Don't be such a girl, even if you are one

From Gender and Computing:

According to Ph.D. student Robb Willer, men have a tendency to change their opinion if they are told that their opinion ‘is feminine’. Men who were told that they had given ‘feminine’ answers to a test “changed their opinion to be more homophobic, stronger support for the Irak war and a tendency to buy gas-hungry SUVs.” (And for the ‘feminine’ readers, that’s a Sports Utility Vehicle.) Women, on the other hand, did not have the same tendency to change their opinion, neither if they were described as feminine nor masculine.

See also: Masculinithy Challenged, Men Prefer War and SUVs, media girl, and The Countess.

If this study is accurate (I was unable to find information to verify the testing methods and sample sizes beyond “undergraduate students”) then this represents yet another confirmation that the fight for equality has thus far only succeeded in allowing women to “rise” to the position of men without actually elevating “womanhood” up to be on equal ground as “manhood”.

This represents to me another reason why feminists need to step out of the male-normative frame. By “male-normative frame” I mean men and the “male sphere” being the default, characterized most visibly as the “women must work to be valid human beings” mindset used by anti-feminists/non-feminists to decry feminism. I wrote a bit about this here and here.

I think this also clearly illustrates the link between homophobia (especially male homophobia) and sexism. Male homosexuality is seen as “feminine” – when a guy starts acting in traditionally “feminine” ways (like caring about his hair and clothes, oh no!) he’s immediately thought of as “gay”. Of course, all he needs to do these days is cry out, “No, no. I’m metrosexual not retrosexual!” Because, you know, we can’t just accept that it’s “ok” and “normal” for a man (regardless of sexual orientation) to not fit into the macho mould. No, we need to have two words that not only degrade a person’s sexuality by likening it to a choice in the way someone acts, but also reaffirm the man’s “maleness” by setting him apart from gay men. We need a word that a person can use to say that he’s “cool” instead of “womanly”. It’s a compliment for a woman to be told she’s like a man, but an insult for a man to be called girly. Coincidence? I think not.

At the core, feminism is about giving people the ability to live their lives as they see fit without their very personhood coming under attack. If we’re ever to achieve that, we need to break out of the oppressive male-normative frame that we’ve been lumbering under for years. Feminism isn’t about making women into men, no matter what the Rush Limbaugh-types tell you. Forcing people to be something they don’t want to be doesn’t work; if you don’t believe me look at the feminine backlash in China after Mao’s death. Heck, look at the backlash against “feminism” that we experience today in the Western world. That says it all.

If we’re ever going to win the war against the institutions that force us to be what they want us to be, we need to fight for choice on all fronts. We need to support not only the working women, but the stay-at-home moms and dads. We need to illustrate the links of oppression – feminism can’t just be about the straight, white, rich women. The perception of feminism can’t be about them, either. What I’m saying isn’t new, or novel, but it needs to be said and spread. Are you with me?

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