Thus Spake Zuska

Welcome to our discussion of The Gender Knot by Allan Johnson. This is the second post in the discussion series. We will be discussing Chapter 1 “Where Are We?” You can find all posts connected to this discussion here.

As noted before, there is an updated edition of the book now available. In the first post, I was working with the 1997 edition. I now have the new edition and this post is based on that edition. The first chapter is available online here. If you haven’t had a chance to read the chapter, maybe you’d like to go now and read the pages covering “Women and Patriarchy” and “Deep Structure and the Way Out”, page 13 to the end.

Just as in the first post, let’s start with one important concept. If you take away nothing else from today’s post, please at least spend some time chewing on this bit (based on arguments of sociologist David Wellman) which is actually to be found in a footnote on page 15 (emphasis mine):

The words sexism and sexist are commonly used to describe a personal prejudice or the person who holds it…however, that approach is too narrow to be of use because male privilege requires far more than this to continue…I use the term to indicate anything that has the effect of promoting male privilege, regardless of the intentions of the people involved. By judging actions, policies, and institutional arrangements solely in terms of their consequences, [this] conceptualization allows us to focus on the full range of forces that perpetuate male privilege, and saves us from the trap of personalizing what is essentially a social and systematic phenomenon.

We’re going to take this concept along with Johnson’s metaphor of patriarchy as a tree and use both to look at a particularly illustrative and timely (in the blogospheric sense) case study. Yes, I am speaking of tit-ogling. Come along with me, d00ds, for we have much to talk about.

First, let’s talk about the patriarchy tree. The whole point is that patriarchy is a larger system within which we all operate. In this tree, you and I and everyone else are leaves. As Johnson says, we both draw our life from and give life to the patriarchy tree. The tree’s roots are the core principles of patriarchy: control, male dominance, male identification, and male centeredness.

Its trunk is the major institutional patterns of social life as shaped by the roots – family, economy, politics, religion, education, music, and the arts. The branches – first the larger, then the progressively smaller – are the actual communities, organizations, groups, and other systems in which we live our lives, from cities and towns to corporations, parishes, marriages, and families.

The whole system of science is definitely a major branch of the tree, and the lab groups we learn and work within are a smaller branch, akin to families. There is really no way to opt out of participating in patriarchy, though we do have some choice about the manner in which we will do so. If you are reading this, I assume you have already made the choice that you do not want to be an active oppressor, as far as you can avoid doing so. Will you, as a d00d, be a silent witness to the oppression of women and unquestioningly accept male privilege? Or will you choose to use some of that privilege to speak out on women’s behalf, knowing you’ll be taken more seriously that a woman would on the same subject?

Johnson tells us that if we are going to make any serious headway, we have to be willing to spend time looking at the deep structures, at the trunk and roots of patriarchy. Psychology has made us aware of deep structures within us – we all commonly speak of the subconscious, of the id and ego. We have a psychological language in everyday conversation for making sense of deep structures within ourselves. In the same way, Johnson says, we need a language for making sense of societies and our relationship to them. And we will find that the two are profoundly related.

“Tree? I don’t see any tree! I insist that I don’t see any tree” There’s no turning back once you really begin to think about patriarchy in a deep and sustained way. You can’t unlearn what you’ve come to know. You can’t ever look at the world again in the same unbothered manner you were used to employing. It’s so much more comfortable just to not know, and to resist hearing or paying attention to anything that threatens to make you know. This is in part why the denial and backlash against feminism is so fierce – we cannot afford to be made aware. The consequences of knowledge are too painful and costly and troublesome, so best just to ridicule and abuse the knowledge-bearers.

But other things get in the way as well. Issues of class, race, sexual orientation, and disability get in the way of our seeing women as oppressed. I’m a relatively well-off straight white person. I’ve got my health issues, sure, but I’ve got health insurance. How are you supposed to understand me as oppressed vis-a-vis a disabled black man without health insurance, or a gay white man from an Appalachian coal town? Here’s what Johnson tells us:

Identifying “female” as an oppressed status under patriarchy doesn’t mean that every woman suffers its consequences to an equal degree, just as living in a racist society doesn’t mean that every person of color suffers equally or that every white person shares equally in the benefits of white privilege. Living in patriarchy does mean, however, that every woman must come to grips with an inferior gender position and that whatever she achieves will be in spite of that position. With the exception of child care and other domestic work and a few paid occupations related to it, women in almost every field of endeavor must labor under the presumption that they are inferior to men, that they are interlopers from the margins of society who must justify their participation. Men may have such experiences because of their race or other subordinate standing, but rarely if ever because they’re men.

Johnson notes that men do suffer under patriarchy, but not because they are oppressed as men. Women’s subordination stems from the cultural definition of woman as an inferior status. One argument frequently made is that men suffer, are looked upon as disposable, in wartime, as soldiers (in the U.S. Army). But in this case it is not their status as men that is used to exploit them. Rather, race and class are the more salient issues in who ends up serving and getting killed. And the endless monuments and memorial services celebrate (generic) patriarchal manhood, with nary a mention of race or class. Johnson maintains that the rituals of remembrance serve to sanctify war and the patriarchal institutions that promote it. We don’t ridicule leaders whose mistakes and egos resulted in the deaths of thousands; they are somehow transformed into heroic tragic masculine figures. Meanwhile, nary a word is spared for the “estimated nine out of ten wartime casualties [that] are civilians…a huge proportion of children and women…there are no great national monuments to them. War, after all, is a man’s thing.”

Finally, when you come right down to it, it is just to painful to admit that there is a real basis for conflict between men and women. The rich and the poor don’t generally live in the same neighborhood, and despite all our efforts, our neighborhoods are still segregated to a large extent by race and ethnicity. But men and women live and love and work with each other daily, intimately. As Johnson points out, we need each other, if only as parents and children. Do we really want to think about our father’s role, unintentional or not, in our mother’s oppression, or how our mother may have been complicit in that oppression?

But I’m a good person! The good person/bad person dichotomy is one last thing that gets in our way of seeing the patriarchal tree and our participation in it. We tend to think, we want to think, that only bad people participate in and benefit from a society or system that produces such rotten consequences. But it’s not so, and thinking in terms of personality types is not helpful. It isn’t about us, personally, about our personal motivations, desires, and intentions. Johnson’s example of sweatshops is illustrative here. Nobody is “for” sweatshops. Yet how can you choose to totally opt out of the capitalist society you live in? Your closet no doubt contains items that were produced in sweatshops that exploited workers (mostly women and children). You didn’t do this on purpose, but it involves you in “the social production of injustice and unnecessary suffering”. Similarly, a d00d does not have to feel hateful towards women to be involved in the system of patriarchy that produces gender inequity and oppression. This is the crap we’ve been handed. Now we have to figure out what to do with it.

Case study: Tit-ogling

A summary of our case: Dr. Isis received a letter from a grad student whose classmate has been regularly subjected to tit-ogling by a professor she must work with. As a consequence, she has taken to baggy sweatshirt wearing. Isis responds in part:

That’s what it all comes down to when women are treated this way — creating a power dichotomy in which the male player attempts to reinforce the notion that the woman is submissive to him. Using a woman’s sexuality is the easiest way to do that. Professor Breast Man has already done this to your friend, causing her to alter the way she acts and dresses in an attempt to regain some of the power she feels she has lost in his objectification of her.

