Monday, February 3, 2014

Feminists Will Be Feminists

A teenaged girl’s Tumblr post has been published as an article in theHuffington Post. I’ll give you a minute to process the sound of society crumbling around you while I brace myself for the humiliating act of tearing apart a child’s writing.

The feminist revolutionaries soon regretted instituting an all-female fire department.

 The headline reads “Why I’m Taking a Stand against My School’s ‘Dress Code.’” I assume the scare-quotes around “dress code” are there because the post/article has nothing to do with taking a stand against a school’s dress code. It’s actually an objection to the way the dress code was communicated by the principal to “a class.”

Let’s proceed line-by-line, shall we?

Why I’m Taking a Stand against My School’s ‘Dress Code’

The new principal at my school used two phrases while addressing new dress code rules to a class: "Modest is hottest" and "boys will be boys."

These are the first and last words we will hear from the poor, disenfranchised principal. How did he use these phrases? The author doesn’t see fit to tell us. In fact, since she said “a class” rather than the more natural phrasing “my class,” it wouldn’t surprise me if she has no idea what he actually said because her source is hearsay.

Still more reliable than CNN.

He should have said something more along the lines of: "The school dress code was established to provide our students with a safe and orderly learning environment that is free from distractions."

Is this meant to imply that he addressed none of these concerns, that his entire presentation to the class consisted of the seven horrible words previously mentioned? Is that even remotely probable? Perhaps we should email the principal about his student’s inability to write an expository paragraph.

Let's start with the phrase "modest is hottest," shall we?

Modest means having or showing a moderate estimation of one's own talents, abilities and value. If modest is hottest, then it's not modest.

In true high school form, she begins by throwing the dictionary at us. At least we were spared a famous quotation. According to her unconventional understanding of the English language, modesty cannot be hot. Huh, that’s odd, particularly since she goes on to claim that hotness is in the eye of the beholder. Are we not allowed to find modesty attractive? What exactly are we allowed to do? What dictionary are you getting this ridiculous definition from anyway?

Unfortunately the false constructions are only just beginning.

You are literally sending the message to young girls, who are already struggling with self-confidence, that hiding their body makes them more attractive.

Ok, full stop: no.

Number one, the message is directed at the girls who are resistant to the dress code changes. I have to make an assumption here that the changes are in the more conservative direction (less cleavage, longer skirts, no bare stomachs, that kind of thing) since again, you don’t actually bother to give us any context. Girls who can feel comfortable baring their bodies to the world are not the ones with body-image issues, and they’re not the ones the dress code is there to protect primarily. It’s the girls whose hips grew before their breasts, the chubby girls, the awkward girls, the girls whose parents don’t buy them trendy, titillating clothes whose body-image issues are assuaged by these kinds of rules.

Of course, in an ideal world, we would all have the self-confidence not to feel threatened by the girls who gain all of their puberty weight in their breasts (and who willfully show it off to every pair of eyeballs), but guess what? That’s part of growing up. It’s something you learn, and learning it is easier in an environment that encourages people to focus on less superficial aspects of ourselves.

It's like this movie never happened.

Number two, the message is actually “You will still look good when dressed in accordance with the dress code, maybe even better,” not “You look like shit with that disgusting body of yours exposed to the world.” Again he’s talking to the girls who are comfortable putting their bodies out there in an enticing manner, who want to be seen as looking good and who enjoy the attention it draws. These girls are naturally going to be worried that they will lose some of this power when forced to cover up more. The principal is merely trying to communicate, through a dorky half-rhyme, that these fears are unwarranted, because you will likely look even better when dressed appropriately for school.

You are establishing a sense of shame in these young, developing minds and bodies.

I just want to point out that shame does not dwell within the body, except insofar as brains are part of our bodies and consciousness is in a sense “in” the brain. I mention this because a mind-body dichotomy viewpoint underlies many of her subsequent claims.

A human has the right to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. 

This is an unsupported claim and certainly not a commonly held belief. Regardless, rights are a tricky issue best left out of this discussion.

