Thus Spake Zuska

Subtitle: It’s really cool when feminists can help me advance my personal interests, as long as nobody sees me talking to them, ’cause, you know, they’re ugly.

Over at Isis’s place, Victoria writes that she does not wish to be sexually harassed at scientific conferences, no matter what she is wearing. She does not want to feel responsible for controlling men’s poor behavior through her sartorial choices.

Zuska is on board with that.

Victoria also writes that she wants “to maintain the feeling of being a sexy, feminine woman without sacrificing the science”.

Zuska is less sure what this means. I mean, theoretically, there is not any actual conflict between doing science and being any sort of woman, sexy or unsexy, “feminine” or “unfeminine”, whatever the hell feminine actually means.

Ah. Perhaps that is actually the question?

Victoria has created a Facebook group where “girls” can talk about makeup and clothes and shoes and science, but “This group isn’t for the bra-burners!” Why? Because

bra-burners don’t like make-up. They don’t like high-heels. They don’t like dresses. They don’t like, well, bras. They don’t like these and a million other girly things because they are symbols of a society focused on the objectification and subjugation of women. I like all of these things. In fact, I find them to be empowering, so in general, “bra-burners” are the antithesis of who I started the facebook page for. Things I don’t like: the word “feminist” and being PC…And the last thing I want is for someone to make a big deal out of my being female (or even a girl). Yes, I think Rosalind Franklin is one of the most screwed-over women in history. No, I am not cool with that. What can I do about it? Pretty much nothing other than be pissed-off for her. Did bra-burners help us or hurt us? That’s debatable.

Victoria elaborates:

My point is that I didn’t start the facebook page for women who don’t care about shoes or makeup or clothes or things like that. There are plenty of other pages for women in science that are intent on saying everything that many of you are saying here. Fine. You want to talk about the feminist movement and how it’s advanced the cause of female scientists? Fine. That’s not what that group is for. It’s not that I don’t respect them, it’s that the group is just not for them and that’s the point. If you disagree, then don’t join the group. Honestly, I started the group for chick scientists (yes, chicks) that like girly stuff and/or because of it might have had to deal with more assholes than usual. Not to start a fight with females offended by the word “girl” or “bra-burner” or any other term I am likely to use that is very likely to be offensive to the majority of other females or people in general.
Honestly, this could go on and on, but I need to buy myself a new pair of Uggs and then go and pick up my red car.

Oh, Victoria. You make me very, very sad.

You want to wear your pretty clothes and not be sexually harassed and take advantage of all the advances the “bra burners” gained for women in science. But you don’t want anyone associating you with those women. You want all the rights and privileges and opportunities and protections and choices that feminists have fought long and hard to gain for all women, but you don’t want anyone calling you a feminist. You want other feminist women to do the dirty work for your benefit, but please keep far, far away from you in public.

You will, of course, call upon publicly avowed feminist women for advice in dealing with feminist issues – such as sexual harassment and a woman’s right to choose her own clothing without being subjected to leering advances in the workplace – but you will do so only to advance your own personal, selfish interests and agendas, not to make common cause with feminist women or admit that you have anything to gain from them or their efforts. And in fact, when you start forming your own little club, you tack up a “no feminists need apply” sign. And you see absolutely no irony in your position of appealing for advice and help to a feminist scientist on how to set up and publicize a group for women scientists designed to exclude feminist scientists.

You are one wacky girl, indeed, Victoria. You are somewhat ignorant, too. May I suggest that, if you can’t be bothered to associate with any real-life feminists or read any feminist history, you take at least the modest effort of googling “bra burning”, which will yield this easy to read Snopes entry debunking this tired old myth about radical sixties women ripping off their bras and burning them en masse. Please stop using the term “bra burners”, Victoria. You really don’t know what you are talking about.

Victoria is anxious to distance herself from those ugly, makeup-less, sartorially-challenged, unfeminine feminists. So who are those women, those feminists, those “bra burners”, those non-makeup wearing, non-pretty clothes wearing, non-nice shoe wearing women? Zuska senses an ugly, poorly disguised subtext of homophobia underneath all those pretty clothes and makeup that Victoria is sporting. Whether she’s conscious of it or not, that’s the ugliness that goes along with these sorts of stereotypes. Real Girls wear high heels and makeup. Ugly bull dyke women don’t care about their appearance.

I’m going to suggest something for you to ponder, Victoria, and that is: Just because a woman’s not wearing high heels, doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about shoes. Similarly: not wearing makeup? Doesn’t mean she’s indifferent to the topic. Not wearing what YOU call pretty clothing? Most definitely doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about clothes.

You, Victoria, care about shoes and clothes and makeup in one particular manner. There are other ideas and ways of caring about these topics. You seem to believe that there is one, and only one, version of “sexy, feminine” – the one that you understand, the one that involves high heels and your understanding of which clothes are pretty, and the requirement to put makeup on your face.

You think you are liberated, more liberated than the feminists you despise, but you have sadly constrained and limited the possibilities for being feminine and doing science to those that just happen to match up most closely with stereotypical proscribed gender norms. That’s one way of being “sexy, feminine” but it’s hardly the only way.

If you want to talk only to other “girls” who will echo back to you approval for meeting heteronormative gender norms and harboring subconscious homophobia, that’s your prerogative. Good luck with all that. But it’s not nice to be an apologist for the oppressor and beg the feminists for help with your personal needs at the same time.

Comments

  1. #1 Isis the Scientist
    November 14, 2009

    Yeah…things got really weird in the comments. I am puzzled why someone would call upon someone who tags half of her posts “feminist stylings” and then take a crap on feminism. I caught the line on her Facebook page about being a place where people could have the conversation about whether or not to put on makeup before going to lab. I did not expect her to write to me and then completely discount all of feminist theory. I’m still a bit baffled by her….

  2. #2 Dr. Free-Ride
    November 14, 2009

    I want to call Poe, but only because I’m an optimist and don’t want to believe that a grown woman pursuing science could be so ignorant of what actual feminism and feminists look like.

  3. #3 skeptifem
    November 14, 2009

    Someone needs to fed ex girlfriend a copy of “The Beauty Myth” stat. Harassment for being beauty 2K compliant and harassment for being unfeminine are two sides of the same coin. Fashion choices protect no one.

  4. #4 stickypaws
    November 15, 2009

    1. I’m so very glad you made this post. After reading Dr. Isis’ post + the comments, I just decided to walk away. Thanks for stepping up.

    2. You’re spot on about the no-makeup/high heels/frilly or pornulated clothes being code for homophobia. This is the first accusation hurled at women who aren’t Beauty2K compliant.

    3. Can someone please send Victoria a copy of The Gender Knot? She needs to be let down gently.

  5. #5 ok
    November 15, 2009

    by “the oppressors” i assume you mean men.
    And you wonder why feminists are viewed as screeching psychopaths

  6. #6 Zuska
    November 15, 2009

    No, I mean oppressors.
    And in this case, since we are talking about homophobia as well as sexism, the oppressors could be drawn from either gender.

