The Trouble with Girls
Being a girl sucks—according to the media at least. There’s the thigh gap, Miley Cyrus, thehounding, the grooming, and the online abuse. Even Germaine Greer claimed recently that in the age of social media, women have it worse than they did in the 1970s.
But are things really that bad? In her new book, Girl Trouble, social historian and professor Carol Dyhouse argues that, although life’s always been pretty shitty for girls, it’s actually getting better. According to Dyhouse, without looking back at stereotypes and the way things were for women a century ago, it is impossible to understand the scope of the progress achieved by women’s liberation movements.
I caught up with Carol to talk about all the things that have made us the drinking, swearing, loose, career-driven women that we are.
VICE: Hi Carol, how did you get started with Girl Trouble?
Carol: I’ve had a very long career teaching and researching women’s history and I wanted to bring it all together. History hasn’t been kind to girls. They’ve been underestimated and misrepresented. It’s hard to find out what was happening to them and how they felt about it. There’s always been masses of people all too ready to speak for girls, but it’s harder to get young women speaking for themselves, especially as you go back in time to the late Victorian period or the early half of the 20th century.
So the problem is that the people who were recording history are mostly male?
Definitely. A good example is the British Medical Journal—you’d think this was quite a reputable source and yet what they say is quite shocking. They’re so quick to stereotype. In an article published in 1946, just after the war, one psychologist wrote; “They [good-time girls] spend a great deal of time on making up their faces and adorning themselves, although they do not trouble to wash and are sluttish about their undergarments. Their favorite reading matter consists of the weekly journals with the love lives of film stars and they live in a fantasy world of erotic glamor. Frequently, they’re a good deal more intelligent and sophisticated than their parents whom they outwit and despise.” It’s so negative and sexist. What were they so scared about? What I argue in that chapter is that there’s this category of female that was constructed out of male anxiety.
Offline Activism Is the Tricky Part for #YesAllWomen
As with every mass shooting in the last decade, Elliot Rodger sparked a clash of ideologies. This being a misogyny-fueled massacre, instead of the usual gun debate, it provoked a nationwide Twitter war between anti-patriarchy feminists and a bunch of apologist white guys, with most tweets focusing on the fact that while not all men denigrate women, all women are denigrated by men, and culminating in the latest clicktivist hashtag #YesAllWomen. It’s a strong hashtag, and it has staying power, but does it have the potential to inspire people offline?
When a branch of the American Revolutionary Communist Party concerned with banning pornography for the benefit of women, called StopPatriarchy.com, organized a series of #YesAllWomen rallies in Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco, it meant another attempt at turning global social media awareness into community activism, in the hopes that the effort is broadcast somewhere, anywhere. Best case - recursively on social media; worst case - word of mouth. This cyclical advocacy happens fair often with little effect, #BringackOurGirls and #Kony2012 come to mind. Ralph Nader was right, “the Internet doesn’t do a very good job of motivating action.”
If you’re young and were raised on mainstream media you could be forgiven for thinking, as incels (men who are “involuntarily celibate”) presumably do, that losing your virginity is the defining moment of everyone’s adolescence, that attractive people are constantly having amazing sex, and sex will lead to love and fulfillment.
None of that is true, of course. Now, sex is fine, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great way to occupy that spare half-hour between dinner and Game of Thrones, not to mention the most convenient way to have an orgasm with someone. Most people really like it, and despite the mess it remains the number one way of getting pregnant. But it won’t change your life. It’s like Monopoly—a fun activity for two or more people that sometimes ends in hurt feelings. When you think of it as being more significant than that, you’re likely to run into problems.
—Elliot Rodger and the Toxic Weight of Virginity
Photo Real – Molly Crabapple on Photoshop, Feminism, and Truth
Two weeks ago, Jezebel published un-retouched outtakes of Lady Gaga’s Versace campaign.
Without Photoshop, Gaga’s wig was more wig-like, her makeup flat beige, but she was the same skinny, strong-nosed chameleon that Stephani Germanotta has always been. The outtakes were not interesting but showing celebrities without Photoshop is Jezebel’s brand.
