The Fem Spot

Oprah, how could you?

Posted in Feminist Theory, media, News by femspotter on February 12, 2010

February 14, 2010

The question of whether of not Oprah identifies herself as “feminist” isn’t easy to answer. I asked Google and it told me what other people think, but I haven’t been able to find out what she herself thinks of feminism and whether or not she belongs to our club, divided though it may be. I had always assumed that Oprah was a feminist, and my kind of feminist at that: one who worked hard to empower women. She’s somebody who has struck a clean balance between changing the system of television to suit her and adapting to the establishment to get ahead. For all of her wealth and success, it’s what she does for other women that interests me most. Do I care if she calls herself a feminist? Not really.

It may be more accurate to label Oprah – if you’re interested in labels – a “humanist.” She’s certainly a philanthropist and works to relieve poverty, aid struggling veterans, educate the world’s children and encourage others to give. So perhaps her interests lie less in helping women specifically and more in helping humanity. As she herself has said, “Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have.” Good for you, Oprah! I know several women who would consider themselves humanists rather than feminists. You don’t have to be part of team feminism if you don’t want to.

But feminists have sometimes demanded that she show allegiance to women specifically. Why? Is it because women have formed the core of her consumer base and can be partially credited with Oprah’s rise to power and fame? Okay. I get that. What’s fair is fair. I don’t agree that Oprah was in the wrong for endorsing Barack Obama for President instead of Hillary Clinton back in the 2008 Democratic primary. According to the TimesOnline, critics of Oprah’s decision flooded her Oprah.com expressing anger that she chose “her race over her (sex)” and calling her a “traitor.” Oprah wasn’t the only prominent woman to choose Obama, however. According to The Huffington Post on February 3, 2008, “(m)ore than 100 New York feminist leaders released a joint statement Sunday afternoon criticizing Hillary Clinton and supporting Obama for president – evidence that Clinton’s support among women activists (had) declined significantly in the days before the super-Tuesday primary.”

It’s not anti-feminist to choose a male political candidate over a female candidate because you agree with his message more than you agree with hers. Just like it wouldn’t have been racist for Oprah to have endorsed Clinton over Obama.

I’ll tell you what is anti-feminist: endorsing somebody who hurts women. As far as I know, Obama is not guilty of that. However, David Letterman is.

Let me be very clear about one very important thing: I am not condemning (nor am I condoning) Letterman’s act of cheating on his girlfriend/wife.

Cheating is a moral issue and we, as feminists, cannot be party solely to moralizing another’s sexuality. If we allowed ourselves to do that – to say things like “cheating is wrong” and “marriage is best when monogamous” – we validate arguments made against some of our causes like “abortion is wrong” and “gay marriage is immoral,” etc. Morality has no place in the feminist analysis of Letterman’s 2009 sexual scandal, in my opinion. You can personally shame Letterman, but when representing Feminism (capital F), you need to remember the question at hand, which is NOT was Letterman acting immorally, but is rather was Letterman acting illegally and hurting the Feminist (capital F) agenda for female equality? The answer to the first question is a draw because different feminists have different moralities. The answer to the second question: YES!

How did he do that, you might ask? In a nutshell, David Letterman allegedly created a hostile work environment for women at his production company. Women may have perceived that: 1. sleeping with Letterman could advance their careers in television, a truly unequal realm for women and 2. not sleeping with Letterman could result in damage to their careers or even dismissal from employment. That’s illegal: maybe not criminal to result in jail time, but against the law nonetheless. So why is David Letterman getting a pass?

“Prove it,” says the iron (man) judicial system. It’s difficult to prove when the women who slept with Letterman are likely afraid to call any more attention to themselves for fear of damaging their careers subsequent to working with Letterman. Almost nobody hires the woman who allegedly slept her way to the top, thereby belying her professional credibility, unless the hirer anticipates the employee doing it again for his own benefit or unless the hirer is a feminist looking to give the woman a break. And sexual harassment is also difficult to prove because it usually boils down to a he said-she said argument with no possible victor.