    In any case, we do well to remember the structural and institutional nature of oppression and patriarchy.

  7. #7 ok
    November 15, 2009

    You don’t know what oppression is, sweety.
    I won’t be posting again so you can go ahead and delete this or whatever. Have a nice life.

  8. #8 IR
    November 15, 2009

    ok:
    “sweety”?
    Really? Jackass much?

  9. #9 Vixtoria
    November 15, 2009

    I would like to know your thoughts on what I wrote earlier tonight. Does that finally make sense? I do respect the sacrifices that have been made. In fact, I respect them so much that I don’t insult them by calling myself feminist or thinking that my actions are at the level of someone that could be that dedicated to a cause. I just want to be me, and not have to be an activist to do it. But that makes me a bad person and a homophobe. The facebook page is for girls (and once again, at least 90% of the women my age that I’ve asked about this DO think that girl is a generational thing) that aren’t activists and wanted a place to joke, talk, comment, discuss things that have happened without being called a bad female for not picketing. Some if us aren’t that brave, and some of us, like me, are not articulate enough to take on that fight and I don’t think we should be judged for that. Bra burners are activists. I and others like me aren’t. We just want to have a conversation. Is that bad? I want to wear makeup and heels and have a place to talk to other girl scientists that feel the same way. What do you want me to do? The facebook page isn’t for activists-it’s just for everyday girls that are scientists and want to be girly. I’m sorry that’s offensive and that I don’t think I qualify to be at the level of feminist-I didn’t think that starting a facebook page was such an accomplishment.

  10. #10 Ctenotrish
    November 15, 2009

    “sweety” *snort!* – Just charming.

    I wear comfortable shoes, always. I wear makeup almost always, and never leave the house without doing my hair. Oh, and I work in the sciences. I couldn’t do *any* of what I do for work without the incredible drive and force of the ‘classic’ feminists who came before me. I’m grateful that I can play with cosmetics and hair products as much as I want, yet not be taken for a bimbo, just because I do so. I think Victoria has perhaps missed a point here or there . . .

  11. #11 Lily
    November 15, 2009

    This is the first time in my life I’ve ever heard “feminist” equated with “picketing” or some required level of activism. I’ve always equated it with a *belief* in equal rights for women. Go figure….

    If (historically non-existent) bra-burners = activists and activists = feminists, does that mean I don’t exist? Uh-oh! ;)

    I don’t have any stake in this specific disagreement/brouhaha, but the underlying issue–the one where women of my generation absolutely want to benefit from feminism but either badmouth it or duck it as a label–makes me completely crazy.

  12. #12 Lily
    November 15, 2009

    By the way, I did go through a phase in late high school where I said a lot of “I’m not a feminist, but…” nonsense, but that was before I educated myself and found out that the stereotypes about uniformly grim, humorless, plain, un-fun-clothes-wearing, man-hating (bra-burning?) feminists were ridiculously untrue. Lots of girls go through that phase, but generally one outgrows it and realizes that feminists come in absolutely all varieties, from people for whom the cause of equal rights is their whole reason for living to the “happy feminist” variety like me to the very casual feminist for whom it’s just a thread in the tapestry of their personality. :)

  13. #13 Donna B.
    November 15, 2009

    Sounds like a longing for high school immaturity thing rather than a feminist/not feminist thing.

  14. #14 jeCi
    November 15, 2009

    Ahhh snap!

    Good show.

  15. #15 Arora
    November 15, 2009

    Interesting discussion. Perhaps what Victoria is trying to communicate (and perhaps not doing it well) is that feminists can come across as polarizing figures and exhibitionists. But we owe them a great deal and must never forget that.

    Some of Isis’ posts make me very uncomfortable because I am in real life the persona Isis projects (nice dress shoes make-up hair) but the risque goddessy exhibitionary foul language stuff absolutely not. I understand what Isis is doing. Sexuality sells i.e. more blog hits and I read her blog. But Isis is stepping on part of my real life persona and I sometimes wonder what people are thinking of me. I hope I’m projecting a lady-like dignified image.

  16. #16 apropos
    November 15, 2009
  17. #17 D. C. Sessions
    November 15, 2009

    You are somewhat ignorant, too. [...] Please stop using the term “bra burners”, Victoria. You really don’t know what you are talking about.

    Somewhat? Then again, she’s using the definition of “feminism” that’s most current in the general public. Perhaps (but not necessarily) because that’s the one uniformly presented by broadcast media. As the song says,

    And when you trust your television
    What you get is what you got
    Cause when they own the information, oh
    They can bend it all they want

  18. #18 Isis the Scientist
    November 15, 2009

    But Isis is stepping on part of my real life persona and I sometimes wonder what people are thinking of me.

    Wait. What?

  19. #19 G
    November 15, 2009

    It’s so offensive, to me, to hear a woman calling herself and other women, publicly, girls, that I find it hard to get past that word. How would she feel if I called a man a boy? I don’t think the man so called would find that a happy jolly commonality increasing thing.
    It’s just so wrong that it is clear she has deep seated mental issues that require help in re self-worth, being treated as a human rather than infantilized as a child, and so on. I imagine her as a “mean girl” in HS, picking on other girls (at that age rightfully so called) for not living up to her standards as set by a white, Christian, patriarchal society. I also imagine her acting on such, by setting up cliques excluding other, by makining snide comments such as we see here, while surrounding herself with a posse of similar hangers-on who perhaps accept her intelligence if she so completely buys into the surface show of the more acceptable “dumb pretty girl” stereotype. I believe that she thinks she is making some great jump, saying that a cute bubbly air-headed girl who needs help from a real man – can also be in SCIENCE! Wow.
    How sad to think that she “others” her fellow women by calling them names that she pretends are non-offensive (bra-burner- what the heck is that?) while pretending to consider them equal.

  20. #20 Sesu
    November 15, 2009

    This is an interesting topic. The derision towards active feminists is a bit odd. I don’t think the OP is malicious at all, but the fact that she can distance herself from a civil rights struggle and offend the earlier feminists – intentionally or otherwise – by calling them all activists/bra-burners/definitely unsnappy dressers is very strange. I don’t think I’ve heard of people speaking down to the black civil rights leaders of the ’60s. Why is feminism different? Why has feminism’s PR gotten so bad?

  21. #21 Katharine
    November 15, 2009

    I wonder if Victoria secretly doesn’t like herself too much. It’s as if she’s painting herself and her antifeminist compadres as sex objects and not human beings with, you know, brains. I’m female, I’m a member of the scientific community, and I prefer to be seen as a human being and not a vagina on legs, because I’m not a vagina on legs, I’m a human being who is just as competent in science as my male counterparts.

    Also, there’s one thing I wanted to sort of address: the term ‘lady’ and ‘ladylike’ and the whole idea of femininity.