Predictably, a set of outraged responses ensue, which settle around several main points, all of which are concerned with why Professor Breast Man is ogling tits, with the implicit assumption that a plausible reason exempts him from censure:

  1. He can’t help himself – nature makes him do it. So you can’t be mad about it.

  2. He didn’t mean anything by it. So you can’t be mad about it.
  3. Maybe he could help himself, but he just has poor self-control. So you can’t be mad about it.
  4. There is nothing wrong with this, it’s just an expression of sexual attraction. So you can’t be mad about it.
  5. He may not even know he’s doing it! So you can’t be mad about it.

The grad student and Professor Breast Man are two leaves on the patriarchal tree, in a lab that is a smaller twig on the branch of a university attached to the trunk which, you recall, is shaped by the roots of family, economy, politics, religion, education, music, and the arts. Though I suppose it might be subsumed under education, let’s add Science explicitly to those roots.

Let’s take the first. Nature made him do it? If nature is making anyone ogle body parts, wouldn’t we expect it to be the women doing the ogling? After all, they are supposed to be the choosy sex, while the men are out there indiscriminately spreading their seed around, or so the Just So evolutionary psychology stories go. One would think that the choosy lasses would be constantly sizing up their potential mates for their sperm-worthiness. And yet, chronic cock-staring is not epidemic in our workplaces. But even if nature were making PBM do it, nature also gives us other strong urges that we learn, more or less, to control. That is why you do not see PBM urinating in a corner of the laboratory. Or so I hope.

As for the other reasons, what we need to do at this point is ask: why does PBM have so little self-control? Why is he unaware that he is staring at tits? Why does he feel it is okay to express his sexuality in this manner in the workplace, with a subordinate? Even if he personally doesn’t mean anything about it – that is, he’s just idly passing the time by looking at tits – does his tit-ogling have some larger meaning regardless of his intentions?

Maybe we can begin to approach answers to those questions by flipping them around. Why do (most) women display so much self-control – that is, they never ogle men’s crotches? Why would most women be acutely aware if they were staring at a man’s crotch? Why would most women feel it would be inappropriate to express their sexuality in the workplace by staring at the crotch of a male subordinate? Why do most women rarely, if ever, pass the time by idly, unthinkingly, staring at men’s crotches?

Bonus points: I encourage you to contemplate the heterosexist worldview embedded in whole notion of tit-ogling and its many justifications.

Before the grad student and PBM arrived as leaves on that particular lab branch, they had a whole host of life experiences on the patriarchal tree which led them to separate sets of behavior. For the grad student, the nourishment provided by the roots and the environment of the various twigs and branches encouraged her to develop as a person who does not, consciously or unconsciously, ogle the sex parts of men. She has learned, without even thinking about it, to view such behavior as alien to her, not part of her repertoire. PBM, on the other hand, received nourishment of a sort and in an environment that encouraged a very different sort of development: to think of ogling sex parts as just something that men do, anytime, anywhere, even at work. He likely learned to think of this as a way of demonstrating his masculinity. He learned this behavior in a world that teaches him, constantly, that women exist primarily for men’s pleasure and that they like being ogled.

In short, tit-ogling is just one signifier among many in a patriarchal society that says: men, you are in charge, and women are here for you to enjoy as you see fit. Now, an individual man, when he is ogling tits, may not feel particular powerful or in charge. He may not feel he is ogling tits to oppress women or even that particular woman. He may not even be consciously aware that he is ogling tits. But make no mistake, he is ogling tits because he grew up bathed in a sea of permissiveness with respect to women’s bodies, nourished by a patriarchy that said to him “you have the perfect right to look at any woman’s tits any time you want to!” For good measure, the patriarchy whispered in his ear, “if she doesn’t know you’re staring at her tits, it’s just fine.” That is, if she doesn’t know you are looking at her like she’s nothing but a sex object there to pleasure you, why then, it’s perfectly okay to go ahead and look at her like she’s just a sex object there to pleasure you.

PBM’s lab-twig is on the branch of a university. That university no doubt has a policy against sexual harassment, but what does this really mean? What do university leaders really do, in an active way, to promote an equitable environment and to educate those in positions of authority about their responsibilities to set and maintain that environment? What do they do to hold such people accountable for misbehavior? How easy do they make it for the powerless to step forward and speak out when they are put in oppressive situations? What do PBM’s colleagues do about his tit-ogling? Do they speak up? Do they even notice? That tit-ogling can go on, unnoticed, unremarked, unsanctioned, by colleagues or university administrators in 2009 – let alone the rest of the appalling behavior described in the post and thread over at Isis’s place – is evidence of the strength and institutional structure of patriarchy.

Yes, there are more women doing science now than there were thirty years ago. The patriarchal tree knows how to sway a little with the wind. But don’t kid yourself – the tree is still there, the roots still deep, the trunk still solid. And every time you let yourself get mired in a discussion of whether Professor Breast Man had good or bad intentions, or no intentions at all, when he was ogling his grad student’s tits, you are completely and totally missing the entire tree in your focus on the leaves.

Comments

  1. #1 The Nerd
    June 11, 2009

    Another sign that the patriarchy tree is growing strong: imagine if she had told him “you may not realize it, but you are staring at my chest, and I would like you to stop”. Do you think he would accept full responsibility for his actions, or would he (and society in general) try to somehow voice those excuses listed above as if they somehow validate his actions? I think that no matter what is said, the point would be missed that is is HIS issue and not hers to deal with.

  2. #2 jc
    June 11, 2009

    I’m glad you used the oggling asshole example. Nerd, you are dead on. I can tell you from personal experience eleventy that any woman bringing attention to any misogynistic issue (whether it be tit oggling, touching, demeaning remarks, any run of the mill daily bullshit) immediately makes the woman THE ISSUE to be addressed. How dare she call out the sexist bullshit?! the whiny bitch. She’s overreacting, judgmental, making something out of nothing, has misgivings and issues, not a team player, too sensitive, not strong enough. I have heard every single one of these comments from men in charge to attack and dismiss me for pointing out their privilege and sexist bullshit. Pointing out male privilege is like telling someone about their bad breath. It automatically makes the person an asshole for pointing it out. The person with the “bad breath” launches into defense and attack mode immediately, using any combo of tactics http://www.derailingfordummies.com which are proven effective at avoiding the topic at hand and bonus: deflecting responsibility! But But But, I’m a NICE GUY! There’s a goddamn published trademarked list of known Nice Guys and I am a certified, card-carrying member of the tribe!

    For the d00dz who still think we go looking for trouble (in fact, digging and rooting around for it, hard, with microscopes and shit), how about David Letterman’s latest asshattery? http://www.now.org/issues/media/hall-of-shame/ Notice the derailing tactics he’s using while holding up his I’M A NICE GUY banner. He is focused on his wrongdoing being the difference between a 14 year old girl (not old enough for legal fucking which qualifies as a socially P-defined disgusting pedophile joke) and the 18 year old daughter (old enough and totally legally fuckable). The fact that he is making rape jokes is beyond him, he just switches the focus to not knowing that Sarah Palin’s daughter at the baseball game was the 14 year old, not the 18 year old. His “ugliness” has to do with AGE of the victim, not gender. Making sick ass jokes about knocking up women is okay, hell, it’s his job! clap clap clap PUKE.