The history of Letterman’s love life in the professional arena according to ABC News is as follows:

Just before he was named the host of NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” in 1982, he began dating (Merrill) Markoe, who would become the show’s head writer… In typical Letterman fashion, he and (Regina) Lasko (a former “Late Show” staff member) were married in a secret ceremony on March 19, 2009 at the Teton County Courthouse in Choteau, Mont. The couple already had a son together, Harry, in 2003… (In October) a CBS News employee tried to blackmail (Letterman) for $2 million by exposing the sexual affairs he had with female subordinates… His admission on the air (Oct.1) to having not just a one-time romantic affair with a single staffer but to having ‘sex with women who work with me on this show,’ shed new light on what the public does know about his love life.

Entertainment Weekly coverReportedly, none of Letterman’s affairs outside his relationship with Lasko occurred during their marriage. While that may be comforting to fans and Lasko alike, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not Letterman’s behavior constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. The focus of the legal investigation surrounding the scandal has been on the blackmail. The public consequence for Letterman: a little embarrassment. The Oct. 14 cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine depicted Letterman with his pants down. Ha ha! His show’s ratings rose temporarily and then drifted back to where they were before the scandal. Nobody cares about the female employees it seems; nobody but us feminists. “‘Clearly CBS has a moral and political obligation to investigate this,’ says NOW president Terry O’Neill, who’s also a lawyer. But a Worldwide Pants spokesman says that the company circulates an employee manual each year that addresses harassment, while also saying, ‘Dave is not in violation of our policy, and no one has ever raised a complaint against him.'” (Oh, why did O’Neill use the word “moral?”)

At least one former staffer has spoken out about the professional atmosphere under Letterman’s employ since the scandal broke, though she didn’t report it to Human Resources during her tenure. Nell Scovell wrote “Letterman and Me” for Vanity Fair online.

At this moment, there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for ‘Late Show with David Letterman,’ ‘The Jay Leno Show,’ and ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’ combined. Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women. It would be funny if it weren’t true. Late-night talk shows have long snubbed female writers… There’s a subset of sexual harassment called sexual favoritism that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, can lead to a ‘hostile work environment,’ often ‘creating an atmosphere that is demeaning to women.’ And that pretty much sums up my experience at ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’

Scovell goes on to claim that, while Letterman never hit on her, he did pay her enough extra attention that another writer spoke to her about it. She claims that Letterman and other “high-level male employees” were having sex with female employees and that these affairs gave the women in them an advantage over other women in that workplace by virtue of favoritism and their having additional access to information that allowed them to “wield power disproportionate to their job titles.” Scovell concludes that there was most definitely a hostile work environment permeating the show and that she felt demeaned. So, she quit, or as she puts it, “I walked away from my dream job.”

Now why are David Letterman and his fellow high-level male employees getting a pass and what does all of this have to do with Oprah?

Well, as I mentioned before, sexual harassment is difficult to prove and as CBS asserts nobody ever reported Letterman for it. Of course, that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. But several high-profile women have given Dave a pass just like his audience. On “The View,” Barbara Walters remarked that Dave “is a very attractive man” and excused his affairs by saying that it’s perfectly acceptable to meet people and begin relationships at work and by claiming that she could recite a list of names of executives who were guilty of the same thing. As if that makes it alright! Joy Behar called Letterman “smart” and championed his political savvy in revealing his affairs rather than denying them. And Oprah appeared with him in a high-profile Super Bowl commercial to promote his television show. Take a look:

Whether or not this spot is funny is irrelevant to this discussion. Oprah agreed to do the spot to promote Letterman’s show and possibly, if he hasn’t learned his lesson, unwittingly to keep a hostile work environment for women in play over at the “The Late Show.” There are those who would point out that Letterman is innocent of sexual harassment until proven guilty. I agree. But that doesn’t make him any less responsible for it. Whether the legal system catches up with David Letterman or not, he and his production company are responsible to Scovell and others who endured the hostile work environment of his creation. And Oprah, as a female pioneer of the male-dominated industry that is television, should know better and should champion equal opportunities for women in its workplaces. I see her actions as anti-feminist and as a direct violation of women’s equality in the workplace. She can hold any moral opinion of Letterman in private, but as a public personality I think she should stand for what’s right for women.

Am I seriously off the mark here? Is Oprah only responsible to women if she wears the feminist label? Is she responsible to women at all?