    Femininity, I think, is largely perceived as some sort of submissive kind of sex-object-ness. Why does there have to be a femininity or masculinity? Why do things such as assertiveness, power, ambition, knowledge, and success have to be seen by some morons as only male qualities when they are qualities of any human being who’s got brains?

    And why do even these idiots who decry what they perceive as ‘bra burners’ and walk around with achy feet because they can’t not wear their high heels every single bloody day? There’s a certain sense of power and equalizedness I get from wearing a bold buttoned-down women’s oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a smart pair of tailored women’s black trousers and a pair of flats or dress boots that I wouldn’t get if I constantly wore a dress and heels, which to me have a somewhat disturbing undercurrent of display. When you’re at a conference or in the lab, you are there to talk science, not be a sex object. (Oh, and by the way, I think makeup makes women look like clowns, no matter how ‘natural’ it is.)

    Oh, and pimpledick ‘ok’ up there? Go back and play with the little boys until you can learn to grow up to be a real man who treats women as equals in intellect and potential.

  22. #22 Katharine
    November 15, 2009

    Actually, I feel kind of nasty in that my last post seems ridden with attempts to qualify my ‘femininity’. Who cares what I wear as long as I demonstrate the fact that I’ve got a brain?

    Gender stereotypes are a fucking joke.

  23. #23 cass_m
    November 15, 2009

    I’m glad you picked up on this Zuska. I had dropped watching the thread at Isis after reading Victoria’s defense – it reallly made me want to kick something. I can understand the comment about using the term girls because where I live that’s what the women use (sigh). As I result I use the term boys when talking about groups of men and really – the boys don’t mind.

    What I did struggle with was the definition of feminism used and the doubt that feminists got women anywhere. Voting, access to education, the expectation that one can dress however one wants and it’s not an invitation. How can one doubt the benefits of feminism? To me, Victoria really demonstrates how narrow education has gotten when she makes her comments. No knowledge of the Overton Window, poor exposure to history, not even an ability to critically evaluate evidence. At what education level do we stop creating good little worker bees and reward thinking?

  24. #24 Anonymous Coward
    November 15, 2009

    How is the guy to distinguish between the women who are wearing Victoria’s idea of sexy clothing in order to attract men from those who are wearing the same clothing but who will resent any attention from men.

    Clothing is a social signaling mechanism (for men and women) whether Victoria likes it or not. If the majority of women wearing her idea of “sexy” are signaling sexual availability, she’s out of her mind thinking that she can wear the same stuff and have men look at her brain and not her boobs.

  25. #25 Kathryn
    November 15, 2009

    Eye makeup + microscope = dirty eyepieces. Not good.

    I agree that this whole anti-feminist thing is a crock. At least be consistent and be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen if you don’t like feminists. Don’t let them do all the hard work and then stereotype them and write them off as not-really-women.

    You know what? She reminds me of Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer… so pretty, so perfectly turned-out, so snotty, but of course she will let the Slayer and her geeky entourage save her life even though she’d be embarrassed to be seen with them.

  26. #26 cass_m
    November 15, 2009

    ooo I know, Anonymous Coward, I know. Treat all women like people instead of objects when you approach them.

  27. #27 becca
    November 15, 2009

    @Victoria- I don’t think ‘girl’ is a generational thing (and I’m 25). I do, however, think it can be analogous to ‘queer’ in terms of a word appropriate to reappropriate. But that’s awfully risky for someone who doesn’t know the history.

    @Zuska- activists are necessary. By my nature, I sometimes like a political fight enough to be one. But I know there are women who are tired of feeling like being a Woman In Science requires one to always be an activist. To that, at least, I am sympathetic.

    “This is the first time in my life I’ve ever heard “feminist” equated with “picketing” or some required level of activism. I’ve always equated it with a *belief* in equal rights for women. Go figure…” Now, this might be a generational thing. The rightwingcrazytalkradio folks my have shifted the Overton window on feminism that much. Sad.

    Isis- we wanna be like you, but not too much like you.

    Dr. Freeride- you may be right. Who misspells their own name? I know x and c are right next to each other, but that smells like Pie. lol. Ok, maybe I’m full of it. I actually was trying to write Poe. Maybe I just subconsciously want Pie. MMMMmmmpie.

  28. #28 Roman
    November 15, 2009

    “Victoria also writes that she wants “to maintain the feeling of being a sexy, feminine woman without sacrificing the science”.”

    If one defines themselves as “sexy”, this implies building your identity on being sexually attractive to someone else (i.e. men). Well then, honey, don’t whinge when you get the attention you wanted. Or choose other word than “sexy”, e.g. “I want to look nice”.

  29. #29 Lora
    November 15, 2009

    I think Lily @ 12 and Donna B hit the nail on the head.

    Also, Katharine:
    “Femininity, I think, is largely perceived as some sort of submissive kind of sex-object-ness.”

    Observe the submission demonstrated in Miss Victoria’s post @ 9 there. “I’m not pissing all over ugly, er, old, er, unattractive, um, er, all you great womyn! In fact I’m, I’m, I’m, not nearly as smart or good as them! Not nearly as smart or good as you! That’s why I asked for, uh, help! And stuff! My Gurlz Only Clubhouse is for, um, er, cowardly, weak women, so we can drink cheap Chardonnay and do each others’ hair! And your hair is, is, very liberated, um, creative, um, great! So obviously you don’t need that sort of thing!”

    Victoria, I am going to give you a piece of free advice: The scolded puppy act is freakin’ annoying to most people, even to hetero males who want to screw you. I know that young ladies are trained to do that from an early age, but truly you have a lot of learning to do if you think it helps you in any way. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

  30. #30 Helen Huntingdon
    November 15, 2009

    Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

    Especially if you have pretenses to being a scientist.

  31. #31 Katharine
    November 15, 2009

    I mean, my first thought upon hearing sexism from either gender is “Awww poor baby, are you not secure in yourself enough to treat your own gender and the other gender like competent, intelligent adults? Go back to the fucking sandbox.”

  32. #32 sl0w_bear
    November 15, 2009

    “I mean, my first thought upon hearing sexism from either gender is “Awww poor baby, are you not secure in yourself enough to treat your own gender and the other gender like competent, intelligent adults?”

    But sexism from men is not insecurity, they simply want to screw the female in question. What’s insecure in such basic instincts?

  33. #33 D. C. Sessions
    November 15, 2009

    It’s so offensive, to me, to hear a woman calling herself and other women, publicly, girls, that I find it hard to get past that word. How would she feel if I called a man a boy? I don’t think the man so called would find that a happy jolly commonality increasing thing.

    Actually, “boys” is pretty common. “Boy,” singular, tends to be a racial putdown. None of which makes “girls” acceptable [1], primarily for historical reasons. Like “boy,” singular, it’s tainted by history and abuse.

    Consider the freedom to use “boys” one of those male privilege things.

