Last week, Shelby Knox, the brazen 23 year-old who has been speaking out for comprehensive sex education since she was 15, moderated a Paradigm Shift talk with world renowned Gender Studies scholar Dr. Michael Kimmel. Dr. Kimmel is a feminist consultant for Mad Men and the author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Every word of the talk was illuminating. Seriously. It was one of the best talks I’ve ever been to. Here are 10 things I left thinking about:
1. Women’s entry into the workforce is not seen as gender equality, it’s seen as a threat or an invasion of men’s territory. Take for example the cover story, “The End of Men” in this month’s The Atlantic. The very phrasing implies that strides made by women will render men obsolete. As Kimmel said, “Women are doing better. So? And the problem is … what?” It is not a zero sum game. It’s not even a story. But the media tries to report this data in a negative light in order to sensationalize it.
2. Privilege is invisible to those who have it. Black women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see black women, white women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see women, white men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see human beings.
3. Feminists feminize poverty instead of masculinizing wealth. Instead of framing wage inequality as 77 cents to a man’s dollar, maybe we should frame it as men getting $1.30 to a woman’s dollar just for having a Y chromosome. Men aren’t losing anything when women gain, the advantages they enjoy by virtue of being men were never warranted to begin with.
4. In every culture outside of the United States, adult men organize and supervise male initiation rituals. On college campuses in the United States, nineteen year-olds teach eighteen year-olds how to be men without supervision, while the male authority figures on campus try to stay as uninformed as possible to maintain plausible deniability.
5. The motto of “Guyland” is “bros before hos,” and this slogan could be seen on Obama posters during the 2008 presidential campaign.
6. When incoming UCLA freshman were asked, “How likely would you be to commit rape if you could be certain you’d get away with it?” 16-20% said “somewhat” or “very.” When this same group was asked, “How likely would you be to force a woman to have sex with you if you could be certain you’d get away with it?” 36-44% said “somewhat” or “very.” In other words, a third to half of all incoming male UCLA freshman would rape a female classmate if they knew they could get away with it.
7. Maybe this is why, according to the National Institute of Justice, 20-25% of all college women are victims of attempted sexual assault (even though only 5% report it).
8. The more homoerotic the sport, the more homophobic and exploitative it is of women. Football, which involves men in tight pants tackling each other, uses scantily-clad cheerleaders to distract from the excitement of the guy-on-guy action.
9. Apparently there is an “oral sex epidemic” in the United States. Yet in the past 30 years there has been no appreciable increase in cunnilingus, while fellatio has gone through the roof. Framing the data as an epidemic of oral sex among teenagers misses the gender inequality. It is not an epidemic of oral sex, it is an epidemic of girls servicing boys.
10. Nationally recognized sororities are not allowed to serve alcohol, while nationally recognized fraternities are. Thus the fraternities hold the power to provide female college students with a social life. If the girls are compliant with the fraternities’ norms (i.e. - physical attractiveness, sexual willingness), they have access to a social life, if not, they’re excluded.
Kimmel explained that guy culture is often terrible for men as well as women. Men are constantly policing each other to act like men (“no homo” is the popular term these days), and men are desperate for a better way to relate to each other and to women that would preserve their biological humanity.