June 9, 2011

Mysogyny, Labels, Isms, et cetera

Zach Weiner:

Part of my distrust of terms comes from a funny experience I had coming out of college. Allow me a brief digression: I went to a liberal west coast school. The kind of school where many of the kids manage to be oppressed and wealthy and socialist all at the same time. A frequent topic of discussion was the “inherent sexism” of the English language. There were two main lines of argument – 1) in English, the default pronoun is “he” 2) English contains a number of words, such as “bitch” and “pussy” that combine an insult with femaleness. So as not to digress too far, suffice it to say that I think these arguments are unconvincing. At the least, they require a lot of nuanced (even statistical) explanation in order to claim them as true. That said, this sort of thing was my impression of how “sexism” worked in society.

Then I moved to LA to get into the film business. In LA, it is considered acceptable to ask a potential secretary to send headshots. In LA, it is acceptable for a casting director to say “could you play that role blacker” as a way to say “act loud and dumb.” In LA, you hear people describe homosexuals who’ve died of AIDS as having “died of assfucking.” In LA, you hear even nice people say “women can’t be funny.” These aren’t exaggerations – these are things I experienced. Having seen these things, it was incredible for me to look back at the way that, in college, we’d parse the tiny details of language to try to locate some sexism. In Hollywood, it was real sexism, without doubt or hesitation. It was people holding back women (and other groups) actively and overtly.

It occurred to me what a bizarre thing it is that “sexism” blankets both the experience I had in college AND the experience I had in LA.


  1. David Stager on June 9th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    If you are an aspiring web comic writer and you want to avoid *most* accusations of sexism, use an androgynous pen-name like Robin.

  2. Joel Bernstein on June 9th, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I don’t think that’d help much; most even somewhat-successful comic artists’ appearances are well known. If nothing else, they go to conventions and sign books.

    And if you’re going to invent this fake androgynous persona to duck sexism complaints, you might as well just make a fake female persona.

    The thing is, I don’t think he cares whether a couple of crazy people think he’s a chauvinist pig. This was more about introspection, about proving to himself that he’s not intentionally mocking half of the earth’s population.

  3. David Stager on June 9th, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I was just spit-balling ideas with the pen-name. When I first read the excerpt I was hostile. Probably because I was one of those oppressed, wealthy socialists he mentioned. But his arguments are well thought out even if I don’t agree with everything.

  4. Cindy Scroggins on June 9th, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Pussy bitches.

  5. David Stager on June 10th, 2011 at 9:26 am

    One of these days, Cindy! One of these days…

  6. Cindy Scroggins on June 10th, 2011 at 9:47 am

    To the moon, chief.