    [1] Somewhat context-dependent. My 80+ yo mother still plays bridge with the surviving “girls” she played with in college, allowing the usual changes of cast over the years. Among themselves it’s one thing — from an outsider? Never.

  34. #34 Katharine
    November 15, 2009

    Men who aren’t sexists and who are heterosexual want to have sex with women too, sl0w_bear. Except the men who are sexists apparently haven’t progressed beyond the kindergarten-level ‘If you like her, insult her’.

    It’s rather counterintuitive, if you think about it and have more than a few neurons.

  35. #35 Katharine
    November 15, 2009

    And it strikes me as… well, somewhat bizarre that there’s this idea among piggy-brain sexists that if you’re attracted to it, it’s automatically devalued as a person. Do they just want to fuck a warm blow-up doll? It’s easier for them to buy one and stick it in the microwave and lube it up.

  36. #36 becca
    November 15, 2009

    Has anyone thought about the idea of adult-privilege and what it means that “boy” and “girl/s” are such dire insults?

    Anyone else notice that whenever Zuska calls out misogyny in men, somebody comes along and defends them (oh, they didn’t really mean it!), but no one has done that for victoria?

  37. #37 feminist sci
    November 15, 2009

    Victoria wants to retain all the advantages that feminists fought for (work equality, advancement, etc) and yet retain all the advantages that come from signalling sexuality through traditional female displays.

    I don’t wear overtly sexy clothes to a conference for the same reason I expect men to wear a decent shirt and pants… it’s called professionalism. Leave the club clothes at home, both genders. If people are being an “asshole”, as she puts it, to you for the way you look, maybe you are crossing that line.

  38. #38 D. C. Sessions
    November 15, 2009

    Has anyone thought about the idea of adult-privilege and what it means that “boy” and “girl/s” are such dire insults?

    Logan’s Run, anyone?

    Personally I find it pretty offensive to put feminism on the same table as adult authority over children. That way lies reductio ad absurdem. The usual end of claiming that the biological differences between adults and children — and their unavoidable implications regarding authority — maps onto adult gender differences is that the biological differences between men and women also lead to male authority.

    Ummm, no. Comparison rejected.

    Anyone else notice that whenever Zuska calls out misogyny in men, somebody comes along and defends them (oh, they didn’t really mean it!), but no one has done that for victoria?

    In the former case, it’s at least possible to draw the lines based on differing premises. Victoria has more or less conceded that side though. IMHO about the only thing I see in her defense is that she’s accepted Rush Limbaugh caricature of “feminism.” That may be a bit less difficult to correct than some of the other examples.

  39. #39 Isis the Scientist
    November 15, 2009

    I’ve got one word for you all, and it rhymes with “dough.”

    Man, am I sorry about this one, sister femninists. Man, am I sorry.

  40. #40 Diane G
    November 15, 2009

    I always wanted to be as ugly as Gloria Steinem.

    Victoria, guess what. I think we all noticed at some point that being young & sexy “worked” in a sense for us in traditional male hierarchies. (Even young sexy lesbians–for whatever reason, some guys just see that as a challenge.) Let us know how it’s working for you in a couple of decades.

    15
    Interesting discussion. Perhaps what Victoria is trying to communicate (and perhaps not doing it well) is that feminists can come across as polarizing figures and exhibitionists. But we owe them a great deal and must never forget that.

    The we/they divide really jumped out at me in that comment. We’re sure not going to stop backsliding if we don’t realize that “they” is “us” pretty damn soon.

    D. C. Sessions, I too was seeing the Limbaugh-framing coming through loud & clear. Somehow we’ve gotta strike back. Is it time to bring back MCP’s?

    On the plus side, many of the people I know who are most likely to declare themselves feminists are men; mostly people on my humanist/freethinker groups.

    –Diane

  41. #41 mad the swine
    November 15, 2009

    Judging women by their clothes may not be ‘feminist’, but it’s certainly more respectful of women than the opposite.

    As “Anonymous Coward” (heh) points out above: the clothes a person (man or woman) wears send out certain socially constructed and standardized signals. A torn-up t-shirt is inappropriate attire for a fancy restaurant, and a suit and tie is ill-suited for a night out bowling with friends. Because I believe (gasp, shock, horror) that women have the same powers of intelligence and free agency as men, I assume that they choose their own clothing and understand the signal (ie, that ‘sexy’ clothes indicate an interest in socializing on a sexual, rather than on a professional, level).

    It seems to me, tbqh, that so-called ‘feminists’ are the ones denigrating the capabilities of women, by insisting that women are ignorant of the nonverbal communication involved in sartorial choice, like parrots repeating phrases without understanding their meaning, and so should not be held responsible for the messages they send.

  42. #42 D. C. Sessions
    November 15, 2009

    D. C. Sessions, I too was seeing the Limbaugh-framing coming through loud & clear. Somehow we’ve gotta strike back. Is it time to bring back MCP’s?

    Bear in mind, as a creepy misogynist sleazebag I don’t have standing to opine. However, I don’t see how conforming to the stereotype will be very effective in countering it.

    I confess to serious bafflement on the subject of Limbaugh. So much of what he and his zombie hordes in media say directly contradicts what people know firsthand and how they act in person — and yet somehow it slides past people’s cognitive immune systems and manages to avoid triggering cognitive dissonance.

    As long as the only people in mass media to say the “F-word” use it per Limbaugh then I’m afraid there will be a lot of Victoria clones.

  43. #43 mdvalero
    November 15, 2009

    Besides the fact that Victoria has accepted the “Limbaugh” definition of feminism, I am appalled by her overt attempt to make a “pretty girls club” as an adult.

    Not that there is anything wrong with exchanging makeup techniques (or great shoes, as Isis does) with other XXs. BUT excluding people who don’t fit into her poorly constructed idea of beauty is something she should have outgrown in middle school – or at least when she decided to enter a career in which her most valuable asset is, in fact, her BRAIN and not her Latisse-enhanced eyelashes, her dresses, or her high-heels.

    Consider showing off this asset at conferences…it’s guaranteed to get you much further than any clothing choices.

  44. #44 R E G
    November 15, 2009

    I’m feeling a little sorry for Victoria. I’m not sure anything she wrote deserves quite the backlash she has received.

    In her – for want of a better word – defense, I think we need to do a much better job of educating young women like her. I think she really never gives any thought to the fact that if she had been born 50 years earlier her life would have been profoundly different.

    Not every young girl has an evil mother like me. I was the one who would sit down with my daughters and their friends while they were watching MTV and ask..

    “So what do you think.. Is it right that a talented songwriter with a great voice should have to take off her clothes in order to get her video produced? She looks cold; that guy who is fully dressed should loan her his jacket.”

    But I discovered that wasn’t enough.

    When Martha Stewart was sentenced to jail my friends & I had a lively discussion over whether or not she got the jail time just because she was an “uppity” woman. I ended my portion with the comment that unfair as it likely was, at least she had a shot at building a business empire. If she had been born 20 years earlier, she’d have had no chance at all.

