Maxim's "Cure A Feminist" Spreads the Sexism Even Farther Than It Dared to Hope

I noticed a friend’s Facebook share the other day of a Maxim “article” along with a critique of the language of “lads mags.” Here's the magazine feature, which is disgustingly violent in the most straightforward of ways, in order to give some context, but what I really want to talk about are some of the public conversations that have followed it.

I noticed a friend's Facebook share the other day of a Maxim "article" along with a critique of the language of "lads mags." Here's the magazine feature, which is disgustingly violent in the most straightforward of ways, in order to give some context, but what I really want to talk about are some of the public conversations that have followed it.

A page out of Maxim magazine with a cigar ad on the left. The page features four captioned images of the same woman in different states of dress, from fully clothed in jeans and a white tank top to made up and wearing red see-through undergarments, depicting her transformation from a "feminist" into a "real girl."

The Maxim page is a horrifying how-to project, complete with diagrams (for scientific precision!), that teaches young men on how to "cure a feminist" and turn her into an "actual girl." (Here's a link to a JPEG of the page where you can zoom for easier reading). If the magazine's program works, the return on your educational investment is a skinny white lady in see-through underwear who has unlocked "her repressed Malibu Barbie fantasies." Magic! Maxim uses the popular trick of giving the oppressive lines to the group they're used to oppress by quoting a female co-author of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000) who confirms that there's no need to "eschew things like shopping, makeup, or boyfriends." (I haven't read Manifesta, but with about .01 seconds of Googling, I can see there are lots of good critiques of the book).

The critique of the language of "lads mags" like Maxim came from a recent study described by the original Facebook poster as having found that "people can't tell the language of men's mags and convicted rapists apart, and men even identify more with the rapists' words." So yeah, magazine features like this aren't "just a joke" and humor doesn't exist in a parallel world without any discursive effects in reality.

I thought that blatant misogyny was pretty straightforward. I knew how I could analyze it (alongside the class and race norms it implied and along with the currents of heterosexism and anti-environmentalism also found in the article). In comparison to the complex discourse analyses of the global and the local, and the nuanced historical materialist studies of the way gender justice is an integral part of any justice, the Maxim piece seemed like an easily recognizable form of oppression. But my friend's repost carried with it a comment thread that was 100+ posts long, so obviously many people felt there was still a lot to debate about Maxim's take on "how to cure a feminist." And I became interested because the comments looked awfully familiar to me.

One Facebook thread commenter who, by his avatar and self-description was hetero, middle-aged, white, and male, wrote: "This [the Maxim piece] is inappropriate, but it does not change the fact that feminism is a sexist movement." Another commenter made a great rejoinder by putting this statement in perspective. She asked: "And lgb rights is a heterophobic movement? And environmentalism is an antihuman movement? And anticapitalism is an antipeople movement? Wtf are you smokin?" And the fight continued on past a debate about oppression and rights, into name-calling and character attacks.

One of the commenters on this thread linked to an insightful blog post she wrote in response to the article. Unfortunately, part of her analysis of the first-phase "unshaven, militant, protesting vegan's" speech bubble "There'd be no more wars of all penises were cut off! Argh!" is "Hmmm, that might actually be true." The blog author ends with a fantastic analysis of the final-phase "actual girl," whose speech bubble reads: "Your Camaro makes me so HOT!" The author writes: "This [image and speech bubble] sends a disorienting message that is beyond confusing, since women are often the objects of extremely vicious misogyny because supposedly we are 'materialistic' and only use men for money. We are also the object of ire for being 'brainless bubble heads' and 'sluts.' But it looks like that's what men want. So first they turn us into objects, and then they hate the object they created." Yes. But then she follows up with this in conclusion: "I hate YOU, Maxim magazine. May all of your penises fall off, so that women may finally have peace on earth." One of her readers admirably pointed out that two wrongs don't make a right. This reader commented on the fact that it's also sexist "to suggest that men are solely to blame for war, and that mass genital mutilation wouldn't be a bad thing." But so far, the discussion has been wrapped up by the author and other commenters, who concluded that the above suggestions are "based on FACTS and EVIDENCE, not ideology" and require "a sense of humor" to interpret. 

I want to offer some analysis about why online scenarios like this (from individual Facebook threads to Internet Scandals blowing up the blogosphere) so often devolve into a group of commenters having to "prove" that gender-based oppression exists to one or a few typically dude-identified commenters who usually get labeled as "trolls." I'm fascinated by this pattern because of the way conversations get re-centered around the commenters' fight to be right while "feminism" becomes a casualty. As various conceptions and misconceptions of feminist ideas, values, and praxis are trotted out, "feminism" ends up being the name given to anti-misogynist positions as well as misandry.

