Friday, October 3, 2008

Feministing And Sexism

I hate to do it, really I do, but if we really believe that sexism is wrong, then we need to point it out no matter who is doing it.


I went over to read the comments at Feministing after the debate and I was greeted with this image. It was created by Ann.  Feministing is excellent when it comes to pointing out sexism against women; however making an image like this and posting it on a site that is so influential sends the message that feminists are okay with a double standard.

If this same thing had been done to Palin or in fact any woman, the feministing ladies would be throwing vitriol. If it is not okay to sexualize a woman in this way then it is simply unacceptable to do this to a man.

Feminism is not about creating two different sets of rules.  If we believe that women deserve to be treated with respect and as equal beings, then we as feminists need to refrain from performing the same sort of sexist behaviour that we regularly accuse men of.

I simply cannot imagine what was going through her mind when she decided to post this. It is not ironic, it is not amusing, it is simply put sexist.  If we can agree that sexism needs to end, then we should all commit to making sure that we are not practicing it ourselves.  I am disappointed are capable of better.


Danny said...

I don't always see eye to eye with you Renee but I give you props on saying something about this for the following reasons:

1. For having guts to post you disgust on what is often celebrated as a "progressive, insightful, and thought provoking" site. And rest assured if a man who is not feminist approved were to do the same he would be attcked for it.

2. For actually calling it sexism. According to Feminism 101 that pic is not sexist because "women don't have institutional or historic power over men".

3. For pointing out the hypocisy and double standards that some feminists support. We both know good and hell well what would happen if Glenn Sacks had made a pic of Sarah Palin's head on Sarah Michelle Gellar's body and labled it Buffy.

4. For not putting up some lame excuse to explain why "it's not sexist" that I'm someone will do for that pic of Biden knowing full well if the opposite were done to Palin anyone trying to defend it with "its not sexist" would be called misogynistic, sexist, troll, MRA, and any other insulting term they can think of.

And to make it worse people are actually thanking the creator of the photo. This is the good shit you post that keeps me coming back here.

Renee said...

Thanks Danny, I just call it as I see it. I hated to call them on it but I don't believe in holding women to different standards than I do men. When I say that I believe in equality I truly mean it. I find it telling that the next post after this is a complaint about a disembodied woman, yet somehow this is not sexist or hypocritical.

While I certainly agree women don't exist with the same power as men socially because of patriarchy that should not give us license to behave in the same manner. The Master Tools....

The Link Back Project said...

Renee: "You, over there..."

LBP: "Thank You Renee. My name is LBP, from Fencesitters weekly."

LBP: "I have a question... What if it were a commenter that had brought this up? Would you be even more adamant that it was sexist? Or are you going to tell us that you can't comment, until that type of thing actually happens?"

Danyell said...

I had a bit of a problem with this as well. I may not have gotten as angry as some of the commenters on the site did, but the more I look at it, the more I can see the double-standard it presents. And as Biden is a man that I am growing to deeply respect, it seems rather deeming as well.

Renee said...

@LBP I understand what you are trying to say here but the link is not the same. You are referring to my refusal to denigrate a young woman for leaving her child behind. For me to make commentary on that situation in the way in which you had requested I would have had to ignore the degree of privilege in my life. As you are well aware I believe in owning privilege in all circumstances.
In this case I am calling out sexism and I am definitely not in a position of privilege vis a vis Joe Biden (white male/black female) Sexism is never appropriate no matter who is performing it.

Ouyang Dan said...

Thanks, Renee. Sometimes I get so frustrated w/ Feministing over stuff like this (I haven't even seen the thread) that I boycott for weeks. Usually it is the commenters and their "my feminism is better than your feminism" attitude.

I don't know where I stand on calling it sexism, highly hypocritical, definitely, b/c feminists should be better than that. I firmly believe that reverse racism/sexism whathaveyou is nonexistent b/c of the power structure, but you are right about Master's Tools (but that is my own NSFHO, and I can see Danny's and your point clearly). It's degrading, and not helping anything at all. If feminists want equality this is not the way to go about it (and WTF, w/ Joe Biden as a target?). How does this make us any better than those who photoshop Palin's head on a gun totin' bikini clad woman? It doesn't. It's objectification and reduction of a person down to their fuckability, and that is something I think we all agree on here. Objectification goes both ways and is disgusting, but until it happens on a level field I am not willing to say it is the same thing.

Lindsay said...

I agree 100%. We can't condone behavior and then turn around and do the very same thing.

Danny said...

