Posted by: Ophelia | July 17, 2008

“Talking to men about sexism”

Jack Valentine breaks down feminism beautifully in a teachable moment of a sexist facebook invitation at his blog. Check it out.

Anyway, we arrive now at the fundamental point of this overview: essentialism. Essentialism is the view that specific entities necessarily have specific characteristics. We can detect essentialist notions informing a person’s reasoning when they say things like, “black people are loud,” “women are weak,” or “gay people are too sexual.” Essentialism is the root of all prejudice, and it is problematic because it offers gross oversimplifications based on insufficient evidence while totally ignoring systemic factors.

So we identified three main principles of feminism as follows: challenging essentialist notions, understanding women’s subjective experiences, and giving women a voice. This invitation was able to disregard all three principles: it was informed entirely by unrealistic stereotypes, it lumped women together into a perfectly uniform whole, and it implied that women are annoying because of their petty complaints.

Finally, this was all accomplished under a guise of comedy, which serves to make this invitation all the more insidious. If a woman were to object to this invitation, she would likely receive in reply, “Are you serious? Chill out. Can’t you take a joke?” So not only does it reinforce an oppressive framework by describing women as marginal and insignificant–as other–it also operates within that oppressive framework by creating further opportunities for women to be silenced.

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