Why the use of violence against violence? Gender-based oppression against gender-based oppression? What accounts for the terrible irony and hypocrisy of using the tactics condemned by feminism in its defense? I don't want to find a way to give anybody a "pass," I just want to think about why this happens.

I have a few ideas. We're already conditioned by a dominant society that loves violence and conflict. Many of us have few other models of making an argument without arguing. The anonymity and access facilitated by electronic communication over the internet is no small part of this. Many popular representations of diversity haven't become any more sophisticated than promoting a relativist position where discriminatory practices against women in certain spheres are explained away by citing discriminatory practices against men in others. Instead of analyzing the differences between these practices, unequal exercises of power simply negate each other (to borrow a phrase I read in Chandra Mohanty's "Under Western Eyes Revisited" [2003]).

I think sometimes these fights also reflect how steeped in anger we are because of constantly having to deal with new permutations of anti-feminism like Maxim's violent curriculum, despite assurances that we're all equal now and we know better.

This should inspire righteous anger in us, but we should still hold ourselves accountable to finding "teachable moments" where we can really expose the heart of misunderstandings about feminism instead of reproducing the violences that would keep it mystified. Previously: Rainbow Health Ontario & the Trans PULSE Project, The Bathroom Debate

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Comments

66 comments have been made. Commenting is set to read-only for this post.

Fyi - manifesta is a feminist

Fyi - manifesta is a feminist book. They use it in an irresponsible way to make it sound way more apologetic and defensive than it is. Its also written in accessible,straightforward prose,so the average college freshman can understand it and participate in a class discussion around what feminism means to us today. Just because there are critiques available on book doesnt mean its a bad book.

Just wanted to second this.

Just wanted to second this.

Also wanted to say that using .01 seconds of internet research to form an opinion makes no sense in the context of this article, or ever.

To counter this

I believe that the author was actually saying the book is good and actually more pro-women (is that the term?) than Maxim would have its readers believe.

meaning of the word Critique

Here is the definition of 'critique': evaluate (a theory or practice) in a detailed and analytical way. The word does not imply negative criticism.

I worry that this piece

I worry that this piece skirts dangerously close to victim-blaming. Equating what are supposed to be snarky feminist responses (I hope your penis falls off!!1one) to crap like this Maxim piece just doesn't cut it. And saying that the snarky feminist responses are a part of what drives the discourse over whether gender oppression is real just seems completely off-base. That discourse is a part of a much broader social subordination of women. It isn't fair to pin the blame on feminists.

I understand that one point of this article was to drive feminists toward non-violent discourse, and that this point is admirable. But I don't think you're going about it the right way.

Matt D. NICE MOVE! Skipping

Matt D.

NICE MOVE! Skipping on to to step 2! Classic.

fhjd

Agreed, Matt. Always interesting how any anti-dude/phallus remark is cause for great concern; meanwhile women walk through an endless barrage of misogynist "jokes," images, and discourse that devalues them and their bodies all day, every day, to the point where even women have internalized it and continue to make excuses for their own subordination.

No, "two wrongs don't make a right," but to focus on an occasional flippant remark made in an expression of (very justifiable) anger at a pervasive system of oppression is just a manifestation of the timeless implication that marginalized groups should smile and sugarcoat their rage in order to make it more palatable to their oppressors. The "I'd be into feminism if you weren't such a bitch about it" routine is tired, nonsensical, and incompatible with our current reality.

Guess what: This is PATRIARCHY. Dudes who are oblivious to their privilege have a vested interest in maintaining it at any cost; they are not going to stop objectifying/hating/raping women because you ask them nicely. In fact, I believe that is what the Maxim "article" is suggesting we do, and I think the results speak for themselves.

Cue the "not all dudes are rapists," "not all dudes are [personally, directly] responsible for war," "not all dudes should be castrated," etc, etc. I'm not denying that any of this is true. I'm saying that these WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ arguments miss the point entirely and CONSTANTLY derail any productive conversation or forward momentum the movement might achieve. I'm pretty sure the end goal here is to end patriarchy and radically restructure society; this will not happen if every bit of snark generates a bunch of distracting backlash, no matter how well intentioned (as this author and Bitch undoubtedly are.)

oh yeah

I also resent the use of the word "oppression" to describe said anti-dude/phallus sentiment. It is a completely false equivalence to suggest that a woman's expression of frustration with sexism is comparable to the Maxim article (and the unlimited supply of cultural discourse backing their POV.) They are NOT the same thing. You cannot separate small-scale interactions from the context of the system wherein these interactions take place (read, once again: centuries of women's oppression and subordination.) Is it "oppression" when a person of colour calls a white person a cracker? Is it tantamount to the N-word? Does it reinforce existing power structures that systematically disenfranchise one group while privileging the other?

People REALLY need to think about historical and cultural context before making these kinds of statements. To appropriate (and, in so doing, trivialize) the experiences and suffering of a marginalized group is ignorant and insulting.

