Category Archives: Gender

Long Time No Talk! Some new stuff…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Matilda lately. You remember Matildaright? The Roald Dahl masterpiece about a tiny girl with terrible parents who can magically move things with her mind? [SPOILER ALERT, though seriously, this book is 26 years old so you probably would have read it if you were going to read it] At the end, when Matilda finally gets some quality education, from Miss Honey instead of the evil Miss Trunchbull, her magical powers go away. When she finally puts her brain to some serious learning, she doesn’t have all the extra mental energy to move salt shakers across the table.

I have a new job and I feel like Matilda when her powers vanished. A little bit bereft, but mostly thrilled to be fully engaged by the thing that I theoretically am supposed to spend so much of my time doing. I had…ahem… outgrown my previous role, and I was directing all my mental energy towards writing, blogging, and communicating with you fine people of the Interwebz.

I hope that explains a bit about my recent absence. I’m planning to continue writing and posting as much as is feasible, because I love it and it’s good practice, but if it looked like I was using magical powers to produce content before, know that it was only a Matilda situation.

That said, I’ve written a few things lately that you should read. This week, I wrote about the douchery of dudes who try to avoid wearing condoms through pressure, guilt-tripping, shaming or old-fashioned TRICKERY. I got SO many stories from people who have experienced this terrible phenomenon. On the bright side, I learned a new term, “micro-consents,” which references all the many other “yeses” we say after the initial “yes” that help us continually stay on the same page as our partners re things like protection and preferences.

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Speaking of new jobs… I got this job I’m doing now through an all-lady, invite-only Facebook group. For a split-second I felt guilty about “taking advantage” of this “exclusive” network, but then I was all like, OH RIGHT OLD BOYS CLUBS HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR EVER. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the specific values of all-lady spaces:

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Lastly, if you didn’t catch my segment on The Morning AMp a couple of weeks ago, listen to me, Molly Adams, and Brian Babylon chat about Mt. Holyoke’s new policy about transgender students, the new “normal” family, and other fun stuff.

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Filed under Gender, Republished!, Sex

The Perils of Bad Titles (and poorly thought out analogies)

I take full responsibility for the kerfuffle I caused last week with my Role/Reboot latest. It was not my most sensitive or thoughtful work and I did some harm where I meant to only raise questions.

I often think that flipping pronouns is a useful way of analyzing the role that gender is playing in media coverage. We’ve looked at examples before, like coverage of Marissa Mayer or a story about a teenage heart throb’s virginity.

Last week, fed up with the excessive victim blaming that goes into coverage of high-profile sexual assault cases, like the recent piece on Hobart Williams and Smith, or Steubenville, I wrote an essay exploring what happens when we flip pronouns on the victims and imagine these cases if young men were raped instead of young women. Would we still say an 11-year-old boy “lured” men like a “spider,” as we did in Cleveland, TX? Would the “Princeton Mom” still say it’s “all on him” if a male college student was too drunk to prevent his rape? I don’t think we would, and I still think that there’s value in exploring how language can expose bias.

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But, I made a few mistakes. The biggest one was the title, which I suggested and my editor confirmed: “If Straight Men Were Raped: How Pronouns Change the Conversation About Victim Blaming.*” Do you see the problem? I kind of can’t believe I missed it. Of course straight men are raped. This is not a hypothetical, fantastical suggestion; straight men are raped by other men. In fact, as was pointed out by several readers, although women are assaulted far more frequently, one of the key reasons male victims don’t come forward (i.e. one of the reasons we have so many fewer media examples to refer to), is precisely because the stigmas on male victims are unique.

