Tag Archives: sexism

Congress: A Frat ‘House’ of White Men and White Male Interns

By: Sam Johnson

It was my first day interning on Capitol Hill, and I could not – for the life of me – stop mixing up the names of the male staffers in my office. They read off like roll call at an upper class private high school: Dan, Jake, John, Alex, Tim, the works.  

There was one female staffer in the office, and although disappointed, I was happy to know I at least wouldn’t be the only person with a vagina. I later found out that she was leaving the office in a couple of weeks.

The lack of women in the office came as a shock to me. I’m well aware of the mixed gender ratio of representatives in general, but I (naively) expected better from a small Democratic office.

Two former Capitol Hill staffers, Sara Lonardo and Elizabeth Whitney, apparently also saw the same issue. In July of 2018, they launched the Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation, which awards scholarships to women who might not otherwise be able to intern on the Hill. Both women started as interns and are hoping to get diverse women into offices.

“We’re hoping to open up that world to a broader class, a broader demographic who might take themselves out of the running for a career in public policy,” Whitney said.“As I’ve gotten further along in my career, I have just always shared this passion for helping young women through that very vulnerable time in your life, which is finishing college and starting out in your career,” Whitney said. “We’re really going to be looking for those women who are at that critical path, where this is a make or break opportunity … and they are poised for success if they have that helping hand at that moment.”

Their goal is to fund about 50 young women’s internships each year.

As you might have guessed, the average “hilltern” is not only male – he is a white male.

Picture1

Statistically, those who can afford to work for free for an extended internship tend to be white students able to lean on family finances for a few months.

Congressional interns can expect to spend an estimated $6,000 of their own money for housing, travel and food during an internship in the nation’s capital. Interns on Capitol Hill have shared horror stories on how they made it by, including skipping meals and walking miles in the rain.

The issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in DC interns – or unpaid interns in general – has been drawing criticism nationwide, specifically by those pushing for paid congressional internships. Among supporters is newcomer and democratic icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has recently drawn attention for vowing to pay her interns $15 an hour.

According to Pay Our Interns, 90 percent of House offices do not currently pay their interns at all. In the Senate, about half of Republican offices pay their interns at least a stipend, while Democrats drag behind at 31 percent of offices offering some kind of compensation.

The House and Senate both recently passed spending packages appropriating money specifically for intern pay. For each member’s office, it averages to about $20,000 per year in the House and $50,000 per year in the Senate. However, most members are waiting for new guidelines on using the funds before advertising paid internships.

Two Replies to the Problem of Misandry

Feminists hear it all that time: What about sexism against men? It comes in different forms: “Well, you know, men face discrimination to.” “You’re not really interested in equality, since you want women to gain an advantage and don’t care that some men are disadvantaged…” and on and on in endless variations, each of which presumes, firstly, that misandry is a thing, and secondly, that the existence of disadvantages somehow undermines the need to advocate for gender equality.

This morning, a male poster on a mailing list I belong to sent out the following question:

What are your thoughts on comments on sexism that’s focused at men?

I’d like to share my response to his question, here out of its original context, as a conversation starter. I’d love your feedback:

When I see this question, my genuine response is to wonder how in the world this question could seem, to a person (not necessarily you) writing in the United States, at this moment in history, like an urgent question to ask. It is not a non-problem; but if you’re in a position to be aware of the prejudice directed against people of color, against people of non-majority ethnic or national status, against women, against LGQBT people… how does does the question of discrimination against men seem like a question that needs addressing first?

The response that comes not long after that initial incredulity is, I think, a little more useful. I’d say that the lion’s share of prejudice directed against men is part and parcel of the same cultural attitudes that manifest against women as misogyny. (I could explain what I mean, if you don’t see my point.)

This entanglement is an issue I think of a lot of critics of feminism would be helped by understanding. When you raise half your society to behave as if the other half is enfeebled by lesser intelligence, crippled by irrationality and sentimentality, and designed to use deceit and wiles to capture a spouse’s attention, virility, and well-being for their own personal benefit — that’s a corruption that poisons everyone’s water.

In other words: the misandry that I see in the world seems mostly to be just another expression of misogyny. Which means that the response you sometimes see to misandry — which is itself a reactionary, defensive, aggressively anti-feminist backlash — has the ironic effect of strengthening the cultural conditions that foster that particular form of prejudice.

Feminists are the best advocates I know for men’s rights, though I know many people identifying as MRAs would not agree.

Ugh, it’s hard to look at my “low-stakes” writing later on. Got to learn the power of concision! Less is more, Zak.

*    *    *

And here’s a response to the same question sent out by another (female-identifying) member of the list:

Sexism directed at men is like racism directed at white people: it may exist, but because white people and men occupy positions of power in society, they suffer many fewer disadvantages due to prejudice than do members of minority groups.