A comment may be mean, or rude, or uncalled for, but that does not automatically make it oppression.

Simple

remarks that devalue their bodies? Excuse me but the feminist movement is about bodies not having value outside of their inherent function to the individual. Any and all imaginary values in regards to another's body is misogyny.

Those whom claim to be feminists and do not accept its tenants possess a strange psychological phenomenon of not being able to express a relative difference of dichotomy. You can express it with any comparison. However here is it in math 4, 9 , 20. The number 4 represents men, the 20 represents women. Change the number 9 to a number that would occur in the measurable difference if we were counting down and not up. The answer is 15. An off by one error will occur preventing justice and measurable fairness that will present itself in all social interactions. To understand gender and feminism one must understand both sides of exclusion. For example 2 items will always be different otherwise we would not refer to such as 2 items however it is through the measurement of differences that we find similarity the inverted opposing force.

Reactionary and aggressive

Reactionary and aggressive responses seem quite a strange point to pick up on in relation to this article, it seems as patently obvious that an argument isn't best won by violence as this article is a display of unmasked sexism and ignorance. Moreover, is it not slightly short sighted to get caught up in talking about the diatribe featured here, when the actual problem spans the entire construction of gender and society in the first place? The very fact that Maxim exists and is widely read is unsettling; just as consumerist culture breeds and encourages the abhorrent and false associations made within the article about female sexuality and identity. However, I can't help but feel we might have fallen, just a little, into a trap in paying so much attention to this nonsense.

Moderating...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your comments! I just wanted to step in here and remind everyone to stay on topic (the topic at hand being, ironically enough, the way online scenarios can devolve into commenters having to "prove" their feminism) and to allow Sharday a chance to clarify some of her thoughts—which she's done lower down in this thread—before making too many assumptions about where she's coming from.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

this hurts everyone

nobody's mentioned how this chart is pretty damaging to men too. I know they think they're being funny or helping guys to "get girls" at Maxim, but it's not anyone who most of us want to be or be with. I think it's hard not to respond like "May all your penises fall off" when you see something this ridiculous.

lol

I'll worry about how centuries of subjugating and dehumanizing women negatively affects dudes when we don't live in a society where things like this article even get published, thanks.

I disagree

I think that's exactly the wrong attitude to take. It's easier to combat misogyny when it's framed as everyone's problem, not just women's problem. Oppression harms the oppressed more, of course, but it also harms the oppressor (and those who are members of the dominant group, but don't hold those views, like OP). This article IS demeaning to men as well as to women. We should listen to men's concerns with the same attentiveness we think our concerns deserve. It's called the Golden Rule. Some early abolitionists were persuaded to their viewpoint not by sympathy for black people but concern for what having slaves did to their own character and immortal souls. Some people just don't care about other people, so to achieve change, it's most efficient to demonstrate how a harmful practice as harmful to everyone - for instance, how companies without women in leadership positions underperform compared to those that do.

If you don't worry about how

If you don't worry about how this article is harmful to men as well as women, then you will never live in a society where articles like this don't get published. If this article has discursive effects, it is on men as well as women, on how men see other men, how they see themselves in relation to women. Articles like this help define what is expected of men, whether or not they choose to reject that expectation, and allowing this expectation to go unchallenged hurts men, hurts women, and hurts the positive ways in which men and women can interact.

I think it is really

I think it is really important for us to acknowledge the effects on both men and women, although they're different in form and severity. I know many, many men who are feminists and struggle to fight this kind of despicable oppression. They face a unique challenge of the pressures of masculinity imposed upon them by society and also of being identified as part of the oppressive group. We are all working towards the same goal, so making angry generalizations about people with a certain set of genitals is harmful to us all.

Save the Genitals!

I agree... when we start hating the "other side" we are really driving the wedge between us and making the inequality more prominant. Why not fight on the "same side" and start treating each other like human beings, not objects that we can hack up into body parts or rip limbs off like a plastic doll?

Yes. And, I love the basic

Yes. And, I love the basic premise of her response, even if the specifics are problematic: "They turn us into objects and then hate that object....Well, I hate YOU, Maxim." I love it. I love the open naming of a double-bind, and then giving Maxim and rape-culture back that shame and hate, which would have otherwise become an internalized oppression/violence.

Master's Tools...

Your piece reminds me of something I've often heard in antiracism discussions, which I'll probably get not-quite-right here: "the master's tools can't be used to dismantle the master's house." I.e. in this case, violent language won't undo the harm caused by violent language. But what if this was just venting, not intended to fix the world? Obviously people should have safe spaces for venting.

As for the derailing by some dude who doesn't believe that sexism exists, or who believes it goes both ways, I'm starting to see the wisdom in another aphorism: "Don't feed the trolls."