Advertisements

Dear Hillary…

Posted in Feminist Theory, media, News, Politics, Sexuality by femspotter on October 28, 2009

October 28, 2009

Dear Hillary,

On Saturday night in suburban San Francisco, California,  a 15-year-old girl was reportedly gang raped by as many as 10 male teenage attackers while another 10 stood by and watched, maybe even cheered. She was left unconscious beneath a bench on Richmond High School property after more than two hours of this ordeal.

I read about this incident on CNN.com on Tuesday morning and couldn’t believe it had happened. I found it reminiscent of the gang rape of a mentally challenged teenage girl in Glen Ridge, New Jersey in 1989, which I’d read a book about. Well, thought I, after stomping my fists and wailing at the top of my lungs; at least these types of incidents are few and far between.

But later I remembered that in 2008, in the neighboring town of Montclair, N.J., three teenage boys sexually assaulted a female teenage special education student. As in the Glen Ridge incident, the young men used a broomstick to penetrate the girl. Well, thought I, after scratching my head and whimpering; at least that’s only two recent incidents in the United States. I don’t, after all, reside in Afghanistan, for instance, where 90 percent of married women are abused by their husbands. The U.S. is a safe haven for women and girls.

On Tuesday, I waited for other news outlets to pick up the story of the San Francisco teen. I periodically googled “San Francisco gang rape.” Surprisingly, I found very little about the Saturday night incident, and instead stumbled across a December, 2008 gang rape of a lesbian female by four men, two teens and two adults, also near San Francisco. The four had spotted the woman’s car, which displayed a rainbow bumper sticker, shouted hateful epithets at her, struck her with a blunt object, raped her, drove her to an abandoned building, raped her again, and left her naked just outside the building before driving off in her car. Well, thought I, after gasping and digging my fingernails into my thighs; at least gang rape is just a San Francisco and northern N.J. thing.

But then I remembered the similar hate crime of Brandon Teena (nee Teena Brandon) in 1993 in Humboldt, Nebraska. Two men raped and murdered Teena, and also murdered two bystanders, because they hated – and likely feared – Teena’s choice to live his life as a male, though born a female. Perhaps you’ve seen the film adaptation of this incident starring Hilary Swank: Boys Don’t Cry? Well, thought I, after reliving the horror of the film and emotional ruin it left me in; at least it’s only gangs and pairs that hate women enough to murder them indiscreetly.

Oh, wait: George Sodini indiscreetly shot at women in a Pennsylvania gym in August, killing three women and then himself and wounding nine others because, as his personal blog so clearly stipulated, he was tired of 19 years of rejection by women and sexually frustrated. “Thanks for nada, bitches!” he wrote in June. And previously, in 2006, lone gunman Charles C. Roberts IV shot 10 girls, killing five and himself, at an Amish schoolhouse in Pa. leaving behind a hint or two about his unfortunate longing to molest little girls. Perhaps, he shot them out of rage and bewilderment that they existed to tempt him. Well, thought I, after digging to find all the facts of these two incidents and finding myself thoroughly disgusted and alarmed; maybe there’s something in the water…in Pa., Neb., N.J. and Calif.

Why do some men hate women, in the U.S. and abroad? Why do they want to beat us into submission? Why do they want to kill us in heinous ways? Why don’t they want us to be happy with powerful, singular identities and exciting, fulfilling sex lives? Why won’t they let us take control of our reproductive rights without a fight? Why won’t they let us be mothers and lovers at the same time, sinners and saints simultaneously?

There exists a pervasive hatred and fear of women in our American culture. Whether movies, television, art and literature reflect or cause this fear escapes my understanding. But it all culminates at a rigid point: collectively, we believe women are one thing or the other, limited by our sex to be either good or bad. The “good” women are loving mothers, faithful wives, compliant sexual partners and obliging victims. The “bad” women reject their obligations to the “good” tasks, opting for personal pleasure. In other words, “good” women sacrifice themselves for this goodness, while “bad” women sacrifice nothing. As an unnamed Hollywood executive said of Ms. Swank, “Her look and demeanor are not soft, so it’s hard to see her as vulnerable or as a love object.” (Entertainment Weekly, 10-30-09)

Ergo, this Hilary like another Hillary we know, does not fall cleanly into either the “good” or “bad” categories, and is therefore a “difficulty.”