    My daughters sprang to Martha’s defense. Martha was always talented and ambitious. Martha would have prevailed.

    No my darlings she would not. She would never have gotten a bank loan.

    My daughters were stunned. My friends were nodding.

    My daughters had no idea that women in the 50′s and 60′s couldn’t get credit. They had no idea that some of Mum’s friends lived hand to mouth while at college because their families wouldn’t “waste” money educating a girl. They had no idea that a pay equity settlement increased grandma’s wages by 40 %.

    We need to be telling these stories. Not because we are grateful for finally getting our rights, but because they are still new and fragile. Every time I hear a talking head on TV prose on about “family values” I wonder does s/he mean the Cleavers, the Huxtables or who exactly?

    I’m not an educator; I don’t know how to raise awareness outside the people I actually meet. I’m just very, very, concerned that we are shortchanging future generations of women if they grow up unaware of how poorly women were treated in the recent past. How can we expect the next generation to continue the fight for equality if they don’t realize it’s still going on every day?

  45. #45 Katharine
    November 15, 2009

    I’ll tell you one thing, R E G; the vast majority of either sex are probably at least dumb enough to not be able to grasp these things, envision themselves in those sort of problems, or to reason through this.

    Sexism is in some ways a symptom of the greater stupidity.

  46. #46 Cara
    November 15, 2009

    I wonder if Victoria secretly doesn’t like herself too much.

    I don’t think it’s a secret.

    What is a secret, one Victoria should be let in on, is that men don’t respect you any better if you collaborate with them against other women.

    If men are going to diss you, they’ll do it. Turning yourself into a pretzel to prove you’re not like *those* women (like me, boys, please like me, I’m talking about shoes, I’m no threat!) just means you wind up with less respect for yourself.

    Don’t throw the oldsters under the bus, honey. You can learn a lot from us, and what we can teach you will actually stand you in good stead when YOU hit about thirty.

  47. #47 skeptifem
    November 15, 2009

    mad the swine, anonymous coward, etc;

    read “The Beauty Myth”. Our clothes can be used against us for any reason. There is absolutely no way for a woman to dress to make it a non issue, and TBM has a ton of examples in the form of lawsuits that women lost because of their clothing. Clothing (either of the most revealing type or the least) can be used to justify violence or harassment after the event in question, it happens constantly.

    And jeez, I don’t care what kind of “signals” someone sends out, what they have to SAY about the matter is a lot more important than anyhing else. I don’t think I know a woman who hasn’t been groped or otherwise physically invaded in public by STRANGERS who think it is acceptable to do that without talking to someone first. The attitudes you express do make a difference in the world, help foster a culture where every other woman has to deal with that too.

  48. #48 Donna B.
    November 16, 2009

    I may be old, but I ain’t dead yet… and I thoroughly appreciate seeing a young male in muscular glory. And… that’s where ‘mad the swine’ and I agree.

    Clothing styles are a choice and choices have meaning. They are a signal.

    I have learned over the past 10 years that my clothing preferences somehow manage to “identify” me as a lesbian. And this doesn’t really bother me, but I wonder why. Since I have no disgust at the idea of being a lesbian, I can respond sincerely that I’m flattered but not interested. So far, no one has responded in any hostile way at all… and some very interesting conversations have been had. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but I think I’ve actually made a friend or two — once sexuality was dealt with honestly.

    What I’m trying to say is that heterosexual men respond to sexually attractive women, and clothing is one way of expressing sexuality even though it may not be intended that way.

    I dress for comfort, and tend toward hairstyles that require little maintenance. If that leads some to think I’m a lesbian, all I have to do is tell them they are mistaken in my case. Is that so hard to do?

    Yet… my husband and I were out recently where we both noticed a plethora of women wearing extremely low-cut tank tops. If you think that offering 3+ inches of cleavage is not a sexual message… um, you are mistaken.

    This was most noticeable when a group of six nurses (or medical technicians… I certainly didn’t stare closely enough to read their nametags/badges) were seated at the table next to us. As they marched by, I could not help but notice the cleavage, and as they were seated, neither could my husband. Of course they had jackets on, but not buttoned.

    Would any male want his blood pressure checked by these women? Would any female?

    Like it or not, boobs are sexual in our culture. Can we change that? I’m not sure. Hormones are in control, aren’t they? Does not manipulation of a nipple have an effect on both men and women?

    The reality is that men and women are different, but not unequal where humanity, dignity, and brains are concerned.

    I have four daughters, two sons (some are step-children) and I have witnessed this equality thing in various ways. I wish to highlight two of the relationships I’ve witnessed.

    One, daughter and husband are both officers in the Army. Daughter attains a level of promotion before her husband does. BOTH agree that she was promoted before him because of both her gender.

    Two, daughter and husband both graduate from the same law school. Daughter was editor of law review, her husband (they were married before law school) was a recipient of mediocre grades.

    He got a job before she did, but hers pays 1 1/2 times as much plus provides them with health insurance and other benefits. Which is the better lawyer? It depends completely on what your needs are. Corporate customers pay more for legal representation than do individuals. They are both excellent lawyers excelling in different spheres. (And… if I were ever in serious trouble with the law, I’d choose my son-in-law over my daughter. Though I would hope he’d have her expertise and counsel as backup.)

    I am not defending any stance… feminist or otherwise in relating these episodes.

    Where both my daughters excelled, they *should* have been *defeated* by men. In the Army? At the lucrative practice of law?

    That there were not… are not… is not only due to their native intelligence (for which I am totally responsible***) but to society changing. And (if they’d actually burned their bras) I’d thank the bra-burners.

    ***There is no accounting for parental pride regardless of gender.

  49. #49 D. C. Sessions
    November 16, 2009

    What is a secret, one Victoria should be let in on, is that men don’t respect you any better if you collaborate with them against other women.

    To the extent that a man is “against [1]” women, I suggest that he won’t even notice. After all, conforming to his preconceptions is
    by nature not noteworthy.

    [1] The scare quotes are only there to call attention to the limitations of English vocabulary.

  50. #50 Cara
    November 16, 2009

    To the extent that a man is “against [1]” women, I suggest that he won’t even notice. After all, conforming to his preconceptions is by nature not noteworthy.

    My only goal is to show Victoria (or any other youngster) that she IS doing that, and for that exact reason. She might not be conscious of it, I know that’s what women are conditioned to do, but that’s why she’s doing it, and that’s why it sucks. On some level she’s aware of it; she’s said that she’s not very brave and is more interested in getting the goodies than in having integrity. I can’t bring myself to say “that’s okay, hon”. Letting her off the hook is allowing what could be a perfectly fine brain go to waste.

    Talking about shoes is fine, if that’s what you’re into. Saying, “Thanks for working on the whole ‘equality’ thing for me, guys, but I have men to suck up to, so I hope you don’t mind if I talk shit about you to them in order to make myself more appealing” is a bit less admirable.

