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 prejudice),  I'm feeling activist and snarky, so let's critisize stereotypes for a bit.

DISCLAIMER: 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. That's OK, it really is. 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 and opposition/bashing between the sexes. 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. 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 so very important they are one of the things that really, really define their womanhood.

  While many women will 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, I think, 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 (which I applaud, btw, I'm against stereotypes for both men and women). 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 (wtf!) wearing the same bra for a few days defines me as a woman. 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, and also 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 I wanted to 'define myself as a woman', first of all, I prefer to define myself without using too many gender-biased stereotypes, because I think we're humans before men/women. And second, while I would talk about my body as a woman at a certain point, because being a woman comes with certain body characteristics, and that's something that I would also embrace, I would probably choose aspects that had to so with character and way of thinking before my body and, indeed, before my personal beauty routine.  Also, you cannot expect to summarize a complex individual, disregardless of their sex, 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.

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: 
Here women are commenting about things that they do or have done, while 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 harmless, individual experiences 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 f women. That's what (s)he is doing.