The need for feminism in all races and communities exist, as sexism and misogyny become the norm in social media. In a country, where we have taken great strides in equality, the fair treatment of women continues to go ignored. Feminists strive to remedy this epidemic, only to be called bitter and angry and accused of hating men. Rather than be judged in such a negative light generations of women have stopped actively lobbying for the fair treatment of women, taking the rights fought for and obtained for granted.
In the article Beyond Post-Feminism, Angela McRobbie explores the progression from feminism to “sophisticated anti-feminism.” This shift from old feminism or man-hating feminism produced “more acceptable forms of feminism”. McRobbie states:
Old feminism was addressed implicitly, as women who sought to limit the pleasures of “the rest of us.”… This new kind of sophisticated anti-feminism has become a recurring feature across the landscape of both popular and political culture. It upholds the principles of gender equality, while denigrating the figure of the feminist.
Lauren E. Duncan also touched on the unpleasantness of traditional feminism as new generations came of age in, Women’s Relationship to Feminism: Effects of Generation and Feminist Self-Labeling. She contrasted the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers self-labeling, but also showed the differences in attitudes towards feminism between the two generations. Baby Boomers born between the years of 1943-1960, were born into a society accustomed to more traditional gender roles. This generation did not see social change in these roles until young adulthood. Generation Xers born between the years of 1961-1975, after great strides had been taken to ensure women’s rights, took these strides for granted. In contrast to the Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, were privy to the “backlash against feminism… they might be more ambivalent about feminism than Baby Boomers” (Duncan, 499).
A movement that should have remained strong throughout all generations appears to have lost steam long before the troubles of today. Before delving into, why traditional feminism is needed more than ever, definitions of key words are needed. Until recently many of these were not even in many of our vocabularies. Merriam- Webster defines the following words:
Feminism- 1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
Sexism-1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women
2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
Misogyny- a hatred of women
Our society has become too lax in our actions towards negative attitudes and hatred towards women. This is proven time and time again by what seems to be a war social media is waging on women.
Today, we would be appalled by the episodes of I Love Lucy, where a grown woman is spanked for misbehaving. (Ironically Lucy and Desi had to sleep in separate beds and use the word “expecting” instead of “pregnant”, to appease the censors.) We would scoff and gasp out loud at many of the things said and attitudes displayed towards Edith Bunker in All in the Family. Given the time frame of these television shows and the knowledge that these gender roles were acceptable then, these displays have played against our sensibilities. However, we have apparently forgotten these “mild” displays of sexism, as even more appalling displays are available today.
Sexism and misogynistic attitudes have presented in all forms of media. There are countless books containing self-help advice on various topics. The most popular topic is relationships. This has spawned the “How to Get a Man” phenomenon. These books seem harmless, but their messages are often demeaning towards women and preach submission over equality of women. These books are often written by self-proclaimed relationship coaches, with little or no formal training. Some of these books are written by celebrities. Many of the best sellers are written by men. They are selling books based on “life experiences”. A perfect example of this is, Tyrese Gibson best known for his roles in Baby Boy and Transformers, a best-selling R&B artist, his outrageous Twitter conflicts and most recently his rants against obese people, is the author of two self- help books. Tyrese’s educational background is sketchy and there’s no proof of a successful personal relationship, Tyrese has managed to make it to the New York Times Best seller list. To give Tyrese credit the book that was marketed to his female audience, was co-authored by Rev Run of Run DMC now an ordained minister. Part of Reverend Run’s duties is to offer advice. Tyrese’s books are almost harmless compared to some others.
Steve Harvey’s educational background is a bit more extensive than Tyrese’s, however whereas Tyrese’s books explore the man’s mind and then gives advice, Harvey’s books lean more towards telling a woman how to be a woman. His book received mixed reviews. Those who did not support his book went on to criticize his advice when he adapted that same book into a cinematic comedy starring Kevin Hart. It left many of us questioning the validity of the book. This relationship advice came from a twice divorced comedian.
Recently there has been severe criticism of life coach Chey B. on the social network, Twitter. I was first made aware of his presence by a tweet that could be construed as homophobic. Twitter is a place where random thoughts are condensed to 140 characters at a time. Sensitivity and political correctness is often disregarded. What makes the difference in Chey B’s tweets is that he claims to be a life coach there to uplift and empower women. The following are tweets from Chey B. that have garnered some criticism:
“Ladies: Believe me… you don’t want “equality”. Walk in a man’s shoes for 24 hrs and you’ll be begging to get the perks of a woman again!”
“Make up your mind ladies! Either you want to be on the same level as a man, or you want him to be gentle and cater to you.”
“Ladies: Your degrees are “your” degrees. They’re about as useful to a man as toilet paper. A man wants to know “What can you do for me?”
“Ladies: Your vagina is your negotiating power!”
Chey B. makes the assertion that he speaks for all men and that women would be better off being submissive. Anna Banks said it best in Sexuality Orientation: “I do not like when other people’s views are forced onto me” (Banks, 55), yet his messages are being heard loud and clear whether we want to hear them or not. His messages often go along with the concept; “Feminism does not uplift Black people. It actually divides black men and women” (@theblackguyx via Twitter) Chey has admitted that he targets women. Has taken pride in the hash tag #singlebydesign but yet his whole book is devoted to telling a woman how to get and keep a man. When he is questioned or criticized about his views he often responds with pre prepared, generic answers. He has yet to answer direct questions regarding how his message affects equality.