I did not intend to write an essay on those particular stigmas, as I don’t feel equipped or educated enough to do so. But I also did not intend to belittle or shame straight men that have been raped, nor to downplay the equally-horrible but differently-shaped reactions that those survivors get. Here are a few responses that better articulate the issue:

“A LOT of rape of men by men is disregarded because people think he must’ve given off some sort of “gay” thing that made him seem to want it. There are different ways in which male survivors have their rapes and SAs denied, mostly via homophobia. And god help you find support if you actually are GBT or Q. Obviously we know there are serious issues with GBTQ men who are sexually assaulted. I’d bet pretty much nobody is marginalized when it comes to sexual assault more than LGBTQ populations in general.” – from Joanna Schroeder, Good Men Project

“But where you say that you are merely trying to highlight inappropriate use of gendered language around victims, I contend that you are doing to male victims the very thing you are fighting against – namely grossly distorting and dismissing the realities that we live under. In effect, you are throwing male victims under the bus in order to make a point about female victims that no one in their right mind would argue against.” – From Chris Anderson, MaleSurvivors.org

I hope that the content of the article makes clear that I believe all victims deserve respect and that no one, of any gender or sexual orientation, should be shamed, stigmatized, ostracized, or blamed, for their assault. I also hope that Chris and Joanna’s responses help illuminate some subtleties that I missed in my first pass.

 

*We changed the title later to “If Straight Men Were Raped As Often As Women….” – Better, but not great.

Related Post: “After donation regret” and other rape analogies

Related Post: Using pronoun-flipping on Serena Williams’ Steubenville comments.

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Filed under Gender, Media, Republished!

On that Jezebel–>Gawker memo

This week, the staffers at Jezebel published an open letter to their parent company, Gawker Media, taking them to task for failing to protect the employees and readers from violent, rape-themed imagery posted by a rogue commenter. By failing to take the technological steps to prevent this from continuing, or changing the commenting policy site-wide, Gawker has created a hostile work environment for Jezebel staffers. As they say in their letter, if this happened anywhere else, they’d report on it, so why would their own organization be immune?

For Role/Reboot I wrote a bit about company values and that tricky space where the rubber meets the road, i.e. when resources are required to make values-on-paper values-in-reality:

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Related Post: Criticizing Jezebel’s unscientific science writing.

Related Post: A few times I’ve been on Jezebel

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Filed under Gender, Media, Republished!

“Wingman”

wingmanPeople love to ask me if I think X is sexist.

Generally, if you have to ask, if not outright sexist, it’s probably inadvisable, tasteless, or easily misinterpreted. Sometimes something–an item, promotion, label, campaign–isn’t sexist when taken on its own, but contributes (often by accident) to reinforcing stereotypes or perpetuating inequality.

“Is ‘wingman’ a sexist term?”

Thus began this week’s trip down the Urban Dictionary wormhole that finished in my essay for Role/Reboot about the cult of the wingman, the origin of the term, and whether we can salvage it from the pick-up artist misogynists.Screenshot_7_30_14_3_49_PM

 

Related Post: Dating while feminist

Related Post:  Dating should not be a meal ticket

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Filed under Advertising, Gender, Republished!

Heist

For those of you that just know me on the Internet, you may be shocked (SHOCKED!) to find that I wasn’t always Emily Heist Moss. I added the Heist a couple of years back to correct an imbalance I felt in my name.

After reading Molly Caro May’s excellent essay on The Hairpin about giving her daughter her last name instead of her husband’s, I decided to share the full rationale for the Heist addition this week on Role/Reboot:

 

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Related Post: What’s in a name? A post for The Good Men Project on other options besides adopting the husband’s last name.

Related Post: Guest post from Julianna Britto Schwartz

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Filed under Family, Gender, Republished!

Why a Single-Sex Media Diet is a Bad Idea

These OkCupid guys…. I mean really. It’s one thing to mention that your favorite author is Faulkner. Cool, I dig it. Or Hemingway, or whomever. It’s even NBD to list a couple of books you like that happen to be written by men. BUT, when you go to the trouble of listing 40+ books you love because YOU JUST CAN’T DECIDE, and literally all 42 are by guys… for real?

They probably don’t even notice. If that’s the case, this is highly fixable. If they notice and don’t care/don’t think it’s weird/don’t think women have interesting opinions or stories…. well, that shit is beyond repair. Or rather, it is a problem to large for me to fix with a snarky message or internet essay.