A blog owner has the opportunity to keep her or his blog safe for the commenters, at least, and has the opportunity to keep shooing away the trolls, though of course these opportunities come with a cost in time and energy. I greatly appreciate those bloggers and mods who are willing to create the space and keep it safe.

I agree that people who are

I agree that people who are feeling marginalized or oppressed need a safe space to express their anger, out of the context of being a good feminist or Other. I think it's important that women can say these (sometimes outrageous) things without having to represent the sum of all womanhood or be the face of a feminist idol. Often I feel that the kind of knee-jerk angry responses the writer* addresses here are really a sort of gassing-off that happens as a necessary part of processing such exaggerated and offensive actions, at least for some people.

To me, this is a case where the marginalized can't be judged by the same standard as those doing the marginalizing. It's similar to the dynamic where a woman will express her frustration at sexism, and men jump in with "but men have problems too!" -- ignoring that privilege and power differences mean this is not a 1:1 comparision. I liked your analogy of the master's tools. I think in this case the violence expressed (the tool) means something different when that tool is wielded by the master's subjects.

All of that aside, it does become particularly problematic to the larger issue at hand when women respond in this way publicly, in non-safe and non-insular spaces. Because those statements get pulled out of context and used as a blunt object to justify or "prove" the initial statement: feminists are ugly, man-hating trolls who are seeking to oppress men. Which means discussion gets nowhere and misogynists and sexist individuals feel even further justified. In the end we get feminists unintentionally "proving" stereotypes while trying to argue against them.

It's an awful trap IMO. It takes a group that is already rightfully angry, introduces them to a horrible stereotype they are justifiably angry about, then tells them that they can't be angry in response -- and if they are angry they had better express it in the most neutral, diplomatic manner. Even in their response to sexism women can't be an individual, they have to represent all of womankind. Which is in itself, sexist.

I really don't have an answer here, just musing on a difficult issue.

* I just noticed this post was written by Sharday Mosurinjohn. I swear I'm not following you around on Bitch blogs, looking for an opportunity to comment back. ;) I think you're just hitting my social issue wavelength lately, and I feel prompted to reply because doing so helps me better understand my own thoughts on the topics. I'm not comment stalking, I swear. :)

@ Sharday Mosurinjohn --

@ Sharday Mosurinjohn -- Crap. I just realized I worded that little P.S. poorly.

I was not attempting to make light of stalking there. I was using "comment stalking" in the literal way, to mean someone who follows another's posts and comments obsessively for the purpose of online stalking. I've had friends who experienced this, and I know that sometimes writers are put in a vulnerable position when posting on popular blogs. So I was attempting to alleviate that concern with some self-effacing humor there, making fun of my own enthusiastic commenting lately. And now having to explain this makes me look even more awkward. Because I'm just that awesome. *sigh*

Thanks, Margarite Von Diter!

Thanks, Margarite Von Diter! (Can I call you Margarite?) I have to say, I'm always excited to see your handle pop up. You bring generous, balanced analyses to the discussion. Your comments (and everyone's comments!) are always very welcome.

Misuse of "master's tools"

This is a perversion of Audre Lorde's argument and quote (and it's inaccurate also). By "master's tools," she wasn't just talking about any sort of bad attitude or behavior, but she was talking specifically about oppression--that is, racism in the original context. She was criticizing racism among white feminists and white feminist movements that marginalized women of color, not the other way around. The quote should never be used to oppose the marginalized group's use of supposedly "violent" language directed toward the privileged group, regardless of what one thinks about the appropriateness of such language/rhetoric. It is disrespectful and hurtful.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you for the

Thank you for the clarification of the "master's tools" analogy Aaron Andersen mentioned earlier. I hope that in my ignorance I didn't offend anyone when I referenced that in my response above. Sincere apologies to anyone if I did. I was responding to the general concept as it had been presented, and didn't realize the proper origin and context. I'm going to go google Audre Lorde and the term, and hope not to make that mistake again.

Not to mention cheque is

Not to mention cheque is spelt wrong.

What really pisses me off is

What really pisses me off is that this makes out feminism as a ridiculous, (forgive me) cock-blocking, bullshit time-waster that women indulge in to make themselves feel important and righteous. As if feminism isn't valid and necessary and a way to get people to support and address real issues like, for instance, I don't know MISOGYNY or OPPRESSION? Or how about the complete dismissal of a a woman's worth as an intelligent human being, as anything other than an object to pursue and screw? That's what this "article" and these images do, that's the message they're trying to send.

FOCUS

To give focus to what you do not want only ensures it exists. Change what you cannot ignore and ignore what you cannot change. You find what you are looking for.

Wow, I really like how this

Wow, I really like how this article basically pointed out everything that I think is wrong with having these kind've of arguements. Expeially on the internet.