Showing less skin doesn't make you any more attractive. Showing more skin does not make you any less attractive. 

This is patently false. The vast majority of people look better with clothes on. That’s why a $1.5 trillion dollar fashion industry exists. The very few who don’t (mostly men, in my opinion, but I’m probably biased in this area), well, of course they look better showing more skin! It’s all good, though, because guess what? For the most part, you can dress to look your best (or not- however you choose). Unless you’re a man, that is.

Get back to me when men can be taken seriously while dressed like this.

I’ve never understood this incessant refrain that informing someone that they have the ability to control how well they look harms their self-esteem. Why? I just gave you agency. I just gave you power. I just gave you metaphysical efficacy, for fuck’s sake! Take it, it’s yours!

"No, you can't have sleeves on your armor. What are you, a woman?"

Instead our author seems to believe that the path to self-esteem lies just to the left of internalizing the idea of attractiveness as a fixed, immutable quantity tied irrevocably to your naked form. That’s surely going to boost the self-esteem of some people, namely well-endowed teenage girls who foolishly believe their anime bodies will stick around forever. For the unfortunate girls who won’t grow breasts until they secretly go on the pill during college, well, I guess self-esteem is just out of your reach.

When someone calls you attractive that just means that they are attracted to you.

But actually at the same time, attractiveness is completely mutable, she says with grammatically dubious phrasing. Your attractiveness, while not dependent on your state of dress, is dependent on what other people think. And then I guess somehow this other-orientation is turned into a recipe for self-esteem?

I hate to be a pain about a teen blogger’s English comprehension skills again, but where did she get the idea that saying “That’s attractive” means the same thing as “I’m attracted to you?” That must make for some really awkward social situations. Does her father never tell her she looks pretty? Or is he not permitted to speak in her feminist household? In human-speak, different phrasings connote different meanings, and saying “I’m attracted to you” carries a much, much more personal and sexual meaning than “You are attractive.”

Then again, she might merely be employing a cheap rhetorical trick to sneak in a fourth term that might, oh I don’t know, insinuate pedophilic intent on the part of her principal.

At what point in your career did you find it appropriate to define my "hotness"? Why are you at all concerned with how "hot" I am? You are teaching us, through modesty, to be objects of sexual arousal. 

"I get off on skirts that hit below the knee."

Oh, good, right on schedule. “Why are you, you older man you, thinking about my attractiveness anyway? You disgusting perv.” Then she becomes truly unhinged. Rather than seeing the obvious- that he was trying to assure girls that following the dress code would not make them look less attractive- she declares he’s brain-washing them into becoming sex objects, and in an extremely literal sense, too, given her use of the unusually graphic term “arousal.” Utterly bizarre.

I'm sorry, but I don't dress myself to look "hot" for anyone. I dress myself as a way of expressing my body and myself. If covering up my body is supposed to make people sexually and physically attracted to me, then how would those people feel if I decide to have sexual relations with them, without clothes on?

Now it’s time to lie through her teeth. “I don't dress myself to look ‘hot’ for anyone” has got to be the tiredest line in the book, and it’s only spouted by people who a) are definitely dressing to look hot for others and b) have internalized an anti-sex attitude. Like we’re not supposed to pursue sex, it’s just supposed to fall into our laps. Like we’re the only species on earth that reproduces sexually but has no mating rituals. Like Shakespeare didn’t write the perfect comeback to such nonsense 400 years ago. I guess when you spend an hour more getting ready for a date versus a regular school day, it’s just that you’re really trying to express yourself extra hard, huh?

"I'm a sexy woman so STOP OBJECTIFYING ME!"

Let’s suppose, Marion dear, you really are the one cute girl in history who isn’t trying to attract attention with her looks. Well, then, his comments weren’t about you, were they? Did you ever stop to think for a second that maybe probably definitely there are other girls who do care about how attractive they are and that possibly your principal was talking to them? Did it even occur to you that it might not be all about you?

