The violations started small. I was 12, fairly tall with brand new boobs. My mother wouldn’t let me buy “real bras” for a long time. It didn’t occur to me that was weird until boys in my class started advising me to “stop wearing sports bras” because I was looking a little “saggy.”
It was a…
I have kept my mouth shut all these months out of fear of retribution but I no longer have this fear so I am going to go ahead and ask this. Schwyzer states:
But this notion of “making room” in the blogosphere is based on a faulty premise of scarcity.
If that is indeed the case, then I have to ask: why then did Schwyzer attempt to have me removed from certain feminist spaces when I vehemently wrote against him? If indeed there is no scarcity, then why attempt have ME (a Latina feminist blogger) removed and publicly scolded, all done through backchannels hoping these maneuvers would not get back at me? why try to execute some character assassination to silence me against his obvious racism and sketchy politics?
I cannot be the first one (or last one) over whom he attempted these dirty tactics. But I no longer believe it is fair that I have to remain silent about it because otherwise I’d been seen as a trouble maker. I am a Latina, South American feminist. I AM A TROUBLE MAKER. I believe no other kind of feminism is possible. Schwyzer tried to have me silenced. I am setting the record straight.Flavia, I did not try to have you silenced. Your saying so doesn’t make it so. As I wrote on the Xojane comment, I considered the editor of Tiger Beatdown to be a friend. We had exchanged some messages about the controversy right before your piece ran. When it ran, I wrote to her for ONE reason: to clarify whether your views were yours alone (in which case, fine) or whether they reflected a sudden change in attitude on her part as well. I wasn’t interested in having you silenced. I was interested in clarifying my relationship with your editor. I obviously intended this as a private communication between friends. Somehow you learned of it and chose to publicize it. I doubt very much you actually saw the emails in question, as if you had, you’d know that I never asked for your piece to be taken down, much less for you to be fired or blackballed. I was asking about where things stood with your editor. It was about me and her, not you. Folks, you don’t have to like me or believe me. But it is surely not too much to ask for some shred of evidence that I tried to silence Flavia Dzodan.
We still have some tickets left for our launch party in downtown L.A. at 9 p.m. this Saturday, October 20. So if you want to join us for DJs, dancing, drinks on us, a pop-up shop in an Airstream trailer, and a sneak peek at the mag…let us know ASAP!
Email us at tomorrowrsvp at gmail dot…
Can’t wait to be there! See ya Saturday!
For too many guys, women’s sexual desire is something fungible, easily transferred from vibrator to dude to dude. This myth is at the heart of slut-shaming: in guy culture, women who don’t confine their sexuality to one monogamous relationship with a man have a kind of democratic moral obligation to make their bodies available to every interested male party.
To say “I like sex, I just don’t want to have it with you,” is challenging for any young person trained to be a people pleaser. Much easier to pretend one isn’t interested in sex at all than to explain why –- even though you have an admittedly healthy libido – you don’t want to have sexy times with Trevor or Tyler or Timmy. Dealing with young men’s sense of wounded, sulky entitlement can be exhausting if not genuinely dangerous. Many parents know this, which is why even the most progressive moms and dads may equate their daughters’ sexual self-discovery with frightening vulnerability to pressure or coercion.
The “myth of male weakness” suggests that at least some men cannot control themselves in the presence of a sexually attractive woman. Women must cover up, the myth says, in order to protect these overgrown boys from their own impulses—and to protect themselves from rape. Defenders of blasphemy laws peddle a comparable “myth of Muslim weakness,” suggesting that Islamic religious sensitivities are so delicate that a schlocky YouTube video can push adult human beings into spontaneous and uncontrolled acts of violence. Each camp shifts responsibility from those who are offended or aroused to those who (intentionally or not) are doing the offending and the arousing. That argument infantilizes heterosexual men and pious Muslims by implying that neither group is sufficiently mature to resist sexual temptation or theological provocation.
Why Boys Have it Easy (-er) on Halloween
“Slut-shaming” is a very loaded term. It’s a thing, but it’s not applicable here.
Hugo Schwyzer, a feminist blogger and gender studies professor at Pasadena City College, says it well:
(Hugo’s status as an advocate for women and men has been questioned by both groups, but that doesn’t nullify every one of the observations he’s made.)