But the fixable ones, the ones who are oblivious but open-minded, these are the ones I write to today, in my new piece for Role/Reboot:

Screenshot_7_3_14_11_54_AM-3Related Post: The last book I loved, The Flamethrowers

Related Post: Breaking down the gender of the authors I read last year

 

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Filed under Art, Books, Gender, Media, Republished!

Feedback on Sexy-Soccer-Player Debate

Last week I wrote about the Sexist Thighs genre of World Cup listicles, the ones that zoom in on rippling muscles and rank the “best” of the body parts. In my essay, I tried to walk the fine line between acknowledging the problematic double standard of sexualizing female athletes (which I frown upon) and male athletes (which some people say is A-Ok because it’s only every four years and guys don’t get this all the time and blah blah blah…), while simultaneously arguing that contextual differences around male and female bodies mean we can’t measure objectification from an even playing field, because there isn’t one.

I wanted to share some feedback I got from all directions, because I think the complexities of this issue are many and there’s plenty of stereotype to go around.

From A, who felt generally in agreement, but took issue with my characterization of how much easier men have it in the media landscape:

“Young men are constantly bombarded with images of what a “sexy” and “successful” man looks like. Society has also conflated sexiness and career/financial success. Those who are good looking are successful in their careers and vice versa. This ultimately stems from a standard of beauty put on young men by fashion outlets (Abercrombie), TV (Don Draper), politics (Aaron Shock), and sports (Tom Brady). Just like it is somewhat easier for you wonderful, smart women to be successful despite certain gender stereotypes there are men who struggle against the “watch sports, let women cook, go into finance drive fancy cars blah blah blah” measure of success that is put upon up.”
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From C., who felt that the athleticism displayed by world class athletes (male and female) makes for healthier idolization than, say, regular old hot people:
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“The world cup is THE global sporting event. The men who compete in it are incredibly talented athletes and have the bodies to match. It’s not just that they have great thighs but that they are strong and coordinated. Also, part of what has been great about those lists is how diverse they are compared to the average “hot celebrity” compilation…But let’s flip it. Say there’s a women’s sporting event big enough that lists are being made about hottest female athletes (I’m sure this happened in the Olympics). I’m actually not upset about a slideshow that draws attention to the bodies of female athletes who are strong and capable…I don’t think you need to defend men from pictures of world-class male athletes any more than you need to defend women from pictures of world-class female athletes. These are people in the best shape of their lives who have worked really hard to get that way, and that’s a thing to admire.”

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C’s point is very interesting, and in general I’m much more in favor of fawning over what bodies can do vs. how they look, even though those two things are very related. I used to have this amazing coffee table book of photography of athletes with lineups of champions illustrating the range of physiques that can accomplish crazy feats:

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If that’s what we were talking about when we talk about “athletic physiques” then I’m all for it, because it truly prioritizes achievement over aesthetics, but that’s almost never what we’re talking about. Just as we don’t celebrate the physiques of weightlifting women in mainstream media, we don’t celebrate the 114lb, 5’2″ physiques of male marathoners either. They may be champions, but they don’t fit the “hot body” model we’ve come to expect.

Even when we talk athletic excellence, we are usually limiting our body worship to bodies that fit within the cutout of what we are already told is attractive. It doesn’t matter that Taylor Townsend is a tennis star, her body doesn’t look the way we think “fit” looks, and her sponsorship options already reflect how “confusing” people find that gap.

All of that is to say, soccer players are an interesting test case because they are athletically gifted and also perfect fits for what we have already deemed the “ideal physique.” I’m not sure we can separate those things and say that our adulation is about fitness rather than abdominal definition. And if it is about abdominal definition, then we have to own that, and we have to defend that, which personally, I’m not prepared to do.

Related Post: But what if you don’t look like a runner?

Related Post: How Title IX changed my life

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Filed under Body Image, Gender, Media, Sports