Monday, April 12, 2010

Keep it Simple.. is sometimes stupid when it comes to sexism

There's been a very very interesting discussion over at Questioning Transphobia.

One that has revealed some of the stereotypes especially sex stereotypes not just outside the transgender community but also within feminism and inside the trans community too.

A very offensive thing has been said about Trans Men showing stereotypes and generalisations are alive and well.

And we have the very interesting phenomena of peoples reactions to my raising cis male rape victims of cis women.

I first learned of its existed because of a suicide, a teen killed himself after police laughed at him and told him he should have enjoyed it. You know who else laughed? Most of the people who talked about it! Someone was dead but it was funny cause they acted like such a girl by not wanting sex with an older woman and being upset and killing themself.

In the many years since then theres been the occassional rare mention in the media and other places of this sort of thing happening. Often met with outrage and anger by women that its even mentioned. Often met with disbelief from women that its even possible. In conversations i have mentioned the subject men will usually laugh at or condemn the victim for being weak useless stupid unmanly. While many women often disbelieve it at all because they cannot imagine that a woman could be string enough to rape a man and/or would want to and/or that the man or boy involved would object unless the woman was extremely unattractive others respond with sadistic glee happy that a man got a taste of his own medicine... but the victims aren't rapists raped back but innocents i might say... nope by being male they are guilty apparently.

See how much sex stereotypes of both men and women are involved?

Thing is i know cis male victims of both rape and attempted rape by women. Not just one but several. From one being tricked into getting drunk around someone he had no reason to think was unsafe through to one whose attacker used brute force and physical violence.

But of course we hear man or male and we usually think strong and powerful and conquering and desiring endless amounts of sex with anything that moves. And woman or female.. well i think you can guesss the rest. Despite many of us knowing exceptions to these, strong powerful aggressive women and weak soft gentle compliant men we still generalise back to these defaults to some extent. Feminism has undone a little of that... but not a lot.

Now cis male victims of cis females are far less common that the reverse. Not that we can get accurate figures because both rarely report an assault but its still likely to be true. But it happens enough that we should all know that it happens, that we should recognise what that means for our sex stereotypes. But the subject is too confronting, too taboo. The sex stereotypes too powerful and too beloved and too integral to the way we consider ourselves and each other... that we erase all exceptions.

Who has not felt the attacks and judgement for not fitting sex stereotypes? It doesn't matter that on average men have more muscular strength there's still many women who can out arm-wrestle many men. There are men with great reserve when it comes to sex and women who mark their conquests.

And the further you fall away from sex stereotypes the worse you get it.
Sexism does not just harm women it harms those men who don't fit the stereotype too.

Lisa at that link said "The whole fucking world exists to talk about cis men’s problems, Batty. " But thats NOT true. No if your reality goes totally against the grain of the sex stereotypes as the cis male victims of cis female sexual assault does then you dont count as a privileged male in the same way anymore. You are not the center of the world. You reality is a threat. There is not the place to discuss it, to get support and help coping with the aftermath let alone justice.

In the news right now is a woman arrested for sexually assaulting the elderly in my state. And news from spain about a horrific crime done by two ci-women agaunst a trans man.

In a discussion about safety from sexual predators every at-risk group no matter how much a minority they may be is a valid stakeholder. The erasure and taboo of cis male victims is caused by sexism, by the need to defend sex stereotypes. It does not erase the cis female victims to include cis males as a minority group of victims and cis females as a minority of perpetrators cause thats just a reality.

A reality that forces us to look harder at sexism to see it's complexity, its degrees of harm, its diverse effects. It makes us reasess our ideas of women when we acknowledge women can want to rape, murder, torture, destroy and value material possessions more than peoples lives it challenges our traditional idea of what consitutes a womans desires and behaviour. When we acknowledge they can be capable of doing that even to men it challenges our ideas of a womans power.

