I need to write about the damage of female objectivity in the first world, but unfortunately, I’ve been so overwhelmed with empathy and pain that it has taken me more than two days to find coherent words. A few days ago, I witnessed a cyber argument amongst acquaintances turn into misogynistic bullying right before my eyes. It was beyond any scale I was prepared for, and in my shock and frustration, I said nothing. The humiliation a few “friends” subjected one of my fellow girls to was clearly due to the social objectivity of women that has been so deeply ingrained in their attitudes toward women. And yet I stayed silent. It’s torn me apart.
First: *I know that gender and sexuality are spectrums. I believe it fully and support those living their true selves, and sympathize with those unable to do so in the patriarchy. I’ll start my posts a million times this way because it’s important to acknowledge all people fighting to be seen. With that said, I recognize that I am often read as cis-het because a bi/fluid femme with a man on her arm appears like a simple calculation for the world. But even though society groups me with a “seen” group (cis women), this group is still be so explicitly and implicitly oppressed by that same society that sometimes the injustice absolutely blows my mind.
No, it’s not violent transphobia or female genital mutilation. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous or destructive. Everything is connected. Oppressive actions don’t occur in a vacuum, they live in the mind and are nurtured by mass culture. The only antidote is a paradigm shift.
This is a tale about why I as a feminist can no longer be quiet EVER again and why injustice must be called out and changed EVERY time. We must dismantle the disgust.
Objectivity means: The state or quality of being an object. When we hear about women being “objectified” in society, this is essentially what is meant. No consideration is made for her thoughts or personal well-being whatsoever. No one bothers with her consent. No one bothers to hear her voice. What’s the point? She is just *insert some inferior quality to justify the oppression*.
The objectification of cisgender heterosexual woman is mainly implicit. It begins in the off-hand comment, the side joke in the latest box office flick, the sassy rhyme at the end of the hit single on the radio. It’s the messages in between the words that are so ugly and damning. And these messages ultimately instill the belief that women are subhuman. This subconscious degradation is what leads to cisgender men not only humiliating women by cat-calling and slut shaming, but it also leads to violence like
“gray” rape and assault.
A few nights ago, I saw this subconscious sexism in men (whom I know personally) morph into violently objectifying a woman on facebook. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, it’d be beyond my imagination. Yet it waltzed on my newsfeed as easy as a press of the
on the keyboard.
From the top:
This guy, Leym, had been posting shitty judgmental statuses for at least a week straight. I had taken the bait a few statuses beforehand, trying to shine a little feminist light, but it didn’t matter. He had an army of troll friends reinforcing his ignorance. So I decided he wasn’t worth it, and I’d just ignore his stupid statuses. Then the other night, for whatever reason unknown to the rest of us, Leym decided to post (another) sexist status. This time he chose to attack girls who take selfies. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t know about the selfie movement, you know, that selfies are embraced by many PEOPLE (not just cisgender women) as empowering. His ignorance was clear as he went on about respectability: “If you think guys are looking at your face, they’re not!” “Don’t cry about ‘bad guys’ when you’re taking pics with your MELONS out!” “Have some respect for yourself!” “Seriously, what kind of secure woman does that??”
Uh-oh. The problem with respectability politics is simple: Policing/shaming others to behave in a certain way in order to be seen/treated as human is invalid. Humans are humans because they are humans and should be treated with humanity PERIOD. That humanization should not depend on anything external, not their beauty, size, clothes (or lack of), or, for god’s sake, their selfies. I mean, really? COME ON. This is A, B, C stuff.
But a lot of people (manboys) commented on this status like “True that!” “Great facebook entertainment!” One girl took the bait. She said she didn’t see the correlation between a girl taking selfies and complaining about bad guys. After a little back and forth between them, Leym clarified “Ok you’re right, but girls who take a picture with their boobs out, caption: ‘Look at my new bracelet!’ Ew.” The girl agreed. Facepalm. But still, I didn’t want to get involved again.
