Gauging Sexism

Disclaimer: Scott Adams is not the problem. Just as Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the problem (not mentioned in this article). They both just prove great opportunities to talk about all those things wrong in our society.

So Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has written a piece on sexism in the workplace that could hardly be more sexist, one-dimensional and a mind-bogglingly huge insult to all men. Let’s start with the fun part. Adams seems to think that since he has written a disclaimer calling his entry rational and unique, this automatically makes that true. Nevertheless he draws his “enlightenment” from nothing but sitcom humour and the way he thinks all women and men behave in marriage. Oh, and age old sexism. What’s completely missing are real studies, and any information on how he reached to that conclusion. Far from what I’d call “rational” and “unique”.

According to the blog entry, Women are so skilled at placing the blame at men and men are so used to accepting it to get some sex out of it, that women place the blame on men in the workplace as well, which results in women constantly exaggerating the scale of sexism while men don’t really care about it.

So what’s wrong with this picture? How about everything. Let’s work through it in the right order.

In the very first comment Adams alluded that he got most of his wisdom on marriage and the way it influences the entire female thought process from sitcoms. Because sitcoms are the ultimate portrayal of reality. Because the only person ever in a woman’s life to influence her thoughts and behavior is her husband. Because, according to sitcoms, every marriage is full of slapstick moments and domestic abuse is not something that happens to one quarter of all women in the US and is the leading cause of injury to women between 15 and 44. Because gay couples are only there for the comic relief and never have to fear threats of violence because of their sexuality. Also, lesbian couples only exist in porn. And they always let men watch. Because black people can only exist in a small, controlled number, the same as every other minority, and their lives are never important enough to be actually the center of a story. They have to be sidekicks. Because Asians, indigenous people and trans people simply don’t exist, so why bother with representation? That’s about it for the sitcom part.

Let’s continue with the “men get always blamed” part. Believing Adams’ theory, a marriage is a constant competition on who has the upper hand instead of a partnership where two people care about and support each other and try to make their lives work. Where there can only be fights in which the woman is the irrational, angry one and the man is the one to simply give up, because as an old German saying goes: „The clever one always gives up and that’s why the world is ruled by idiots.“ So what does that say about the world being ruled by men almost everywhere, from presidents to CEOs? But most quarrels in a marriage are about hurt feelings, which should be taken seriously, and if you’re constantly fighting to win the upper hand, there’s something going wrong in your marriage.

So, does the man agree to keep his right to sex? Nobody has a right to sex. However, there is this huge problem that men are still taught that they have a right to sex, which results in rape. Which is not sex. Sex is always consensual and you don’t get that by simply agreeing with you wife. As many commenters on Adams’ site have already pointed out: Either your wife wants to have sex with you or she doesn’t. And either you want to have sex with your wife or you don’t – it’s as simple as that. You don’t gain the right to sex.

Let’s return to the thought that the only influential factor in a woman’s life is her husband. Because there’s another stereotype that Adams has fished out of the dusty old box of sexism. No wonder, since in most sitcoms the main focus of a woman’s life is her husband. She doesn’t need friends, with whom she has meaningful conversations, as the Bechdel test clearly proves. She doesn’t work and has to compromise and take shit from her superiors all the time. Remember, that piece was written by a man, who’s drawn the most incompetent male CEO in history, a CEO that constantly gets blamed for his mistakes and who constantly blames his (male) employees in return.

Of course, saying that women blame everything on men, which is why they constantly talk about sexism, is easy, at least easier than having to admit that there is actually a problem with sexism and that you should deal with that problem. Because, newsflash: Many women experience sexism on a regular basis and DON’T talk about it. Because they are not taken seriously. Because they are constantly shamed into thinking it was their fault. Women get blamed for being raped on a daily basis. They are blamed for being sexually harassed, beaten up and verbally abused. Because, “what was she wearing”, “did she drink alcohol” and “she said hello to him, how could he not think she wanted to get raped” are still more valid reasons than “she said no and he forced himself upon her”. Because if a boy becomes sexually active he gets complimented, if a girl becomes sexually active she gets shamed for “giving away her virginity”, like there’s anything to give away. So naturally, if a woman is harassed or overlooked at the workplace, she’s probably just exaggerating again. Like always. Just say “yeah, sure”, and move on. No reason to take her seriously.