If feminists want equality this is not the way to go about it (and WTF, w/ Joe Biden as a target?).
And what makes this much sadder is they are making a sexist joke about the main brain behind the Violence Against Women Act. I have my own issues (small ones mind you) against the act but if I'm gonna make a statement against him I'm pretty sure I can find some better material than making cracks on his body. Peraps someone should get this Ann person a Hillary Clinton nutcracker and (some offensive "toy" that insults Palin that I can't think of but I'm sure exists) for Chirstmas...

Renee said...

The good thing about this is while there are a few kool aid brains that cannot think for themselves, there are plenty of people on that thread calling out the sexism, which is encouraging.

Danny said...

Ann's response:

Indeed, this is a play on words. It's a joke about Palin's repeated use of the phrase "Joe Sixpack." What sets this apart from, say, the photoshopped image of Palin's head on a bikini-clad body, is that the point of the bikini image was, "Isn't she HAWT?!" I'm not attempting a sweeping statement about gender here, or trying to take a cheap shot at Biden based on his looks, or trying to "level the playing field." It's a play on words. One that I found funny.

And when I prefaced it with a note that this explained my feelings on the debate, I meant the absurdity of her "folksy" turns of phrase. And really the absurdity of this entire election. Not that I came away from the evenings festivities thinking I wanted to see Joe Biden shirtless.

All that said, please keep debating this. (Respectfully, of course.)

On one hand this is why I think intent matters but at the same time offensive is offensive. She could have just as easily photoshopped his face onto a six pack of beer and it would have been no problem.

And so far Renee you're the only one I've seen actually make a post about it. I'll be making my post tonight after work.

Renee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renee said...

On one hand this is why I think intent matters but at the same time offensive is offensive.

Only to a certain degree. People often use intent as a shield to hide behind when they are confronted for perpetuating the isms. In actuality most people are aware that their actions can be construed as sexist, racist etc and proceed anyway because their bodies are encoded with privilege. There is an assumption that they can always apologize after the fact and be forgiven.

The Link Back Project said...


Double standards and hypocrisy still flourish, but this post makes for a good "spin" to divert attention away from them.

David Plouffe would be proud...

Renee said...

@LBP this is yet another one of those times when you are not getting how privilege works.. You see if you have certain things in life you will never be placed in certain situations. Simply existing as someone in a stable relationship gives me a huge advantage over the young woman in question. Even If I were to leave the "unhusband" tomorrow his commitment to our children ensures that I would have support that was not necessarily available to her.

This case with Biden is completely unrelated as my body does not exist with privilege in comparison to a white male racially, in terms of social power and in terms of class. In this instance I am the marginalized body speaking from below. I am further not placing judgment on Biden the man but rather the disembodied figure that this image represents.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I saw this on their site and I was like, come on Feministing, what are you thinking?

Anonymous said...

Democrats will vote for the Democrat. Republicans will vote for the Republican. That’s how it has always been.
John McCain and Joe Biden are politicians. They know their numbers, and they know Washington.
What is different about this election is culture. Where is America going, culturally?
This is where Barack Obama and Sarah Palin come in.
Some say race is a factor against Obama, but I say it is the opposite: Obama has been propelled upwards by his skin color. The positive ‘racism’ (Black-Americans supporting him, White-Americans feeling guilty about the legacy of slavery) far outweighs the few remaining pockets of negative racism (traditional bigotry) that still exist in our country.
Whereas Black-Americans account for 12 percent of America, women number about 51 percent.
This is where America’s reaction to Sarah Palin gets interesting. It is not only sexism at play, but regionalism too. Keep in mind that America’s reaction could be vastly different from the media’s reaction, which tries to intervene in how America thinks and observes for itself.
For the last decade, American women have been trying to become either the fifth ‘Manhattanite’ cast member of ‘Sex and the City’ or a ‘Desperate Housewife’ on Wisteria Lane. The White male executives who created, packaged and marketed these female stereotypes have made plenty of money as women across America spent time and money trying to become ‘Carrie Bradshaw’. But somehow, these wanna-be’s never lived it up as glamorously.
Sarah Palin is all about God, Family, Country and Shot-Guns. She is a completely New American Woman. She was not constructed by a Public Relations agency in either New York City or Los Angeles. She is not a Hollywood creation. Sarah Palin is simply a product of American small-town wholesomeness: happy childhood, hard work, self-discipline and a bright, and almost chirpy, outlook on life.
Sarah is not the high-maintenance, drama-seeking, bulimia-suffering fragile caricature of a working woman as peddled by TV.
Her husband, Todd Palin, is not a neurotic metro-sexual obsessing over the price of organic arugula, or whining about his commitment phobias to his shrink. He is a man’s man, and frankly, a woman’s man: just your regular American guy—wholesome and uncomplicated.
Sarah and Todd are American ‘retro’, but it is retro made cool all over again. They are a brand of Americana that has been tested and true—genuine, confident and mature.
Something happened to the Obama brand on the way to the election. It is as if the fashion gods decided that “Didn’t you know? No one wears Obama after Labour Day.”
Once exotic and different, the Obama brand has been turned into something weird and creepy. “Obama’s Witnesses,” “Obama’s Blue-Shirts,” “The Obama Youth Fraternity League”…Plus, after the initial swooning over him, most people still think that there’s something “off” about Obama; as if he’s hollow, or hiding something.
Today, the Obama brand has become decidedly “uncool”. That’s why people tuned out from watching him debate McCain.
On the other hand, Americans are discovering that they are intrigued by Sarah Palin. The TV pundits may want to spin things their way, but the surest measure of who won the Vice-Presidential Debate is that, at the end, the vast majority of viewers walked away from their TV sets and said to themselves, “I’d like to see more of Sarah Palin—unfiltered and uncut.”
The Obama camp may be celebrating too early. There are still plenty of people out there that haven’t made up their mind, and Obama’s triumphalism may begin to sound like arrogance, and he’s already been accused of that.
This is indeed a culturally interesting time to be an American.