Additionally, I feel that a lot of what men perceive as “sexism” against them is really just the problems of the patriarchy seen from a male perspective. For example, women are often granted custody of children in a divorce, rather than men. This is because of the patriarchal view that women are more ‘nurturing’ and are somehow natural caregivers. That stereotype hurts women by holding us back from obtaining high-level jobs due to widespread prejudicial worry that we might quit or take time off to go have babies.

That stereotype ALSO hurts men by making it more difficult for them to be equal participants in raising their children if they separate from their partners. It’s the same problematic system hurting everyone, really. This concept is sometimes referred to as the “kyriarchy.” That is, all of the current systems of power are designed to keep everyone in their place, and people are raised to believe that some places are better than others. Men are raised to believe that women should be the ones raising children, so they may silence their own desires for parenthood, or may spend more time toiling away at work because they think that the best way to be a ‘provider’ is to make money. That belief hurts women by holding them back at work, or by causing people to have negative views of women without children. But it hurts men by brainwashing them into having particular desires or suppressing desires, too.

TL;DR, if you want less sexism against men, be a feminist.

So, what do you think? Did our replies to the question make the most out of a teachable moment? How would you have responded?

Lord balks at gender-neutral language

Pepper... and Salt
Pictured: “Pepper… and Salt” cartoon, Wall Street Journal, 1/9/14

Over at The Chronicle Review, Geoffrey Pullman (of the Language Log, etc.) has a “Lingua Franca” column dealing with the objection of certain parties in the British House of Lords to the proposal to use gender-neutral language in the framing of future laws. He writes:

Lord Scott defended what The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language calls “purportedly sex-neutral he”: the old-fashioned notion that saying “anyone who thinks he deserves it” doesn’t exclude females. (Of course it does. There’s a reason why it sounds silly to say “You can bring either your father or your mother if he wants to come”—he simply cannot be understood as covering your mom.) […]

The debate cried out for the professionals to be called in. And to my delight, as I read on in the Hansard record of the debate, I saw that they had one: Lord Quirk of Bloomsbury, a distinguished scholar of English grammar and usage, and a former vice chancellor of the University of London, was next to speak. […]

Of purportedly sex-neutral he, “the convention that masculine pronouns are deemed to include feminine reference,” he said:

If it ever worked, that convention no longer does, and there have been convincing psycholinguistic experiments showing that sentences such as “Anyone parking his car here will be prosecuted” predominantly call up images of a man doing the illicit parking.

And he further noted a shockingly strong tendency in certain legislative amendments to stick entirely to purportedly sex-neutral he whenever the pronoun referred to a judge. (The high-level judiciary in Britain is almost entirely male.) […]

A final stinger: Pullum notes in his last graf that each one of the “grammatically ignorant old sexist fools” who spoke in the debate was…. male.

Inset image from The Wall Street Journal 1/9/14. 

Seriously, it’s NOT about the nail.

This video is a pretty accurate representation of how many people explain the differences between men and women in society and why relationships fail.

Interpersonal communication can often be simplified into three different types, depending on one’s goal. There are task oriented, relationship oriented, and image oriented. Often communication between two people will be a combination of the three goals. Research has shown that the cause for miscommunications in a romantic heterosexual relationship is frequently a result of men and women having different goals. While men typically communicate in a task-oriented manner, women are more likely to communicate in a relationship-oriented manner.

In the Youtube video, “It’s not about the nail”, the couple demonstrates an occurrence of miscommunication where the male is seeing the woman as posing a task that she wants him to provide a solution for. He is viewing her communication as task oriented, when it is instead relationship oriented. As a result the woman becomes upset, the man does not understand what he is doing wrong, and nothing is solved.

Jason Headley portrays the subject in a light, humorous way: “Understand this and you’ll save your relationship”. The about section reads:

“Don’t try to fix it. I just need you to listen.” Every man has heard these words. And they are the law of the land. No matter what.”

The video reinforces the stereotype of women acting one way, and men acting the other. It sends the message that women are crazy, and men just accept this if they want t0 keep their relationship. At the end of the video, the man is still not listening, only nodding and agreeing with her so she’ll be happy.

I’d previously had a teacher send me this video and explain how accurate he found it to be about relationships. The teacher was aware that I was involved with this blog and thought I would be interested in it. I was glad the teacher had linked me to this video, but couldn’t stand the video itself. I proceeded to discuss the video for a good two hours with the teacher where I tried to explain why this video is such a poor example, however even after discussing it in extreme detail I don’t believe I made much headway.

The issue with videos like this one is that it stresses gender essentialism. The issue with the communication between this couple can not be reduced to the stereotype that all men think this one way and that all women think this other way. Miscommunication is clearly occurring in this conversation as a result of neither party understanding the goal and mindset behind the other’s comments, but should not solely be explained because one is a man and one is a woman.

I personally have had frequent conversations very similar to this one, where neither person could understand where the other was coming from. This miscommunication has occurred with men and women of a variety of ages. In some of the cases I’ve been the one saying “remove the nail” and in others I’ve been the one saying “don’t try to fix it, I just need you to listen”.