  51. #51 FrauTech
    November 16, 2009

    I think the divide is still obvious in that the women on here still feel the need to “defend” their clothing choices. No dude would post on here about what he wears every day and why he feels it either objectifies him or does not objectify him, outside of maybe a few rare circles.

    I agree with Cara on her collaboration point. And it’s a fine line to walk. Victoria may dismiss those she considers “feminists” because she CAN. Not all sexism women face is negative or career-detrimental. I’ve seen plenty of things that *minorly* favor a young, pretty women. And maybe she is still on that sailboat and has never known otherwise and so thinks the need for feminists is over.

    I know where I work, being identified as being a “feminist” would be a career-ender. One needs to walk the walk in trying to be an example of an ambitious, intelligent woman who treats both men and women as human beings and expects fair treatment in return. But if this does not happen, gender prejudice can never be vocalized. It can never be mentioned that the reason for something might be because of sex (unless of course it’s a WOMAN taking advantage unfairly) or all males (and sometimes females) will immediately dismiss you as a crackpot and walk away.

    I wear heels sometimes (here we go with clothing defense) though I mostly prefer flats. Every time I put on heels I think about how it shortens my stride, and slows me down. Maybe I’m looking for something where there is nothing, but I always think about heels weakening a woman for “predators”. In general terms, I’m thinking mountain lion. But obviously those predators could be human. Anyways, it creeps me out. Though I still wear heels when I think it will give me a professional edge, once again that’s a fine line…

  52. #52 becca
    November 16, 2009

    D. C. Sessions- I’m not attempting to put ageism on the same level as sexism anymore than one puts homophobia on the same level as sexism when one points out using ‘queer’ as a derogatory term is pretty absurd. Irrespective of biological differences between children and adults, there ought not to be shame in exhibiting childlike behaviors or attitudes. Sometimes children’s behavior is unacceptably refined/restrained for society to approve of. Sometimes children’s behavior is the kind society would be better off if we all observed. The point is, acting like a boy or a girl should not be seen as a Dire Insult. Saying children should not be scorned is a far cry from saying that we should kill everyone when they turn 21.
    (tangential aside- I have to give you major props for the ‘cognitive immune system’ line though. Conservatism- the HIV of the cognitive immune system. Destroys your ability to fight off infectious illogic)

    @Donna B. oh, where to start? Like it or not, boobs are wonderful and nipple stimulation feels good. Yet men are allowed topless whereas women are not, despite the fact that women *need* to have some beast exposure to breastfeed.

    Like it or not, although clothing is a signal, you cannot determine what signal is sent from what response results. In other words, burka or bikini, you can be sexually harassed. In this particular case, although we knew how someone described the clothes they like, we do not know what they were actually wearing. I have NEVER in all my life seen ANYTHING at a scientific conference that signals “hit on me”. Some clothing (mostly on males) has been a smidge ‘unprofessional’ (in the t-shirt and shorts kind of way), but even then it has not been extreme enough I would, for a second, question their scientific credentials. Therefore, if you are leaping to the conclusion she was dressed as a hussy and she deserved what she got, you are being an unapologetic misogynist.
    @mad the swine- the trouble is, women are held responsible for the messages they don’t send.

    @FrauTech- I can very much sympathize with ambivalence about heels. I try to think of my taller-self with convenient pointy objects on my side-kicking feet as being a better predator, but I don’t know if that rationalization will help you (and it is a rationalization, since I have no evidence they would actually be of use. Still, I fight ok barefoot if necessary).

  53. #53 acai
    November 16, 2009

    Like it or not, although clothing is a signal, you cannot determine what signal is sent from what response results.

  54. #54 sl0w_bear
    November 16, 2009

    “I wonder if Victoria secretly doesn’t like herself too much.

    I don’t think it’s a secret.”

    If it is, it’s Victoria’s secret ;-)

    @mdvalero

    “excluding people who don’t fit into her poorly constructed idea of beauty”

    Sour grapes.

  55. #55 Roman
    November 16, 2009

    @becca

    “oh, where to start? Like it or not, boobs are wonderful and nipple stimulation feels good. Yet men are allowed topless whereas women are not, despite the fact that women *need* to have some beast exposure to breastfeed.”

    Well in Europe both sexes are allowed topless on beaches. As for breastfeeding, I don’t know anyone who’s got a problem with it. I myself would have a problem with changing diapers in public (unless there is no other option), because of the smell and sight of fecal matter, but not with breastfeeding.

    Female breasts are (usually) much more pronounced than male nipples, so visually they draw more attention and stir up more controversy when shown outside the “allowed” area. But believe me, if a male scientist paraded with naked breast on a conference, he’d raise a scandal too.

  56. #56 Anonymous
    November 16, 2009

    I breast-fed both my kids, occasionally publicly. But I’m quite sure I never exposed my beast.

    I hope that wasn’t a Freudian slip, becca.

  57. #57 Dacks
    November 16, 2009

    Great post. Victoria wants to dress up pretty and call herself a girl,but what is she going to call herself when she finds that she has to push back against that ‘good ol boys’ club? She needs to coin a new word to describe a girl who wants to dress in whatever way she chooses, yet not be denied an equal opportunity. Wait, I think I’ve got it – a feminist!

  58. #58 mdvalero
    November 16, 2009

    @ sl0wbear:

    sour grapes?

  59. #59 becca
    November 16, 2009

    Anon- not a conscious one. Actually, during the initial chomping period, I can see referring to hungry little monsters as beasts.

    @Roman-
    “In Europe, breasts are breasts. They’re very natural and beautiful things” …
    “You’re not in Paris anymore! Is the the way you’ve been acting the past six months?”
    “Yes! For the past six months… I’ve been touring France, topless. And you want to know something, nobody seems to care! Get over it!”…
    “I knew you were different when I saw your hairy armpits!”
    /Trick quotes.

  60. #60 Donna B.
    November 16, 2009

    @becca: “Like it or not, although clothing is a signal, you cannot determine what signal is sent from what response results.”

    That’s absolutely correct in a very logical way. However, can everyone say here that they have NEVER dressed in some certain way in order to send a signal?

    Anyway, I thought I covered the clothes/hairstyle thing sending a signal when I discussed how I’ve often been mistaken for a lesbian by lesbians.

    That suggests there’s obviously a type of cultural message being sent that I wasn’t aware of. And I’m quite the sure same thing happens with a medical technician who chooses to display 3+ inches of cleavage because she feels comfortable that way. But what gives her permission to gripe when others respond in a culturally reasonable but different way?

  61. #61 skeptifem
    November 17, 2009

    Oh geez, donna b.

    “Yet… my husband and I were out recently where we both noticed a plethora of women wearing extremely low-cut tank tops. If you think that offering 3+ inches of cleavage is not a sexual message… um, you are mistaken.”