The Link Back Project said...


But where in the article that you linked did it say the woman had "no husband/s.o."?

The commenters skewed away from the post, and slid into man bashing. It is your journalistic integrity that I am calling into question.

Playing to the masses is great, but at what cost? Same with this post. It plays to the masses more than it does addressing "Feminism". Calling out your "Sisters In Arms" has curb appeal, but only shows divisiveness in reference to the cause.

The only way your agenda here can be achieved is by converting one person at a time, and letting the converts help spread the word.

I am one of those that is interested in hearing your debate on my privilege, but straying away from the message, will just cause me to rethink your motives.

You have posted many things here that blatantly show underlying agenda's, but I pass them by, because I know that any attempt for me to have an honest dialogue, will result in the same old, tired "privilege fallback answer".

So I choose my battles, and sadly enough, you never choose a different answer.

The sky is blue...
The sky is privileged.

The water is wet...
The water is privileged.

The grass is green...
The grass is privileged.

I may seek to learn from this blog, but you will never teach me that humanity exists in a vacuum...

I have put off writing Jack back in the start of our emails because I am still stalling at an issue that I feel there is nowhere to turn to with.

I can't say anything here, because the pat answer will be... "you are not getting how privilege works." So here I sit at square one, wondering if "Feminism" even really exists, or is it just in the individual minds of the activists?

CM said...

It is sexist.
And they are not really feminists if they find something like that funny
Since feminism is not about women being treated better, and men being treated worse. It's about equality of the sexes, that's equality for both, meaning we shouldn't sexually objectify or degrade a man, just like a man shouldn't objectify or degrade a woman.

This is really disappointing to see.

artdyke said...

I'm sorry, I really don't see how this is objectifying or degrading Joe Biden or men in general... I feel the need to reiterate my post on Feministing:

A couple of points:

First, this isn't dismemberment. You could get technical and say that you had to take 2 images apart to put it together, but putting someone's head on someone else's body does not imply dismemberment; it created a complete whole, as opposed to say, the keyboard/legs image in the next post.

Second, I'd like to reiterate Ann's point that the reaction to the picture is never going to be "yeah, Joe Biden is so HAWT!" like it would be if this were Sarah Palin. He's not hot (sorry joe!). He's an old man. No one's pretending that's his actual body. The terrible, terrible 'shopping job (sorry Ann!) plays into that (and makes it funnier). There aren't throngs of people in the media constantly objectifying him for his looks. That matters.

No, the model didn't consent to have Joe Biden's head put on his body, but that's just the nature of image appropriation for the sake of... yes, I will call this art. I have no problem with that. If the model somehow recognized himself and complained about it, I would care, but it's a googled image, and right now, it's anonymous.

It is true that there is a fine line between appreciation and objectification, although I don't really think that this picture is either. SodiumSkies brings up the fine point that in the strictest sense, all visual appreciation is objectification, unless maybe you know the person who you are drooling over very well and are thinking about their fabulous personality at the same time? I make a lot of art that involves the nude female form, sometimes in a sexualized context, and I grapple frequently with whether I am crossing the objectification line or not. It get's tricky because I am trying to redefine how we think about female sexuality and find ways to give the subject agency, and the attractiveness of the model often plays into part of the point I am trying to make - that androgyny and "butch" women are hot (as opposed to the stereotypes), but that they are subjects, not objects. In the end, I usually conclude that because the sexual attractiveness of the image is a side-note to the deeper point of the image, then it's OK... even though I personally think my art is *totally* hot. Gah, I still feel conflicted about it... Anyway, this picture passes that test.

