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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You're "Adorable"

Mike1071 left this comment on the post where I uploaded a picture of myself with Dawkins in the background at the American Atheists conference:
Mike1071 said...
"I've got to attend one of those. By the way, you're adorable!"
Guys, please refrain from posting any kinds of comments about a gals physical appearance unless your surfing a special kind of site, ehem...

It causes me, and I suspect other women bloggers, a particular kind of mental anguish that reads kinda like this:

"Who is this creep-o; why did I post a picture of myself anyway; now I have to worry about a stalker; wait, I'm being absurd, this guy was probably just trying to be nice; trying to be nice? really? ticks me off that being nice is telling me my photo is cute and not that my blog is smart; dick; hmmm... maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him, he probably didn't intend to piss me off; but that doesn't make it any less infuriating..."

This pendulatic thought guillotine just keeps swinging like a perpetual motion machine fueled by my feminist fury and my paranoid empathy.

Those who may be wondering why my feminist hackles would be raised by such a seemingly innocent comment should read up on sexual objectification and male privilege. I also wholeheartedly suggest reading the classic article Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack because it does a good job highlighting the subtly of discrimination that is almost ubiquitously overlooked by the privileged.

On a related note, this phenomenal letter to the editor was published in the June 2008 National Geographic:
"Robert Kunzig's otherwise excellent article was marred by one jarring description that added nothing to his narrative and was remarkable only for its incongruousness. I refer to the description of the Southern Nevada Water Authority's Pat Mulory as a 'crisp, tanned, fiftysomething blonde with a tailored look and a forceful personality.' It is notable that no other human being in the article is described by his or her appearance. At least one-half of your readership could live without the disappointing experience of being reminded, yet again, that its most notable attributes are cosmetic. For your information, what you probably want to know about me is that I am a petite, bespectacled brunette who would really appreciate being able to pick up your magazine without preparing for a possible gratuitous insult."

June Lehrman
Culver City, California"


Blogger Tommy said...

Somewhere, Mike1071 is sitting in a room griefstricken and contemplating suicide.

Sorry, just kidding!

As Richard Dawkins points out in "The God Delusion" and in his speaking engagements, one of the things the feminist movement has done is to raise our consciousness. However, it hasn't penetrated to the degree that some guys still won't make well-meaning remarks without thinking how the recipient of those remarks might interpret them.

In this particular case, Mike1071's comments were probably harmless. I had an unfortunate case in my blog where a commenter asked if that was really me she saw walking on a street near my house and I didn't know who she was. I overreacted, fearing that it might be a fundie trying to confirm it was me so that she would know where I lived. It turned out that the commenter was someone I went to high school with. Fortunately, I was able to locate her e-mail address and apologize profusely to her.

23 May, 2008  
Blogger Zeolite said...

Thanks for the comment Tommy!

Your right, I was awful hard on Mike1071; using him as an example like that -sorry Mike!

The trouble is embedded in our culture;, well-meaning good-natured people subconsciously choose to complement women on their appearance as opposed to their intelligence or other positive traits contributing to women's continued objectification. Therefore, I agree that Mike had no ill intentions, but I wouldn't call his post harmless.

I like that you commented that Dawkins used feminism as an example of raising consciousness because linking feminism to atheism is a good thing - all the groups fighting for greater civil rights are connected at the hip and we need to work together to shift our culture away from privilege and towards equality.

24 May, 2008  
Blogger Sandra said...

I also really enjoyed June Lehrman's letter to the editor; thanks for posting it!

But I disagree with you that "the groups fighting for greater civil rights are connected at the hip." There are misogynistic atheists; there are evangelistic feminists (although probably fewer). Just because someone has one idea you agree with, doesn't mean that she's a reasonable, open-minded person.

Just my two cents :/

18 June, 2008  
Blogger Zeolite said...

Hi Sandra, thanks for your comment!

You bring up a good point. What I was trying to emphasize is that a misogynistic atheist and a evangelistic feminist (or a white woman and a black man...) have a common goal to neutralize the effects of privilege (be it religion or gender based).

This example is great, because it demonstrates the complexity of our society; in one area a person can be persecuted (ex. atheist, female) and in another the same person can be privileged (christian, male).

That fact that someone is part of a privileged group in one part of their life doesn't negate their experiences being discriminated against in another part. In fact, those experiences are the common ground that can be used to create change - thats where we are all connected.

For the most part (there are exceptions), I don't think privileged groups are purposely squashing others - I think they are conveniently oblivious, so if a person can relate to being discriminated against in some aspect in their life those experiences can be used unveil their privilege as well and hopefully invoke positive change.

19 June, 2008  

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