Somehow not racist, according to dude-logic.

Greta Christina has written about the “Yes, but…” problem many of my fellow dudes have when listening to women talk about sexism and misogyny. I want to talk about a specific “Yes, but…” here: “Yes, but that’s not sexist because he/I/they don’t hate all women, just that one!” The argument is that since the person slinging gendered slurs doesn’t hate women as a class, they aren’t a misogynist, therefore they’re just a jerk and we we can shut up about this problem and go talk about how dumb Christians are again.

There are a few problems with this approach:

  1. Being a jerk is still a problem.
  2. People don’t know you don’t hate all women.
  3. Even if you really aren’t technically a misogynist, you’re definitely still a sexist.

Let me expand on #3 for a minute. See, way back in olden times racist and bigot were not  considered to be as synonymous as they are now. Basically, a racist was someone who just “recognized” that black people and white people were different. They had their places in the world and needed to say there. A bigot was someone who was embarrassing about it. A racist would say “black folks are better at running and throwing, white guys are better at strategy.” A bigot would say “I hate niggers.”

I think the distinction, though doubtless preserved in dictionaries, was artificial. Racists said things no one challenged them on. Bigots were just crude and embarrassing. Not letting blacks vote and calling black men “boy” was fine, but forming a lynch mob to blow off some steam was just gauche. It’s the same way with gender, guys. When you disagree with what a woman says and you call her a cunt or a bitch or a whore, you’re being a sexist. You are being a misogynist. I doubt any of you would frame your disagreement with a Jewish blogger by calling them a stupid kike.

There are insults in our language that are used to apply to specific groups. One of those groups is women. Yes, people sometimes use those words to refer to people outside those those groups (“Mike, stop being a little bitch and do the shot!”), but you know what? That’s still shitty. Because what you’re saying is “I am removing the status you have as a straight white man by comparing you to this other group that society says is somehow inferior.” Wigger is racist. Calling a man a bitch is misogynist.

Also? Don’t try and tell me that because “people in England call their friends ‘cunt’ all the time” it somehow magically means that the douche fuckerface* who called that female blogger a cunt didn’t mean it as an insult. A gendered, misogynist insult. You’re better than that, guys.

- Sasha Pixlee

* While it’s debated by feminists whether it’s sexist, I have been trying to remove douche, as an insult, from my vocabulary. Sorry for the slip up. And rather than this being taken as a way to undermine my point (“You did it too!”) I hope this serves as an example of the fact that we can all learn, we can all change, and we can all make the world a nicer and more awesome place for everyone.

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14 Comments

dasregalJanuary 6, 2012 9:37 am

If I call a man a bitch, why does my insult have to mean “you are this class and being this class is bad” and not “you are not this gender and getting your gender wrong is bad, so I am comparing you to a term that means a bad one of this gender.”

Both are equally acceptable interpretations. If I call someone talking about homeopathy a quack who I know is not a doctor, I am not saying “you are like a doctor and doctors are bad, so I am comparing you to a really bad name for a doctor.”

In determining that the usage of all slurs automatically makes you a racist/sexist/bigot, whatever, aren’t you essentially ignoring the intent of the person who uses it entirely? And if that is the case, why are we couching the argument in intent at all?

Furthermore, if we start lopping things off the list of insults on the basis of it being insulting to the class of people the comparison is being made to, what do we have left to use as an insult?

All of our insulting terms compare people to another person with traits different from their own. Some are truly egregious (fag, for instance), but what is really left over at the end of the line of this logic? Are you saying we shouldn’t insult each other using hyperbole at all?

I think there’s a different between the hyperbolic comparisons people make the values that they hold to be true. Yes, sometimes using language like this does expose your true intent, and sometimes people call women cunts because they really hate that person and they’re looking for the most injurious term possible. Usually, that makes them a jerk.

I’m not denying that widespread usage of “bitch” and “cunt” are bad for women, but I think we need to be more careful when tossing out the term sexist or misogynist — especially to other people. We run the risk of it being over-applied and meaning nothing.