With the conflicts between parts of binary and non binary transgender, the conflicts between some trans women and trans men, the conflicts between feminism and transgender and the bathroom panic attacks on us from some political groups intending to ensure no equality for S&GD people and how sex stereotypes are so caught up in ALL of that then this form of sexism NEEDS to be addressed in our community.

And when a group so marginalised and erased that many have trouble accepting they exist at all yet common enough that I could know more than one in my life (and i don't have the biggest if social circles!) is considered by us taboo too because they happen to be connected to a priviliged class yet have no privilege in this regard.... no excluding discussion of victims of sexual assault like that is not ok. And the role of sexism in their marginalisation is too important to ignore.

Sexism is not simple. So we cannot afford to be simplistic about it.


gaelige said...

is there a big leftist (mix)blog where these types of things could be discussed, away from the glbt community?
maybe shakesville?

part of "feminist backlash"
(like african american backlash):

"AA rights?
what about the rights of the white man?we're soooooo put upon, yadda yadda"

"women's rights?
what about MEN"S rights?!
you women are OPPRESSING me with your feminism!"
yaddayadda ad infinitum

so the:
"you women are beaten by husbands?well husbands are beaten by wives 24/7!!!!!"

for instance,
is one of the fav. feminist backlash dialogs of choice, by sexists.

so,i think feminism is
sometimes scared by these other "tropes", into confusion, or misunderstanding of male rape victims as politics.

my point via e-mail was re
a female socialization.

men are only socialized to it themselves,via ACTUAL rape experiance.

so there is a slightly differant world view in women vs men, here.
once a boy or man has been victimized, however he then has it too.this may be the political point of differance here.

tho this is not only a political conversation,it is a human one!
most feminists are very sympathetic here, i find, however!

unlike the rest of the population.
in fact the most UNSYMPATHETIC population re this is:
*other men*.

lets chew on that for awhile...
women GET it.

guys still just don't......

THEY are the education target here....


Battybattybats said...

Your point about socialisation is an important one.

Women are socialised to be scared and that often has a variety of negative impacts on them.

Men are socialised to act strong and show and admit no weakness.

That means indeed men only fear rape when it happens to them or even rarer learns of it happening to someone close to them so they realise they too are at risk.

The socialisation of males also costs how many thousands of lives a year? 'What? Lives?' you may ask. Yes because the myth of universal male strength is why men so often dont go to doctors or discuss their health problems or deal with their feellings.

The socialisation is a key part of the problem, not something to be respected but something to be shown to have exceptions.

An elderly man is often vulnerable, not a powerhorse of strength able to fight off all assailants. A young boy same. A thin build man may be overpowered by a thickly built muscular woman. These arent theoreticals cause they do happen like the elderly men robbed and sexually assaullted by the woman in Orange NSW reported days ago.

The sex stereotype of male strength leaves vulnerable males at risk and often blamed for what befalls them when the perpetrators are male, its magnified if the perpetrator is female, the 'beat up by a girl' shame.

Yes women suffer worse in domestic violence and sexual assault from men. Acknowledging that there is a minority but not a microscopic one of male victims of domestic violence and of sexual assault does not mean we have to treat both as equally occuring or males the greater victims but to ignore those male victims is both unethical and irrational and to commit falsehood. And worse it is to PRESERVE the socialisation that harms both sides in different ways.

Yes there have been idiotic backlash arguments saying we should ignore domestic violence against women because it happens to men too... but its the first part of the argument that is false not the second. Because it DOES happen to men too and I'm all too familiar with that!

There is a key difference betwen people whining about fairness including affirmative action to redress inequality and people raising important issues like men also being victims of domestic violence and assault and needing similar resources proportional to incidence. The proportional to incidence is key, if it happens to men less they need less but they don't need none and its not ok to generalise away minorities they way so many do.

Battybattybats said...

The amount of mothers i have seen in public and spoken too at parties 'toughening up' their boy children so they won't look weak or attract bullying or make the mothers look bad by having a 'sissy' son is utterly disgusting. Women DO have a part in the socilialisation of males and of constructing the problems that harm males. No i'm not saying it's all womens fault as men do it plenty too yet many will leap to that conclusions despite my carefully acknowledging the majority issues.. there's the rub.

