Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Re: Politics and Misogyny

Bob Herbert gets it both right and wrong in yesterday's column. The part he gets right is, "Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life." This is more true than any man or woman is really willing to admit. The story should be taken on as one of the biggest issues facing our country today. Our expectations of women can be demeaning and objectifying.

Just as I thought Herbert got it really right, he went too far in the other direction. He points to examples of misogyny that include "Hard-core pornography ... photographers [that] risk life and limb to get shots of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears without their underwear... men regularly gather at Gate D to urge female fans to expose themselves ... from brutal beatings and rape to outright torture and murder." These are all serious examples of misogyny, but they most certainly aren't the only ones.

BBut the trick is that the examples he lists are pretty widely accepted as terrible in our culture. The dark side of sexism is the kind that not everyone would call sexism. By calling out somewhat extreme examples, he's making the case that sexism is easily identifiable. The thing is it's not. We may never discover the extent to which sexism exists in our culture because we're all a little biased. It's always important to fight the extreme cases of misogyny, but it's much harder to identify and fight the subtle instances of sexism.

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