Wow, that was helpful. I've got to write an artist's statement this weekend. :)

Renee said...

But where in the article that you linked did it say the woman had "no husband/s.o.
The point is I do. Living as hetero woman in a stable relationship that is largely validated with the exception of our racial difference means that I have a privilege. I cannot step outside of that to place a judgment on a woman.

The commenters skewed away from the post, and slid into man bashing. It is your journalistic integrity that I am calling into question.

I give you the same amount of freedom of expression as I do everyone else. I have a very loose moderation policy to foster conversation. As I have already pointed to you, on most other feminist blogs you yourself would already have been banned. It is because the purpose of this blog is to engage honestly and critically in conversations that no one is having that I allow such latitude.

It plays to the masses more than it does addressing "Feminism". Calling out your "Sisters In Arms" has curb appeal, but only shows divisiveness in reference to the cause.

This I actually find extremely insulting. Critique is a huge part of feminist discourse. What you see as divisive is exactly what fosters growth of the movement. If WOC did not speak up and point out the issue of racism within feminism it would still be off the radar for white feminists who were intent to have a movement based on their needs and wants.
If lesbian women did not speak about sexuality, and fluidity combining queer theory with feminism, today we would not have a good understanding of hetero privilege and how sexuality can impact the life of a woman. If trans women did not speak out about the marginalization and violence they experience we would still see gender as a binary and view it as male vs female. Without critique you cannot grow because them same tired issues continue to be brought to the forefront those excluding masses of women. What you call curb appeal feminism calls growing pains.

pass them by, because I know that any attempt for me to have an honest dialogue, will result in the same old, tired "privilege fallback answer".

Well of course because you continue to function without an understanding of privilege. That is certainly not a fault of mine. It is not a tired answer it is the truth. I have shown you examples of privilege in my life and the lives of others. It is a core concept of feminism and till you get that, there is much you will continue to have difficulty dissecting.

"Feminism" even really exists, or is it just in the individual minds of the activists?

Feminism really does exist but the problem is that you want fast and easy like a trip through a drive through. What you must understand is that women are complex, we are not monolithic which means that there can be no one universalizing theory. Even though I primarily identify as an anti-racist/ post structuralist with Marxist leanings that does not mean that I am unwilling to employ DIY feminism, eco feminism, or even radical feminism if the end result is an improved world. There are many different forms of feminism and you need to advocate what best suits your own personal beliefs. The idea is that even if we don't all agree on how to get there, that we get there.

The Link Back Project said...


Ok. :-)

Tis too early to digest this, was up all night, but I am leaving the thread up in a tab to reread a few times later on this afternoon.

Thanx for the reply...

Anonymous said...

Come on people. This is a play on words; it is not intended to reduce Biden to a sex object. There is also not a large and historic culture in the US where men are constantly being objectified so that they can be dismissed, deprived of respect and have their other traits ignored. I think both those who would call this sexist and those who make the claim that there is nothing wrong with advertising that focuses on women as sexual fantasy beings for men and which makes breasts, legs, etc. the main focus are missing the big picture. I don't care if a man likes looking at breasts. I do have a problem when looks are used to demean or to dismiss the qualifications of a woman (and by the way, as most of us know, this can be done by calling a politician "hot" as well as not.) I do have a problem when the majority of images of women portray only the physical attributes of them and consistently and overwhelmingly represent them as fantasy objects for men. If this narrow portrayal of women was not the majority of how women are represented and if men were represented just as often in the same way and we were not living in a culture that does and has put a disproportionate stress on the appearance of women while devaluing them in other areas I would not have a problem with some of the images I have a problem with. You can't say "tit for tat" because you have to take into account the cultural context. Not to pick on men, but some of them, in particular, seem to have trouble understanding this and think that feminists have a problem with sexy women or appreciating the female form. We don't, we have a problem with a culture where this is one of the few and most pervasive ways that we are represented. I am beginning to open my eyes to some of my blind spots concerning racism because for me they are probably equivalent to the blind spots that some males have about sexism. When you haven't lived it it sometimes takes a little more work to see and understand it.

Anonymous said...

It might be wrong, but it isn't sexism. The -ism comes with the power and women aren't the ones who have it.

Anonymous said...
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