Tag Archives: sexism

Women intellectuals under attack . . . on the internets!

The interwebs are structurally sexist – with whole areas where women are disrespected and policed through abuse and threats of violence.

Recently some academic dude wrote some article suggesting that professors  learn about twitter and blogging.  A good reminder to “ask the other question” (Matsuda) when Gwendolyn Beetham points out the risks to women who enter the internet public sphere.

In fact, I cannot think of a prominent woman in the public sphere who has not been the target of sexism, usually in the form of being threatened with sexual assault, which in the case of women of color undoubtedly takes a racist tone.  Amongst countless others, recent incidents of female public scholars who have had these experiences include Mary Beard (@wmarybeard), who was threatened with rape and having her home bombed via Twitter, and Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk), who was physically threatened while speaking on a panel at the Brecht Forum in New York. If you’d like to do your own test of this, read the comments of any article published by a woman in a mainstream news media outlet – or read almost any mainstream account of women in the public sphere. Indeed, as Mary Beard recently stated in a talk at the British Museum (recounted in The Guardian ), the very real, and very negative, push-back against women who enter the public sphere is nothing new in Western culture: it extends all the way back to Homer.  Although not surprising, it is nevertheless disappointing that Kristof and others continue to ignore the risks that women have faced when entering the public sphere for the past two millennia.

via Women and Public Scholarship | Inside Higher Ed.

Thanks to Feministing’s Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet for the link.

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Filed under academics, communication, feminism, sexual assault, technology

Tracy Morgan and ‘taking the dick’

thanks to the advocate for the photo

Oh Tracy Morgan!  A couple of days ago you let loose a homophobic standup routine and then quickly appologized.  I’m interested in the ideas you expressed before the apology.  Here is one ugly nugget worth further discussion:

Tracy then said he didn’t f*cking care if he pissed off some gays, because if they can take a f*cking dick up their ass… they can take a f*cking joke.

via Tracy Morgan’s Homophobic Remarks In Anti-Gay Stand Up Set UPDATE: Morgan Apologizes.

Six thoughts come to mind about this expression:

1.  This is a common idea. I’ve heard this joke performed by two other comedians.  Katt Williams delivers a sweaty version.  Similarly, I seem to remember Andrew “Dice” Clay looking arrogantly at the audience before exclaiming something similar.  (Forgive my memory, it’s been at least a decade since I watched ‘the dice’).   It’s commonality of usage might suggest it is worth examination.

2.  It is a backhanded insult.  While one might argue that the intent was to suggest that gay men are strong and resilient, the justification (reasoning) for this is because men can withstand being penetrated by a penis.  It is valuable to be familiar with this kind of foolishness, a lot of racist, sexist crap comes out in so-called compliments.

3.  At the core is the idea that the penis, used for sex, is a tool of punishment.  Particularly, it is suffering to be penetrated.  Consider the difference between “giving dick” and ‘taking dick.”   It seems like the person-who-penetrates/person-who-is-penetrated split is central to the idea of disempowerment in this act.   I’ve heard folks use this kind of language around tax time: “The IRS f*cked me in the ass!”  Sporting events and political races get similar conversational violence.

4.  It is not just penetration, but penetration of men which is implied to be particularly demeaning.  It is explicitly gay male sex referenced in Tracy Morgan’s joke.  This speaks to male paranoia and gender policing — the investment, surveillance and communications that remind men to act like other men (or the fictional uber-man).  Central to the terrible homophobia of ‘taking the dick’ is the idea of men as penetrators and others (women, children, and other men) as penetrated.   Jokes like these help to constitute the intellectual fabric in which we have to exist.

5.   One potentially valuable reading  is to shatter the central dichotomies about maleness presented in the joke.  If we can name the essentialist assumption ‘penis+penetration=punishment’ then we can start to talk about how those ideas impact our daily lives.  Including shifting the discussion from male/male penetration to speak more broadly to include heterosexual penetration.

Quite a few thoughtful people have pointed out that heterosexual humping-with-penis often hurts.  Like painful.  Acknowledging that this is a bit of a jump,  I do think it is valuable to lay these two ideas next to each other.  For one thing it might be valuable to remind heterosexual folks that the representation of disempowerment tied to gay sex might be also be associated with the sexism in heterosexual sex roles. ♣

Don’t get it twisted.  I’m not into guilt about sex.  I’m into reducing guilt through reflection and discussion.  There is a healthy feminist lesson in the flash of the reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobia.  It might be to challenge the prevailing discourse which makes Morgan’s joke ‘funny.’  IN order to do that we need to follow though the logic.