I don’t mean to be overly harsh, my sweet girl. It’s just that I know. I spouted the exact same drivel when I was your age and too ashamed to admit that I was trying to look hot for fear of being unsuccessful. Adults do it, too, and it’s frankly an embarrassment. The infamous duckface was invented for this exact purpose- as a hedge to hide behind in case your attempt at a sexy selfie doesn’t work out. “Oh, no, I wasn’t really trying to look hot, I was just being silly. Lulz, duckface!”

"Stop treating me like I'm 2-dimensional."

Btw do you see how I mix metaphors like an absolute pro?

Moving on:

How am I supposed to love and feel proud of my naked body and develop a sense of sexuality when exposing my body is deemed shameful and unattractive?

Not sure about the how, but I’m damn sure about the where: NOT AT SCHOOL. You’re not being asked to cover up because it’s shameful to be exposed; you’re being asked to cover up because it’s impolite and illegal to run around buck naked. Whether that ought to be a social norm or not is another discussion, but you need only observe the widespread use of clothing across human societies- even on the equator- to induce that a practical purpose underlies the practice. It’s not about shame, it’s about keeping the sand out of your vagina, something the author clearly needs help with.

Since when should being "hot" be my concern? I don't want to be with someone who just thinks I'm hot. I want to be with someone who loves and respects all the parts of my mind, personality and body. THAT'S what you should be teaching, not "how to be hot."

And we’re now about as far off-topic as we can get. A dress code discussion is supposed to teach you how to choose a romantic partner? Remind me again whether your principal should be thinking about your sex life or not; it’s so hard to keep track, Marion.

Now’s a good time to take a look at the argument map Marion offers up. For convenience, I’ll skip over any wholly irrelevant claims:

Out-of-context quotation “modest is hottest” -> false construction based on inapplicable definition of “modesty” -> fourth term smuggled in (“shame”) -> insertion of mind-body dichotomy -> false assertion that attractiveness is based on body alone -> assertion that attractiveness is based on other’s perception -> false construction and package-dealing attractiveness with sex based on inapplicable definition of “attractive” -> dishonest questions and ad hominems (ad pedophilia) -> package-dealing sexual attraction with sexual objectification -> series of non-sequiturs reinforcing the previous mind-body dichotomy and package-dealing -> one final fourth term equating “looks matter” (a previously employed fourth term) with “only looks matter” -> conclusion that a dress code discussion should teach minors what to look for in a romantic relationship

Look what a mess you've made (of your argument)! I am *not* cleaning this up for you.

At least one out of the 90 commenters on HuffPo managed to catch wind of this bullshit, although he failed to recognize the extent of it.

I do want to draw particular attention to the last smuggled fourth term (perhaps better called the “umpteenth term”): the claim that any attempt to look or even to have awareness of hotness necessarily excludes concern for anything else. We’re all familiar with such package-dealing when it comes to physical attractiveness, where valuing it at all is morphed by feeble minds into valuing it at the expense of intelligence or good character or other spiritual qualities. This is the kind of sloppy thinking that gets my panties in a particularly Gordian bunch. It’s such a lame rhetorical trick that should be obvious to anyone, yet even very intelligent people fall for it over and over and over, especially when a sense of moral righteousness or a “cause” has clouded their judgment.

But it’s extra offensive here because guess what? Encouraging teens to focus on spiritual values is another big reason why we don’t allow kids to dress like prostitutes at school! She’s basically taken us full circle, from “Conservative dress codes (somehow) cause body shame” to “Focusing on my body demeans my mind (somehow)” without ever noticing the incredibly obvious link between conservative dress codes and an emphasis on the value of the mind. Incredible.

Now for some feminist modern poetry:

My body is not a sinful temptation that needs to be hidden.
My body is not your personal, sexual object.
My body does not overshadow my character.
My body is not any more sexual than a man's body.
My body is not here to look "hot" for you.