    So what? Do you not understand that these are reasons that are used to rape women or otherwise be sexually violent towards them? I do not care how someone is dressed, someone initiating something sexual should ALWAYS MAKE SURE that attention is wanted. You could not possibly know why they wore low cut tops, it may or may not have anything to do with anyone else. Maybe they liked the way it looked on them or thought it was comfortable or were looking good for one of their girlfriends. Maybe out of all the clothes that they had those were the best for the weather. Other people acting like jerks about it doesn’t mean it is a woman’s responsibility to comply. This same argument could be made about something like exposing your ankles in a different place /different time. It means the people who expect women to conform to their standards (either in being sexual or being modest) are the ones who are crazy and wrong. Women don’t exist to please other people, and they couldn’t if they tried. For every person who gets offended at low cut blouses there is another who says “show some skin”/”you are so pretty”/”you really have the figure for ____(garment)”, or completely ignores women who don’t dress that way. We essentially get to pick between being bothered for either being too good looking or not enough, there is not a way for a woman to dress or look that causes other people to take her seriously. Check out campaign coverage of hillary clinton if you think that modest dress protects women from appearance based insult. She got critiqued for being too sexual or too dowdy depending on the network you watched, and they discussed her fashion choices instead of her speeches; something men campaigning didn’t have to deal with at all.

    [quote]
    This was most noticeable when a group of six nurses (or medical technicians… I certainly didn’t stare closely enough to read their nametags/badges) were seated at the table next to us. As they marched by, I could not help but notice the cleavage, and as they were seated, neither could my husband. Of course they had jackets on, but not buttoned.

    Would any male want his blood pressure checked by these women? Would any female? [/quote]

    Why wouldn’t I? What about their shirts or boobs would make them unable to take a blood pressure? Why would I downgrade my opinion of their intellectual ability for making a lose-lose choice every woman makes? Because they chose differently than I have? please. chances are they are trying to look pretty, which has long been taking a slide into being really really sexualized in the mainstream media. I can’t really expect everyone to figure out the why of it all by themselves or even think about it, most people justify it on the same grounds as you do, where they think its dumb to dress too modestly because of how men (and some other women) react to that. We are all trying to dress for reaction when there isn’t any real winning in that arena. it is the same as the madonna/whore dichotomy women have delt with forever; we can’t win that either. These systems of oppression persist because it is so easy to put down ANY woman for what she picks.

  62. #62 Roman
    November 17, 2009

    @donna.b

    “And I’m quite the sure same thing happens with a medical technician who chooses to display 3+ inches of cleavage because she feels comfortable that way.”

    Hmm, I don’t get it. I work in finance industry (UK), where we’re supposed to dress “business casual” to the office. Many women in my office wear considerable cleavage and short skirts. It has *never* been any source of embarassing situations, sexist remarks or any downgrading of their professional capabilities. Maybe academia (it would not be surprising to me, given my experiences when getting a PhD, and what my wife tells me about her work in science) is simply culturally backward and many years behind other areas of society?

  63. #63 Anonymous
    November 17, 2009

    After reading this post yesterday, I went home and relaxed with my new New Yorker. There’s an article on feminism that reflects just about every point made in this thread. It even starts off with bra-burners.

    Could Victoria be a New Yorker troll?! That’s got to be a first.

  64. #64 Hope
    November 17, 2009

    @becca, skeptifem: I don’t think that anyone here is saying that it’s OK to sexually assault a woman because of how she’s dressed – certainly not Donna B. But just because *some* people cannot or refuse to interpret the messages correctly doesn’t mean that clothing is not an effective signaling mechanism. Like anything involving humans, it doesn’t work perfectly, but it works most of the time. To assert that women have absolutely no control over how they are perceived by others is laughable. Why does it always have to be one extreme or another?

    And skeptifem, I think it’s pretty clear that in the case of Hillary, the people criticizing her clothing choices had ulterior motives. I doubt that most of the US population thought that she was inappropriately dressed.

  65. #65 animatrix
    November 18, 2009

    I don’t believe that Victoria is a woman at all.

    And who mentions ‘bra-burners’ today?
    The whole no-feminist website smells funny, like it’s a front for something else.

  66. #66 daedalus2u
    November 18, 2009

    Roman, I think that academia is culturally backward in this regard because there isn’t the same legal (and financial) pressure for change. Banks and other large financial institutions have deep pockets, particularly if they are large. If they are large, and have many employees, sexual harassment lawsuits can be consolidated into group actions which can be very expensive. For-profit businesses don’t want to risk expensive lawsuits. At some point the decision to replace male managers who are sexually harassing women is a business decision made on the basis of dollars and cents. Why should the stockholders subsidize a male manager’s sexual harassment when it is cheaper to replace him with someone who doesn’t. Transparency in corporate governance would help to enforce this a lot.

    Those financial motivations are not the same in academia, which tends to be pretty backward and to treat the employees like dirt. A recent example was blogged about over at The Primate Diaries where graduate students had to go on strike.

    Universities treat graduate students like shit because they can. They come in naïve and eager to do almost anything to learn. That naïveté and eagerness can (and is) easily exploited. By the time the grad student has wised up, he or she is on the verge of graduating and can’t make waves with the powers exploiting her/him or graduation may be delayed or even prevented.

  67. #67 arora
    November 18, 2009

    Gosh, darn it, too many now to read them all, though I made an effort. So about the “we versus they” thread — the original feminists were different generation and different culture. Its more of an anthropologist view of things not a Rush Limbaugh view of things. They (feminists) did what they did to get us (younger ones of different races) where we are. BTW Isis your blog is fun to read.

  68. #68 becca
    November 18, 2009

    Hope- Bottom line, we know that if a woman was sexually harassed, we can’t assume she was wearing something that sent a message of “hit on me” or the like.
    “At almost every meeting I’ve ever attended I’ve been hit on. Not like, “So, are you new in the field?” but as in, “why don’t you come to my room and talk about your research?”. Or my favorite, “Why did you get married? You’re not using your assets to your advantage.” I don’t think I’m a member of the Swedish bikini team, but I’m not unattractive and I’m very outgoing and (I think) very likable, but for the longest time I made sure to wear the most unflattering clothes possible to meetings. “
    Case. In. Point. To bring up the fact (and yes, it is definitely a fact) that people send and receive social messages through clothing choices is CLEARLY IRRELEVANT here. There are OBVIOUSLY people at scientific conferences who are
    1) incapable of understanding the signals sent or
    2) jerks that do not care to pay attention to the signals
    In this sense, clothing choices are NOT an EFFECTIVE signaling mechanism. Because, BIKINI OR BURKA, women get unwanted attention.

    Women have a lot of control over how they are perceived by others. I’m sure you must have the ability to ensure you won’t perceived as a conversational partner on par with the kitchen table. I suggest you start exercising it.

  69. #69 Hope
    November 18, 2009

    @becca – Bottom line: a woman wearing a bikini will get a lot more sexual attention than one wearing a burka. I’m tired of this self-defeating, “it’s a no-win situation” crap. I think Victoria is full of it – and so are you.