6.  Sex doesn’t have to hurt.

Check out the Crunk Feminist collective on the likely unpleasantness of sex under patriarchy. The article itself is titled “A message to Women Who Frequently Have Horrible, Rushed Sex,” perhaps these ideas can give insight into the rest of our discussion.

Here’s a bold truth: I don’t enjoy penetration of any kind unless I’m wet enough to drown a dolphin. And this truth wouldn’t be a problem if sex weren’t always about penetration. One sex therapist put it best when she said, “If most women don’t have orgasms during ‘sex,’ but do have orgasms, perhaps we need to redefine sex.”

via It Gets Wetter: A Message to Women Who Frequently Have Horrible, Rushed Sex (NSFW) « The Crunk Feminist Collective.

The article  is a passionate advocacy for wet, woman-centered sex.  Stupid people will argue that feminists hate sex, and that we are prudes or whatever.  Crap.  The feminist alternative to Tracy Morgan’s notion of the dick as punishment can only really be found with the help of some feminist insight.  I honestly don’t think that most guys want to hurt the people that they have sex with.  But changing this representation might mean men reflecting about men’s expectations of sex.

Now the Crunk feminist collective have a much less essentialist view of men and their dicks.  It isn’t just about what you have, but how you act with that dick.

Since then, sex for me has been a series of negotiations. I know there will usually be a moment when a male partner is ready for penetration and often, that is before I’m ready/ comfortable/ wet / aroused enough. If sex were not a personal expression of political power, these moments would be no more than awkward. It would be like leaning in for a hug first only to find that the other person was disinterested. The problem is that men in a patriarchy are socialized to “lean in” first– always. And those who are not conscious enough to interrogate this socialization begin to believe that leaning in is their right, their privilege. So awkward moments can become coercion, assault, or rape. Or just horrible sex. But you know that already.

What you may not know is that with time, the right partner, patience and negotiation, it gets wetter. Believe you me.

via It Gets Wetter: A Message to Women Who Frequently Have Horrible, Rushed Sex (NSFW) « The Crunk Feminist Collective.

Unlike Tracy Morgan, whose words lock in a toxic idea of male sexuality, the Crunk Feminist Collective invites ALL people to think about patience and negotiation during sex.  Here is to communication, ethical eros and pleasure!

Tracy Morgan has apologized, but I think that the brief moment of logic exposed in his words can help us to better understand how ideas gender our lives.  I refute the idea that the apology signifies a closure (‘aw leave him alone, he apologized!’) rather it is a reminder that the power expressed is visible and the meaning of words can be contested.   The apology/justification are almost always the best place to begin the inquiry.


What a silly post!  To respond to a stand-up comedian with a lengthy series of numbered arguments seems ridiculous.  In my defense I tend to have to think through moments of hateful language — to unpack the ideas present in what they actually said and how I make sense of it.   Often these expose some of the vulnerable ideas upon which they rest, hopefully giving me a chance when the ideas come up in conversation.


♣ A brief comment on S&M.  This text is not intended to slight those who experience sexual fulfillment by making sex and gender roles more visible.  Safe and consensual are the only two standards I believe in for sex.

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Filed under feminism, homophobia

Sexism in reading and writing science

Nice looking article in Animal Behavior analyzing the language choices of researchers who work on sex selection and conflict in animals.  They found that male animals get certain descriptions and female animals get different descriptions.  Y’know consistency for comparison type stuff.  Here is the abstract (I underlined my favorite parts):

Sexual selection research has always been a subject for debate. Much of the criticism has concerned the imposition of conventional sex roles based on an anthropomorphic view of animals imposed by the researcher. This conventional view may have hampered research, for example from acknowledging male mate choice. Sexual conflict theory is a fast-growing research field, which initially stems from sexual selection research. We investigated how the sexes are described in sexual conflict research and what characteristics they are assigned. We assessed these topics with literature studies of (1) the terminology used and (2) what parameters are incorporated in sexual conflict models. We found that males and females are consequently described with different words, which have different connotations regarding activity in the conflict. Furthermore, theoretical models mainly investigate conflict costs for females, although costs for both sexes are necessary for coevolutionary dynamics. We argue that sexual conflict research uses stereotypic characterizations of the sexes, where males are active and females reactive. Thus, previous discussions on the use of anthropomorphic terms in sexual selection seem not to have had any impact on sexual conflict research, which is why the topic of stereotyping the sexes is still of current importance. We suggest that scientific gains can be made by eliminating a sex-stereotyped perspective.

via ScienceDirect – Animal Behaviour : Active males, reactive females: stereotypic sex roles in sexual conflict research?.

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Rosanne Barr on sexist condescension

Rosanne Barr:

When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate “1” to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy—or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner’s boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.

via Feministe — In defense of the sanctimonious women’s studies set..

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