Ooh, this looks like fun. Let me try:

This statement is not an accurate characterization of what was said.
This statement is not something anyone said, and it says more about you than about your opponents that you’re so eager to couch the argument in such terms.
This statement is not likely true based on what you’ve shown of your character thus far.
This statement is not remotely relevant, but I will say that tea prices in Beijing have gone way up recently.
This statement is not false, but unfortunately your body doesn’t seem to be housing your brain either. What is your body here for, exactly?

On to part deux:

Next up is his second statement, "boys will be boys."

Being a boy refers to your gender. That's all.

It does not make you constantly sexually aroused, animalistic or sexually uncontrollable, but for some reason society has come to the conclusion that you are this stereotype. This is extremely sad. This gender stereotype is unfair to all men. By telling them who they are as a man you are absolutely taking away their moral agency. "But he's a teenager. He's raging with hormones." You don't think I'm raging with hormones as well? Believe me I am.

Once again, we start with a definition that is shady as fuck. “Boy” refers to gender and nothing else, huh? Ummmmmyeeeeah, no. “Boy” can refer to sex, gender, age, status, masculinity, or any of the associated behaviors, attitudes, physical attributes, or preferences. Yes, Marion, there is a Context Clause. For extra credit, why don’t you try calling the next black man you meet “boy” and see how that only-gender definition works in your defense. But, hey, kudos, I guess, for the part where you pretend for a second to treat men and boys as human beings. Let’s see how long it takes to make this about rape, shall we?

When the people who do sexually harass other people happen to be male and you use the excuse "boys will be boys," you are not only excusing their behavior, you are condoning it.

Sexual harassment. Close, but I think we can do better.

It's this "boys will be boys" mentality, culture and attitude that condone sexual assault. Whenever the excuse "boys will be boys" is used, it's just an exercise of male privilege. You are telling them that it's okay for them to be sexually violent.

We have a winner: “condoning sexual assault,” “male privilege,” *and* “sexual violence” in the same paragraph. Lord have mercy, we’ve struck radfem gold.

Why am I being so derisive here? After all, sexual assault is very serious blah blah blah. Well, that’s why. By taking the phrase “boys will be boys” out of a discussion of dress code, in which it would mean “we can’t have distractions in the classroom and unfortunately given the nature of teenaged boys your cleavage is a distraction,” and turning it into some kind of perpetuation of our mythical rape culture, the author is horrifically trivializing rape. She essentially wants to draw a straight line from children staring at cleavage to violent sexual assault. That’s as offensive as it is idiotic.

She admits to her share of raging hormones, so does she equally acknowledge that her drooling over the school heartthrob could easily turn into raping him in a broom closet? Well, statistically speaking that’s equally likely as the scenario with the genders reversed. I guess girls will be girls, too, huh? In fact, I bet if I give her a little more time, she’ll prove my point for me.

Sex needs to stop being about “no - it's bad dirty gross shameful,” and start being about, “yes - let's have consenting sex because I want to.”

Care to guess what the scariest word in that sentence is? Let’s have consenting sex because I want to. Not because we want to. There’s no “we” in sex, after all. While her next beat poem chides those who treat boys as incapable of controlling their sexuality, she seems to blithely assume that boys are constantly ready and willing to bang and merely awaiting her go-ahead.

That must be a real comfort to the 1.2 million men forcibly raped by women every year.

It needs to be about consent. That's what you should be teaching. Not, "well, you know how they are... boys will be boys!"

Take note, educators everywhere: any explanation of your school’s dress code should include first a thorough explanation of the proper criteria for choosing a romantic partner and second a detailed discussion of sex and consent. These are completely on-topic and not at all weird things to bring up. They will absolutely not upset any parents; result in any lawsuits, statutory rape charges, or firings; cost your district any federal funding; nor violate Title IX or state sexual harassment laws in any way. Your duty is first and foremost to guide your students down the path toward becoming sexual beings, even the ones too young to legally consent in your state. It’s all about sex, don’t you see? So stop being a perv and making it about sex with your talk of modesty and so-called “boys,” you creepy old man, you!
Non-sequitur poetry time!