Other disturbing behavior by Chey B. is his unwillingness to speak directly to men on Twitter that have questioned his viewpoints. If these men are not in total agreement with his views he directs them to his website where they can request one on one advice with him. Instead of backing his views, when challenged Chey B. will make a statement and quickly delete or make the tweet otherwise unavailable. Those who have had direct contact with Chey have had to resort to capturing these tweets via screen shot or other methods of saving the tweets. This tends to happen when he is questioned by bloggers interested in obtaining research material. Chey often tells individuals that disagree with him, that their issue is self-hate. It is disheartening that Chey B. has over 30,000 followers and his messages continue to mock the independence and equality of women.
If there continues to be a following for Chey B.’s advice and other self-proclaimed life coaches with the same damaging messages of submission, further generations are doomed. Chey B. and his counterparts are the gateway to worsening sexist attitudes towards women. Once a woman is told to revert back to old gender roles, society will then begin to feel as if women are not entitled to deserved equality. Injustices, assaults and misogyny become more acceptable.
Rappers have been notorious for sexism. It is not uncommon for a whole 4 minute song to be derogatory towards women. Disturbingly this is not addressed as often as it should be. Rapper Rick Ross was most recently in the news for the following lyric: “Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that / She ain’t even know it.” Ross is clearly rapping about rape. The street drug Molly does have a debilitating effect on the senses and can be used as a date rape drug. The Urban Dictionary defines Molly:
A molly is the purest form of ecstasy (MDMA). The appearance of this drug is typically white in color (for the big ballers who splurge and purchase a drug that has not been “stepped on.” Beige or yellowish color indicates that the drug is not the purest… it’s been stepped on. There are several stupid individuals that use this DRUG as a way to “turn-up.” These stupid individuals engaging in consuming a molly because this pill makes them high and party. It is an energy booster. While the molly is fresh in these stupid people’s body- they feel great however, once they come off of their high, they typically experience boredom in more extreme ways than smarter individuals who did not engage in this drug consumptions. Another side effect of this drug is sweating an abnormal more than usual.
Rappers typically refer to the consumption of this drug by stating “pop tha molly.”
It is safe to speculate that this verse was acceptable due to remiss attitudes towards women and rape. This point is proven time and time again with each attempt to defend Ross. The lyric is as clear as it can be as to his intentions. When I presented the concept of my research topic I mentioned that I would be covering this lyric in my paper. A female classmate told me after class that she liked the song the lyric was featured in and she did not feel as if it were a big deal.
Ross made a feeble attempt to apologize for the lyric, refusing to take responsibility for any misconception about the lyric. He also took to Twitter with the same non-committal apology. Not until, there were talks of Reebok pulling his endorsements, did Ross finally issue a heartfelt public apology. Thankfully Reebok still pulled his deal. This was a small victory for women.
Misogyny and sexism has made it to big screen and been presented to us as an acceptable form of entertainment. Using the Bible to back these stances, Tyler Perry produced Temptation. This would be an acceptable form of dramatic entertainment and a cautionary tale of why good morals should be valued, if not for the rape scene. During the first sexual encounter the main character says all the right words and phrases to indicate she does not want to have sex, but is overpowered anyway. Not only is the main the main character raped, she is then punished for her ‘indiscretions’ while her fellow adulterer continues to live a fantastic life. In an article by Lindy West on jezebel.com she states: “Temptation is a movie about punishing women. Perry is obsessed with punishing women who stray from the good woman/bad women binary dictated by traditional Christian gender roles.” Regretfully Perry’s film will do well. The message it sends will be ignored.
Although social media has played a large part in the negative stereotyping of women, there is no limitation of where we can find these attitudes. On April 15, 2013, Huffington Post reported that Steven Landsburg, a University of Rochester professor, had been censured for his Rape Blog. Landsburg reportedly wrote: “As long as I’m safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?” It is shocking that anyone would take such a cavalier attitude towards rape. This further supports lax attitudes in the treatment of women, and the need for feminism more than ever.
The United States Government has recognized to educate about and prevent violence against women. On February 28, 2013 The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against women released 12.6 million dollars in grants to reduce4 dating violence. The grants will benefit the victims, fund prevention programs and partner with schools: “engaging men and boys in ending violence against women. On March 13, 2013, 2.3 million dollars was granted for 12 programs “targeting the urgent need to reduce domestic violence homicides. The DOJ gives these alarming statistics:
1 in 10 9th-12th graders were purposely, physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend in 2011
80% of rape victims were raped for the first time before their 25th birthday
From 2009-2012 40% of mass shootings started with the murderer targeting their wife, girlfriend or ex-partner
Everyday 3 women die at the hands of their boyfriend, husband, or ex-partner
Although the government is active in attempting to prevent domestic violence and other acts of violence against women, we still need to be proactive in our own homes and communities. On a larger scale we should hold entertainers responsible for the material they produce that encourage negative attitudes towards women. If there is a bigger threat of losing multimillion dollar endorsement deals maybe these individuals would be more hesitant in displaying misogyny in their music and other forms of entertainment. On a smaller scale we do need to monitor what our children are exposed to both in media and their private home lives.
Society should embrace feminism instead of viewing it as old fashioned and outdated. There should be anger and bitterness towards the blatant displays of disrespect in the media. Letting feminism go to the wayside is not a “mark of cultural intelligence” (McRobbie, 179). If feminists do not lobby there will be generations that accept sexism and misogyny, leading to us taking steps back in the progress that we have made towards equality.
Most of the examples used in this piece are from the African American community. While it is important for all races to support feminism and the equality of women, it is imperative to do so in the African American community. In researching this topic, the information I found in Black culture was astounding and sadly none of it was subtle. Black nationalists and Black feminists need to work together to not only empower both genders of African American people but also influence what is produced in mainstream media. Ross was a perfect example of what can happen if enough people show true outrage and more of this is required to slow or stop misogyny and sexism from taking over in society. Feminists cannot and should not be silenced.