Lipstick feminism is

Lipstick feminism is inherently anti-feminist. It is consumerist, capitialist, shallow, bullshit culture. It is the reason we have heirarchy. You can't be a feminist and actually believe in egalitarianism if you're a capitalist. And wearing lipstick or buying that fancy Dove deodorant that makes your armpits pretty is part of that capitalist oppression that is destructing our planet and humanity.
"Ain't no feminist but a hairy one".
If the reason to call lipstick or liberal feminists "Feminist" is to strengthen the numbers and to sound like there is solidarity, there needs to be a redirection of ideas. Just because some teeny bopper or anthropolgy student thinks she should have equal pay as men and is pro-choice makes her a feminist, she needs to learn what equaility is and how to achieve it. Writing to Senator Joe Whiteguy about w=how you just "gotta have Planned Parenthood" ain't gonna cut it. Any idea that promotes heirarchy, oppression of anyone, exploitation, is anti-feminist. This includes voting for Obama.
Also, Patriarchy hurts everyone, men too. Patriarchy gives men double binds, forces them to act strong, gives them rigid sex-roles, turns any close male friendship in to a homoerotic one. Makes genital mutilation socially acceptable for males only. And then! turns anything beautiful into something to be mocked. Fuck Patriarchy.

teeny boppers? Really?

I disagree with a lot of what you've stated, but I really have to speak up about this piece

"Just because some teeny bopper or anthropolgy student thinks she should have equal pay as men and is pro-choice makes her a feminist, she needs to learn what equaility is and how to achieve it."

So, women who disagree with you are degraded as not being adults? Either as college students or as 11 year olds? How is this different than when men refer to adult women as girls? Is it suddenly okay to degrade women if you disagree with them?

Shaving my legs doesn't make

Shaving my legs doesn't make me any less of a radical, because lack of body hair is not the root cause of women's oppression.

And while you might not agree with liberal feminists on everything (and I seriously doubt that any of us agree with each other on everything), that doesn't make them any less justified in calling themselves feminists. If you drop the bullshit attitude, you may find that some of those teenage girls and college students that you are complaining about are actually really open to radical politics. And even if they are not, they are allies in the very real struggles for equal pay and choice, which will not lead to a perfect egalitarian society, do make life better for women in the system that we're stuck in for the moment. That's a united front, and it's the best way forward.

You, my good citizen, are no

You, my good citizen, are no feminist if you want to police women's expression. See also s.e. smith's Get Your Antifemininity Out Of My Feminism.

(And by the way, I shave my legs because I am autistic and have extreme sensory sensitivity, and I cannot abide how hairy legs feel. What do you have to say to that?)

While I dislike the removal

While I dislike the removal of body hair as a principle, I do believe there are some very legitimate reasons for removing body hair, and this is one of them.

Policing other women isn't a feminist act

Also, you appear to have accidentally got some internalized misogyny in your Marxism. ;)

Feminisms

In the study of ethics you will find more than one definition of feminism. Your version will not be the same as mine. If I find it to be my preference to use "fancy Dove deodorant" then that is my choice, same as it is another person's choice not to use it. One point of feminisms, to me anyway, is personal empowerment. I don't shave, but I like to smell nice. (for the record, I use arm and hammer)

Feminisms

In the study of ethics you will find more than one definition of feminism. Your version will not be the same as mine. If I find it to be my preference to use "fancy Dove deodorant" then that is my choice, same as it is another person's choice not to use it. One point of feminisms, to me anyway, is personal empowerment. I don't shave, but I like to smell nice. (for the record, I use arm and hammer)

Someone (or should I say

Someone (or should I say "some-woman" to be more PC?) can't handle a parody of the "How to change your man" articles which have been run in countless women's mags over the years. Or is it possible that the parody struck too close to home? Can the fundamental beliefs of an individual be augmented with a little sympathy, redirection, and reinforced with shared common interests? Truly horrifying; that you think most guys take to heart almost anything Maxim prints...

Don't quote me on this, especially since it's so obvious it doesn't require an expert witness, but I'm pretty sure Maxim is considered entertainment media. Don't worry I'll go back to eating sheep under a bridge now and you can continue to blow other things out of proportion. But I'll leave you with this - it's foolish to call articles like this (ones often referred to as humor) as "disgustingly violent" because it pegs you at same level of extremist rhetoric which always does a disservice to a movement as a whole... (See also: Glenn Beck, Jihadists, Westboro Baptist Church)

hey, thanks.

Thank you for this response. We should be ashamed of ourselves if ever we lose our sense of humor.

Slam Poem

youtube.com/watch?v=5gAf2gmJrJA

Wow, there are a lot of ideas

Wow, there are a lot of ideas going on in this thread! Definitely the most comments one of my pieces has ever garnered and I'm surprised because I've dealt with stuff that I thought might provoke a lot more reaction than this. Thanks everybody so far for sharing your thoughts.