Boys are not sexually uncontrollable. ->You must be new to the conversation. The topic is “dress codes.”
Boys do not have a genetic, animalistic, violent nature.
->Apparently boys don’t have DNA.
Boys are not born with a natural desire for destruction or control.
->Funny how the mere mention of how boys behave makes you bring up destruction and control. You don’t think “goofy” or “playful” or “easily distracted” or something more mildly hateful like “smelly” or “gross.” Nope, it’s straight to violence stemming from power-lust, with a “rape is about power” artificial cherry on top. Maybe you should stop for a minute and ask yourself why that is.

Despite what society and culture keeps trying to cram down everyone's throat, having a penis doesn't make it okay to sexually harass someone. The false idea that men can't control themselves is so unfair and completely ridiculous.

Seriously? First you use the words “cram,” “throat,” and “penis” in the same sentence and can’t even manage to make a decent joke out of it, and then you repeat the unfair and completely ridiculous claim that society somehow approves of sexual harassment despite, oh I don’t know, having laws against it, multimillion dollar lawsuits punishing it, a billion-dollar industry dedicated to eradicating it, and a major news source reprinting your stupid fucking rant about it? Does that sound like a culture that “condones” sexual harassment? Maybe try reading something like, I don’t know, not Tumblr before you try to comment on what the world is like. Jesus.

And now for my intended audience (not you, my five regular readers, but I do hope you’ll follow along just for fun): how on this floating ball of magma are there so many of you praising this tripe? Just praising would be bad enough, but I’ve seen people doxxing the principal by publishing his name and work email on Facebook while Maid Marion gets to enjoy the anonymity granted by her minor status. That is totally outrageous.

Look, I’m sympathetic to the “sex-positive” folks out there (except for the part where the sex-positive movement was pretty much entirely manufactured by fourth wave feminists and is frequently used for ends far more nefarious than email-bombing a hapless high school principal; but I digress). Yes, we live in a puritanical society. Yes, sex is often demonized. Yes, sexual behavior is healthy and normal for teens and should not be repressed. But it’s simply fucking retarded to think that these problems ought to be solved in a public school setting. Aside from inviting an enormous encroachment on civil liberties- including the rights of parents- it’s just fucking weird to “teach” sex in a classroom setting. In fact that is the only legitimately “rapey” suggestion in this entire hoopla.

As with all issues in education, the fundamental answer is that we’re doing basically everything wrong in that department, and fixing one bit here or there isn’t going to make much of a difference. We’ve still been poisoned by Progressive education, as Ms. Marion sadly illustrates, and we’re not going to turn it around and start producing people who can think by making a few tweaks to what is a fundamentally broken system. However, since systemic overhaul is unlikely to happen any time soon, I’m open to debating the question of how to make things slightly less horrifically bad. Might this include introducing some pro-sex talking points into public school curriculums? Not really, in my opinion, but if you’d like to try that approach write your fucking Congressman, not a random principal. Talk to the person who designs the machine, not the cog in the wheel.

I'm running out of picture ideas, so have this cute duck.

And while you’re at it, maybe address the systemic censorship schools enact via dress codes literally everywhere. Maybe mention the kids (mostly boys) sent home for their self-expression in the form of words and images on t-shirts. Images like weapons or the silhouette of a curvaceous woman or the logo of an organization. Words supporting political causes or groups, in favor of or against various wars, pro-life or pro-choice, or touching on gay rights. Time and time again, schools have to be reminded that the First Amendment applies to them, too, while time and time again the dress codes change only in enforcement, not in principle.

Shutting down this type of self-expression- words on shirts as opposed to cleavage pouring out of them- is frankly more important than the marginal impact one principal’s comments might have on some teen’s sex life. Actually, it’s the most important. This censorship cuts off discussion, arrests thought, and does severe damage to the self-esteem and identities of kids who are trying to find their voices and define their values. So forgive me if I think it’s pathetic to put any effort toward Marion’s cause. I’m too busy concerning myself with the people punished for displaying the ideas in their minds rather than the tits on their chests.

Yours in Modesty,

S. Misanthrope

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Simply perfect. I applaud.