Blaming and Disbelieving Victims: Charles Clymer’s Toxic Sexism

We live in a white supremacist heteronormative patriarchy. Because of this, two things happen when a woman (particularly someone who is not white and/or cis and/or straight) is victimised by a cis man: we don’t believe the victim and we blame the victim. We give the benefit of the doubt to the man and we lay the blame on the women he victimised.

We tell women they’re making a mountain out of a molehill when they point out sexual harassment. We tell women to “suck it up” and “grow a think skin” when they discuss rape threats and death threats. We blame rape victims for being drunk or wearing short clothes or not being vehement “enough” when saying no. We use “bad mothers” and “bitchy wives” and “uncooperative women” as excuses  for men’s crimes. We say mothers and wives and sisters and women friends are all “as much to blame” as the man. We say they were complicit by being unaware of what the men in their lives were doing.

Even when we do believe the victim and we don’t blame the victim, we have a tendency to lay the responsibility of speaking up at the victim’s feet. We tell women they have a responsibility to speak up to prevent a man from committing the crime again and victimising another woman. We say this despite the fact that we live in a culture which has put up colossal road blocks to prevent women from speaking up. We say this despite the fact that it isn’t really a woman’s responsibility to prevent a man from committing a crime.

I say “we” here because everyone who was raised in the west was socialised into a white supremacist heteronormative patriarchal culture. Everyone.

This is something we all need to unlearn. Like all aspects of socialisation, this is not unlearned easily or quickly. This becomes abundantly clear when self proclaimed male feminists like Hugo Schwyzer’s or Charles Clymer’s toxic sexism comes to light.

Hugo Schwyzer and Charles Clymer spent considerable time and effort cultivating public images as feminist men and as leaders within feminism. It turns out they are actually sexist assholes.

Yesterday on Twitter a bunch of folks brought to light Clymer’s sexism and abusive behaviour. Immediately two things happened: supporters of Clymer didn’t believe what folks who were speaking out against him said. Folks speaking out against Clymer blamed his supporters for having ever supported him.

“Provide me evidence,” say supporters of Clymer. And his detractors provide that evidence. “Not good enough,” his supporters say because we always doubt the truthfulness of women who speak against men.

“You should have known,” say his detractors. And his supporters get defensive and feel guilty that they did not know. “You enabled. You were complicit. You’re to blame,” his detractors say because we always blame women for ‘allowing’ men to be abusive.

Of course, not all Clymer’s supporters nor all his detractors replicate this cycle. But enough have. Enough that we need to closely examine our knee-jerk responses in situations like this. We need to make sure we don’t engage in the same victim-blaming and victim-disbelieving behaviour.

One last thing I want to add, here, is that I’m all for speaking against institutions which supported Clymer, such as Huffington Post or PolicyMic. Also, there is certainly a need for a thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the relationship between individuals and institutions (i.e. that Huffington Post wouldn’t be a powerful institution except that many individuals support it). But the time for that conversation is not right at the moment Clymer’s supporters are being confronted with the fact that he’s an asshole. And the forum for such a discussion probably isn’t going to be Twitter which is often not the best place for anything nuanced.

Lived Experiences and Curation of Stories: Marriage, Queerness and Children

I’m old enough that a lot of people I know are married and/or have children. Even my younger sister is married and has a kid. The nuclear family (i.e. married with children) is so normative that western culture just assumes that everyone aspires to it. If you are married without children, it is assumed there is a problem. If you have children and aren’t married, it is assumed there is a problem. And if you are neither married nor have children, it is assumed there is a huge problem.

I consume a hell of a lot of media and the majority of media which isn’t made directly for children, is made for people who are married with children. And the majority of this media is made by married people with children. Consider the bajillion articles about marriage advice and the bajillion and a half articles about relationships which assume they will eventually lead to marriage. Consider the bajillion articles about children; concerns about the ‘right’ way to raise children, concerns about developmental disorders in children, concerns about the society we live in because of how it will impact children. Consider the many stories in movies and television which are about marriage and/or having children.

Marriage and children. Marriage and children.

Marriage and children are treated as huge rites of passage in western society. These events are seen as so important, they influence the rest of a person’s life. These events are considered to great, they are often considered sources for great insight. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had someone talk to me about how their marriage or their children have taught them universal life lessons about humanity.

