25 April 2010

Dudenation Demands P2K-Compliance from the Women they "Care About"

Men sometimes think it is acceptable to demean, dehumanize, and devalue the women they know, because it's all in fun, and because the women they know accept it as humor. But I want to know: How can men actually endure the dynamic of watching a woman who they (presumably) know, value, and care about smilingly agree to her own dehumanization?

(I don't really need to ask, sadly. The question is really more rhetorical.)

Last night, riding in a car with a mixed-gender group at college, I had the following conversation:

Dude (shouting out window at three women): Hey sluts!

Me: (blinking in shock)

Dude: Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to be -- I know those girls. I'd never yell that out the window at someone I didn't know!

Me: I'm sure.

Dude: No seriously, I know them, it's ok.

Me: I have no doubt that you know them.

Dude: (continues awkwardly justifying himself/apologizing, eventually leaves car to go meet a "booty call")

Afterward, I felt guilty that perhaps I had been rude. Then I realized *headdesk* that's exactly what the Patriarchy would want me to believe. If anything, I'd merely refused to absolve him from his guilt by my deadpan, blank-stare response. But of course that's not enough! Women owe Dudes forgiveness and absolution or even apologies when we cause Dudes some kind of pain or embarrassment by pointing out their misogyny!!

But in the final analysis what struck me about this incident is that the Dude realized that it would be rude to dehumanize a woman he didn't know -- or at least it would make her think less of him, since the woman he didn't know wouldn't understand the sophisticated humor in his use of the epithet. Hence, he refrains from heckling women he doesn't know, because that would result in them regarding him as an a$$hole. But a woman he does know, with whom he interacts on a regular basis, and who he presumably thinks he respects, she's fair game. Because she's proven to him over and over her conformity to the Patriarchy, and he knows he won't get any crap from her about his abuse. In fact, he assumes that she will recognize that because he's Such a Great Guy, the epithet isn't even an epithet. It's a mark of his notice, a sign that he has magnanimously granted her some of his precious male attention.

What a world. Again, I don't blame the women for laughing it off; it's what they've been trained to do and it's usually the best option available. IBTP.


  1. On the plus side, yesterday I (an admitted radfem) was talking with a young woman who told me that she "isn't a feminist, but..." and went on to say some very solid feminist things about how she calls people out on their misogynist assumptions. I high-fived her for her actions, and mentioned, "it seems like you are perhaps a feminist. Maybe not a radical one, but..."

    And she owned the label. "Yeah, I guess I am a feminist. Especially after working on the Vagina Monologues."

    It shocked me that someone as involved with the VM as she had been would have disowned the word "feminist," but hearing her claim the term made my day. Teaspoons, as they say at Shakesville.

  2. Comrade Svilova rocks. Popped over from IBTP to say thanks for your comments over there and to tell you how much I've enjoyed them.

  3. Perhaps related is the phenomenon of people who "care about" you saying things "just to rile you up". My mother said something deliberately somethingist the other day and said "oh, I just do that 'cause I know it upsets you". Like that makes it OK? It has long mystified me that people so often do this. It occurred to me that it's about power--"I can say this to you and there's nothing you can do about it". But you've pointed out another angle--they figure the cost is low because they are picking on people who have proven that the cost will be low.

  4. This makes me think of the phenomenon of "liberal dudes," as I call them—I have also heard it called hipster sexism/racism ("it's like you're totally a democrat, so it's just ironic, bro!").

    But seriously, there is nothing that upsets me more than this. It hurts, because I expect this crap from Rush Limbaugh or something, but not from someone I thought was my friend. Within the past year I've whittled my group of friends down to only a tolerable few—the rest are far too comfortable consigning people like me to lower-class status for me remain comfortable with.

  5. Yes, and yes! Being politically correct is NOT being uncool. It's acknowledging that you may not know everything about someone else's experience, and trying to treat them with respect.