After last week’s mass shooting took the lives of six UC Santa Barbara students, and in light of the misogynistic videos and writings posted online by the shooter prior to the killings, now seems like as good a time as any to discuss some of the ways that mainstream society perpetuates misogynistic views about women. Here are three stories about researchers, commentators, and everyday Twitter users who are contributing to that discussion.
The hashtag #YesAllWomen was created in direct response to the shootings in Santa Barbara as a reminder that while not all men (also a trending hashtag this week) are violent misogynists, all women have suffered harassment and sexism. #YesAllWomen has become a dynamic conversation on Twitter, with thousands of women across the world describing their own experiences of sexism and harassment, which range from stories of sexual assault on college campuses to discrimination in the workplace.
Former Jeopardy champion and acknowledged nerd Arthur Chu has written a thought-provoking piece on misogyny in nerd culture, a topic which doesn’t always receive as much attention as, say, sexist frat brothers. Chu, however, points to the ugly implications of Steve Urkel’s stalking, or a rape scene in Revenge of the Nerds being played for laughs. He also addresses real life harassment, stalking, and violence which he argues stem from a dangerous attitude on the part of many men—that they are as entitled to a woman’s body or companionship as they are to the bonus points at the end of a well-played video game level. Chu calls on his “fellow male nerds” to understand that “other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned—they can be given freely, by choice, or not.”
A pair of sociologists from the University of Michigan and UC Merced, Drs. Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton respectively, spent five years living in a dorm room, researching the habits and behavior of the 53 college women on their floor. Of particular interest are their findings about the word “slut” and the practice now widely known as slut-shaming. Armstrong and Hamilton concluded that, while it was common for girls to put down other girls by calling them sluts, there was no clear definition of what constituted slutty behavior. Many girls’ definitions of the term not even tangentially related to sexual activity. They also found that there was a significant classist dimension to slut-shaming, with working class girls more likely to be publicly referred to as sluts than their upper-class counterparts. The researchers’ conclusion? “[T]hat ‘slut’ is simply a misogynistic catch-all, a verbal utility knife that young people use to control women and create hierarchies.”