I am reminded of a magnificent argument a certain Secretary of State and former First Lady made to a N.J. Representative in April, 2009 in support of reproductive health and the reproductive health education of women globally and at home, which went largely unnoticed by the media. I am a feminist blogger and I hadn’t heard about it until another blogger called it to the attention of the feminist blogging community. Madame Secretary said:

Congressman, I deeply respect your passionate concern and views which you have championed and advocated for over the course of your public career. We, obviously, have a profound disagreement. When I think about the suffering that I have seen of women around the world; I’ve been in hospitals in Brazil where half the women were enthusiastically and joyfully greeting new babies and the other half were fighting for their lives against botched abortions. I’ve been in African countries where 12 and 13-year-old girls are bearing children. I have been in Asian countries where the denial of family planning consigns women to lives of oppression and hardship…It is my strongly held view that you are entitled to advocate and everyone who agrees with you should be free to do so anywhere in the world, and so are we (the Obama Administration). We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health and reproductive health includes access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal and rare. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to bring down the rate of abortions and it has been my experience that good family planning and good medical care brings down the rate of abortion. Keeping women and men in ignorance and denied the access to services actually increases the rate of abortion…I’m sad to report that after an administration of eight years that undid so much of the good work (of the Clinton Administration), the rate of teenage pregnancy is going up (in the U.S.)…We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women including their rights to reproductive health care.

This statement eloquently confirms the Obama Administration’s commitment to the inalienable human right to life that pregnant women were born with; and that right to survive includes access to legal, safe abortions. The statement also makes clear that Pro-Choice supporters are not crazed baby killers: we are, instead, female protectors fighting for the safety and wellness of women, worldwide. We don’t cheer for abortion but instead believe it to be a necessary component to female reproductive health.

I fear, however, the administration now championed by the Secretary – i.e. that of President Barack Obama – does not share her passion. I fear that President Obama may be… distracted from the goals so clearly described in Madame Secretary’s speech. In July, the President hosted a “Beer Summit” at the White House in honor of a truce struck between affluent Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and a Cambridge, Mass. police officer who had – under national scrutiny – engaged in a “disorderly” scene, which resulted in… no damage to either party.  Earlier this month, Obama traveled to Denmark in a failed attempt to woo the International Olympic Committee into naming Chicago, Illinois, his home town, as the site for the 2016 Olympic Games.  And later this month, Obama hosted an all men’s basketball game at the White House. While he didn’t specifically restrict women players, he didn’t make a point of including them either; just as he doesn’t make a point of following women’s basketball. Personally, I don’t care what the President does during his free time; but on work time he should be cognizant of women’s equality.

The fact that the President is publicly, and “as the President,” interested in “man” activities like drinking beer, shooting hoops, welcoming a “big rambunctious dog” rather than a “girlie dog” into the White House and spectating the Olympics; combined with the fact that his wife seems more than happy to play the part of First Lady “Fashionista,” means that the U.S. is continuing to tolerate and even support traditional gender roles.

Traditionally, a woman might be expected to make way for her husband’s comments on major issues rather than issuing her own. It is possible that the reason a Secretary of State and former First Lady bristled when asked to speak for her husband at a question and answer forum in August in Kinshasa, Congo was because of the invocation of said tradition. News anchors rolled their eyes at the scene, but the offense was legitimate. This is 2009, not 1909. Women can and do vote, own property, hold public office, etc. And when a woman does hold an important position, her opinions on subjects relating to her office’s authority are of greater importance than any adjacent man’s: husband’s, President’s and former President’s alike.

I value your opinion, Hillary. I want to know why this misunderstanding of who we women are and what we can do exists in the U.S., masquerading as hatred and violence; and I want to know what we – what I – can do about it.

With deep admiration,

femspotter

The New York Times lament

Posted in media, Personal Essays, Politics, Sexuality by femspotter on August 26, 2009
Shark at the Jersey Shore? Hardly!

Shark at the Jersey Shore? Hardly!

August 26, 2009

Several weeks ago, The New York Times surprised me with a smug Saturday morning edition that bashed New Jersey in every way it could. The front page depicted a large photo of a junk yard in Hackensack – not attached to any story I could find. Another trash dump adorned one internal section, while still an even greater horror awaited readers on the cover of one of the Arts sections: a great white shark, mouth open under a headline that read “Ah, That Jersey Shore: The Fish Are Really Biting.”

