descending bangability: welcome to the new low
I’ve been writing for many years and blogging since 2005. After a certain point, it feels like I’ve become used to encountering all types of abuse and sexism online as a woman writer. That is, I assume that I’ve gotten numb to it. But then I read something that seems to take things to whole new low, and that initial rage I used to feel when encountering sexism online is made fresh again – gone is the numbness and the ability to just “let it go” and move on.
And here is the latest article that has taken things to a whole new low and awoken my rage. Recently, an article called ‘xoBang: The Typists of xoJane, Ranked by Bangability’, was published by NAPALM magazine on the website Medium. NAPALM describes itself as ‘a magazine of commentary and reportage’ but its few “publications” on Medium seem to be more like exercises in sexist trolling. The article on xoJane writers was, predictably, retracted with a lame faux-apology. I say predictably because I suspect this was one big click-baiting exercise by whoever wrote it – as is the whole magazine. That doesn’t excuse what was originally written, though. Knowing it would be deleted, I made screenshots of the original article. Here it is:
You may well ask: Why call attention to this? Isn’t that what they really want? Perhaps. But the fact is, to talk about this like adults, we need to look at the content. Unfortunately, that also means giving them the attention they desire. You may also ask: Why single out this horrid piece of sexism over others? You’re right; there are many, many other horridly sexist articles out there. But dealing with one should allow us to see the issues that are raised by many. And this one is particularly outrageous and stupid:
Ladies, you’re “typists”
No, no, women don’t write, they just “type”. Because clearly, we all live in a 1950s TV show where ladies are secretaries in short skirts, who are there only for the visual pleasure of men. They used that term in the “apology” too, which goes to show you what they think about women’s minds, abilities and basically, humanity.
Sexism, racism, ageism, fat-shaming, all rolled into one
You don’t have to look very hard to see it all. This is not exactly subtle-city. It does, however, magnify and highlight something that lurks beneath our culture and society in often far more subtle ways: the reduction of women to visual and sexual pleasure alone. This is not a new topic, I know. But we keep coming back to it because it keeps being used as a means to control, classify and dehumanise women.
We’re not people, we’re “skirts”. We haven’t got our own dreams, minds, aspirations, talents, individuality; we’re just here to be “banged” like some general hole in the wall. If all you see when you look at a woman is something to be used up for your own sexual and visual gratification, you are a misogynist arsehole. If the concept of treating women as human beings is still too difficult for you in the year 2013, then stop writing and sharing your opinions with us all.
Predatory behaviour served up as “dude-bro fun”
Just think about what this article is actually doing: not simply reducing women to holes to be banged, or assuming that their worth as people lies in something as trivial as physical appearance. There’s also something more going on here. This article invites men to view women from the position of predators on the hunt. To “size them up” as “meat”; to compare and contrast their bodies like they’re objects in a store; to basically view them as trinkets and toys to be consumed by men. This is sick. It is also dangerous.
The perpetuation of this infantile style of “dude-bro fun” articles makes it seem OK for predatory behaviour to flourish; for men who commit violence against women to feel as if they are warranted in their behaviour, because women are just “things”; just property waiting to be evaluated and taken. Only someone with an enormous amount of privilege and complete unawareness about the real dangers women have to navigate daily, simply because they exist, can write such a piece of garbage.
Whenever I see such articles published online, I come back to the issue of responsibility. What responsibility does a site like Medium bear when an article like this is published through it? I’d say quite a bit. I’ve discussed this before when talking about another site that allowed a harmful piece to be published, and it’s worth repeating again here:
‘When pieces such as this one are critiqued, I often hear the defence that editors can’t “silence” debate and pick and choose what can or can’t be included on a site. I’m sorry, but that’s precisely what an editor is supposed to do. I’ve worked and still work as an editor and you can bet that I screen submissions to make sure that nothing damaging, racist, sexist, homophobic, or bigoted gets past my radar. Because I have a responsibility as an editor to act like an editor. If a piece does more harm than good, I will not publish it or forget my ethics for the sake of “debate”. “Debate” is not a god before which we must all bow down, people are more important.’
These are issues that we need to talk about, because let’s face it, there are a lot of ignorant people out there. The fact that they have opinions doesn’t mean those opinions deserve to be shared on a wide public platform.
But what if this is just a joke?
Who cares? All of the above still applies. The fact that women are the ground upon which to create your infantile “joke” is, in itself, a form of sexism.
When it comes right down to it, when I see articles like this one, I’m reminded of what my place is in society as a woman. Nothing tells you what you’re really worth in the world like some dude looking at a picture of you and erasing everything that makes you you for his own gratification. It’s frightening, confronting and enraging. But let’s stop allowing it to happen unnoticed. Let’s make a conscious effort to not “let it go” every single time. Sometimes, let’s point out what sucks and what is unacceptable. As difficult as this may be, critique is better than silence.