The Fem Spot

Whatever happened to “asshole?”

Posted in Film and Television, Humor, Pop Culture, queer theory by femspotter on February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010

I love “The Daily Show!” (I love it apart from its inability to be embedded in my blog.) Thanks to Faemom, I was on the lookout for the following clip on February 3, 2010. Click below:

“Male Inequality”

Every time I view this clip, I laugh out loud. If you watched it and you didn’t laugh, you might need professional psychiatric intervention. Seriously. Don’t operate any heavy machinery. You should probably stay away from sharp objects too.

To recap: “Men today are probably where women were in the late 50’s; we’re about a half century behind women in terms of being understood, in terms of having options,” declares author and sociologist Warren Farrell. Right. “He’s right,” Samantha Bee says. Oh? “Men run just 4…hundred and 85 of our Fortune 500 companies and only three branches of government.” I see, Samantha. Poor men. What am I thinking being a feminist?

According to Farrell, men have been shut out of pharmaceutical sales positions because they aren’t sexually attractive to the mostly heterosexual male population of doctors that form the pharmaceutical consumer base. By his logic, pharmaceutical sales is a more desirable job prospect than medicine and women dominate the former because they are physically attractive to the latter. So doctors are misunderstood and have few options while women must rely on their attractiveness to men to get ahead? And that’s progress for women because…we now can get ahead in our careers by being sex objects? Similarly, men are disadvantaged from an early age as football players because cheerleaders – long the rulers of the high school sports universe – don’t respect and compliment fallen football heroes. Yeah…those dominant cheerleaders and sexy pharmaceutical saleswomen are really a problem for men!

Enter the Better Men Organization: nothing wrong with this organization in principle – in fact, I think it’s a very good idea, but their complaint in this segment is that men today really aren’t getting what they need, which is social acceptance to gather. Right. It’s not socially acceptable for men to gather at bars, strip clubs or sports arenas. And men are never known to gather acceptably in the woods where they would certainly be restricted from complaining about their wives.

Let’s face it: the fact that any men in America are complaining about their overall subordination to powerful women is laughable. Sure, some men are oppressed in violent relationships or at jobs overseen by power-tripping female supervisors. And many men suffer in unhappiness or die violent, painful deaths. But after thousands of years of world domination, men as a collective have NOTHING to complain about. Even if women as a class were to take over ruling the world, it would simply be a taste of men’s own medicine spooned back to them.

Bravo, Samantha Bee! In light of the fact that so few women are working as writers and performers on late night comedy shows – and even if that weren’t the case, you are a beacon of humor and wisdom for feminists. While I don’t agree that sensitivity and soft-spoken qualities in men should be labeled with a designation that’s “puss-related” – simply because the reverse can also be inflicted on women with a condemnation when we aren’t sensitive and soft-spoken, I champion your ability to poke fun at these shortsighted, complaining men.

Well, except for that last statement you made: “Attention middle-aged vagina men: sack the fuck up! Seriously. You’re turning me into a lesbian.” While there’s nothing anti-feminist about Bee’s preference for traditionally masculine men, there is something irksome in her use of the term “vagina men.” Why? Because it is negatively wielded and implies that only those with vaginas (i.e. women) can be socially acceptable as sensitive and emotionally expressive; thus compounding one lament of the Better Men Organization. And furthermore, because this use of the word vagina, something uniquely female, is derogatory, it is thus derogatory to women even though not intended to insult anybody but the men in the talking stick circle.

Now, as I said before, I love “The Daily Show” and I really appreciate Samantha Bee’s refreshing perspective. But this use of female-identified words as derogatory designations for men has got to stop. Terms like “vagina men,” “douche,” “douchebag,” and “pussy,” or “pusswad” as Bee uses in the segment, are all related to female anatomy and imply, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that female anatomy is inferior to male anatomy and thus that females are inferior to males. Why don’t we keep sex-defining anatomy out of it? Instead of “douchebag,” why not use insults like “loser,” “idiot” or “jerk?” Instead of calling the Better Men Organization “vagina men,” couldn’t Bee have called them “weaklings,” “freaks” or “wimps?” That is what she meant, is it not?

We’ve grown accustom to using these genitalia-related words and have forgotten that they discriminate. Even calling somebody a “dick” implies aggression typically associated with men. Can you or would you call a woman a “dick?” Usually, the term for an aggressive female is “bitch,” which is also derogatory because it historically refers to female dogs. This verbiage keeps us entrenched in our gender binary: women are passive and subordinate, and men are active and dominant forces in the world. At least “asshole” refers to something everybody has. Ergo, use it freely.