I do not know where Adams gets the idea that belittling women and perpetuating the idea that what they have to say doesn’t matter is in any way new, mind-blowing or “unique”. It’s older than feminism and so is Adams, apparently.

So, can you measure sexism, in the workplace and elsewhere? How about we ask the tens of thousands of women who are subjected to sexism every day everywhere in the world and who have finally found a way to speak up? But I have to warn you – some of those entries might make your stomach turn (also Trigger Warning for rape and domestic abuse), because it is seriously unbelievable what some people in the 21st century are still able to do to another person, simply because she doesn’t have a penis.

Valentine’s Day Special: Fifty Shades of Sexual Thought Police

I have never felt the least desire to read 50 Shades of Grey until the amazing Laci Green explained how Christian Grey actually meets all red flags of an abusive relationship. So now I had a real reason why this book is doing more harm than good but of course, in order to have proper arguments I should have actually read that thing, right? So now I’m about 25 pages into the book and already feel like I’m the masochist in this relationship. I’ve had actual episodes telling Ulfdiefee (who’s read it long before me): “I can’t go on, it’s too horrible!“ I can’t describe how dull, dumb and repetitive I find this book without stooping down to insults so I’ll leave it at that. It also has more contradictions in the first two pages than a politician’s manifesto during the election campaign. It represents everything that I don’t like about women’s literature. It tells women that the man they are looking for will control them, treat them horribly and ignore their wishes but that is okay because he loves them. Christian Grey shows signs of control issues the second time they ever meet.

But today I would like to focus on something completely different. I’d like to focus on the obsessive controlling behavior that not Grey is exhibiting but Anastasia herself on her own thoughts and emotions. So she meets this guy who’s kinda hot, right? He’s her sexual awakening. Her thoughts drift away, towards him, whenever they can. What does she do about that? She suppresses them. Pushes them away. And worse: She shames herself for thinking of him at all. When has literature reached the point where the only way a woman in a sexual context is ever allowed to be and to think is in the role of the sexually passive virgin who would never have one dirty thought? Where she has to police herself into hating herself for thinking about a man? Where the only acceptable behavior is to do nothing and wait whether he’ll do anything? I don’t wanna read about that! I don’t wanna read over and over again page after page how she tries not to think about him, because that’s what the good and appropriate girl does!

So obviously he rouses unknown feelings within her. Why not explore them? It’s her mind, for goodness sake, nobody will ever know about this. She’s perfectly safe. Why not get a little alone time, indulge in some fantasies, get into those thoughts of pleasure that obviously lurk right below her consciousness? Imagine what she’d do with him if he were in her bedroom, put one of those leather boots with the long heels on his shoulder, shove the heels into his flesh until he squeaks, make him beg to let him touch her, make him kiss every inch of her body… So when he happens to meet her in the hardware store, instead of her blushing and shivering for the next (n) pages until the reader falls asleep of sheer boredom, she can think: “If only you knew all the things I have already done to you!”

He asks for cable ties? Store that thought away for later, that’s something you can use. “Oh you like cable ties? I’m gonna show you what I like to do with cable ties… you can’t move? That’s the whole point and now lie nice and still while I do with you whatever I want…!” Of course there is nothing wrong with Anastasia being the M part of S&M, if she really wants to be and isn’t pressured into it by somebody who has no idea of a proper S&M session. “Oh yeah, use those cable ties, tie me up, too tight? There is no too tight, make it hurt, baby! Oh, hmmm, ouch, no, don’t stop!” Whatever way she likes it, why not give her the freedom to imagine it, in the safety of her own mind? Get it out of her system.

I should write non-fan-fiction.

Or let my computer do the work for me.

If you want to read more on why 50 Shades of Grey is hurting women more than sexually liberating them, I would recommend this feminist father who has just written a great piece on that.