    According to the AP, latenight “funny”douchebag derails additionally by saying 1) he’s not funny, 2) not proud of these jokes, 3) not a celebrity, 4) the objective is to get a laugh, 5) he’s guilty of “poor taste”, 6) he would like to put the “differences” between him and Sarah Palin “behind them”, and 7) the picture used with the story has him laughing with Julia Roberts (America’s Sweetheart, and a classy woman to boot). Damn, that’s quite the derailing campaign! He’s diminishing/shirking his power, wielding “learned helplessness”, and going for the “higher” road of trying to move past (her) problems (with his assholery).

    The oggled student would indeed be THE problem to deal with. She’d be labeled the asshole for pointing out the oggling to the oggler. Hypothetically, and with my crystal ball that’s right most of the time and fed pages from the derailing manual and using funnydouchebag’s Top 10 list for inspiration, the oggler would spew:
    10) other women have never called him an oggler before, 9) he’s faithfully married and/or dating a woman! 8) he has daughters, nieces, little wimmins in his life that he luvvves, 7) other female undergrad students think he’s great, wonderful, Nice Guy, 6) didn’t know he was doing it, repeatedly!, banish the thought and it never happened, 5) it’s a big misunderstanding, 4) she should spend more time focusing on the work and not her personal issues with him, 3) she’s yelling Fire! when there’s no fire and he’s the victim of a malicious personal attack, 2) she needs to grow up and act professional, and 1) she needs to get over herself, she’s not THAT attractive!

  3. #3 Danimal
    June 12, 2009

    Another sign that the patriarchy tree is growing strong: imagine if she had told him “you may not realize it, but you are staring at my chest, and I would like you to stop”.

    According to that annual Prevention Of Sexual Harassment (POSH) training that everyone at my institution is required to take, the above is precisely what the student is suppose to do. If that does not correct PMB’s behavior, than the student needs to take it to a higher level. Contrary to what jc says in her post, sexual harassment is taken very seriously at my institution and his grounds for being fired (one of the easiest ways to get fired). This also goes for supervisors who do not take complaints seriously. My employer has a zero tolerance policy in place. Of course I have no idea what the policy is at the University the student and PMB are at, but being a MRU, I would be surprised if they did not have a similar policy. If the student does not speak up, then she really needs to read all the “Silence Is The Enemy” posts that have been posted on blogs recently.

  4. #4 drdrA
    June 12, 2009

    I was with you all the way until this minute:

    ‘Let’s take the first. Nature made him do it? If nature is making anyone ogle body parts, wouldn’t we expect it to be the women doing the ogling? ……and….. One would think that the choosy lasses would be constantly sizing up their potential mates for their sperm-worthiness. And yet, chronic cock-staring is not epidemic in our workplaces.’

    If wearing speedo swimsuit bottoms was done by men in the workplace, I can GUARANTEE you that there would be some cock-staring perpetrated by women. Men in the workplace do not generally wear revealing clothing- I just don’t think this is a fair comparison.

    I otherwise love the post though.

  5. #5 SKM
    June 12, 2009

    drdrA: Your comparison (of speedos at work) is not fair either. Women do not wear bikini tops at the office or lab. Women get ogled no matter what they wear.

    There are lots of desirable parts of men that are routinely revealed in average clothing. Yet women do not ogle them at work. But women get ogled no matter what. That’s the point of the example.

    But, enough on that–it would be far too easy to get sidetracked on the relative visibility of cocks and breasts, and that’s very much beside the point of the post.

  6. #6 Zuska
    June 12, 2009

    Thanks, SKM, for making those points.

    I would hope that the major point I was trying to make in that paragraph came through: the absolute silliness of the “biology made me do it” argument. On the one hand, it isn’t logically consistent; on the other hand, see how easy it is with those Just So evo-psycho stories to create a justification for any kind of stupid behavior you feel like justifying as “biology made me do it”? “Biology made me do it” is just one more bit of nourishment the d00dz receive from the roots of patriarchy to reinforce their unthinking entitlement to activities like tit-ogling. You will note that there are no similar “biology made me do it” activities for women. Apparently biology doesn’t make us want to do anything except stay home, breed, and cook for our men. With downcast eyes.

    Oh, wait, I forgot. Biology makes us crazy bitchez when we have our periods, thus unfit for any leadership roles. But even this isn’t entirely analagous. Because while “biology made me do it” is an excuse to get off scot-free for all sorts of egregious behavior on the part of men, none of which is subject to any restrictions, for women, it’s just one more reason for men to hate, scorn, ridicule, look down on, and circumscribe the behavior of women.

    See how nicely patriarchy works?

  7. #7 Zuska
    June 12, 2009

    And d00ds, I know I didn’t post any nice study questions at the end of the post this time but I really I hope I’ll be hearing from you all again on this post the way you came and joined the discussion on the first post!

  8. #8 Stefano Bertolo
    June 12, 2009

    Thank you for the very well reasoned post which offers a useful framework for those who so wish to recognise how their behavior negatively affects others and how to correct such behavior.

    Some have raised the issue: but what if some of those behaviors are instinctual?

    I think that even in this case the general line of reasoning still holds: if my blinking (which I assume can be counted as an instinctual behavior) were to negatively affect others I think it would still be incumbent on me not to blink in their presence (assuming that the cost of not blinking to me is smaller than the cost of my blinking to them).

    Finally, I think it should be possible to design controlled experiments to determine if ogling is a stronger or weaker urge than the urge of urinating (e.g. how easy or hard is it to resist the urge under various conditions) and if it is an instinct as opposed to an instance of socialized behavior (e.g. is there a correlation between the strength of the urge and the degree of gender inequality across cultures? is there a genetic component to it? is it heritable?).

    To repeat, empirically concluding that a certain behavior is instinctual would not condone it if it is harmful to others but would at least establish a lower bound on the amount of energy and attention needed to intervene on it.

  9. #9 Roi des Foux
    June 12, 2009

    Whenever this sort of thing comes up, one of the first things I think is “Do you mean we’re not supposed to look at all?” I’ve always refrained from asking that, because I’ve been concerned that no matter how I try to phrase it, it’s going to come across as “What! We’re not supposed to look at ALL?”, but you asked for a contribution, and this is the main thing on my mind. I’m not trying to be confrontational. I mean it as an honest request for clarification.

  10. #10 RichB
    June 12, 2009

    Roi @9,

    There’s a difference between a glance and ogling … If you are having a conversation with a woman (and I would argue that this is true no matter what the social situation – work, club, beach, etc.), and all you can do is stare at her breasts, you’re f-ing up, as CPP would say. If you are in some dating/social situation, and see a woman cross your field of view, it does not take 5 minutes of intense staring to determine you might be physically attracted to a woman, and if you are that concerned about every minute detail of her body, you are certainly looking for a shiny object to lay, and not for a companion/relationship. Your staring says a lot about how you are internally treating the woman who is the object of the stare.

