the only valid form of sex for some folks). And now!!! Oh joy!!!! you can have your hymen back, so you can have the fun!fun!fun! of pain and bleeding, just like the trauma of your first time. And it'll only set you back £2,860!

I should probably mention that I'm not particularly dismayed at the thought of women undergoing procedures that genuinely improve their self-confidence and their comfort in their own skin. But to have one that will deliberately cause pain???!! Where is the joy, the mutual pleasure, the reciprocal love and intimacy and tenderness that I thought sex was supposed to be all about? Is it just me being a soft, sentimental, sandal-wearing, granola-munching Guardian reader, or is this trend a terrible, terrible pity? Shouldn't sex be a wonderful, beautiful thing that's pleasurable for both partners? Is this just another symptom of our absurdly sexualized culture, where women's sexual pleasure is expedient, or at any rate less important than the concept of "sexiness" and feigned desire? What loving male partner would really, honestly want to make his wife or girlfriend bleed and experience pain? Or do I have too much faith in that outdated old concepts of caring and tenderness?

How long will it be before this practice becomes normalized in Western society? How long will it be before fake hymens start appearing in porn, and men start asking their partners to have the operation on the grounds that men are "programmed" to find blood-spurting hymens sexy? I hope and pray this doesn't happen, but I'm afraid that it will.

Misogynists in My Study

The Internet has had one consequence for my life which I didn't anticipate: it has brought misogyny home. I have met misogynists before, sure. I have even shared a family background with some and read books written by others. But never before have I seen the brotherhood (and sisterhood, for there are female misogynists, too) of woman-haters all organized and fighting for their beliefs. This is exactly what the Internet lets me experience if I care to visit certain sites or even if I just wait long enough for a troll of this type to visit my blog.

Not that I care for that experience, and I always feel like needing a shower after my little trips to mensnewsdaily.com, for example. But in other ways learning about general misogyny is good. It is good to know that these people exist, and it is good to know that nothing, but nothing, we can do would make them treat us any better or stop them from being misogynists. Unless we somehow became not-women, of course.

The term "misogyny" is inadequate for the phenomenom I want to describe. Misogyny in its extreme form seems to be a pathological fear and hatred of the female functions of the body, more than anything else, and I'm not sure how many people would be classified as misogynists based on this definition. Then there is the hatred of all things female and of women, the general case of woman-hatred. But all this omits a large category of feeling that I'd still group under the same heading: the woman-despisers, those, who don't even care enough about women to really hate them but do care about the role of women in their daily lives, and that role is to do as she is told, pretty much. I'm going to give this group the honor of belonging under the general heading of misogynists, too.

Misogynists are a minority of men (and women). This is important to remember because they don't seem like a minority to those of us who run feminist sites. We are the honey that attracts them, and this means that we interact with woman-haters at a greater frequency than their numbers would let us expect. And why do we attract them so? Because uppity women are a terrible thing for those who hate all things female. It's like the bogeyman of your childhood dreams turning up to be as large as the world. Also because those who are more woman-despisers than woman-haters don't mind women so much as long as women are clearly held subjugated, and uppity women really mess up their life plans. Then there are the men who have had a bad divorce and blame feminists for that. The sins of the ex-wives and all that.

I sometimes hear the argument that some of these men whom I'd label misogynists don't really hate women but feminist women. This is an odd distinction. Women who want equality are hateworthy but those who don't are not hateworthy, because presumably they know their places which are somewhere far below. What would that mean in terms of my views of misogyny? Certainly I'd class this as woman-despising.

And finally a confession. Before I started my adventures on the Internet I thought that misogyny was really quite rare. I have learned otherwise.