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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Whatever you do, don’t figure out that it’s systematic

You poke it, you own it is indeed an ancient “man law”.

I’ve been getting a ton of emails and blog posts on Technorati defending the ”you poke it, you own it” commercial (and so has Twisty, apparently) and the general gist of the complaints is the same: Feminists are clearly irrelevant because they waste their time talking about petty shit like a beer ad that instructs men that it’s cute to sit around with their guy friends and joke about how their penises are so mighty that they have the power to strip women of their autonomy. (Also, beers, but beers don’t have conscious thought so that’s mildly to severely less offensive depending on the amount of value you place on the existence of conscious thought. My guess is men who feel attached to Miller Lite commercials don’t value it that much.) A sample of the kind of criticism I’ve been seeing:

I’m generally sympathetic to their sentiments, but um… are you guys (women) out of your mind? Spending this much intellectual effort critiquing the not-very-catchy catch phrase from a beer commercial? I can get behind using a dumb beer commerical as the starting point in a women’s rights essay/blog entry, or at least an essay on men being humorously stupid (which is pretty much what all Miller and Bud commericals are about, being as their beer isn’t good enough to compete on taste) but there’s clearly some baggage being unloaded on a bunch of fairly innocent and clever commercials.

Ah yes, women who like to exercise the brain cells are mentally unstable, a venerable anti-feminist argument. Never fear, good sirs who love the beer commercials. Twisty and I are avowed non-procreaters so if all this thinking is indeed harming our uteruses, the practical effects of this are nil.

But blog posts like this are so illogical there must be some kind of Latin word for the error in logic they make. What is the phrase for an argument that disproves itself merely by existing? For if it’s petty to waste time writing blog posts protesting beer commercials that dehumanize women for having sexual intercourse, then surely it’s pettier to waste time to write blog posts whining about aforementioned blog posts. The sheer amount of time that defenders of this commercial spend on it demonstrates their deep affection for it and the sentiments of male ownership of female bodies contained within. The sheer defensiveness of this beer commercial space as a place where men get to let their hair down and talk about how they all really do feel superior to women after all is enough to alert those of us who are interested in a little justice instead of carefully protecting male egos that this is indeed something worth examining.

The absurd nature of the “petty” argument reaches are evidenced by this blog post Ampersand wrote defending a blog post he wrote a long time ago called the Male Privilege Checklist. The Male Privilege Checklist is a very silly, petty list and to reflect how silly and unimportant it is, anti-feminists on the internet have spents years grousing and complaining about it. This latest round of complaints is about how small the advantages men have over women in American society are, and therefore how petty it is to notice them. (As Ampersand says, it’s a stretch to suggest that the grousers would refuse to complain about a petty cut in their wages of even 10%, much less find themselves shoved back to 76 on the dollar they earn now.)

Anyway, the critic Ampersand takes on whips out one of my all-time favorite anti-feminist arguments called the “I’ll Give You Something to Cry About” argument.

We have women on this planet with REAL PROBLEMS and we’re going to fill our list with entries about our clothes and our weight issues?

Women in Iran are being sold into prostitution as children and then hanged for ‘promiscuous behaviour’… and the author of this list is going to concentrate on how long it takes to put on makeup. Shouldn’t the women with all the money and freedom the world has to offer (even if that money and freedom is fractionally less than that of their male counterparts) be trying to help the millions (billions?) of downtrodden women in China and Africa? […]

I think that, instead of focusing on little gripes (some of these 43 things are quite little comparatively), everyone needs to pull together to make sure that North Dakota and the new SCOTUS don’t overturn Roe v Wade.

Instead of the little gripes about things that affect only women, let’s focus on important shit, like my ability to fuck my girlfriend knowing if she gets pregnant on accident, I won’t end up being forced to pay child support. Women are getting killed in Iran and American men are paying child support already, and women have the nerve to complain about systematic oppression at home?

The logic of “I’ll Give You Something to Cry About” is as follows: Some people get beat down once a week, some get beat down once a day. The former have no cause to complain about the weekly beatings and they sure as hell don’t want to tempt anyone into giving them daily beatings, do they? The argument that no one should be getting beat at all is thereby wedged off the table.

At this point, I figure it’s obvious why anti-feminists get into such an uproar when a feminist singles out all the little ways wound into every day life that women are put into a subservient position. It’s not because it’s “petty” and they sincerely think being irritated at beer commercials precludes being concerned about honor killings overseas. It’s not because they think these things are truly beneath attention, as the now 132 comments at Hugo’s will show, commets that are mostly anti-feminists flipping shit because he wrote a post about the joking methods sexist men use to stifle women’s voices in a discussion. The reason sexists are so protective of the little things is because the devil is in the details. They are trying to prevent people from seeing the ugly truth that sexism isn’t the individual sins of a few bad apples, but is a systematic injustice.

Another defense of pettiness available here.

Posted by Amanda Marcotte on 05/30 at 07:33 AM
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