So often to mention ways women participate in sexism or the lesser yet real negative effects of sexism on men is seen as taking sides, attacking feminism in toto or derailing. Thats simplistic ideological all-or-nothing thinking. Woman = good and victim Man = bad and perpetrator. A majority gets generalised and thats a massive problem.

The majority of the world is Het, ignoring the exceptions erases a large amount of people. The majority is Cis. The majority (in Australia) is white.

No exceptions must always be included. Even a minority of one individual has a valid stake and viewpoint in any issue that effects them.

I brought the exception, the real existing minority of cis male victims into the conversation cause Betsy brought the concerns of cis women into it. And just cause the majority of victims are women and women are socialised to fear the threat and so harm Sex and Gender Diverse people thats NOT a reason to support that it's a reason to bring up the exceptions, to un-erase the minority victims who do have a place in any bathroom safety discussions, to deconstruct the socialised fear that is part-real and part-myth, to remove the veil and peer at the truth required to make fair and just decisions and to form accurate conclusions.

We need a sophisticated understanding of the subject and to address all aspects and all effects and all minorities.

Anyways thanks for the considered and thoughtful and thought-provoking comment, I'll ponder this subject some more..

timberwraith said...

I'm reflecting a bit on everyone’s words, here.

Luckily, I was not a victim of sexual assault when I still wore a male body. However, as a gender variant kid, I did grow up surviving many years of persistent verbal and physical abuse at the hands of my male peers in public school. So many years of abuse did indeed socialize a fear of men and boys into me.

Interestingly, transitioning to female continued that socialization via the specter of rape. It's really odd how my abuse as a gender variant boy meshed so seamlessly with "fear men because you are a woman and vulnerable to attack."

Abuse is abuse, and our collective experiences of abuse carry so many common threads. There is plenty of shared ground for empathy and understanding of each other if we set aside our fear and hurt and recognize the threads of our personal stories in the words of another. I wish folks could set aside the gender politics that separate people who might otherwise be allies. I can apply that wish to so much more than the context of this particular conversation. When I say gender politics, I'm not just speaking within the context of male and female victims of abuse. I'm also talking about all the letters of the queer alphabet, too. But alas, a politics of scarcity continues to separate us and bring us to squabble endlessly with each other.

I refrain from speaking for other women when I say this, but as for myself, I've now carried this fear of boys and men for the better part of 41 years, and I'm really growing tired of it. I'm tired of walking down a street or a hiking trail and automatically seeing every unknown guy as potentially evil. Seeing every unknown male through an initial veil of fear and distrust just isn't healthy for me. I can't wave a magic wand and make physical and sexual assault disappear from the planet, but I can certainly control how I respond to it and living in ever present fear is a path I no longer wish to travel.

timberwraith said...

I also wanted to say that I get where you are coming from when you address the issue of male victims of rape, BBB.

There is an existing set of cultural narratives in place for female victims of rape, even if many of those narratives are wretchedly problematic. However, no set of narratives exists for male rape victims and this grows directly from male rape victims being a tiny minority among rape victims and among men. As we all know, being a minority of any kind is often fraught with a whole assortment of craptastic experiences. Plus, being raped goes against the more general cultural narrative of what it means to be a man. In a sense, being a male rape victim violates standard gender norms. Consequently, I’m guessing that male rape victims struggle with some of the same issues that gender variant people struggle with.

BBB said:
Lisa at that link said "The whole fucking world exists to talk about cis men’s problems, Batty. " But thats NOT true. No if your reality goes totally against the grain of the sex stereotypes as the cis male victims of cis female sexual assault does then you dont count as a privileged male in the same way anymore. You are not the center of the world. You reality is a threat. There is not the place to discuss it, to get support and help coping with the aftermath let alone justice.

