ActivismFeminismSkepticism

The More Men Hate on a Woman, The More I’ll Probably Love Her

Men hating on famous women is a pastime as old as fame itself. From the vilification of Eve (as if Adam didn’t eat the apple of his own free will) to Annie Oakley (“When a man hits a target, they call him a marksman. When I hit a target, they call it a trick. Never did like that much.*”) to Kim Kardashian (“When there’s so many haters and negative things, I really don’t care.”), people love to hate on famous women.

But there’s always a good reason to do so, right? I mean, Kim Kardashian cares about her appearance! What a monster!  Kristen Stewart was in a set of movies that weren’t exactly feminist and played a character that mostly lacked in personality. That must be what she’s like in real life, and she can’t act, and she cheated on her boyfriend! She’s a dumb, home-wrecking harlot! Nicki Minaj twerks and makes sexually explicit songs, which makes her a bad role model for young girls! She showed her butt, which makes her a Bad Influence.

Kim Kardashian on the cover of Star magazine with the headline "65-pound weight gain"Too bad all of these criticisms are rooted in misogyny. Have you ever seen the magazine headlines when Kim gains a pound or looks less than perfect in any way? Kristen Stewart did have an affair, yes, but why does no one point out that the director who she had an affair with was married and almost 20 years her senior? Or that that she played Bella Swan from Twilight as the character was written, and has been great in several other movies? As for Nicki Minaj, why is it that men are sexually explicit at almost all times, but only Nicki seems to get shit for it? Did you also know that she speaks to fans personally to remind them that school is the most important thing?

I’ll admit it: I used to be on the Hate Train on these women (and many others) as well. But then I started to do something that drastically changed my perception of famous women: I assume that all criticism of women is rooted in misogyny. 

I know that some of you are cringing at that and think I’m overreacting. But think about it: when you live in an overtly sexist (or racist, or homophobic, or ableist…etc.) society, do you truly think your judgements are free of  bias? Completely? I don’t think so. If you aren’t actively fighting your internal biases at all times, you’re being influenced by them.

“But I’m not a sexist! I love women!” you think. I know. But you still have sexist thoughts and behaviors. You were raised in a sexist society and you live in a sexist society. You are the product of a sexist society, and that means you have biases, whether you admit them or not. You probably think “I’d have the same reaction if it were a man (or a white person, or whatever), but you wouldn’t. This example is about race instead of gender, but the point is applicable to both sexism and racism. Robert Downey Jr. says he’s “one of the best actors” of his generation and that “It’s not like this is the greatest swath or generation of actors that has ever come down from the pike.” Then he declares that winning an Oscar is “inevitable,” and everyone thinks he’s hilarious and adorable (for the record, he still hasn’t won an Oscar). But when Kanye West says “I’m the number one rock star on the planet,” and then follows it up with

If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me. You’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just the espresso. I’m just the shot in the morning to get you going to make you believe you can overcome that situation that you’re dealing with all the time.

He gets called the world’s biggest asshole. Hmm, I wonder why people reacted differently to these two statements from these two different men! What is different about them that would make people judge them differently? What a mystery!

Now, before you remind me that any of the people I’ve defended so far have done a Not Perfect thing, I want to remind you that I’m not saying any of them are perfect. I don’t agree with any of them 100% of the time, and they all make mistakes. What I’m trying to say is that if you think they’re worse than their male or white counterparts, your judgement is rooted in bigotry. And you need to fix that.

When I started to really look into what these Most Hated Women were doing and saying, I was shocked. Not because they were awful, but because almost all of them were smart, funny, charming, and often said very feminist things!  Kristen Stewart said “it’s a really ridiculous thing to say you’re not a feminist.” Kim wrote a very personal and touching blog post about how she started really thinking about racism after she gave birth to a mixed-race daughter (which, of course, some people shit on her for not “already being aware of it,” but if you’re going to shit on someone for learning and growing as a person, then you’re gross & I hate you). Nicki constantly talks about how she’s disadvantaged and overlooked in the rap world because she’s a woman in a male-dominated industry. In one very impassioned speech, she says, “When I’m assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. Bossed up. No negative connotation behind ‘bossed up.’ But lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch.” (I don’t want to ignore the fact that Nicki gets extra hatred because she’s a woman of color, either.)  It’s almost like these are all intelligent women who are being vilified by the media for some ~unknown~ reason!

So when a collective group of people piles on to a popular woman and criticizes everything she says…well, I’m going to go directly to the source and see what that woman is actually saying. And it turns out, I almost always agree with the woman in question. And even if I don’t agree with them, I usually defend them. “Jokes” about how Ann Coulter is a “secretly a man” are horribly transphobic, and if you say something like that you are out of my life. No, it also isn’t okay to make fun of Sarah Palin’s disabled child. I don’t care how wrong you think a woman is, personal attacks (especially bigoted ones) are not acceptable.