That’s irresponsible journalism in my book. The article (online 7-31-09, in print 8-1-09) was announcing Shark Week on Discovery Channel and, though it alluded to the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 which were to be covered by programming scheduled for Shark Week, the photo (right) was taken off the coast of South Africa rather than New Jersey. Nonetheless, the editors at The Times decided they have the right to mock the people of New Jersey – 127,101 of whom subscribe to The Times daily edition, 182,557 to its Sunday edition, according to the New Jersey Press Association – with an incessant flow of visual insults in the wake of the great corruption scandal of 2009: 44 elected officials – the mayor of my town among them – and rabbis indicted for taking bribes and other corrupt acts in one sweep of the judicial net over the state that many already consider to be “the armpit” of the United States. I even got a letter from a relative in a seemingly moral part of the central U.S. remarking about what a corrupt part of the world I live in. (Ah, the Midwest… That’s where they kill abortion doctors, isn’t it?)

Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?”

I love my state! Sure, we have potholes and insane drivers – nobody knows what a yield sign means – and 4-inch acrylic nails and discordant accents galore. But we also have Victorian Cape May, beautiful beaches, great public education (including Rutgers University, my alma mater) and the Statue of Liberty. Many a talented celebrity has emerged from the smelly bowels called Jersey: Frank Sinatra, Judy Blume, Jack Nicholson, etc.

But, in reality, New Jersey doesn’t smell bad…at least, not outside of Hudson County.

My husband and I chose New Jersey over the cardboard box we could have afforded in Manhattan or neighboring Brooklyn, or the the relatively cheap spaces in the other three boroughs of New York City. In New Jersey, we’re property owners living close to jobs in Manhattan. We’ve lived in historic downtown Jersey City and loved it! We got married in Liberty State Park facing Lady Liberty herself. And if that weren’t enough to convince you that New Jersey is a fantastic state, check out this photo I took outside my condo – less than five miles from Manhattan – in the middle of August, 2009 – also known as just two days ago:

Canadian Geese Visit Beautiful New Jersey; Who Wouldn't Want to Be Here?

A New Jersey River Near New York City at Night: Who Wouldn't Want to Live Here?

So, suck it TNYT!

Your biased portrayal of New Jersey on Aug. 1, 2009 was at best pert and at worst cruel. A corrupt government does not a corrupt population make. We good citizens of New Jersey are the victims of this corruption, rather than the perpetrators of it!

I was just on the verge of canceling my subscription when I picked up the following week’s edition. There, a couple of pages in, was an Op-Ed piece by Bob Herbert entitled “Women at Risk.” In the wake of all of the critical and academic silence about misogyny in our culture during the Hillary Clinton campaign for President and the Sarah Palin campaign – such that it was – for Vice President; in the aftermath of a tremendous victory for the black man Barack Obama, who won our nation’s top office; on the footsteps of the Henry Louis Gates arrest fiasco in Boston that prompted the historic beer bash at the White House…here was a black columnist writing about sexism instead of racism. Did he miss the band wagon? Reacting to the recent slaughter of three women and the wounding of nine others by sexually frustrated assassin George Sodini in a Pennsylvania gym, Herbert had this to say:

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.

Back in the fall of 2006, a fiend invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.

I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

According to police accounts, Sodini walked into a dance-aerobics class of about 30 women who were being led by a pregnant instructor. He turned out the lights and opened fire. The instructor was among the wounded.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations.

One of the striking things about mass killings in the U.S. is how consistently we find that the killers were riddled with shame and sexual humiliation, which they inevitably blamed on women and girls. The answer to their feelings of inadequacy was to get their hands on a gun (or guns) and begin blowing people away.

Well, thought I…I can’t give up my subscription now. It’s true that The Times has much to make up for. After all of feminist Maureen Dowd’s lazy and pointless columns and the make believe feminist insights of film critic Manohla Dargis – who criticized Pixar for taking until now to hire a female director (yeah, because Pixar is the real problem for feminist filmmakers in Hollywood, right?) and chastised people who point out that Kathryn Bigelow is a female film director who makes man movies (I think that’s noteworthy, don’t you? We expect women to make sappy, romantic movies. They do, but they also direct stylish horror films like Ravenous and visceral dramas about sexuality like The Piano.) – The Times owes all of its feminist readers, from New Jersey to Timbuktu, a real feminist thought or two to chew on. As it turns out, the best feminists over at The Times are men: A.O. Scott, Nicholas D. Kristof and Bob Herbert, to name a few.