  70. #70 LassLisa
    November 18, 2009

    I spend a good deal of time in explicitly feminist environments, and there are two things that come up all the time:

    1. If you say you’re not a feminist, it means you think women should all be house slaves and you’re ungrateful for being allowed to own property! (see above)

    2. If you (select one: change your name, make an effort to conform to societal beauty standards, want to be a housewife, don’t get angry enough about my pet cause) then you’re not really a feminist!

    Does Zuska do this? Presumably not. But plenty of people do (yes, even other women/feminists). So for everyone out there who doesn’t “get” the idea that feminism is anything more than a belief that women are equal, you should know there are plenty of people trying to raise that bar. Because there are these two groups, if you say you’re not a feminist, the “belief”-ers think that means you think women are inferior and worthless, and if you say you are, suddenly people whose lives are oriented around feminism are going to be upset that you’re claiming membership in the club without making it the orienting principle of your life.

    That said, it’s time to take this as a “learning experience” rather than arguing that the way you’re used to hearing a word is the only way it can possibly be used. It’s exclusionary for Victoria to reject “feminists” rather than simply stating that no political litmus-test is required. If what you want is to have a place where women aren’t attacked for insufficient political involvement, that’s the right way to do it, not by attacking people who are politically involved. And not by claiming that it’s impossible to be “girly” unless you wear high heels and makeup (I can’t walk comfortably in heels and don’t think it’s worth the pain and suffering – so I must not be feminine? You draw your lines very narrowly… I bet we’d get along great in person, but everything you’ve said makes me feel like I wouldn’t be wanted in your little group. It sounds like you’re not interested in talking to anyone who’s not “pretty enough” for you. I hope that’s not the case, but it IS how you come across – I get judged “not girly” often enough for geeking out over science, I don’t need to get judged on my femininity by the other scientists too).

    Oh yeah, and no problem here with “girls” for young women. I use it, and “boys” for my male friends, all the time (I’m in my early 20s). It’s been a struggle not to use either at work.

  71. #71 Roman
    November 18, 2009

    @becca

    Or my favorite, “Why did you get married? You’re not using your assets to your advantage.”

    Wow, I knew things were bad, but I didn’t know they were *that* bad.

    @Hope

    Bottom line: a woman wearing a bikini will get a lot more sexual attention than one wearing a burka.

    How do you know? the “forbidden fruit” thing… Maybe not burkas, but from what I see in London’s streets, a hijab is not an obstacle to flirting.

    Anyway, I think that how “clothing messages” should be interpreted depends on the context. A woman wearing a bikini on a beach is getting a tan, not sending a sexual message. Neither does a women wearing a bikini to the office — it should be read as “I have gone blarmy” message. For a more realistic scenario, if a girl wears scanty clothing in a work environment, she should not be hit at. She should have somebody (her manager or a HR person) explain her what “dress code” means. Too bad science is run by professors, who usually have no idea how to manage human beings. An average bank manager is more adept at this than a Noble prize winner in physics.

    There is really a more or less defined range of social situations where people voluntarily emit sexual messages. Workplace is rarely one of them, and even if it is, then these messages will be targeted at a person of emitter’s choice. If you think you’re a target of such, get a reality check. An old, bald and fat guy who thinks that this young pretty chick is hitting on him by wearing a short skirt and a cleavage is just deluding himself.

  72. #72 SKM
    November 18, 2009

    Or my favorite, “Why did you get married? You’re not using your assets to your advantage.”–becca

    Wow, I knew things were bad, but I didn’t know they were *that* bad.–Roman

    Oh, they’re that bad, and worse. I’ve heard the things becca mentions, as well as “why don’t you just marry a rich guy?” in answer to legitimate concerns about my career advancement, health care coverage, etc. And I’m young–these experiences are from the 2000s, not the 1960s

    You may well be underestimating how bad things are for women where you live too, by the way. Not for lack of caring, but just because you don’t experience it first-hand.

  73. #73 Roman
    November 19, 2009

    @SKM

    You may well be underestimating how bad things are for women where you live too, by the way. Not for lack of caring, but just because you don’t experience it first-hand.

    I may, but I do see a pattern (OK, this is just anecdotal evidence, but then most arguments in this comment thread are based on anecdotal evidence) here:

    - when I was doing my PhD in hardcore science, I’ve heard male professors make sexist remarks about their female peers (also professors!)
    - then I went to work in the industry and I don’t hear anything like that; the “glass ceiling” is there all right (almost all top managers in my company are white males), but I don’t hear the sexist language I heard in the academia
    - recently I went to a scientific conference in applied maths and I hear again these sexist remarks from academia researchers…

  74. #74 Michelle
    November 23, 2009

    Grrrrr. Bra burner? WTF… talk about a dumb stereotype… I always hoped science “chicks” (PUKE!) were smarter than that. Come on – calling women “girls” is a result of the pornification of society. The porn industry started that(Girls! Girls! Girls!). Which is why I try very hard not to refer to women as girls – no need to perpetuate that BS. Also referring to grown women as girls is just another paternal technique to keep men feeling superior to women.

    WTF would anyone want to wear high heels to lab? Don’t they realize that the floors are 99% of the time cement (which is bad enough in a pair of sneakers) and I really think that wearing make-up in some labs (depending on what is being done) could contaminate samples… there are over 2000 chemicals in cosmetics.
    Okay – fight for your right to wear heels to the lab but don’t try and call it liberating or empowering. Call it for what it is – conformity. I just wish more women would admit that they are conforming, rather than claiming that they made some “liberated” choice in following these beauty standards/rituals that are 100% normalized in our society (it’s hard to believe someone made a free choice about anything – especially when it’s normalized and drums up male attention – that women are taught at a young age to treat as sacred).
    I imagine if I had shown up for field work in highheels and skirts, the guys would have snickered because it’s stupid. Bottom line – STUPID.
    And I’m just so tired of women who SUPPORT the idea that there is only one way for a woman to be sexy – only one type of clothing that is sexy (revealing, tight, uncomfortable and unnatural feeling – and a lot of times unhealthy for backs or winter). I know so many women (most of them don’t care or think about feminism) who totally think this way. THOSE women are the BANE of my existence because they are usually pretty good at putting me down for not conforming (I’m just glad I get the last laugh)… It’s so disgusting, makes me feel I’m in highschool still.
    I’m straight and I just don’t buy into the “sexy clothes” BS because that what it is, BS. I get tired of homophobics accusing me of being a lesbian (and they say it as if it’s a bad thing) just because I think dresses, skirts, highhells and make-up are impractical and quite foolish (foolish because it’s uncomfortable to the person wearing it AND because heels and make-up actually cause bodily harm).

  75. #75 Sarah
    April 14, 2010

    HOMOHPHOBIA? Give me a freaking break. Immaturity, maybe. Hypocrisy, possibly. But homophobia!? Did ya hurt yourself with that leap?

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