My mouse hovered over “Delete Friend”. But then one guy, Fax, came in with the blow.
He attacked Leym for the status by challenging Leym’s own security, “Aren’t you the one posting shirtless selfies on the daily? Dude, the fact that you rip on people 24/7 (on facebook nonetheless) shows you’re clearly insecure about something.”
Alright!! Nice job! Someone (and a cisgender hetero DUDE at that) is calling out this stupid slut-shamer!
But then Fax went on to start naming what some of the insecurities could be. Among them, he suggested it could be Leym’s “shitty life” or “lack of friends”.
Naturally, Leym tried to defend himself by degrading Fax through even worse attacks. But in the patriarchy, there’s only one way to really attack another man, and that’s by attacking “his” w(o/e)men. Leym replied: “Don’t be salty buddy because you fuck girls infested with STDS”.
Time out. What??
What the flying fuck??
Leym’s status in itself was sexist and embarrassing. It shouldn’t have been such a surprise that he would use sexism to attack the one guy calling him out on his shit. But I’ve been so wrapped up in feminism and surrounded by people who believe in the full agency of women, that a response like that took me completely off guard. What do the girls who consent to fucking ANYONE have to do with anything about any of this?
But that’s the whole point. Women were not the subjects of the argument. The subjects were Fax and Leym and their egos. And it only got worse.
Fax came back comparing Leym’s dick size to the nose size of Delilah, Leym’s girlfriend. The comeback was cloaked in the intention to attack Leym, but in reality it was only a humiliating attack on Delilah — a completely separate person uninvolved in the status war WHATSOEVER.
Fax knew that Delilah wasn’t a part of the argument. Just like the rest of us at home cyber-lurking, we could see that she didn’t comment, like, or share anything her idiot-boyfriend was saying. But again, that wasn’t the point for either Fax or Leym. Delilah was equivilent to the supposed “STD-infested girls” – subhuman. The purpose of these women were to be the men’s objects… The objects of insults. Objects used by one man in an attempt to destroy another man’s ego. Back and forth and back again. To Fax, Delilah was nothing more than cyber mud to be slung at another hyper-masculine manboy.
But DELILAH is a HUMAN BEING. She should not have been subjected to that kind of humiliation because a MAN objectified her in an insult-slinging battle with another MAN. SHE’s a PERSON! Is this really so hard to comprehend? Enough of the slut-shaming. Enough of the objectification of women!!!!
I couldn’t look anymore. I deleted Leym, and took a much-needed breath.
A few minutes later I got a facebook message from Duran (another manboy). “Look what I posted on Leym’s status.” Welp, can’t anymore.
So Duran sent me screenshots.
Duran had taken it upon himself to go through Delilah’s instagram account and post pictures of her in a bikini onto the status: “Hmmm yeah Leym, she’s really so respectable..”
“Duran, Delilah is being VIOLATED in these comments that she has NOTHING to do with!”
“Well, I sent her an apology. It was only to prove a point!”
There was so much wrong and still I’m not sure what’s worse: That somewhere, deep down, Duran KNEW he was violating another person and therefore apologizing, or the fact that for him the violation was justified in order to for him to make a point on a public forum?
Delilah’s emergence into the argument was only as an object of insult for the men to throw around, but the re-publishing of her pictures under the slut-shaming spotlight, for EVERYONE to see, all for the sake of Leym’s credibility, IS A CLEAR CASE OF INJUSTICE. And even still, NONE of these guys were thinking about Delilah’s personhood. The whole point of everything said and every picture posted was to humiliate LEYM.
“You’re making a point, Duran… But at the expense of WHO?” and my heart broke.
Not one of those cisgender heterosexual manboys did anything to protect the privacy and dignity of an innocent person. They threw a person in the mud essentially to compare dick sizes. Is Fax only to blame when Leym was the one who posted such a provokingly slut-shaming status? Didn’t Leym just get dished what he was trying to serve all the other selfie-taking-girls? Didn’t Leym just have his ego crushed because “his” object was able to be proven to be just like all the “objects” he was criticizing?
