"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More Commonplace Misogyny

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I'm a big fan of loudmouthed, in-your-face, politically liberal female comedians. I love to hear Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, and Margaret Cho tell it like it is. From what I can tell, they aren't any more outspoken or crass than the most popular male comedians, and while they do crack jokes from time to time that reflect the (often hilarious) experience of being female, this humor does not seem to comprise their entire sets. And yet, to my surprise, it seems that nearly every time one of these female performers is mentioned when I am in the company of heterosexual males, I witness the same reaction. The men in my presence will wrinkle their noses, declare these women annoying, dismiss them as unfunny, or even state, simply, "I hate that bitch."

So what is it about these women that is so abrasive to men? I got to thinking more about this issue after recently reading an essay about how humor based on men's experiences is often taken as universally funny, whereas any jokes that have to do with being female are assumed to be something only women could enjoy. When a woman fails to laugh at penis jokes, she is accused of having no sense of humor, but a man receives no such censure when he rolls his eyes at jokes about periods or menopause. And that, my friends, is a perfect example of male privilege.

But it's not just their comedic material that tends to put men off. The lovely and hilarious Margaret Cho, in her book I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, sums up this conundrum beautifully:
"It seems to me that America hates it when women are wildly successful, and there is built-in punishment that comes along with that kind of wealth." (p. 116)
And isn't she right? Who among us hasn't heard family, friends, and media personalities (both male and female) tearing down famous, successful females? And if they give reasons, would the reasons sound legitimate if it was a male celebrity they were bashing? Here's what Cho has to tell us:
"If you are a feminist or not, I don't think it is acceptable to hate a woman in the media unless you have a well-worked-out explanation as to why, have examined all your own prejudices and can convince me that you are not just another fascist follower of fashion."
So attention all haters of Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, Kathy Griffin, Queen Latifah, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, Courtney Love, Camryn Manheim, Monica Lewinsky, Margaret Cho, Madonna, Kirstie Alley, Roseanne, Anna Nicole Smith, Wanda Sykes, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, etc., etc., etc. I will no longer be accepting, "I hate that bitch," as your valid opion of a woman's character. Prove to me that you would have the exact same level of hatred for any man with the same characteristics, and I might be able to see you as something other than a complete misogynist asshole.