    Just my $0.02
    RichB

  11. #11 becca
    June 12, 2009

    lol
    Anyone want to co-author “oggling in identical twins raised apart: a study in the heritability of dickishness” with me?

  12. #12 bellacoker
    June 12, 2009

    @Roi:

    There is (or should be)a difference between the way we look at things and the way we look at people. You can, for example, stare at a car, and imagine owning that car, and driving it, and all of the good times you might possibly have in that car. You cannot look at a person, or part of a person, in the same way. The car is not affected by your gaze, the person is. The person knows that you are looking at them as if they were a thing.

    So, of course you can look at a woman’s breasts, as long as you remember the woman’s involved in the transaction as well.

  13. #13 jc
    June 12, 2009

    Bzzzt Danimal. Window dressing, dude. There’s all kinds of written and unwritten “rules”, but women are ignored and treated hostilely for raising any kind of fuss. I’ve been through this. I’ve watched many women get thrown under the bus. I was totally naive to think that “rules” would be followed, as were other women. That’s your male privilege speaking that concerns would be handled. The concerns would be handled alright, he’d be defended. Oggling is not a crime, and giant LOL for it being a fireable offense! HA! What, after the first time, or the second, or the third? How many women? Students or professors? Where’s the line that needs to be crossed as grounds for firing? Here’s a hint: ask the Male Administrators.

    Don’t you think it’s a bit 1st grade to have to teach the d00dz using seminars and workshops not to oggle tits? And you know who thinks the “training” is a crock of shit? d00dz! They throw up a stink when they have to be *insulted* with sensitivity training. They whine on about losing time from important shit like writing grants when they need excuses to get out of those meaningless training exercises, dammit, they are Nice Guys!

  14. #14 Danimal
    June 12, 2009

    Dear jc, I cannot understand what you have been through (but I went through something similar as expressed on Dr. Free-Ride’s blog). What I can tell you is that while you were “not silent”, you are the victim. Oggling women where I work is not a fireable offense on the first instance (those that feel that they are the object of sexual harassment are expected to report it). Whom ever feels harassed should for make the harasser aware (be empowered). It would warrant a reprimand. If the behavior continues then you can be fired. That said, I am a civilian Army scientist. My ultimate boss is President Obama, after him come the secretary of defense, after him comes the secretary of the army, after that come the first female 4 star general, after that comes the director of the laboratory I work for (senior executive service SES), after that come the director of my directorate director a woman (SES = General). My secretary is a male. I understand, that you have had bad experiences. But where I work these things are taken seriously. Where you fail, is projecting your life experiences on everything else. Just because, you did the right thing and reported your oppressor (whenever that happened) does not mean that it is that way everywhere or that d00ds will not do the right thing.

  15. #15 isabel
    June 12, 2009

    I think JC is right about this. Also, it is asking a hell of a lot of a young student to confront a powerful professor in such a way. Here she’s in a threatening situation and she should actually have to confront him and bring her breasts into the conversation? She is already uncomfortable, and the solution calls for her to be made much much MORE uncomfortable?

    Letterman’s remarks were also classist (if that’s a word). :)

    Which is unsurprising as men often sexually use women of lower classes.

  16. #16 stickypaws
    June 12, 2009

    Danimal,
    It is inappropriate, and sexist, to belittle jc’s experience as merely anecdotal and then to substitute your own anecdotal experience in it’s place – yours being, of course, more true and valid than jc’s. Please go actually read the book Zuska is using for this series of posts.

    I agree with isabel. I’ve been there, more than once. The results of my complaints have not been positive for me – ever.

  17. #17 Rebecca
    June 13, 2009

    Danimal, while I’m sure that the rules you describe are in place, I would be pleasantly surprised if they were followed in practice.

    You justify your certainty based on the chain of command — President Obama (who, while he is certainly more enlightened than his predecessor, has had his moments [calling a woman at a campaign stop "sweetie" comes to mind]), the defense department (which has had a rampant rape culture, well documented in Iraq — women soldiers can’t go to the bathroom alone at night without risking rape by their own male comrades), the first female four-star general (as “The Gender Knot” points out, a small number of elite female leaders are permissible, as long as they further the patriarchal structure and cause — making her a less likely ally).

    I really hope that your faith in your employer is more than naivete and based on experience. If so, please let me know if there are any computational science job postings for your place of work — I’m tired of being ogled and of all the innuendo.

  18. #18 jc
    June 13, 2009

    Danimal, here’s why you’re fucking it up.
    Do you have tits? No (yes, but not enough to wear a bra, okay?).

    Did you ever file a sex harrassment complaint as a female student against a male professor? No.

    Were you ever sexually assaulted? No.

    Where do you get your “info” from?

    What works for men does not work for women. How a man would do things in certain event is not transferable to how a woman would do things. full stop. You have MALE PRIVILEGE! It’s the same dealio like Zuska’s gyn exam. Your opinion is based on no experience with a cervix since you don’t have one.

    Thank you for illustrating derailment with the following sources of why your information about is important to communicate to me: 1) you are a male, 2) your boss is the prez, 3) your other boss is a secretary, 4) you’re a government worker, 5) your director is a woman. What does ANY of this info have to contribute to my real life experiences with sexist shit? none. Absolutely none. All I see is your privilege when I read your words.

    I’m not projecting anything when I’m talking about my real-life experiences. This is another derailment. Gender equity is an illusion, how dare I misrepresent the reality of how things go down on the ground! Feminists talk about abuse and real-life shit and we are instantly deemed man-hating bitches when it involves anything that men have the privilege of not seeing and not experiencing, but OH, men have an opinion about everything that trumps women’s experiences? hell no.

  19. #19 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    jc. I puck on you shoes.

  20. #20 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    Shit, puke, my spelling sucks.

  21. #21 jc
    June 13, 2009

    HAHAHAH!! d00d, ass platter handitude is the SUXX0RZ!11!1!

  22. #22 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    @jc. Barf all over your shoes.

  23. #23 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    @Rebecca: I’ll look into it Monday. No promises. Are you familiar with Computational Structural Mechanics (CSM)? If so, we could use someone like you. Specifically, are you familiar with hydrocodes? The work environment is as described no harassment is tolerated and not just because women are in my chain of command and we consider ourselves family friendly. We are looking for talent. Look up Dr. William Walters or Dr. Jonas Zukas and you will know what I am talking about. You would be working on some of the fastest computers in the world (at least top ten). You would be working on stuff that MRUs cannot. Security clearance is required.

  24. #24 becca
    June 13, 2009

    Point of Information: Danimal, at least at Penn State (we’re a MRU, correct?), the correct procedure is to go directly to the Affirmative Action Office (or a surrogate authority who is then required to take it to the AAO). Do not pass go, do not address oggler.
    The rationale for this policy may very well relate to the difficulty encountered by addressing it directly with the perpetrator.

    And you can puke whereever you like, but your experiences are not universal. As it happens, they are most likely (albeit unfortunately) not even representative for what this student is facing.
    And for heaven’s sake (this is a pet peeve), when a woman tells you “that would work for a man in my situation, but it won’t work for me”, listen. She might be right, she may be wrong, but there’s a good chance she’s tried exactly what you suggest in the past. Scientifically speaking, you must at least identify a relevant variable that has changed to give her hope you might be giving decent advice instead of just talking out your (priviledged) ass.