Dear Society,
Stop trying to reduce people to one gender role. Let people communicate how they want to. Maybe instead of simplifying someone into their gender category, you should focus on what they are trying to say.

Isn’t it about time?

It’s not about the nail, but it’s also not about gender and if you go with either mindset there’s never going to be successful communication.

Shocking Gender Inequality in Film

In light of the record-breaking opening of the female-led action film Hunger Games: Catching Fire this past weekend, the New York Film Academy decided to take a closer look at women in film and what, if any, advancements women are making. After reviewing the data, it is clear that Hollywood remains stuck in its gender bias.
Image

via the New York Film Academy

Calling Films out on their Gender Bias

Heard of the Bechdel Test? It requires two things in a film:

  1. For the film to have two or more women
  2. For the two women in the film to talk to each other about something besides a man

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

Seems simple enough, but try applying it to a range of your favorite films and you’ll see that far too many films fail to pass. (Note: The Hunger Games passes – YAY!)

So now Sweden’s applying this to their movies – Seems like a good idea to me! Let’s call out the gender-bias that exists in our society. This is one test more of society should be taking!

http://www.salon.com/2013/11/07/sweden_introduces_a_gender_rating_system_for_films/

Down With Cosmo!

Everyday Feminism published “10 Things Cosmo Doesn’t Teach Women About Great Sex”. Attention readers, Cosmopolitan magazine is not the sex manual!

Cosmo

The articles and advice that Cosmo features regarding sex are heteronormative (a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the norm or preferred sexual orientation), sexist, and cissexist (“a cis person is one for whom assigned sex, internal sense of sex, and assigned gender and internal sense of gender all match up”, so cissexism is the discrimination or prejudice of individuals who do not fall into the “cis” category).

Cosmo promulgates advice and “crazy hot sex tips” that are disadvantageous for readers. Articles and tips almost always discuss pleasing “your guy” (ugh), but give no mention to pleasing yourself – not to mention, you would have to change your body to experience true pleasure. The sexual experience illustrated by Cosmo is laced with harmful power dynamics and fails to give their primarily female reader-base factual, unbiased, and inclusive information about anatomy, sexual psychology and the factors that influence it, sexually transmitted infections, and safer sex measures including consent. Next time you’re tempted to crack open a fresh issue of Cosmo with a retouched celebrity on the cover alongside a headline such as “75 Sex Moves Men Crave”, consider the personal implications and read it through a critical lens.

Additional reading:

Everday Feminism
Bitch Magazine
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health
Definitions of cissexism and binarism
10 Reasons Why I Hate Cosmopolitan Magainze

“But Empowered Women Deflate My Dick!”

Every once in a while, someone decides that it is advisable to spew their ignorant, asinine nonsense all over the internet in a perfect representation of the hideous, nauseated cave-dweller which they prove themselves to be.

This is exactly what the hobgoblin who goes by the name of Matt Forney has accomplished.

See if you can tell which statement regarding women comes from his personal blog, and which is a collection of factually inaccurate, inane ramblings crafted by yours-truly (spoiler: this will be more difficult than it looks):

Option 1:

Whenever a girl I’m talking to brags about how she’s “confident” and “strong,” I can feel my dick deflating like a punctured tire. I’d still bang her, of course; a repellent personality doesn’t negate the fact that she has a slammin’ body. But a crucial part of the attraction is lost. I’d be less offended if she ripped a fart in my face.

The idea that women should have self-esteem or need it, beyond a low baseline to ensure they don’t commit suicide or become psycho stalkers, is one of the most disastrous social engineering experiments of the modern era. A woman with excessive confidence is like a man with a vagina. It’s an attribute that is at best superfluous and at worst prevents women from fulfilling their natural biological and social functions.

Option 2:

Whenever a girl I’m talking to goes off about how she is an “empowered” woman cause she has a job and career, all I can think of is “Wow, what a waste of a fine pair tits-and-ass.” I mean, I really can’t think of a bigger turn-off than some chick who acts like she deserves respect for pretending to be a serious professional. There is nothing more useless to society than a “career woman.” Her time would be better spent on my dick or in the kitchen – for the sake of efficiency, let men do men’s jobs so they don’t have to waste their time cleaning up the mess some chick made, and regretting that they hired her in the first place.

The idea that a woman deserves the same respect as a man is absurd. She is half as capable as men are if she is lucky. If a girl expects to be regarded as a man, she has to play by our rules, and I haven’t met one woman who wouldn’t crumble if she were held to the same standards as men are held to.

Well, there you have it.  Can you tell which one is real? Click here to find out (but not if you want to be in a good mood afterwards).

The point is that us feminists need to be cognizant of the fact that people like this do, indeed, still exist. Hopefully, you will only have to come into contact with them rarely. When you do, proceed with caution, as it may be difficult for you to resist body-slamming them off of Planet Earth for the good of humanity.