And I cannot tell you how many times my own opinion and perspective on marriage and children has been ignored or invalidated because I ham not married and I have no kids. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me, “If you had kids, you’d understand,” I’d have a mountain of nickels.

I have consumed so many stories by people in married relationships about married relationships, and yet my opinion is treated as less valid because I have not experienced it. I have consumed so many stories written by people with children about having children, and yet my opinions about children are treated as less valid because I have not experienced it.

Now let me tell you why your opinion about being queer is less valid if you have not experienced it.

Consider, for a moment, the handful of people you know who are queer. Consider how few relatives you have who are out and proud. Consider how othered queerness is in western culture that even queer folks talk about it as something that couldn’t be helped, rather than something anyone would ever want. Consider how many folks out there would actually like to make queerness illegal. Consider how little media you’ve consumed which was made by queer people for queer people. Consider how few articles you’ve read about queer lives.

Even if you’ve consumed as much queer media as you possibly could and even if you’ve heavily involved in a queer community, I can tell you without a doubt that I’ve been more inundated with information about marriage and children than you have about queer lives. Marriage and children are everywhere; queerness is in the margins. And yet my opinion on marriage and children is widely considered ‘less informed’ than folks who have experienced them. And yet your opinion on queerness is widely considered equally informed as queer folks’ despite the fact that you haven’t experienced it.

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I use these examples: queerness, marriage and children, to highlight something which is frustrating and applicable to a larger problem. You see it everywhere. Cis men (who will never experience being pregnant and the possibility of getting an abortion) have their opinion treated as more valid than the opinion of women & trans men who have had abortions. White people’s opinions on issues that communities of colour face are treated as more valid than the opinions of folks actually living in those communities. Rich people tell the poor how to spend their money. So on and so forth…

It is a double standard. The more normative a person’s life is, the more it is assumed anyone outside the norm couldn’t possibly understand it. The more marginalised a person’s life is, the more it is assumed that anyone in the norm can completely understand it. In fact it is often assumed that the only “true” understanding of a marginalised life is if someone in the norm validates it. All this despite the fact that the person with a marginalised life is far more likely to have been exposed to and educated about the normative life, than the other way around.

This is part of why issues of representation in television and movies are so important. This is part of why Piers Morgan’s dismissal of Janet Mock was so enraging. This is part of why issues of diversity in industries, leadership, etc. are so important. This is part of why Spivak‘s work “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is so important.

Marginalised folks are not allowed to be curators of their own stories. Not only that, but they are constantly told that they are unqualified to comment on normative stories.

This doesn’t mean no one is allowed to have an opinion on anything except their own lived experience. This doesn’t mean lived experience trumps everything else. This means marginalised people’s lived experiences should have at least as much equal weight when discussing marginalised lives, as normative people’s lived experiences do when discussing normative lives. At least as much. And right now, that is most assuredly not the case.

FanFic: Oberyn and Ellaria’s Introduction Redux

So my experience in writing fiction is, shall we say, limited. But I have a bit of time on my hands. Also, after my conversation with Rowan in my post analysing this scene in Game of Thrones, I thought I’d give this a go.

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The scene opens with Oberyn slowly walking behind the three sex workers and then turning and walking in front of them, looking them up and down. Olyver is standing at the end of the room watching. Ellaria is lounging on the bed with a glass of wine. Oberyn stops at the first one and looks at Ellaria.

OBERYN: (To the sex worker) Oh, look at you. How lovely.

ELLARIA: (To Oberyn) Beautiful. But pale. (To the sex worker) Why are you so pale?

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Oberyn and Ellaria: The Bisexual Problem in Game of Thrones

OberynEllaria1

It’s been a week since the season 4 premiere of Game of Thrones. I’d not written this post any earlier because I wanted to sit and mull over some of the topics I’m going to be talking about for a bit before writing about them. I won’t be spoiling any big plot points, here. This will be a discussion of the sequence of scenes which introduce Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand to the audience. Specifically, I’m going to be talking about the very problematic portrayals of bisexuality that we see in this scene. Also, I haven’t seen episode two so this is only about Ellaria and Oberyn’s characterisation in the first episode of season four.

Also, this post was inspired by a conversation with Shiri Eisner after I read her Tumblr post “Dangerous, wild, exotic, sexy: Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand’s bisexuality.” You should really check it out. There’s a lot in Eisner’s post that I won’t necessarily be covering in here. It’s worth a read.

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