  25. #25 jc
    June 13, 2009

    Becca, I told the prof to get the fuck away from me and I went straight to AA. This seriously pissed off some faculty.

    Danimal, your breath stinks from all that puking. Read the damn book.

  26. #26 Isabel
    June 13, 2009

    I once wanted to complain anonymously about a neighbors’ barking dog, and found a group that does not take any “official” action, and does keep the complaint anonymous. What they do is send the dog owners an informational packet along with a letter that says something along the lines of “a neighbor has complained about your dog, here are some suggestions…”

    It would be nice if we could offer women something similar to women, especially vulnerable young women. The advantages are that the perpetrator can’t be completely sure who complained, and he is a lot less motivated to find out and retaliate since he hasn’t been publicly accused, and others are not motivated to retaliate because they don’t know about it and are not forced to take sides.

  27. #27 Isabel
    June 13, 2009

    And I mean to imply that the young women are vulnerable only because they are learning to negotiate adult situations, not because they are women. Through experience women need to learn to handle, and will eventually be able to handle, most (BUT NOT ALL) such situations herself.

    And I also think it’s a shame that we can’t discuss the fact that there is a strong media push for women to use their sexuality to gain power, which undoubtedly confuses young women, and the curious fact that (as was mentioned above) women tend to show a lot more skin than men in general.

    And sorry for being lazy about proofreading my comments lately…

  28. #28 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    @jc. I read the first chapter.

  29. #29 Peggy
    June 13, 2009

    Oggling women where I work is not a fireable offense on the first instance (those that feel that they are the object of sexual harassment are expected to report it). Whom ever feels harassed should for make the harasser aware (be empowered). It would warrant a reprimand.

    It’s good that there are such procedures in place in your workplace. I wonder, though, if you know of any specific cases where a woman reported her supervisor/superior for ogling, he was reprimanded, and her career was unaffected.

    I obviously can’t speak for your workplace, but in my experience most workplaces have unwritten rules about what is considered “reasonable” to officially file a complaint about. Complaints about “trivial” issues, while allowed or even encouraged by HR departments, can give you a reputation as someone who isn’t a team player or a troublemaker. The ultimate effect can be that the person who reported the incident is given less desirable assignments and poorer performance reviews – no overt retaliation, but potentially career-busting nonetheless.

  30. #30 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    @Peggy: No, at least not my immediate work area. But, I also do not know anyone that does the ogling. I know of no one that does not act professionally. My supervisor is a woman.

  31. #31 SKM
    June 13, 2009

    It’s funny how almost all of the men I hear talk about inappropriate behavior/sexual harassment swear up and down that no men they know do it. Yet the vast majority of women experience harassment/”unprofessional” behavior from some men. Something does not add up.

    Don’t misunderstand me, Danimal; I get that you said you “know of no one” who acts unprofessionally regarding women, and that you are not claiming that no men you know do so.

    My point is that most men who harass women know that what they are doing is wrong, so they keep it out of the sight of credible (read: male) witnesses. (An exception of course is the groups of men who use sexual harassment of women as a way to show of for one another, and I have noticed that even then, harassment is milder or nonexistent if other men unrelated to the group are passing by.)

    So the claims I often hear that harassment is actually just a miscommunication or misunderstood compliment do not hold up.

  32. #32 jc
    June 13, 2009

    @Peggy: How much damage to the reporter’s career is unknown. The asshole got fired in my case (after more women filed) so it became a big deal, people were curious. I’ll never know if I didn’t get a job because someone thinks I’m a troublemaker, if a paper got slammed because the reviewer was the asshole’s friend, or if I didn’t get invited onto a grant proposal because of my “tattletale reputation” overriding my “science reputation.” It is always in the back of my mind. When it’s a career environment, there’s no way to be unaffected in the future. Oddly enough, there’s a visiting scientist for the summer in the lab who was a grad student with the asshole. Awkward.

  33. #33 Danimal
    June 13, 2009

    @SKM: Our yearly prevention of sexual harassment (POSH) training makes it very clear that that kind of behavior is not tolerated and also make it very clear what to do if you are the object of sexual harassment. Unless you are willing to risk you job, you do not do it. You can take the training here. Let me know if you think something is not covered.

  34. #34 Peggy
    June 14, 2009

    jc: I’m glad your case was taken seriously and I hope it hasn’t affected your career any. I think it’s terrible that the people bravely speaking up are sometimes punished.

    I wonder sometimes if the problem might be worse for women scientists because it is such a small world. Unless you change fields you are likely to run into people who have worked with the dude (definitely awkward) or even the dude himself.

  35. #35 lyrl
    June 14, 2009

    I work at a company where 90% of the employees are male. At my workplace last year, one of the women – one who worked in a room by herself on the 3pm to 11pm shift – complained that one of the other workers was coming into her work area and harassing her. The man in question was put on suspension immediately.

    A few days later, my boss relates that, on investigation, it looks like the woman was at first OK with the visits from this man, and then she “changed her mind”. The man was brought back. The woman ended up quitting about a month later.

    Honestly, had I heard that justification for deciding the harassment complaint was spurious a few years prior, I almost certainly would have agreed with it. I don’t think anyone could have explained the serious emotional impact of harassment to me in a way I would have understood. Zuska’s explanation of how a few women in the patriarchal structure often serve only to reinforce the patriarchy is now making a lot of sense to me.

    But having had a very similar experience to the woman in question, I sympathized with her. (In my case, my visitor was fired for a completely unrelated reason two days after saying I needed to have his babies. That hadn’t been long enough for me to work up the courage to complain about it.)

    However, my boss has just expressed disbelief that a friendly visitor could turn scary. If I spoke up, I was afraid my own career would be damaged. And even if I could convince my own boss of my case, there were several other managers who would also have to be convinced: managers with whom I have low credibility. It was unlikely my sticking my neck out would have any positive effect on the woman who was the victim of the harassment. So I ended up supporting the patriarchy by my silence.

    Anyway, my two points: first, having a system in place to take harassment seriously in no way means an actual case will be dealt with appropriately. Second, having a woman in the chain of command does not mean she has had the experiences necessary to understand and appropriately handle harassment complaints.

  36. #36 jc
    June 14, 2009

    http://impersonated.blogspot.com/2009/06/advice-workplace-sexual-harassment.html

    lyrl, you make great points. People in the chain of command need training not just on how to address the asshole, but also how to protect the reporter. In the case of the video about the intern, the woman also quits without reporting. The advice to the woman is to report the asshole, but it’s also mentioned that she might need letters of reference in the future. ugh.

  37. #37 Helen Huntingdon
    June 15, 2009

    Roi, RichB, you’ve got it wrong.

    Of course you don’t get to look at all at your coworker’s tits. What are you, 3? “But I WANNA” is for the non-potty-trained.

    If keeping your sexuality out of the workplace is really a problem for you, get some professional help with that. That’s not functional adult behavior.

  38. #38 RichB
    June 15, 2009

    @Helen (37),

    My apologies… I was trying to say that I do NOT condone that behavior. I think it is wrong in ANY situation to stare at a woman.