MrPopularSentiment January 06 2012 11:15 am

Hey, you know what? "You are not a satisfactory example of your gender" is a pretty shitty definition too.

There are many non-gendered, non-racist words that can be used for when you absolutely must insult someone. For example, douche, piece of shit, crotch, asshole, jerk... And you know what the best thing about language is? If you can't find a word that fits perfectly with what you're trying to express, you can always just make one up!

Sasha January 06 2012 11:24 am

I think you will find that I used a lot of insults in that post that are not racist nor are they gendered. Your argument that "all insults are based on comparing someone to someone they are not" is obviously a false one.

dasregal January 06 2012 18:51 pm

You guys are right, there are some insults which have nothing to do with comparing people to people that they are not. I stand corrected.

I just wish you would've addressed some of my other points considering that they don't all hinge on that one thing.

I also don't understand why you have to mock me so openly when I'm just trying to have a discussion on the subject. I think your tone is incivil and it's part of why people aren't willing to listen to feminists largely (and I consider myself one, I'm still figuring out what I believe in).

Sasha January 06 2012 19:13 pm

As far as I can tell your other points seem to be "Yes, but..." As in "yes those terms are sexist, but the guys using them may not mean it that way" and "we need to be careful about what we label as sexist."

In reply: Would you excuse someone who called a black blogger a nigger as "hyperbole" because they were angry? I doubt that you would. What I'm trying to explain in this post is that sexist insults are JUST AS BAD. There is no way you will convince a feminist that sexist language is more excusable than racist language. Whether the user of the language thinks they are racist or sexist is unimportant.

As to your second point, I agree. We should be careful when making accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. And you know what? WE ARE.

Which brings me to your point about our incivility. We take these issues seriously, we think about them a lot. It's very frustrating when we spend that time, energy, and emotion trying to argue a case and then someone pipes up with "Hey, bro, be careful about accusing people."

Your cautions are not new to us. We have heard them countless times. WE DON'T SAY THESE THINGS LIGHTLY AND YOU INSULT US BY IMPLYING THAT WE DO.

Am I any more clear now?

dasregal January 06 2012 19:39 pm

When did I excuse their behavior?

I made the mistake of questioning your logic, so you counter with a twitter campaign of collecting non-offensive insults, mock me, and double down with angry caps typing?

Since when is being emotional and invested in something an excuse for *anything* in the skeptical community.

It's sad because you seem pretty bright, this blog could have potential, and I might be interested in reading it, but if you berate people who disagree with you like this I'm not going to, and you won't find any substantive discussion on this matter, because you'll merely shout down anyone whose opinion differs from your own.

EnoJanuary 6, 2012 12:27 pm

This article brings to mind some sensitivity to this issue that I’ve developed as my daughters have gotten older. Specifically, it drives me crazy when I hear someone use the word ‘pussy’ to mean weak.

Mark HallJanuary 6, 2012 1:35 pm

http://threepanelsoul.com/2012/01/02/on-cussing/

Because cussing doesn’t need to involve gender or ability, shithead. ;-)

Mark HallJanuary 6, 2012 1:37 pm

This makes me want to compile a list of non-ist insults.

Sasha January 06 2012 13:39 pm

Please do, I'll make sure to promote it.

Mark HallJanuary 6, 2012 1:49 pm

Let me get out of work and I’ll start it under the #non-ist hashtag on twitter. 10 minutes till I’m not tied to the desk.

dannoJanuary 6, 2012 3:06 pm

is it ok to call a man a dick?

the caption of the image in this post says “Somehow not racist, according to dude-logic.”

doesn’t this insinuate that only males are stupid and sexist?

Sasha January 06 2012 15:12 pm

I try, though I don't always succeed, to not call men dicks.

Given that I called myself a dude in the post, I think it's also clear that I'm NOT insinuating that all men are stupid and sexist. It was an attempt at humor. Were you actually offended or are you picking nits?

Mark HallJanuary 6, 2012 8:38 pm

So, is “wanker” sexist?

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