Jezebel exploded in popularity in 2007 by offering a $10,000 bounty for originals of Faith Hill’s Redbook cover. The raw photos proved the magazine had liquefied the star’s waist, softened her nasiolabial folds, and brutalized her elbow into a bendy tube. This January, with more controversy, Jezebel paid another $10,000 for the originals of Lena Dunham’sVogue cover shoot. Those revealed only a tidied dress.
Jezebel’s is a feminism that seeks its scapegoat in altered images. To refrain from Photoshop is girl-positive marketing gold. Dove Campaign for Real Beauty delights itself by putting out fake filters that chide retouchers. Magazines sign “No Photoshop” pledges. Clothing companies crow that they’ve never taken a clone-stamp to their models’ thighs.
To these feminists, Photoshop is to blame to unrealistic body standards, poor self-esteem, and anorexia in teenage girls. The campaign against Photoshop is the perfect cause for white, middle-class women whose primary problem is feeling their bodies do not match an increasingly surreal media ideal.
Photoshop, the belief goes, takes a true record of a moment, and turns it into an oppressive lie.
But fuck Photoshop. Photos are already lies.
A New App Lets You Bribe People for Dates
We live in a big cyber world filled to the brim with dating apps and websites. Anyone these days can try to find love with the click of a button, from farmers and ranchers to the obsessively gluten-free. So, what’s the hubbub with this new one called Carrot Dating, which surprisingly is not the name for either of the previous sites mentioned?
MIT graduate and evident ladies’ man Brandon Wade invented an app that bribes women into going on dates with men. (Although the site’s FAQ page states that the briber can be of any demographic or sexual orientation—that is, women are allowed to bribe the men, too—77 percent of the bribers are male.) You see, it’s called Carrot Dating in reference to the idiomatic “carrot and stick.” Back in the old days, a cart driver would dangle a carrot attached to a stick in front of a donkey which would trick the donkey into moving forward, thus moving his cart. To Brandon, women are those finicky donkeys who don’t want to follow an unattractive, self-obsessed cart driver unless he dangles a yummy carrot in front of them.
Gay Men and Their Not-So-Cute Misogyny Problem
What’s up with all the misogyny, gay dudes? Seriously. I’m not saying you have to be deep-throating a copy of Feminine Mystique while blasting Julie Ruin, but could some of you (emphasis on SOME) not have such thinly-veiled contempt for women?
Maybe you don’t even realize it. You probably don’t. You probably think you’re just being cute when you belittle your best girlfriend’s appearance or call her (jokingly!) a whore, but no, it doesn’t work that way.
As glorious as a friendship between a gay man and a straight girl can be, it also has the tendency to get a little dark. For example, we are all aware of the whole “OMG, GAY BEST FRIEND” epidemic where women fetishize their friendships with homos and treat them like a Pez dispenser of fabulousness rather than, you know, a nuanced human being. What I don’t hear getting talked about as much, though, is when the gay guy treats the girl like shit. When his seemingly harmless taunts turn into something that resembles verbal abuse.
Last year, I was in San Francisco with one of my best girlfriends and her gay friend, whom I had only met once or twice before. We were drinking at some house party, having an A-OK time, when all of a sudden her gay friend starts shouting to her, “You’re a fucking slut. Look at you, you slut whore!”
This, I guess, was supposed to be “sassy” and “cute” but really it just made everyone in the room profoundly uncomfortable. He was drunk, too drunk, and his words felt like daggers. My girlfriend had no idea what to do so she just laughed it off and prayed it would stop.
