Pervasive Culture

Representative Ayanna Pressley weighing in on the confrontationbetween her colleagues,Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Ted Yoho declared that what happened was an indication of a “pervasive culture of misogyny and sexism.”  Let me be clear, I am not defending Yoho’s calling AOC a “fucking bitch.”  He behaved like a jerk and what he said and where he said it was totally inappropriate.   Unfortunately,  Pressley could not resist the temptation to confirm her bias against men.  As I have blogged in the past, misogyny is now voiced every time a man acts inappropriately to a women.   Misogyny means a hatred of women and glibly labeling someone or something as misogynistic distorts the issue and creates a defensive response rather than understanding and constructive dialogue.   I have no idea whether or not Yoho hates women.   The issue is Pressley saying that hating women is pervasive among the culture of men.  I would have liked to ask her how she came to the conclusion that hating women was pervasive.  According to the dictionary pervasive means, “especially of an unwelcome influence or physical effect spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people.” There is no denying that there are some true male women haters in our society and they do have a presence on the internet.  However, there is little evidence that women haters are anything more than a small minority of men who are psychologically damaged.   Even theexperts in the Domestic Violence community do not automatically brand abusers as misogynists.  They speak of the abuser as a power and control freak not necessarily a hater of the female gender.

Calling sexism pervasive among men might be a tad easier to accept.   Sexism is a broad term which captures a spectrum of behaviors and attitudes that can be labeled as sexist.  It is defined as, “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.”  Several things to consider.   Is calling a women a bitch necessarily sexist and furthermore is sexism pervasive among men in the Me-Too era?  A tough question to answer because of the broad usage of the word bitch.  The literal meaning of bitch is not helpful.   It could mean, “a female dog, “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman” or “something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant.”  Men call other men bitches.   Are they implying that a man who is acting like a bitch is acting like a women?  Possibly, but frankly unless you know what a person’s frame of mind is and what personal meaning he or she is attaching to a word it is not reasonable to ascribe a label to that utterance.   In other words calling someone a bitch or son of a bitch is not necessarily a sexist expletive.   The more important issue is the pervasiveness of sexism.  It is easy to point out examples of sexism and also to highlight gains for gender equality that have been made over time.  Neither is helpful in coming to terms with whether or not sexism is pervasive.   My final thought is to avoid labels and instead discuss specifics and mining data for understanding .   Labels engender defensiveness, position taking and the political high jacking of an issue.

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