Your daily digest in misogynist narratives
Couple of pop culture stories on the topic of “Women: Widely Perceived As Incapable Of Making Good Choices”. Let me get one thing clear before I begin this. I’m not a “choice feminist”. I’m not one of those people who think women are saints and that whatever choice a woman makes is beyond criticism. But I am a feminist who believes women make choices about as well as men, and that the general public rejects this theory, especially in cases where there’s conflict between a man and a woman, a woman and some kind of authority, a woman and a bunch of judgmental idiots who don’t know the first thing about her life. And this is the theme of these two stories.
First, Cee-Lo Green’s new video, an admittedly awesome and catchy tune called “Fuck You”. It might as well have been called the “Nice Guy® Anthem Of Butthurtness”.
I really, really hate the “gold digger” version of the Nice Guy® whine, for three major reasons:
1) The men who trot out the belief that women are morally obligated to date broke men never turn around and put the moral obligation on men to date ugly women, which is the sexist society equivalent to low-status broke dudes. This is an odious double standard that implies that men have a right to their standards but women are evil for the exact same behavior. It reinforces the notion that women’s bodies aren’t their own, but are cookies to be handed out to men for good behavior, or perhaps just because they’re the most pitiable and could use an orgasm.
2) They exaggerate the situation to shield themselves from criticism. The whole narrative of “gold digger” ends up casting aspersions on the characters of women who prefer to date men with jobs and furniture, who can actually go out on a date once in awhile. Even if women make their own damn money, they can get tarred with this “gold digger” slam for simply having standards. A lot of women go through a phase in their youth where, afraid to be called shallow, will put up with dudes who expect you to watch them play video games while you twiddle your thumbs instead of going out on proper dates. There’s nothing wrong with a woman who wants to enjoy a cocktail and some nice conversation on a date, or who would like to sit on real furniture and not worry about getting fleas when she visits a man. And yet, the fear of being called shallow is used to shame women who have entirely reasonable standards.
3) The Nice Guy® wants a cookie for being in love with a woman that he, rightly or wrongly, characterizes as shallow, appearance-obsessed, and stupid. If she’s all those things, why do you love her, then? Doesn’t that make you stupid? Oh wait, you “love” her because she’s got such a smoking bod, right? Well, then, see #1.
There’s some reason to wonder if this song isn’t another example of Cee-Lo doing what he often does, which is to create odious characters to narrate his songs. He likes to explore the dark side of human nature, and there’s more than a little humor in this process for him. But he’s indicated that this isn’t really the case this time. More to the point, the narrative that women are shallow for wanting “money” (which, like I said, often encompasses the relatively rare woman who is angling for a rich man but is also, and more commonly, used to shame women who simply want men who have more to offer than “well, you can blow me on this bean bag after I finish this level”) is so ingrained in our society that there was exactly 0% chance this would be taken for satirical by 99% of the audience. There’s just not enough respect for female autonomy, or sympathy for women’s motivations to suggest that anything else would have happened but what did happen, which is that legions of men immediately swore this was the greatest song ever and Cee-Lo was telling pretty much all of female humanity where to get off. Again, I have yet to see any real evidence that the vast majority of women—or even “hot” women that are the only women that count to the stalwart critics of being shallow—are willing to throw true love out the window because her true love isn’t a millionaire. If that was so, our marriage rates would be a lot lower, don’t you think?
Exhibit #2 for today’s events is creeping me out is this story of a woman who explicitly refused to consent to certain things entering her body, but who goes out with a guy that she’s dating while she’s wearing a new dress, and he forces her to do what she explicitly refused to do with him. But she discovers that she likes it! All she needed was a little force, and suddenly she was having “as orgasm”. And now she’s ready to chastise herself for the misogynist commenters at Salon to eat up for her previous disregard for sensuality that had to be forced out of her by a loving, sexy man.
This rape fantasy was brought to you sublimated as a story about a vegetarian being forced to eat meat, and now ruined forever, she has lost her ability to say no to meat again. But really, the underlying narrative is barely sublimated. You have a picture of a sexy mouth, and she dwells on how the man who overrode her decisions for her is such a sexy lover and how she was looking good and practically asking for it. Anyway, her vegetarianism was a hang-up. She had to be forced, for her own good. She really doesn’t leave any of the sexualizing of the experience of being tricked into eating foie gras to the imagination:
13 years of denial crumbled as I shrugged and told myself that I was ready for it anyway. I liked it. I was not uptight. I was having the best sex of my life with this man. I was wearing a new dress.
As a vegetarian, I have to take issue with the claim that not eating meat is evidence of being sexually prudish, uptight, or unable to feel pleasure. Or stupid, and needing a man to take control of my life because I can’t make decisions. Jowita Bydlowska doesn’t leave the bimbo stone unturned; part of the coercion process is her boyfriend exploiting her ignorance of what foie gras is. Not that there’s any shame in not knowing something like that, but in a narrative about a woman being forced to take something into her body against her will and then discovering she likes it, the Dumb Girl element is often a critical trope. She links her vegetarianism to pretty much every misogynist trope imaginable about why women simply cannot be allowed to make their own decisions about her body: she’s hysterical, overly emotional, prudish, mentally damaged, vain, spiteful, and really very stupid. Thank god a man was there to make decisions for her! She’s just so female, and can’t be trusted to know what’s good for her.
Seriously, at least Cee-Lo’s song is funny and catchy, and I’ll probably listen to it many times. But Bydlowska’s overwrought misogynistic pandering is just painful.
Seriously, some days I just feel like giving up. But then what would I do with myself?