    Apologies again if I did not express that…

  39. #39 Helen Huntingdon
    June 15, 2009

    Thanks for the clarification RichB — I didn’t follow you all the way the first time.

  40. #40 Hope
    June 15, 2009

    If you are in some dating/social situation, and see a woman cross your field of view….

    RichB, I agree with much of what you wrote (#10), but let’s be completely honest. Men and women notice each other’s bodies all the time, not just in dating/social situations. Both sexes look; thankfully, most people know not to ogle.

    The problem that I have with Zuska’s tit-ogling example is that I don’t believe that the men at my heavily male-dominated research institution have gotten the message that ogling is just fine. They certainly don’t act that way.

    Or perhaps they’re so good at doing it that they don’t get caught? If a man ogles a woman but no one sees it, does it make a difference?

    I remember a while back when Candid Engineer wrote about the male eye candy in her lab. I don’t recall anyone objecting to men being looked upon as sexual objects, etc.

  41. #41 RichB
    June 15, 2009

    Hope,

    Perhaps there is “noticing”, but for the workplace-specific example, I can say that I try to go to the opposite extreme — I pick a spot on the wall at the end of the hall, and stare it down as I walk to my destination. If I should see someone I know, it’s eye contact and a “hi”, then back to the wall. This is for two reasons: first, it’s just not right to be “scanning for targets” whilst walking the halls (not only for the obvious reasons, but it would also be an insult to my wife), and second, I do not want to have anyone mistake my gaze for an intentional look-see…

    As for non-workplace, I also do NOT “scan for targets”. I feel that it just isn’t right, and again, I have seen men out with their wives/girlfriends, and they have the roving eye. It’s creepy, sad, and disgusting, and I do not wish to be lumped in that group.

    Am I perfect? Sadly, not. But the moment I have some reaction, I know I have looked too long, and I find someplace else to look unrelated to the person I was just looking at.

    As for your lab, perhaps you have been lucky, but that does not discount or diminish the women who have not been lucky. One negative anecdote does not absolve or clear the other abuses that have happened.

    Or perhaps they’re so good at doing it that they don’t get caught?
    Perhaps…

    If a man ogles a woman but no one sees it, does it make a difference?
    Yup … He has still objectified the woman, and it only serves to reinforce his privilege and attitude of superiority

    I remember a while back when Candid Engineer wrote about the male eye candy in her lab. I don’t recall anyone objecting to men being looked upon as sexual objects, etc.
    Because men being looked at as sexual objects increases their power, but women being looked at as sexual objects decreases their power.

    BTW, I’m not trying to speak for anyone else here, and certainly others with more knowledge can express these ideas better than me … This is just my opinion, and not a proclamation, or anything like that…

  42. #42 Hope
    June 16, 2009

    @ RichB:

    So, you are a happily married man and you have to actively force yourself not to “scan for targets”? I guess I appreciate your honesty, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think that all men are like that. I don’t think that all men have a “roving eye.” I find that thought rather creepy. When I walk down the hall at work, I look wherever I want.

    Also, where did I “discount or diminish” other women who have suffered discrimination? I made a statement about the reality of my environment; my observation is just that – one observation. Different observations don’t cancel each other out – it’s not a contest but a discussion, right?

    Because men being looked at as sexual objects increases their power, but women being looked at as sexual objects decreases their power.
    Really? So if I ogle a man, I’m increasing his power? If a man ogles another man, he’s increasing that other man’s power? Or is it just that I, as a woman, have no power to objectify a man? No power, period?

  43. #43 RichB
    June 16, 2009

    So, you are a happily married man and you have to actively force yourself not to “scan for targets”?
    That’s not what I meant, and I’m sorry if I gave that impression. I don’t have to actively force myself not to look at a woman in that way. But if I am walking down the hall at work, and I look at a woman, does she know why? I do not wish to give the wrong impression.

    I guess I appreciate your honesty, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think that all men are like that. I don’t think that all men have a “roving eye.” I find that thought rather creepy.
    I didn’t say all men were like that, but I have seen men who are like that. I don’t think that behavior is right, and I do not want to be part of that group of men.

    Also, where did I “discount or diminish” other women who have suffered discrimination? I made a statement about the reality of my environment; my observation is just that – one observation. Different observations don’t cancel each other out – it’s not a contest but a discussion, right?
    My apologies. I had a knee-jerk reaction, and I apologize.

    Really? So if I ogle a man, I’m increasing his power? If a man ogles another man, he’s increasing that other man’s power? Or is it just that I, as a woman, have no power to objectify a man? No power, period?
    Again, I did not express my thoughts as I intended. I was not trying to imply that women are powerless. I just think that, based on my limited knowledge, men and women react differently to being stared at. I did not mean to give the wrong impression.

  44. #44 mpatter
    June 16, 2009

    Great post, and I can’t wait for more – I intend to buy the book to read along (though happily, we get this far for free). I’m especially looking forward to getting onto:

    * what might have caused the patriarchy, and
    * what we can do about it.

  45. #45 Helen Huntingdon
    June 17, 2009

    RichB, if I get where you’re going, it sounds like you’re giving various examples of that wonderfully fundamental truth about the human brain:

    You get what you train.

    The more you check out your coworkers’ tits, the more you train yourself to be a misogynist bastard at work.

    The more you train yourself with “not for the workplace” on *anything*, the less the associated thoughts will come up in the workplace, and in time, your brain will just refuse to go there.

    It works far, far beyond what most people realize — all it takes is consistency. The funniest example I can think of had to do with the occasional description of horror movie scenes on a private chat server used by a bunch of programmers. I have a low gross-out threshold, so I learned simply never to visualize what such descriptions represented, but just mentally filter them as meaningless noise and scroll past. It worked so well that when one guy posted a description so gross it had everyone else signing off to go try not to throw up, I was the only one left cheerfully unaffected.

  46. #46 RichB
    June 17, 2009

    Helen,

    You get what you train.
    I agree, and what bad behaviors may have been trained before, can be untrained.

    As has been proven to me, my powers of self-expression are not so good, so perhaps I should just STFU at this point, but I’ll give it one more go…

    I’ve never had a problem at work. My hallway example was NOT intended to mean that I used to have a problem, and am trying not to any more. I have always recognized that ogling at work is wrong and unacceptable. I do maintain appropriate eye contact when having a conversation, and I do NOT gaze anywhere inappropriate in the course of that conversation, nor have I ever had that behavior.

    However, as a somewhat geeky non-athletic guy, I was always concerned when I grew up with “being a man,” because my interests (science/tech) were not always in line with what was considered “manly” (fixing cars, sports, hunting, etc.), and I was teased pretty hard when I was a kid. So, in trying to be more “manly”, I trained myself (unintentionally, but intent has no bearing) to have certain behaviors that fit the patriarchy, and reinforced my “manhood”. It worked to lessen some of the teasing, but I obviously did not think through many of my choices.

    As I have grown up, I don’t give a crap any more what other people think of me, and so I realize that my “manliness” is tied to biology and not behavior. In other words, I AM a man, and I do not have to ACT LIKE society’s definition of a man to be one. So I have begun to think more about my role in society, and how I have screwed up, and what I can do to fix it. So now I am reading, and learning, and trying to UN-train bad behaviors, and be a better person.