We Went to a Men’s Rights Lecture in Toronto (and Discovered That They’re a Bunch of Losers)
In November of last year the University of Toronto hosted a lecture by Dr. Warren Farrell, a divisive figure who has been described simultaneously as a sage of the men’s movement and a rape apologist. On the night of the lecture a group of students barred the doors of the lecture hall in protest while chanting, “No hate speech on campus.” Police were called, the situation was brought under control, and the lecture went on as scheduled. Another lecture took place in March of this year, this time an overly critical look at feminist studies by Janice Fiamengo in which she described the discipline as “intellectually incoherent and dishonest.” Again, protesters were on hand waving placards and this time a fire alarm was pulled but, once more, the event went on as scheduled. These controversial lectures were organized by a student group called theCanadian Association for Equality or CAFE for short. CAFE has come under fire from student groups andmedia who not only disagree with their actions and ideology, but have associated them with the extreme, vitriolic American men’s rights website A Voice For Men. Where AVFM is upfront and open about its hatred for feminism and -ists, calling them “rape farmers,” CAFE takes aim at feminism with misleading information and careful rhetoric, barely ever using the word “feminist” itself.
CAFE has sprung up in several campuses across central Canada in the past year. They have groups on-site at universities in Guelph, Montreal, Ottawa, and Peterborough, as well as two Toronto organizations and off-campus groups in Ottawa and Vancouver. Most recently, Ryerson University caught a controversial mix ofpraise and indignation for banning the group from their campus. CAFE claims to be “committed to achieving equality for all Canadians” and identifies as a human rights group that focuses on men’s issues. However, despite their claims or how they identify, the events that CAFE has been planning have been covered to anunusually extensive degree by A Voice For Men.
You’re a Pussy if You Think There’s a War on Men
For some men, women—especially feminists—are terrifying. Not in the normal oh-my-God-I-can’t-ask-her-out-what-if-she-says-no way that middle schoolers and characters on Friends experience, but “afraid” in the sense that women will take their money, try to get pregnant on purpose, invent false rape claims, and use feminism to generally abuse men. In this narrative, men are either an oppressed minority (or about to become one), or have to “fight back” against feminists to preserve their rights.
If you want to see what this kind of thinking looks like, take a dip into the river of the Men’s Rights section of Reddit, where a bunch of dudes go to complain about getting raped by women and talk gibberish about how their “clans” are getting attacked by “Statism and Feminism.” Currently, some of the most popular posts on the subreddit include a complaint about how if you owe more than $2,500 in child support payments you can’t get a passport (in the Men’s Rights universe, deadbeat dads are often victims of a misandrist court system); adiscussion, inspired by a Walking Dead plot point, about how getting beaten up is worse than being threatened with rape; an account of some guy squabbling with an obscure feminist blogger (these guys are always getting into internet beef with feminist bloggers, and vice-versa); and a screenshot of some gobbledygook about patriarchy that probably sounded smart to the high-schooler who wrote it. Like a lot of Reddit, the Men’s Rights forum is a way for predominantly white, predominantly rich young men to pat themselves on the back for how smart they are. It gives them something to do, I guess, and it gives the Shit Reddit Says subreddit something to react against.
But the idea that feminism is harmful to men, and women have declared war on people with penises, isn’t confined to Reddit’s nether regions anymore. It’s now mainstream enough for Fox News’s website, which published an awful, troll-baiting op-ed about “The War on Men” written by Suzzanne Venker. Her thesis is that while women want to marry men, men don’t want to marry them because, “Women aren’t women anymore.” She goes on:
“Women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly. That’s because they’ve been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.
Now the men have nowhere to go.”
What she’s describing is a pretty standard anti-feminist narrative: The evil feminists “convinced” women to want things like the same careers and pay and power that men had (they didn’t really want these things, see, but they were persuaded otherwise), thereby causing them to lose the status they were too short-sighted to have valued.
Problematic Lyrics in Pop Songs
Paul Simon ”50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”
Yes, we are given the hope that Stan and Roy will be empathic in some way, perhaps using honesty before they leave via “Making a new plan, not being coy.” But, the other advice, the advice given for Lee and Jack, “dropping off the key, slipping out the back,” is odious, at best. Am I saying that Paul Simon is a sociopath? No, I’m not. But I guess I’m not not saying it, either.
Bright Eyes “Lover I Don’t Have to Love”
Let us not forget that the junior high boys from ten years ago, the ones who commented at Suicide Girls forums and had a kind of sour smell to them, they, too, had a hard time swallowing Bright Eyes lyrics.