I think I'd just like to chime in with a few comments:

- Re: googling Manifesta - I am sorry that my phrasing here came off as dismissing the book based on very little research. I ought to have taken the space (these things are supposed to be shorter than I manage to make them on my best days) to flesh out my idea. I was actually wondering (hoping) that the writer was quoted in a misrepresentational way. The blog experience has highlighted for me how tremendously easy it can be to encounter or reproduce something out of context. I hoped to focus here more on the way that Maxim used a female feminist voice here in its anti-feminist service. I also should have taken the space to hedge what I meant about my not having read the book. I just wanted to let readers know that I wasn't claiming to know anything about it. My quick Google search revealed a variety of critiques. I don't associate literary or scholarly critiques with the idea of a negative review. Critique can be a meaningful engagement with ideas you take seriously. I meant to let the reader know that I had just read a very little amount about the book, not that I had surmised the book was bad. Thanks for pointing out that I was unclear here.

Re: My focus of the article overall. There are already a lot of great critiques about this Maxim piece, so I knew that I didn't need to recapitulate all of them. I linked to a particularly good one, and I hope my tone indicated that I was very much in favour of feminist responses, rather than wanting them to make themselves quieter and more "palatable." So what I'd hoped to do was contextualize the excellent feminist responses the piece had received and then use some of the public conversations to explore a couple of issues that really interest me: that of horizontal hostility and of reproducing discourses of gender-based violence. It's my hope that this one small conversation can be set alongside, rather than be seen as erasing, other feminist work that has attended to backlashes against feminism, the mainstreaming of mainly white western feminist movements, and the differences among the exercises of gendered power and gendered violence. I had intended my point near the end about the way that some discrimination against men is too often taken to be evidence that there is a roughly "equal" amount of discrimination against men AND women (and the ways this erases histories of racialized, classed, gender violence experienced by women and women and men of "sexual minorities") to recognize this. But it's certainly interesting to hear that some people think this kind of analysis is unnecessary and perhaps detrimental at this historical and political juncture. These criticisms raise the point that sometimes the pendulum does have to swing far the other direction before it can come back to a more balanced position where nuanced analysis can be heard and made useful.

Re: The language of "disgustingly violent" being itself "violent" and regressive for feminisms - personally, I experienced the Maxim piece, which I read when critiques popped up all over my Facebook newsfeed, as disgusting, violent, and saddening, but I want to thank this commenter for making me think about the power of our visceral reactions and when it might be appropriate to share them and when it may be more constructive to temper our public communication.

One more thought! Re:

One more thought!

Re: Margarite Von Diter's post - The idea of letting off steam is definitely a keeping-it-real take on what goes on in a lot of these public conversations. I think we've all definitely got to express ourselves as a part of self-care. My language could maybe have focused more clearly not on the idea of anger in general, but rather the use of gender-based insults or images of violence as a way of expressing frustration. I do worry that fighting gender-based antagonisms/tensions/oppositions with similarly gender-based antagonisms breeds more of the same...and that we might get stuck in cycles of dialogue that mire us in defining, stereotyping, and reifying gender divisions. I regret that my message didn't come across as one that emphasized that fighting injustice is crucial, but that it may sometimes be important to be strategic about the way it's done and that in general, it's maybe cooler to de-escalate language or images that are hurtful or violent, especially online. It's all too apparent how bits and pieces of the wealth of online information can be misunderstood or miscontextualized. Just among the comments on this thread, it's clear to see that there are many people coming from many different frames of reference with very different examples in mind. It can be very hard to reach understandings and get clear on each others' terms and meanings.

gender-based insults are so ingrained, it's a hard cycle to stop

My language could maybe have focused more clearly not on the idea of anger in general, but rather the use of gender-based insults or images of violence as a way of expressing frustration.

I think this is very important to discuss, actually. I'm sorry if I glossed over that in my reply. I sometimes find the whole issue of how we deal with or discuss sexism (on either side) to be such a clusterf*ck that I kinda short out trying to get my head around it. ;) There's just so much going on -- socially, culturally, personally.

I think in the case of the Maxim piece the gender-based violence in some of the women's responses indicates how deep the feeling of being threatened or marginalized runs. People sometimes lash out when they're hurt or angry, and as you mentioned how they do this reveals a lot about the gender dynamic and underlying problems.

I've been trying to pay attention to my own language lately (you know that language itself has been top of mind for me), and how often I use gender-based insults or violent images as casual responses. Words and phrases that we have adopted without analyzing. Ways of communicating that have been passed down generation to generation, to the point that we cease to consider the words themselves; we're just using them for the general purpose they serve.

For example, why do we call someone a dick when they behave like a jerk? Why is the male genitalia the go-to word for things that are aggressive, invasive, obnoxious? What does that say about how our culture views (or had viewed) masculinity or sex, that this has become so ingrained as to be commonplace? And what happens when we perpetuate use of the word in that context?