    BTW, as a middle-class white male, I’ve got more to unlearn than just gender issues. Race and class convey privilege (whether I want them or not), so I am trying to read and learn and be better in those ways as well…

    OK, this was waaaaaaaayyy to long, and I’ll definitely STFU.

  47. #47 Samia
    June 18, 2009

    *hearts and sparkles for RichB* Good luck on your journey!

    If I may…I’d like to suggest you view any or all of Lee Mun Wah’s films (Color of Fear, etc.). Good, honest, eye-opening stuff. He came to my campus last semester and did an AWESOME diversity workshop.

  48. #48 Zuska
    June 19, 2009

    As I have grown up, I don’t give a crap any more what other people think of me, and so I realize that my “manliness” is tied to biology and not behavior. In other words, I AM a man, and I do not have to ACT LIKE society’s definition of a man to be one.

    There it is in a nutshell. Major congrats to you, RichB.

  49. #49 Samia
    June 20, 2009

    As I have grown up, I don’t give a crap any more what other people think of me, and so I realize that my “manliness” is tied to biology and not behavior.

    This would be a great time for a transgender person to pipe up.

  50. #50 Zuska
    June 20, 2009

    Yes, that would add quite another spin to this discussion. For a straight d00d feeling locked into heteronormative masculinity, the notion that “manliness” is not dependent upon the behavioral norms of policed masculinity he’s had to live up to since birth is a breath of fresh air; thinking that “manliness” is something he’s entitled to claim as his, in whatever form he choses to live it, just by virtue of being a man, not because he conforms to a narrow behavioral norm of “being a man”, is a revelation and form of freedom.

    I am no expert on transgender issues and so I may be making all kinds of huge errors here, and expect to be told so if and when I am. But my sense is that what may be a freeing notion for someone in RichB’s situation – “I’m a man because I’m a man, not because I play a man the way the patriarchy says I should” – would be different from how a transgender person comes to understand and claim their sense of self as “man” or “woman”. After all, biology is mutable. And someone born a “man” who understands him/her self as female certainly isn’t going to find that her “manliness” is tied to her biology. In fact, she may end up seeking a body to fit with her gender.

    As I said, I am most absolutely not an expert on this topic and if I have said anything really stupid, foolish, or offensive, I hope readers will know that (1) I did not intend to give offense and (2) I will welcome feedback.

  51. #51 TheEngima23
    June 21, 2009

    Masculinity is a funny thing. As an asexual male, I can speak from some experience about the sexual aspect of masculinity.

    Men are raised, indoctrinated, if you will, to be sexually dominate. It’s part of the Patriarchy. But overall, there’s a lot of men who are incredibly insecure in themselves. I’d venture to say that most men are insecure in themselves. The Patriarchy actually perpetuates this. They don’t want to be viewed as “gay” or “weak” by the outside society; but esp. by other men. So the pressure is on, and they act out in pointless and destructive ways to both themselves and women, and they’re encouraged to by the Patriarchy, which essentially says “if you ain’t gettin’ any, then you’re gay, and you’re not acceptable.” I’ve been the target of that more times then I can reminisce upon.

    This is the toxic, but popular, definition of Masculinity. It’s what’s beat into the heads of our young boys. Popular Masculinity can be defined then, as “a fear of being viewed as weak or sexually submissive by the society at large, but esp. other men.”

    And if you’re interested in knowing where asexuality sets on the totem pole of the Patriarchy and in the popular mind of most men throughout the world, it’s somewhere between “Gay” and “Sorry Excuse for Being Gay.”

    – Enigma

  52. #52 Samia
    June 21, 2009

    Enigma, thanks for your thoughts. I think it’s important to note that men are raised to be sexually dominant over women. The sexual transaction (as understood in our culture) is to be instigated and controlled by men, with women being acted upon rather than functioning as active pleasure-seeking participants (hence metaphors about ‘getting nailed,’ ‘hitting that,’ etc.). A man who allows himself to be looked upon in a sexual manner by another man is thus taking on the role of the female, which is Bad/Feminine precisely because we all kinda know that the male sexual glance often carries connotations of predation and what the hell kind of guy would ever want another dude to look at him like that (but women enjoy it, because it’s EMPOWERING, of course). [/sarcasm]

    The idea of a person without any interest in sexual activity is too radical for some people to consider, which unfortunately leads to some of the invalidating treatment you’ve received. :/ It’s sad that notions of hypermasculine sexual aggression are so tied to the concept of healthy male adulthood.

    Zuska, when RichB said:

    In other words, I AM a man, and I do not have to ACT LIKE society’s definition of a man to be one.

    I thought, well that is kind of the heart of cis privilege, isn’t it? Society’s definition of a man is “cis-gendered male.” When people look at RichB, they/we ascribe a set of societally accepted “manly” qualities to him whether he wants us to or not. So when he says he doesn’t care what people think of him, yes, that is wonderful, but it’s not as if he has magically stopped enjoying the privilege of being societally accepted as male (a privilege our FTM trans brothers are fighting tooth and nail for). And frankly, being into science and tech may not be considered the height of manliness by some, but those aren’t exactly female-dominated areas either. After all, the sciences are drenched in quite enough machismo (as you so brilliantly reveal here, Zuska).

    (Not trying to knock you here, RichB. Not at all. We all enjoy some form of privilege. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your input so far and hope to see more from you here.)

    DAMN I am talking up this place lately. Whoooo.

  53. #53 TheEngima23
    June 21, 2009

    Thanks Samia :)

    I don’t know about your first point, tho. I think men are raised to be sexually dominate period – “healthy” (in terms of what the Patriarchy will and will not accept) sexual dominance appears over women, like you said, but it’s present in male-to-male interactions as well, only it manifests itself as homophobia in these cases. If you’re not seen as “sexually dominate” over women, and more virile than your peers, then you’re viewed with some level of disgust – and you’re now subject of sexual dominance, if not physically, then socially. Again, I’ve experienced this. The culture that probably did the most for defining masculinity was the Romans, and they had a very simple way of looking at sex: power belong to the penetrating party. Men could penetrate, or they could be penetrated. In this case, men could be sexually dominate over other men. We see a social form of this today when men get together and brag about their “conquests,” and if you’re not “masculine enough,” then you’re worthy of being penetrated (i.e., you’re gay – even if you’re not really, it doesn’t matter). It’s this that drives the masquerade that most men live; they lie, and they build up their own self-image because they don’t want to be seen as gay – i.e, sexually submissive. This type of masculinity, in its modern and ancient form, is based off of a social fear of being seen as weak and worthy of being penetrated.

    Other than that, though, I agree fully with you, Samia (I think I may even have restated some-to-all of your points above :)) Men are intended to have control over the sexual transaction. It goes back to the penetrator/penetratee business that the Romans/Greeks started, that was picked up by Early Judaism and, by extension, Early Christianity, and passed into Islam through those channels (at least, as far as the West is concerned. In the East, it’s an entirely different ball game).

    A final caveat: These are my thoughts and conjectures anyway – don’t cash this check, it may bounce.

    I rant. It’s now time for me to leave and enjoy the nice day outside.