I feel awful for these women for the incessant harassment they receive, but at least it led me to follow and appreciate their work. I only heard about Anita Sarkeesian when people started screaming about how she wants to ban games or hates men or something like that. So, of course now I follow her and watch (and love!) her videos. When Gamergate first got started and I started hearing about Zoe Quinn, who supposedly “bought” reviews of her game (Depression Quest, which I highly recommend, especially as it’s free-to-play) with sex, I was immediately skeptical (by the way, these claims have yet to be substantiated in any way…what I’m saying is it’s a complete lie). I had played Depression Quest before but didn’t know it was developed by a woman, so of course I had no idea who she was. Naturally, I had to go investigate what she actually did and said, I found a funny, compassionate, and talented woman (who I, of course, followed as well). There’s also developer Brianna Wu who experienced death threats and got doxxed so she had to leave her home. The one positive aspect of Gamergate is that it gave these women a bigger platform than before. Keep in mind  that it only happened due to a great but involuntary sacrifice on their parts, which includes (but is not limited to) their personal happiness and safety.

There’s an internet law called Lewis’s Law that says “Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.” There’s another one called the Streisand effect, which “is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” I think we need a new law that seems to be a combination of the two: The more you try to silence a woman through incessant criticism and harassment, the more likely I am to look into what she actually says and (inevitably) become a fan. I think we should call it the Sarkeesian Effect, because 1) she was the first woman who made me really experience this, and 2) I think it’s hilarious to mock the “documentary” of the same name that will “expose her lies.” (They want $15,000/month to make this piece of trash? lulz)

I’m not asking you to put these women on a pedestal and never criticize them. They make mistakes, just like everyone else does. What I am asking you to do is simple and probably in line with your values.

1) Don’t just trust what other people say about a famous woman if they don’t include a source with evidence. If possible, go to the direct source (aka the woman) to see what she actually did/said.

2) Be skeptical. The media distorts facts all the time. Don’t just question articles when they disagree with your biases.

3) Be critical of your own reactions. Your gut reaction is not necessarily the right reaction. Take some time to think it over before you make a final judgement, but also be willing to change your opinion based on new evidence.

These sound fairly easy to do, but they require a continuous, conscious effort to apply them. Keep working at it, and you’ll find that your worldview is a lot more fair.

*I was unable to independently verify this Annie Oakley quote, but even if it wasn’t said by her, it’s still a good quote.

Sarah

Sarah

Sarah is a feminist, atheist vegan with Crohn’s Disease, and she won’t shut up about any of those things. You really need to follow her on Twitter (and probably Google+, just to be safe).

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15 Comments

  1. December 2, 2014 at 11:26 am —

    ” I want to remind you that I’m not saying any of them are perfect.”
    I’m pretty sure you once dumped your chewed gum on the sidewalk, therefore you’re wrong. You also deserve…*
    Seriously, whatever offense those women have committed, it usually stands in no comparison to the reaction they’re getting.

    *chocolate, I think

  2. December 2, 2014 at 11:30 am —

    Yessss. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that one of the most feminist acts we can do on a daily basis is not be shitty to other women.

  3. December 2, 2014 at 11:50 am —

    So much criticism of women is about their appearance or what type of guys they date or “do you have to be so shrill in your criticism of pop culture?”

    And of course, American culture in general promotes narcissism, among other negative qualities.

  4. December 2, 2014 at 6:34 pm —

    Yeah.

    It is OK to not like someone, or not be interested in what someone is doing. Of course the next logical, rational, and most importantly ADULT thing to do is to avoid and ignore them. I don’t have any interest in the celebrities listed here, so I don’t consume whatever products it is that they’re selling. To my knowledge, none of them have done or said anything particularly harmful to humanity or even any individuals, so I don’t have to think about them on that level either. None of them are Jenny McCarthy after all.

    There’s lots of celebrity white men who have done seriously bad things and no one seems to care… so misogyny and racism seem like obvious components of certain types of celebrity hate. Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Adam Carolla, Chris Brown, Sean Penn, on and on and on.

  5. December 3, 2014 at 6:03 am —

    I like your 3 points of advise.

    Regarding famous people – do you think there is any validity in the Oscar Wilde quote of “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” i.e. that some (not all obviously) are ‘playing the media’.

    • December 3, 2014 at 7:21 am —

      I think we should keep in mind that Wilde died long before modern communication

  6. December 3, 2014 at 8:53 am —

    I still don’t like Anne Coulter because she is demonstrably wrong about just about everything she says, and I still don’t like Sarah Palin because she is incurious and vacuous but wishes to represent me.

    But here’s the secret.
    Disliking a woman is not misogyny, disliking someone because they are a woman is misogyny.