Urban Dictionary provides modern connotations for many of these slang terms we use – submitted by the users of them, many of them rooted in misogyny:

  • Vagina: female opening to the uterus and an insult as in “Man’gina,” which is an outwardly masculine, heterosexual male who fusses or whines about typically female things like hair care products or cramps
  • Douche: product used to sanitize an unpleasant, dirty vagina and a word to describe an individual who has shown (himself) to be very brainless in one way or another, thus comparing (him) to the cleansing product for vaginas
  • Douchebag: an item consisting of a rubber bag, tube and nozzle, used to clean a woman’s vagina and an individual who has an over-inflated sense of self worth, compounded by a low level of intelligence
  • Pussy: a nice name for a cat, slang for women’s genitals and cowardly
  • Pusswad: guy who is a vagina or pussy

I cringe every time I hear one of these terms being used because I know that they are based on the gender binary that I’d like to see dissolved. But it really irks me when I hear or read feminists using these terms. How can we? Don’t we at large know that they are based in the assumption that we and our woman parts are inferior to men and their man parts? You don’t hear people calling another a “bidet,” an “aftershave” or a “nose hair trimmer,” which are items typically used by men and might be wielded to refer to a traditionally masculine female in a tone rooted in misandry. So why do we feminists and others continue to use terminology that is rooted in misogyny: terminology that implies that our woman parts and thus ourselves are “whin(y),” “fuss(y),” “unpleasant,” “dirty,” “brainless,” “cowardly,” passive, subordinate and weak? Stop it, I say. Stop it right now.

I believe that our collective decision to do away with such terminology is one step toward doing away with gender and equalizing the sexes. The result: women can run more than 15 Fortune 500 companies and at least one branch of government without fear of being called “bitches.” And men can sit in circles and communicate their feelings to one another without fear of being labeled “vagina men,” or even “wimps.”

Don’t worry. There will still be plenty of ridiculous ignorance in the world for Samantha Bee to wittily poke fun at.

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7 Responses

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  1. faemom said, on March 2, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Great post. I loved that segmant, but you’re right about the derogatory terms used by Samantha Bee. I was a little put off by how insulting she was to those men.

    Warren Farrellis crazy. I just read some of the stuff from his book. Some stuff I can get behind. We need to prevent male suicide. I think women should serve in the military at the same capacity as men. I adhore sending men to war. No one should be raped. But then he says insane things like: Rape is a man being addicted to woman’s beauty. News flash: Not all women who are raped are beautiful. Or he’s upset because women are 11% of the military but 12% of the officers. Oh, Lord, stop the presses. He also makes a distinction that women “report” that they suffer depression more. WTF? We’re not going by the reports; we’re assuming they’re lying. Or the fact that men commit suicide to become less of a burden and women attempt to become more of the center of the network. Right. Women are manipulative all the way to their death. I am debating reading the book for laughs and outrage.

    • femspotter said, on March 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks! I have to admit that Farrell does have a point when it comes to fallen sports heroes; but when he makes it contingent upon the fact that women are rarely said heroes to begin with but are instead in a position to support sports stars by cheering them on rather than finding glory themselves – in “powder puff” football, WTF? – he discredits himself. And the pharmaceutical example is just bullshit. The clip is funny because statements are taken out of context; that’s generally “The Daily Show” M.O. I don’t agree with making fun of soft-spoken men because it negates our female right to be assertive. You can’t put restrictions on one sex without having it backfire for the other sex. People should just feel free to be themselves. I love soft-spoken men. :)

  2. Summerspeaker said, on March 9, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    It’s nice to see the Daily Show doing something at least moderately pro-feminist. However, I find Samantha Bee’s rhetoric against the organization somewhat more troubling than you do. She packs a solar mass of baggage into these two sentences:

    “Attention middle-aged vagina men: sack the fuck up! Seriously. You’re turning me into a lesbian.”

    Ah yes. Men should be manly so women don’t go queer. Where have I heard that before? It’s an old argument replete with oppressive implications.

    • femspotter said, on March 10, 2010 at 8:33 am

      You’re right. I addressed the term “vagina men.” While I have no problem with a personal preference for aggression in the desired sex, she is implying that these men are even less strong and decisive than the typical woman – projections such as these onto men and women only reinforce the gender binary that is so corrosive to our individual feelings of self-worth.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Hans Laven said, on October 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Why do you think men deserve criticism and jealousy for taking responsibility in leadership roles? This is men’s contribution to society and results for most in early death due to stress-related illnesses, and during their lives serious restrictions on their opportunity to enjoy and to bond with their children. Similarly, men occupy almost exclusively the most dangerous, uncomfortable, dirty and body-wrecking jobs required to maintain the infrastructure of our privileged civilization. Men are overwhelmingly the ones who die or are maimed in mines, sewers, on building sites and fishing boats. Men are biologically driven to be providers and protectors; why do feminists continue to view that as a source of resentment while at the same time insisting that women continue to exploit that same role in areas such as (so-called) child support that is really mainly financial exploitation of men to maintain the lifestyles of women who have shunned all reciprocal obligation?

    Most western countries have long ago made it illegal to discriminate in job selection on the basis of gender. If, under those circumstances, women have not yet taken up more stressful leadership positions or most of the most horrible jobs that men are still willing to undertake, then that will have a lot to do with women’s own choices and priorities. Stop complaining and instead manage your own careers if you really do want to die in a mine or in a company boardroom.

    Speaking of naughty terminology, we are at the point in some companies where we could refer to the “broadroom”, but we are much further away from needing to coin terms to reflect any female presence in mines and sewers.

  4. Howitzer said, on April 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    While we’re talking about queer sexuality, trans men have vaginas too, so…

    I guess its not uniquely female anatomy

    • femspotter said, on April 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Don’t trans men with vaginas consider themselves female?


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