    – Enigma

  54. #54 Samia
    June 21, 2009

    I think I understand what you’re saying, Enigma, and I do agree wholeheartedly. There is also an element of aggression in some archetypes of sexuality within the gay male community, which I think goes back to the “male sexual gaze as predatory” concept.

    One of my rather sexually active straight male friends gets teased about NOT sharing all details of his sex life with his pals. It’s really sickening to hear him talk about it and I want to ask how the hell he can be “friends” with people like that…

    Re: ancient Greco-Roman conceptions of sexuality revolving around penetration– didn’t our misogynist friend Aristotle and his buds regularly get together to watch women use objects to pleasure themselves? Rather than finding it arousing, they considered it comedy, if I recall correctly. I freakin’ hate that guy.

    Enjoy your beautiful weather! It’s pretty here, too…

  55. #55 femprof
    June 21, 2009

    Here is a point that may help us think about biology versus socialization. In strict Muslim societies men are not allowed to shake hands of women who are not related to themselves. This is because touching a woman may arouse them and thus make the woman a temptress. I in fact grew up in a place where there were such men, and they would not even dare touch my hand. However here in the US where most of the men I meet are raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, I have never come across this issue. I would even go further and venture to assert that most American men do not even get aroused by shaking hands. Do you think that fundamentalist Islam changes men biologically? Or do you think that there should be a different explanation?

    This is not a post meant to degrade Islam or vent against Muslims; I grew up in a Muslim society and do not have hostile feelings toward Islam. I simply think that the point I am making is relevant to this discussion about nature vs nurture of men’s overt sexualities.

  56. #56 RichB
    June 22, 2009

    @Samia (#47),
    I’d like to suggest you view any or all of Lee Mun Wah’s films

    Thanks … I will definitely look for them!

    (#49),
    This would be a great time for a transgender person to pipe up

    Yes, my “being a man” comment was not intended to be offensive to a transgender person.

    (#52),
    I thought, well that is kind of the heart of cis privilege, isn’t it? Society’s definition of a man is “cis-gendered male.”

    Yes … Oh, I have so much to learn! It’s funny, when you try to take off the blinders, you realize how stupid you are. Society throws so many patterns at you, and it is very hard to break free of them. I used a “Matrix” reference in another thread, but I’m starting to think that the social commentary in that movie was far deeper than I originally realized.

    So when he says he doesn’t care what people think of him, yes, that is wonderful, but it’s not as if he has magically stopped enjoying the privilege of being societally accepted as male.

    Yes, let me also say that I know my privilege still exists (regardless of wanting it or not). But if I can see it, and realize it, perhaps I can do something about it. I am still an infant in this journey, and I still do not understand all of the issues and patterns, so I’ll continue to stumble about. But, despite my learning, my failure so far has been real action that affects others. I may have cleaned my house a bit, but I have yet to give someone else the “red pill”.

    (Not trying to knock you here, RichB. Not at all. We all enjoy some form of privilege

    If I have said anything here that deserves a smackdown, I expect to get it. I can always try to clarify or explain later :-)

  57. #57 Helen Huntingdon
    June 22, 2009

    RichB, the Matrix reference is long-long-long established in feminist discourse, most often in the form of “taking the red pill”.

    The Matrix movies struck me as a rather stupid Allegory of the Cave knockoffs that took themselves way too seriously, but a four-word shorthand for the concept in “taking the red pill” is convenient enough that I use it regularly.

  58. #58 Samia
    June 23, 2009

    It’s funny, when you try to take off the blinders, you realize how stupid you are.

    RichB, if you want to see failure, you’re more than welcome to visit my blog. I am getting SCHOOLED (and it’s awesome!).

  59. #59 abb3w
    June 26, 2009

    Zuska: The whole system of science is definitely a major branch of the tree, and the lab groups we learn and work within are a smaller branch, akin to families.

    This seems relatively obvious in the sense of Science as anthropological practice. In the sense of Science as a body of knowledge, somewhat, in so far as said accumulation may retain perspective bias from a few centuries of patriarchy that kept it a male arena.

    However in the sense of Science as philosophical discipline, some of the prerequisites — logic, mathematics, rationality (or at least, rationality in the context of justification, and perhaps what I think of as the context of formulation; what I think of as the context of exploration and context of inspiration are less dependent, if at all) — seem to be Masculine in association, but I don’t see that they are patriarchal in nature.

    (I find it frequently helpful to distinguish these three senses of science.)

    Zuska: Predictably, a set of outraged responses ensue, which settle around several main points, all of which are concerned with why Professor Breast Man is ogling tits [...]“So you can’t be mad about it.

    Of course, obviously you can… but I can get mad about the sky being blue.

    Does it help? Yes. Anger may be helpful for motivation, both to select a goal and to do something to change the condition. And understanding the why may facilitate choosing what to do to eliminate the anger-inducing condition (EG: make him aware he’s doing it and highlight motives why he shouldn’t for the one problem, such as “staring is rude”; building a machine for making gigantic green clouds for the other), within the constraints of any other goals you are pursuing. On the other hand, giving the anger control can lead to losing sight of the limits to which your choices can affect the universe, which can reduce the effectiveness in pursuit of all your chosen goals.

    jc: I told the prof to get the fuck away from me and I went straight to AA. This seriously pissed off some faculty.

    The faculty who are pissed-off at policy being followed seem to be a second-order problem (connected to the above uses and disuses of anger). I regret seeing no helpful options to suggest.

    jc: I’ll never know if I didn’t get a job because someone thinks I’m a troublemaker, if a paper got slammed because the reviewer was the asshole’s friend, or if I didn’t get invited onto a grant proposal because of my “tattletale reputation” overriding my “science reputation.” It is always in the back of my mind.

    On the other hand, by doing the right thing you’ve made it much more likely that other women in the future won’t have to put up with being unsubtly leered at.

    In my limited experience, whistleblowing afterward reduces for others the number of situations where the whistle needs blowing. But the whistleblower is the one who is on the sharp end of the stick and gets bloody for it. The sharp end of the stick generally is No Fun. Worse, there may be some genetic inclination or social norms leave the sharp end of the stick a place men tend being more comfortable when it is needed (or probably when it isn’t). But my parents raised all their kids regardless sex to be very, very pointy when called for.

    Helen Huntingdon: If keeping your sexuality out of the workplace is really a problem for you, get some professional help with that.

    Keeping it controlled, rather. Given that a nontrivial percentage of sexual relationships start with meeting at work, I would say that an expectation of “keeping it out” is unrealistic.

    Hope: I remember a while back when Candid Engineer wrote about the male eye candy in her lab. I don’t recall anyone objecting to men being looked upon as sexual objects, etc.

    I’d conjecture this may connect to the tendency that most significant prospective consequences of a sexual relationship — pregnancy — is akin to the bacon-and-eggs breakfast. Whatever way, the man may be involved in dealing with it, but the woman is committed to.

    Hope: I guess I appreciate your honesty, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think that all men are like that.

    Of course not. However, my experience implies it’s sufficiently the majority that an attached male being apparently unaware of other attractive females is considered Weird, and that such lack of interest may not be attributed to being thoroughly attached.

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