Why is the word fuck frequently used in such a violent, aggressive, negative manner as a go-to curse word? Part of that is because the sound of the word is satisfying, giving us a good venting experience. But I have to question what that says about our views on sex, particularly rape culture, when we so easily associate a synonym for sex with something violent, damaging, or unpleasant.

Why do we (men and women) use the word whore as the go-to word for any woman who behaves ignorantly or obnoxiously? Most of the time the speaker is not actually commenting on the woman's sexual activities. Why do we demean sex workers so easily? Why do we so easily result to gender-based slurs instead of more appropriately meaningful words? And why don't we (the global "we," "we" as a culture) challenge this more often?

How does this gender-based language harm communication on feminism? Are we fighting fire with fire, or just creating an uncontrollable blaze?

As you said these are words we use in frustration, typically because they're commonplace enough to be accessible. But why is our frustration so often rooted in gender stereotypes and violence? And why are we have such an aversion to addressing this?

I do worry that fighting gender-based antagonisms/tensions/oppositions with similarly gender-based antagonisms breeds more of the same...and that we might get stuck in cycles of dialogue that mire us in defining, stereotyping, and reifying gender divisions.

Agreed. There are times when reflecting sentiments of stereotyping or violence with the same just worsens the problem. Or keeps us stuck in endless loops that are neither productive nor satisfying. Unfortunately, someone has to take the high road and stop that cycle -- and in this case that someone may need to be women/feminists (of any race, background, orientation). But how we get there is unclear because most of the vocabulary we (as a culture) use in moments of frustration is ugly, stereotyping, or violent. So how does a group that frequently has to deal with angering situations express that anger (or shelve it) when when addressing ugliness? I don't know.

Got to be twice as good to

Got to be twice as good to get half as far. Expressing ourselves is good. Nevertheless our personal satisfaction at having thrown a violent, angry statement may not be helpful for the discourse or the movement. IMO, personal social support networks are where venting is appropriate. Public forums are for advancing the movement. Eyes on the prize, people.

Some questions

1) The characterization of feminists in this manner is by no means limited to this article. It is a longstanding and widespread phenomenon that cuts across race, political persuasion, and all other categories, including gender. The feminist movement clearly has an image problem. How can feminists articulate their goals to the larger public in a way that puts the best face on the movement, while at the same time remaining true to its principles? Is acknowledging that PR trumps principle in our political culture itself an accommodationist strategy and a betrayal of feminist principle?

2) It strikes me that many critics of articles like this would likely be in favor of both free speech and the maintenance of a safe, healthy society. Where does one draw the line between those two things?

3) What about the contention that society's obsession with political correctness and support of egalitarianism are sometimes misapplied to stifle speech and opinions that do not conform to the orthodoxy of a particular group, for purely political reasons?

4) To quote the article, "humor doesn’t exist in a parallel world without any discursive effects in reality". At the same time, it's arguable that a statement like the above serves to shift ultimate responsibility for any consequent sexual assaults, gender-based hate crimes, etc. from the perpetrator to an uninvolved third party. Can we quantify the real-world effects of speech like this in an objective way? If so, is the anti-misogyny community exaggerating the extent of those effects? Or, on the other hand, are defenders of free sexist speech minimizing those effects?

4a) In the case of satire, which this article clearly is, does the ultimate responsibility for anything that may result from a misreading of satire as sincerity fall on the reader or the satirist?

I think we could spend an

I think we could spend an entire week discussing any of the questions you raised. And my brain meats are currently too fried to begin to address any of them. I don't necessarily agree with all the points you made, but I just wanted to thank you for raising thoughtful questions.

I posted this picture on my

I posted this picture on my Facebook and ended up in a battle with someone I never thought I would. I also got the usual which one's hotter debate which I totally expected but was still disappointed in.
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3106129445399&set=a.2547647963711...

I'd also like to point out something that seems to keep getting missed in this picture. Why can't the girl in the last stage be a feminist? I consider myself a feminist and every now and then, I totally like to rock the sexy panties. To say that being a feminist and being sexy are mutually exclusive, is just perpetuating the negative stereotype of a feminist.

Irony

I think it would be ironic/cool if bitch magazine bought out Maxim, filled the executive with women, then slowly re-worked what Maxim 'readers' (ha!) thought about what the ideal woman is . . . .

While this article is pretty

While this article is pretty gross, I don't think it's about feminism or mysogyny or humor. It's about anger and bad experiences. It's really about the emotional issues of the person or team who produced it. To my mind, it's more about the internal emotional state of the writer or writers, not about men or women.

Honestly? This is where we are at now?

This is moronic.