Yeah, that’s a good point, BBB. A similar logic exists when addressing gender-based “male” privilege as experienced by trans women during their childhood. One’s access to gender-based privilege diminishes as one’s life significantly strays from the standard narratives of gender. Being a male victim of rape definitely deviates from that narrative and it deviates to such an extent that one’s experience of abuse is virtually erased from view.

I think it is invalid to say that the whole world is open to talking about *all* cis men’s issues. While folks are generally quite eager to center cis men’s concerns and perspectives, I have no doubt that a discussion of male rape victims is treated as an unspeakable anomaly.

That comment thread at QT was a quite a train wreck and I think that everyone’s buttons were getting pushed at some point. So many of us in these sex/gender diverse communities carry an assortment of baggage with us because of the various kinds of oppression and abuse that we have survived. It’s so easy for us to trigger each other.

gaelige said...

hey all
hope i didn't come off
as defending radfems or whatever.

i'm ftm by the way
so i do know alot about crossover experience!
just pointing out their(radfems) worldview.

reading back, i think lisa
is saying:
"bathroom fear is 99% women"
which is,i guess, true.

as i said,
the QT site is
only Trans-oriented.(& GQ)
so many people there
are NOT liberals.

i am, but this is the problem
in the glbt community.
lots of people are not.
so we all butt heads.

but a "POC issues" site
for instance,
could be possibly saying
"no other proiorities",
i guess.

that is why i suggested a leftist site for these discussions,
so people will be totally receptive.....wonder if there is one (big)

but again,
the issue of gender in rape is
something everyone needs to be "liberal" about!
hope i didn't sound other then that.

also,men have all sorts of problems, as do gays, lesbians,POC's etc.

sometimes T people are not
always responsive there, however.
this is why it so often all sadly breaks down..........

gaelige said...

Battybattybats said...

No worries Gaelige,
I understood exactly what you were doing. An essential part of rational discussion. It was a very welcome post giving a good opportunity to discuss that side of the subject and I thank you for that post!

One of the most poisonous infections of thinking in the modern day is this idea that holding a view and arguing a view with 100% conviction unwaveringly without regard to other points of view is somehow respectable. It's instead total intellectual failure and corruption of the highest degree.

Rational conversation intending to truly undertand a subject requires people to introduce alternate ideas even to the point of those diametricly oppossed to their own position so that they may be discussed and reevaluated and either embraced or shown to be flawed. Also often needed is to ask questions one feels one already knows the answer to. Cause sometimes there are unconsidered aspects and sometimes in the closing of those points stronger arguments against them or insights about them may be found.

Thanks also for the link, i went over my DL limit so am at faux-dial-up speeds which wont allow a lot to load so I'll try and follow it after this post.

As for the issue of where to discuss these issues.. well i've been meaning to post on the Ethical issues of Fighting for Civil Rights and of running a Support/Discussion Site because there's a lot of Unethical practices involved in many civil rights fights (we all remember the tyre-marks over our backs i'm sure) and in many websites too (my banning from for 'political innuendo' an amusing example). I think that this could be a very important conversation.

Timberwraith thanks so much for your comments too, very welcome and you make some powerful points. I'm glad you got what i was saying (even if you had disagreed with my conclusions I'd be happy, I'm so sick of people just dismissing ideas that dont fit their view for no rational reason rather than giving good reasons they are incorrect).

As for the train-wreck of that comments thread.. well yes and no.
Because i think we can discern a great deal of the underlying currents of issues in our community in cases like these when they burst up to the surface. Sure we don't want every discussion going like that because we'd never get anywhere but when it does happen i think it tells us a lot and points the way to where we next need to focus on healling and mythbusting and improved ethics.

gaelige said...

"One of the most poisonous infections of thinking in the modern day is this idea that holding a view and arguing a view with 100% conviction unwaveringly without regard to other points of view is somehow respectable. It's instead total intellectual failure and corruption of the highest degree."

you rock!
i HOPED i didn't offend/silence you, or others, it worried me!