    The ways that I’ve noticed women being attacked is specific too. It always seems to be about their looks or perceived femininity or lack there of, or else it’s about policing their sexuality, or assuming they are less capable because they are women. I found myself falling into it recently regarding Jennifer Lawrence. It’s insidious. It means I need to try harder.

    P.S. – I almost included my standard snarky comment about Sarah Palin, calling her Caribou Barbie, but then I realized that I need to stop that because even though it implies her lack of curiosity and dim-bulbedness it also implies that these things stem from her looks. So that particular barb will not be used by me any more.

    One step at a time. One step at a time.

  7. December 3, 2014 at 9:15 am —

    This phenomenon needs a name, a la “The Streisand Effect”.

  8. December 3, 2014 at 6:41 pm —

    “The More Men Hate on a Woman, The More I’ll Probably Love Her” This only shows your bias against men, and possible hatred. Annie Oakley on the other hand. What do you mean by (“When a man hits a target, they call him a marksman. When I hit a target, they call it a trick. Never did like that much.*”)? I looked on Wiki and on her page the only time trick was used, is “Oakley’s most famous trick was her ability to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground. via wiki”. I’m also sure you wouldn’t want her as an example, Annie wanted to go to WWII, I’m sure that if we had it Annie’s way women would also have to register for the draft as well. Just to get the right to vote, drive, and go to college. Also Kim Kardashian? you do know how she got famous right? and no it was not the porn she did. Her dad was the attorney for OJ Simpson… Do you really want a woman that started her fame from a man, be one of your examples? Judging by the title of this article.

    • December 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm —

      Given this quote:

      “Judging by the title of this article.”

      I’ll assume you only read the title and the 1st paragraph. Did you even read the footnote about the Oakley quote?

      Uh, if we’re going to have a draft (and not the meaningless “Men have to register, but we haven’t actually drafted anyone since the last week of 1972” situation, then absolutely we should draft women as well as men. Or, better, no one. (Disclaimer: I was due to be drafted in January 1973, even had my pre-induction physical in December 1972, in the midst of the Christmas bombing, but Nixon decided to end the draft as a sop to middle-America, who were sick of getting their kids back in body bags.)

      You seem to think the goal of feminism is to receive all the privileges of men and none of the responsibilities. You’re doing it wrong.

      The fact that Kim Kardashian has (most likely) unearned celebrity is kind of the point. The hate (and criticism not based on their words and deeds) directed at famous women, whether their fame is earned as a result of hard work and talent, or just because they are famous for being famous, only makes sense in the context of misogyny. Read the rest of the post, please.

    • December 8, 2014 at 9:46 am —

      Annie Oakley was not a support of the women’s suffrage movement.

      And why do you speak as if all of us here would obviously be opposed to conscripting women?

  9. December 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm —

    “I assume that all criticism of women is rooted in misogyny. ”

    So if a woman critiques another woman, do you assume she’s being a misogynist?

    • December 5, 2014 at 6:47 pm —

      Yes. Sort of.

      P.S. If you are a woman, you can assume what you will. If you are a skeptic, you will except evidence to the contrary and override your default assumption.

      Several points you gloss over, in what can only be an attempt to score points without have actually read the post: 1) Assuming something is a default. You should always change your mind if there is compelling evidence to the contrary. Sarah says exactly that later:

      “I operate under the assumption that all criticism of famous women are rooted in misogyny until I find conclusive evidence otherwise.”

      2) Saying something someone says “is rooted in misogyny” is not the same thing as saying “the person is a misogynist”. They could be repeating something someone else (who may be a misogynist) said without fully understanding the assumptions or implications of what they are saying, or they could be repeating a cultural meme rooted in misogyny. There is a difference between what people do and what people are. Decent people, when they do something that harms others and then discover or are told why it was harmful, attempt to apologize and modify their future behavior to avoid doing it again. Misogynists (and racists and other bigots and bullies), not so much. They already understand and are doing it on purpose.

  10. December 8, 2014 at 9:57 am —

    Try as I might to understand the reasoning, I simply can’t agree with assuming all hate directed to certain famous women is the result of misogyny. Obviously some may be, but I wouldn’t treat it as the initial hypothesis.

    I simply don’t like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West or Nicky Minaj. We wouldn’t work on the assumption that all hate directed towards famous men is the result of sexism, and given that presumably at least some of it isn’t, it’s also possible that some of the hate directed at certain women isn’t the result of sexism.

    (A recent instance of what I saw as sexism was the treatment of celebrity nude leaks involving Jennifer Lawrence, with people being outraged (even comedians like Patton Oswalt and Seth Rogen speaking against it) when in the past, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton et al were made fun of on late night television and called sluts. I imagine because Lawrence is a ‘good girl’, America’s sweetheart, while Kardashian is a worthless slut – the traditional virgin/whore dichotomy.)

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