Herbert’s column is opinion-based and he alludes to statistics that he doesn’t provide, which bothers me. I want him to make an argument about misogyny supported by facts rather than rantings. He writes “A girl or woman somewhere in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so.” Is it one every two minutes…every three minutes? That makes a big difference.

Still, I’m glad that somebody is getting angry about this besides the women who’ve been complaining to deaf ears for years. There are those haters out there who jumped all over Secretary of State Clinton a few weeks ago after she flew off the handle in the Congo when asked by a male student what Mr. Clinton thinks, “through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton,” about the World Bank tampering with Chinese contracts. The incident was met with eye-rolling from CNN “news” correspondents and a heap of criticism from columnists and comedian’s alike. But as this Times news blog points out, Clinton may have gotten a raw deal. She was, after all, standing up for herself and her position at the top, one she’s worked toward for many years. Additionally, she did what Herbert and others have done when something is wrong with the world: she got mad. It is unjust to be asked to speak for your husband when yours is the opinion that should really count. And we won’t right the world’s injustices if we don’t first get mad about them. (To be fair, however, a woman who once did cooking demonstrations on television, posing as Suzy Homemaker to get her husband reelected to the Presidency, doesn’t have a sturdy leg to stand on when it comes to declaring an independent, emancipated status!)

While I am angry at The New York Times, I forgive it because of its forward-thinking feminism. The Aug. 23, 2009 issue of The New York Times Magazine was centered on women’s rights with five major articles pertaining to the current status and potential advancement of women’s rights. “In many parts of the world, women are routinely beaten, raped or sold into prostitution. They are denied access to medical care, education and economic and political power,” it’s cover boldly reveals. “Changing that could change everything.”

Inside, “The Women’s Crusade” by Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn tells us that “(t)the oppression of women worldwide is the human rights cause of our time.” Hey, if that’s the case, then why is Obama drinking with Gates at the White House instead of with Saima Muhammad of Pakistan, who “was routinely beaten by her husband until she started a successful embroidery business;” or Goretti Nyabenda of Burundi, who was also routinely beaten by her husband but who turned a $2 microloan into a crop of potatoes worth $7.50 and her resulting salvation. In fact, Nyabenda is a banana-beer brewer as well as a potato farmer. That would have been a better beer to choose than Bud Light, which, though American, is also the product of a large corporation wielding perhaps unfair tax breaks. Again I ask, why is Obama having drinks with cops and professors when he could be uplifting the impoverished, abused and uneducated women of the world?

Racism is a serious problem; but the cause to abolish racism isn’t helped when an affluent academic screams bloody racism and the media turns the spotlight away from the real injustices of the day to watch the President booze with the battered egos of the world. As far as I know, nobody at that round table has ever been raped or had their genitals removed because of the notion that their sex is inferior to the alternative.

Sharks don’t discriminate between men and women, but Peter Benchley did. He allegedly based his 1974 pulp novel Jaws on the 1916 shark attacks at the Jersey Shore. In reality, there were four victims of the attacks: all male. In the book, and subsequently the 1975 Steven Spielberg film of the same title, the first victim of the man-eater is instead a woman, and she is horribly de-sexualized in the process of her slaying. In the first place, she is swimming naked after dark as part of a sexscapade. Later, when her body is found, it is shredded in all the parts that physically distinguish the girls from the boys: namely her breasts and her womb. Benchley had said in interviews that he regretted writing this novel because it instilled a previously unfounded fear of sharks in the masses. Perhaps, he should have regretted his own misogyny and stuck to the facts: in 1916, three New Jersey men and one boy went into the water and were killed by a beast that didn’t seek to hurt or humiliate women. It was just hungry.

While The New York Times and I have made peace with each other for now, and I still get to look forward to reading the newspaper on Saturday and Sunday mornings in my bathrobe with a big mug of steaming coffee; I am forever wary of the verbal and printed slights marring my beautiful Garden State…just as I am of the general misogyny that pervades our culture.

That’s right: I’m a Jersey Girl now. And you don’t wanna mess with no Joysey Girl! POW!

%d bloggers like this: