Gender equality is good for men — and for everyone, says CUNY Professor, Michael Kimmel, expert on men and masculinity, and all-around good guy.
Check out his TED Talk. (I summarize his main points below — and add a few of my own.)
How is gender equality good for men? And for everyone? Read the rest of this entry
Melissa Nelson got fired.
The thirty-thee-year-old was dismissed from her job as a dental assistant in Iowa because her dentist boss – and his wife – felt she was too attractive, and too tempting.
Her sex discrimination suit failed at both a lower court and the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled she was fired “not because of her gender but because she was a threat to the marriage of Dr. Knight.”
Michael Kimmel, an expert on men and masculinity, wrote a thoughtful New York Times piece citing the male gaze as culprit here.
Dr. Kimmel says “lookism” – discrimination inflicted on the “too attractive” and “too unattractive,” alike — stems from the power of that gaze and “the fact that men’s estimation of beauty is the defining feature.”
Sure, “lookism” is gender-neutral, but the workplace isn’t, he says. Bosses are more likely to be men.
Next, he asks:
Where have we heard that before — that men’s vulnerability to women’s sexuality and attractiveness is so great that women must be prevented from showing any part of their bodies to them? … Mullah Omar would approve.
Members of the American Taliban have commented on my blog, spewing hate at pretty women who make men feel lesser-than-her and weak in the knees. A “good” woman would cover up, lest she be raped, or at the least, hated.
Of course men will notice pretty women. But the only reason some may fear “her” power or “his” inferiority is in his head. Neither is really out there.
There is no need to punish us because we are pretty or because we are not.
“Dear Bitches, I mean witches.”
So began Duke’s Alpha Delta Phi’s e-mailed invitation to their Halloween party. It continues just as charmingly:
“The Brothers of Alpha Delta Phi know what true fear is. Fear is having someone say ‘I love you.’ … Fear is riding the C1 with Helen Keller at the helm (not because shes deaf and blind, but because she is a woman). Fear is waking up with no wallet, phone, keys, or front tooth next to a girl who you could generously deem a 3.”
Not to be outdone, Duke’s Sigma Nu frat offered their own enticement:
“Whether your dressing up as a slutty nurse, a slutty doctor, a slutty schoolgirl, or just a total slut, we invite you to find shelter in the confines of Partners D.”
Ummm, how appealing! (And I don’t just mean their grammar and spelling.)
Someone had the sense to print out the invites and scrawl handwritten messages: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” “Is this why you came to Duke?” and then wallpaper the campus.
Strangely, sorority sisters interviewed took it all in stride as “boys-will-be-boys.”
“Honestly, when I first received those e-mails I didn’t think anything of it,” said Emily Fausch, of Delta Delta Delta sorority. “This is the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from fraternities. In my heart, I know it’s a problem but I’ve really gotten used to it. I don’t take it too seriously. I think that college boys will be college boys.”
Now, not all fraternities are created equal. Some actually work to be respectful toward women. But at many frats, women are routinely degraded in attempts to create a sense of male superiority and “manhood” by putting women down, according to sociologist, Michael Kimmel.
But why do women so often support their own disgrace by continuing to fraternize with the frats? This woman’s comment that she’s simply gotten used to it is telling.
We live in a society that sees women as lesser-than, and which sexualizes male dominance. Both lay the groundwork for accepting ill treatment.
A few quick examples: Man, brother, and guy encompass women, but woman, sister, and gal don’t encompass men. So man becomes primary, and woman secondary. A woman marries and becomes Mrs. Leonard Smith. A man never becomes Mrs. Emily Struthers. Unless it’s an insult. Send a card from the family? Likely dad’s name goes first, then mom’s, then the children in order of appearance. Men tend to feel insulted taking the secondary spot. Women are just used to it.
We sexualize male dominance when Rhett takes Scarlett up the stairs for a night of marital rape and Scarlett cheerfully awakens the next morning. Or when Rihanna sings about enjoying mistreatment from her man, while Eminem celebrates abusing women. Watching women enjoy humiliation in porn or mainstream movies like The Secretary also eroticizes male dominance. The list goes on.
Continually treated as secondary, second-rate treatment becomes taken-for-granted, invisible. The women are used to it. It seems natural. Sometimes even sexy.
As too many frat brothers intensify the world of insult, women acclimate to the higher level shame.
All this teaches women to accept attitudes and behavior that regard them as second-class.
A college roommate of mine dated a frat boy who treated her like dirt. She defended him to all of us who cared about her. She had certainly learned to accept her own humiliation.