…those of us who advocate for girls aren’t primarily concerned that girls are showing too much skin. Rather, the problem lies in the compulsory sexualization that is so much a part of today’s Halloween celebrations for teens. A lot of us are more upset by the absence of options than by the absence of fabric; we know that pressuring girls to act sexy is not the same thing as encouraging them to develop a healthy, vibrant sexuality that they themselves own. I don’t have a problem with “sexy bar wench” costumes; I have a problem when those sorts of costumes are the only ones young women are expected or encouraged to wear.
One year, when I was little, I wanted to be Peter Pan for Halloween. My mom made me a costume and it looked awesome—I was so excited. I got to school, and a horde of Scream killers, Freddies, Jasons, and chainsaw murderers teased and laughed at me for having a “girly” costume. Because from a young age, boys are pressured to assert their junior masculinity in multiple ways, one of them being their Halloween costume. Tights and a cap-and-feather weren’t violent or dominant enough.
Things got better as I grew up. I could be pretty much whatever I wanted for Halloween, because there was a lot of diversity in what I saw other guys wearing. Ninjas, Ghostbusters, and Robots were still there, but so were judges, clowns, Hunter Thompson, mailmen, etc.
In many ways, it’s a microcosm of how media works. The brilliant tagline of Miss Representation comes to mind: you can’t be what you cant see. Lots of media paints a reductive/harmful/inaccurate/impossible picture of men, but it’s diluted by the sheer diversity and variety of male characters there are. There scores of strong and noble heroes, but there are also scores of meek and introverted geniuses, and scores of savvy, calculating villains.
Characters…costumes. You get it.
Now look at women. Look at women on Halloween. My female peers were pressured into being princesses and ballerinas as kids. Then they grew up, and what was the variety they were presented with? Sexy nurse, sexy cat, sexy teacher. Sexy ghostbuster, sexy clown, sexy ninja.
The praise that most frequently falls on a little boy’s ears is “did you lift that by yourself? you’re so strong! you’re going to grow up to be big and strong!” This, of course, reflects and reinforces the values we use to assess males. It outweighs “you’re so smart” and the especially rare “you’re so handsome.”
BUT by nowhere near as much as “you’re so pretty!” dominates the ears of little girls. It’s the go-to compliment. Girls are raised by media and even by unwitting parents to derive most of their confidence from their appearance. They’re taught that their value is in their body and their face, and so it remains that way. And “pretty” eventually morphs into “sexy.”
When my male friend chooses a costume, he might choose one because it’s scary (Werewolf) or cool™ (James Bond) or funny (Austin Powers) or esoteric (Captain Kirk). Some guys think of costumes based on what will show off their bodies, but it’s an even mix. Those guys are out for validation—they want to be looked at and found attractive. And that’s a natural (if often overindulged) desire.
When my female friend chooses a costume, she has to face the inevitable question: sexy or non-sexy? That’s the first question. Our culture has made it so. If she doesn’t want to show off her body, or doesn’t feel she has the “right” body to show off, she settles on a non-sexy costume. Then she has to accept that she’s going to line up for pictures in her cool homemade robot costume with a group of friends that are showing more skin than not, and she’s going to be perceived as the frumpy one. Some people will perceive it as a sign of weakness or unattractiveness or prudishness. Even if she doesn’t subscribe to that cultural mindset, she’s surrounded by people who do.
It’s not like girls naturally have the show-offy mindset of the Chippendales guys, it’s just that they’re told by the culture that it’s all they have to offer.
The argument that dressing in a low-cut belly-shirt and booty shorts for Halloween is an empowering display of the female form will never sit right with me. Even if that is truly the intention in some cases, and that validation and craving desire have nothing to do with it, we live in a culture where a girl’s appearance is viewed as her most important characteristic, and I think these costumes just play into that.
Like Hugo says, “I don’t have a problem with “sexy bar wench” costumes; I have a problem when those sorts of costumes are the only ones young women are expected or encouraged to wear.”
If the same kind of diversity that exists in men’s costumes existed in women’s costumes, it would even out. There would still be “sexy bar wenches” here and there. That just means that someone elected to use their once-in-a-year chance to costume publicly to show off their body. (Like dudes who dress as Chippendales strippers.) I personally think doing that reflects a mindset I don’t approve of, but it’s not really harmful. Just a little annoying and indulgent.
There’s nothing wrong with showing off, but I’d love to see girls showing off by being scary or funny or cool™ or esoteric. Sexy isn’t the only thing worth being.
(Cue the retaliation of: “there are scary-sexy and funny-sexy and cool™-sexy and esoteric-sexy costumes out there!” Right. But why add the compulsory sexy?)