Undead Sexist Cliche: Feminists would be taken seriously if they weren’t so serious

Anti-feminist Katie Roiphe has a column in the New York Times explaining that what we learn from the Cain sexual harassment charges is that women shouldn’t be so easily offended: “Maybe it’s better to live and work with colorful or inappropriate comments, with irreverence, wildness, incorrectness, ease. Is the anodyne drone typing away in her silent cubicle free from the risk of comment on her clothes, the terror of a joke, the unsettlement of an unwanted or even a wanted sexual advance, truly our ideal?”
I covered most of that argument here (and this points out that the charges against Cain involve feeling women up in exchange for work, not telling off-color jokes), but Roiphe’s article brings up another cliche: Feminism shouldn’t be taken seriously because it has no sense of humor.
The important issue isn’t really male workplace behaviour, you see, as no real woman is “utterly derailed by a verbal unwanted sexual advance or an inappropriate comment about her appearance” so harassment isn’t a real problem. It’s that those feminists are just soooooo uptight, drones living “in terror of a joke” and that’s the important thing.
This isn’t a standard applied to any other movement that I’m aware of. Nobody ever complained the civil rights movement didn’t have a sense of humor about Jim Crow, or racial discrimination in the workplace, or that Muslims should laugh about being detained in Gitmo (it’s possible to make jokes about all of that, it’s just not mandatory).
But of course, having African-Americans enjoy going to the rear of the bus wasn’t an essential component of racial discrimination. It wasn’t necessary for it to work. With sexual harassment, if women don’t enjoy it, it kills the mood: Hey, I was just having fun, putting hands on your boobs! It was amusing and sexy and roguish! What do you mean I was harassing you? I had fun, why didn’t you? You’re just humorless!
The possibility that it’s not so much fun for the women? In Roiphe’s opinion, they should just brush it off. Why bother making all those men miserable? Just shrug and roll with it (even if it’s your boss and not responding favorably to the unwanted sexual advance can send your career down the toilet)
This is basically a variation on all the other special standards applied to feminists: They can’t be taken seriously because they’re so ugly and don’t dress sexy. And they hate sex. Though if they dress too sexy or go looking for sex, of course, they invite rape and it’s their own fault if it happens. In essence, society can’t take their criticism of sexism seriously until they conform to sexist standards. In Roiphe’s view, they shouldn’t even criticize.
Roiphe seems to think she’s the cool, fun-loving voice of real women. In reality, she’s the voice of the guys who feel them up.

12 Comments

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

12 responses to “Undead Sexist Cliche: Feminists would be taken seriously if they weren’t so serious

  1. ninjanurse

    Roiphe slips a lot of worn but still toxic ideas into her op ed. She didn’t have to make them up, they’re out there. One is the subtle assumption that there’s no fun, humor or friendliness among workers unless the women cater to the men and encourage the worst of them. She has a lot of false equivalencies–I doubt she has ever spent much time with women who have jobs.
    I like my job, the work culture wouldn’t allow anyone to pick on anyone else.

    • frasersherman

      Well put. Several people in other blogs have pointed out that Roiphe’s line of work (author and academic) doesn’t much resemble the typical woman’s work-world.
      I’m glad to hear your culture’s so supportive.

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