The only person in this entire scenario I give a fuck about is Delilah. The petty attacks between the manboys were ridiculous and pathetic, but the fact that Delilah was so easily objectified by them and then used as the primary ammunition by all sides (her face, her sexuality, the pictures that she CONSENTED to sharing on HER personal account being screen shot and used WITHOUT her permission to further fuel the flame) has exposed the misogyny of all men involved.
1) Fax should have NEVER brought Delilah into his argument with Leym. Especially publicly.
2) As soon as her name was mentioned, Leym should have said, “Delilah is a person and she has absolutely nothing to do with this. Address me, or no one at all.”
3) When Duran came in with the photos, Leym should have said.. well, basically everything I’ve written in this piece.
But to sum it all up: None of this should have ever even happened and that it did only reflects the social objectivity of women that these men have deeply ingrained. That’s alarming.
Duran sent me a final message: “Leym deleted the status. We have won.”
I was frozen. I had just witnessed so much damage, and yet still so much ignorance remained. In Duran’s perfect patriarchal society, it was the perfect karma: The guy shaming all those “selfie” girls ultimately found his own girlfriend is no different. Joke’s on him.
I cringe at the thought of how that status finally got deleted. From Leym’s responses, it seems he was prepared to battle all night. And so were all of the other men. It became a “Who’s Dick’s Bigger?” catastrophe. So what ended it? And I can’t help but wonder if it was Delilah’s tears. Her pleas. The desperation in her voice as it quivered over the receiver into Leym’s big dopey ears when she called him. Delete it. Please delete it. The frantic words in text message after text message. Whatever it was. However it happened. My stomach aches for her humiliation. Leym has more that 2,300 facebook friends. How many saw him throw his girlfriend in the mud for the sake of his ego?
I refuse to live obediently in the patriarchy. I refuse to be quiet. No one wins when a woman loses her personhood. There was no karma. Only injustice. Delilah didn’t need Leym’s protection, she needed his humanization. She needed all of our humanization. Delilah ≠ Leym’s girlfriend. Delilah = Delilah. Three men denied her personhood and humiliated her in front of a facebook audience of thousands of people without a second thought. That is the personal destruction that the objectivity of women is socially capable of.
How many people, with all their hearts and souls, believe that they are not racist only to take part in some study and find out that subconsciously they hold seriously damaging racial biases? It’s the same with sexism. It’s the same with misogyny. Don’t write this story off. This misogynist society will never die if we cannot humanize everyone. Do you say you care about women but refuse to learn about feminism? Do you believe that women are equal but make gender jokes or gender-based insults? Have you witnessed these things happen in your social circle and stayed quiet?
Where could you – in your actual life – apply action?
These are all questions I’ve had to re-ask myself, because, as strongly as I feel about these issues, ultimately the other night I stayed quiet. I wish I hadn’t given in to my pseudo-superior frustration. I wish I hadn’t deleted Leym so I could have been there for Delilah, so I could have said everything I’m now left blogging about. I’m sorry to all the women who are subjected to the ignorance of the patriarchy and its shameful and degrading objectivity. The bitter(sweet) truth is that what happened the other night was just one battle in the fight for equality so another chance will unfortunately, but undoubtedly, come, and I will fight to ensure sexism to that degree never strikes twice in front of me.
Resist cognitive dissonance as Oliver Burkeman explains, “When you’re confronted by prejudice and you don’t object to it, your own attitudes shift in a more prejudiced direction, to maintain consistency between your behaviour and your beliefs.” Clearly, I know where I stand, but this experience gave me a reality check on my anti-patriarchy warrior-status and taught me a valuable lesson in feminist ethics: You cannot be a feminist and be quiet.
Facebook changed my life the other night, and now the world has now been notified. I will never be silent in the face of oppression again.