Saturday, 17 May 2014

My response to '20 Things Women Do That Men Probably Don't Know About'

I found this list about "20 things women do that men probably don't know about"  the other day (thanks, Facebook, for giving me such profound things to read). You can find it here. Not the best read (I will copy the points of the list below when I comment it, too).

Although I usually just scroll down these kind of lists (after scoffing inwardly for a bit about sexist stereotypes),  I'm feeling activist and snarky, so let's critisize stereotypes for a bit.

Before I begin, I suppose that some people will not be interested in a more or less lengthy, and 100% snarky, commentary about a theoretically "harmless" list ridden with gender stereotypes. I really don't force anyone to read anything. So please, let us not have any comments about how I overreact to a harmless 'fun' list on the Internet, and how I must have a lot of free time, or how I'm a 'crazed, bitter feminist'. I do enjoy myself by writing snarky responses to stereotyped texts, because yes, I am against stereotypes and don't think they're fun or healthy. And no, I'm not exactly bitter because of it, although my life would be so much better without unnecessary gender roles. To each their own :)! Only, I don't feed trolls.

 Before commenting on each point, I'd just like to mention that I'm not a fan of generalisations. Generalisations are often wrong, misleading and/or prejudiced or ridden with stereotypes. Generalisations do people very little good and they're certainly not the best argument to use if you want to validate a point.  I'm saying this because this list - as well as so many others - is brimming with generalisations about how women supposedly act and think, thus promoting a lot of stereotypes that are not true in many cases (some of these, or all, may be true for a faction of women, but certainly not for all), and not exactly harmless, either.  And the same goes for lists about how men supposedly think and act.

 I think these lists bug me quite a lot because they appear shallow and harmless, but they keep promoting these unhealthy stereotypes that just enforce sexism. Just notice how this list about 'things women do that men don't know about' MAINLY focuses on physical aspects having to do with clothes, make-up, evaluation of the body and so on. There is practically nothing about character or mind or thought, or anything else (after all..."what else is there?!"). According to this list, women are beings who overly focus on their bodies and are usually self-conscious about them, feeling pressured to conform to a certain 'ideal body'. It is inferred that all use make-up and shave their body hair. It is inferred that all have deep interest about clothes. The only non-physical point of this list is that theoretically women get emotional in an irrational way from time to time. And for them, apparently, breasts are apparently so important when it comes to defining their "womanhood".

While many women may identify with some or even all of these points, what bugs me is that the writer chose these frankly shallow points as points that theoretically describe what a woman is versus a man. Men are also pressured to conform to certain body types and ideals in our society, but to a lesser extent than women, of course, and if one takes a look at these kind of lists, for men, there are comparatively very few points about physicality and 'beauty themes', and way more points about character, thought and action. And specifically quite a few points about how women make myths about men, and how they aren't really true. And yet women's lists, not all of them but way too many, still focus on these beauty points and apparently they're not myths or generalisations or anything. See, just at the right of this '20 things women do that men probably don't know about' is another list called '20 myths about men that need to be erradicated immediately'.  Double standards much?

Some of these points I have done or experienced. But I would never say that such things as poking myself in the eye with a mascara wand or wearing the same bra for a few days defines me as a woman (I'm also non-binary and gender critical, so the concept of 'defining myself as a woman' doesn't even apply to me). Given that 99% of these points are about someone's  beauty routine and thoughts on their body, generalized to extend to all women, I would hardly say they're a good way to describe a whole sex, or a whole gender (even if the gender construct does come with a lot of these subjective stereotypes). 
And about the title, 'that men probably don't know about'...No wonder men don't know about aspects having to do with someone's private routine!  Some of these stereotyped thoughts are so stereotyped, though, I do think men already must know about them. After all, we don't stop reading about how all women should be self-conscious about their bodies because they don't conform to the idealised body of society, or how women are so irrational and governed by PMS, right?

If someone wanted to 'define herself/themselves as a woman', first of all (and I repeat that for some people who are agender, non-binary, genderfluid, gender-critical and/or queer in some other way - me included- that concept doesn't even apply, or applies in a very different way), I guess they'd prefer to define herself/themselves without using too many gender-biased stereotypes, which basically make no sense. And second, while they could talk about their body at a certain point (this post is focused on women with female bodies only, though), they would probably choose aspects that had to so with character and way of thinking before and/or at least in addition to their body and, indeed, before their personal beauty routine.  Also, you cannot expect to summarize a complex individual, disregardless of their sex (and/or gender), by 20 points about someone's personal ideas, like I said. According to this list, I'm just someone who's seemingly rather obsessed with her breasts, self-conscious about her body, jealous of the bodies of other women, equaling her beauty routine to everyone's beauty routine and the very "essence of womanhood", and crying irrationally to add a bit of variety. Yeah, I think I'll write another list for myself, if you don't mind.
Pretty much
So, a bit of a more detailed commentary on each point.  Read on if you're interested!

-UPDATE: A commenter just kindly let me know that these points were selected in a pretty biased way and taken out of context from this Reddit, where individual women are commenting about things that they do or have done. Meanwhile, the Tickl post takes the problematic turn of selecting (in a biased and subjective way) a few of these personal, individual experiences, taking them out of context and massively generalizing them so that they're the things that apparently define women vs men. Thus, we go from a series of relatively harmless, individual experiences (still influenced by gender roles, but that's another issue) to a stereotype-promoting message implying that women are these beauty-obsessed and emotionally unstable beings who owe society (and men) their appearance. Proof of the harm which something can do when taken out of context and interpretated in a subjective, biased and manipulative way. And that is NOT OKAY. I don't care if the selecter's original intention wasn't to promote an stereotyped view of women. That's what (s)he is doing.