Feminism is not a dirty word, and being a Feminist does not make one a man hater. It's not about hating one gender, it's about both, as humans, having human rights.
The right to control ones body and have authority over ones life.
Not Male not Female just People.
Everyone who believes that individuals have the right to choose their own path and control their own life is a Feminist, because thats the whole point.

On behllf of all frat dudes

On behllf of all frat dudes and super single bachelors of the world, I just want to thank you for encouraging women to break free from their oppresors and become sexually liberated. I am proud to say that me and my brothers do all we can to help young girls become sexually liberated. Men need to wake up and realize that sex-positive feminism is the most empowering movement for men ever created. We still have the career, our hobbies and friends, but today, because of feminism we don't have to commit to a life of responsibilty and monogomy at an early age. We are now empowered to sew our wild oats with sexually liberated women and marry a nice girl to raise a family with. So, make no mistake. most dudes are feminists, and will continue to do everything we can to help young girls explore their sexuality. Every guy can became an alpha male if you learn game, and it wouldn't be possible without feminism, so cheers to getting laid tonight!

Are you suggesting that

Are you suggesting that there's a difference between a "sexually liberated" woman and a "nice girl to raise a family with"? If that's what you think, then you are no feminist.

Hi Shar!

Hey Shar!

Great post! Let's talk more about it :)

- Jay K. UWO. :D

I can't even take this Maxim

I can't even take this Maxim article seriously. Its author doesn't even know what feminism is. Feminism is just about equality. That's it. I know straight men who are feminists.

If feminism is about

If feminism is about equality, why isn't it called "egalitarianism"?
Don't fool yourself... it's about gender empowerment, pure and simple.

Maxim's "Cure A Feminist" Spreads the Sexism Even Farther Than

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Fuck this

I'd like to point out that you're reacting to an article published TWELVE YEARS before you published this retaliatory piece. I'm not saying it's any less insulting/humorous/whatever you've finally decided on, I'm saying that this article is irrelevant and complaining something so outdated only goes to show the desperation you feel for new material.
If you're going to complain about something from twelve years ago, you have to try to look through the same twelve-year-old lens.

It isn't outdated.

All that is being said is still issues that are being dealt with today. If anything with the rise of the MRA it's even more true. And talking about it and philosophizing and turning it over and trying to find an answer is fine. Even 12 years after the fact.

Agree.

Yes, we could dissect and debate ads from the 50s, also, and everything through the 90s. But if we can't find a current offending ad in Maxim, then why drag them through the rants? This is the kind of nonsense that gives feminist positions such a poor reception.

Educate ME

So im really confused as a white strait male i read the Maxim article and was repulsed. i started to read the comments and a term was mentioned "lip stick Feminist" what is this?

Lipstick

Tim, 'lipstick' means a woman who wears makeup, heels, etc. It's been used to describe lesbians, too. It's often code for 'not hardcore enough', as if one's appearance has to fit an ideological standard. It's used to de-legitimize someone's status, it's another way to try to sort and divide women. Another thing the term does is paint all of the non-lipstick wearing feminists with the same, demeaning brush.

Filtering = Censorship

I just realized that you're filtering out all feminist-negative comments about the article... Way to open up the debate... Modern feminism is not automatically "right" just because the matriarchy says so... The Men's Rights Movement and MGTOW were not born out of a reaction to nothing...

My Theory on Degrading Discussions

Even when there are many thought out nonaggressive comments, those that are aggressive and simple dominate the conversation because they reach a larger audience. Coming at the issue from the perspective of a graphic designer, I see a couple reasons as to why those comments/ideas are more impactful (which then leads them to dominating the conversation). 1. They are simple- we are attracted to simplicity and brevity. It is easiest for us to communicate through binary by describing an idea in terms of good or bad. 2. They are emotional- We pay more attention to emotional statements than we do to analytical ones because we are social creatures. Giving it an emotional context gives us a deeper investment.

Those who write inflammatory statements do so because they have found it to be the best way for them to be heard. Thought out analytical writing always loses out to emotional black and white statements. Many people talk about our love for simplicity as being a laziness but I don't agree. When I am making a poster and someone finds it difficult to read that is not an issue of laziness its an issue of bad design.

To add to the issue we identify ourselves by the groups we are a part of and cannot recognize the difference between the critical discussion of our group and an attack against our group. Internet discussions degrading into aggressive emotionally driven fights isn't unique to gender issues. We see it with race, politics and sports. Any time a group of people is discussed critically the us verses them attitude emerges.

Relevancy of Ad

I think it is important to note that this ad is from November 2003. The date is at the bottom of the ad. I thought the graphics looked odd. They are odd because they are from ten years ago, almost a different lifetime time, at least graphically. This is not to excuse the misogyny. But why rant at a magazine for a ten-year old ad? Isn't there something current that would be more relevant and redolent of sexism? If not...what are we all doing here?

But let me guess...

...you've never made any public criticism of the SCUM Manifesto?