A Culture of Misogyny

Famous actress Ashley Judd draws a connection between the twitter abuse she experienced and her past experiences of sexual abuse, in her essay entitled “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Towards Girls and Women Is What Can Kick My Ass”. Judd believes that these instances of abuse were driven by cultural misogyny, and I couldn’t agree more. Cultural misogyny can be viewed through the oppressive gender binary that women are subjected to, the sexualization of women in popular culture, as well as the pattern of ‘slut shaming’.

The twitter abuse began when Judd tweeted her opinion about a sports team. She wrote that the opponent team was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—” (Alter n.p.). This opinionated comment is what incited the extreme verbal abuse against her. This abuse falls in line with gender binaries. Historically, women were oppressed and told not to have or express their opinions. For instance, women did not have the right to vote in the United States until 1920 (Jone n.p.). This historical systemic and structural oppression created the basis for the cultural misogyny women continue to face today. Another aspect of gender binaries is that aggression, in specific regard to sports, is strictly a characteristic that only a man can possess. As Judd points out, many men, including her uncle who is a chaplain, expressed the same opinion as she did. However, they did not experience an abusive reaction because being a male sports fan means “immunity from abuse” (Judd n.p.). This is not to say that men do not also experience the effects of gender binaries. Men are also subjected to limited definitions of expectations that align with their gender. However, the socially constructed definition of a woman, historically and presently, has had an oppressive nature leading to cultural misogyny.

The twitter abuse that Judd experienced had a common theme – it was mostly sexual. This is where the connection is drawn with her twitter abuse and the sexual abuse and rape she experienced earlier in life. The pattern recognition of sexual violence and abuse that women face can be, at least partially, attributed to the sexualization of women in popular culture. This is especially prominent in the music industry, in which the lyrics of songs are intended to portray women as sexual objects who are ready and willing to be dominated by men. A current example is the song “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj. Some lines from the song’s lyrics include “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun”, “oh my gosh, look at her butt” and “yeah, he love this fat ass” (Palacios n.p.). This song is one of many examples of popular culture that hyper-sexualizes and dehumanizes women. Judd writes, “I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated” (Judd n.p.). The pattern recognition here is no coincidence. The representation of women as sexual objects in popular culture allows for the prominence of sexual abuse and cultural misogyny that exists today.

Another aspect of the cultural misogyny that Judd speaks of is the cultural practice of ‘slut-shaming’. This refers to the tendency to blame the woman for the abuse that she experiences. Common questions after a women reports rape are: what was she wearing? Was she drinking? The blame gets transferred to the woman. Judd draws on comments she received saying “I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun” (Judd n.p.). Again, the pattern recognition is clear and disturbing. The practice of ‘slut-shaming’ has created a culture where rape is tolerated by excuses and women are silenced by misogyny.

It is important to recognize the intersectionality of oppression when it comes to misogyny. It must not be ignored that Ashley Judd is a famous white woman. She has immense resources to cope with the struggles she has faced and to receive proper treatment for recovery. She also has the ability to speak publicly about her struggles, and more importantly, to be heard. Most of the world is not famous and extremely wealthy. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, people of low-socio economic status are at a greater risk for sexual violence (American Psychological Association n.p.). People of a lower socio-economic status do not have the same resources available to help them cope with the trauma inflicted from abuse.

Race adds an additional layer of oppression. The oppression that women of colour face must be analyzed through both a feminist and anti-racist lens. Judd’s race was not mentioned in the telling of her story, or in the abusive comments she received. This is because whiteness is seen as an unmarked category. If a black woman took the place of Judd, it would be likely that the colour of her skin would have contributed to the oppressive comments. It is important to take into account the ways that oppression based on gender, class, and race intersect.

Where do we go from here? Judd’s goal is not to be the voice for all women of different classes and races. This would suggest a white saviour complex, serving to silence women of colour. Rather, Judd is sharing her own experiences in order to encourage others to speak out against abuse. Although it must be recognized that Judd possesses a privileged positionality that allows her to share her stories of abuse to the world, her message is nevertheless sincere and necessary

Works Cited

Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.”Time 19
Mar. 2015. WebLewis, Jone. “Women’s Suffrage Victory.” About Education. Web.

Judd, Ashley. “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Towards Girls and Women Is

What Can Kick My Ass.” Identites.mic. 19 Mar. 2015. Web.

Lewis, Jone. “Women’s Suffrage Victory.” About Education. Web.

Palacios, Marcos. “NICKI MINAJ LYRICS.” Azlyrics. Web.

“Violence & Socioeconomic Status.” American Psychological Association. Web.

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4 thoughts on “A Culture of Misogyny

  1. Hey, this is a great post, with interesting ideas! I think you’ve done a great job of recognizing some patterns between online misogyny and offline rape culture and sexual abuse.
    One thing I think you might consider providing a more complex understanding of is your examples of how women are sexualized in the media. I think that a basic reading of the song and video for Anaconda can be easily interpreted as misogynistic, but there are also some interesting ways to challenge this view. For example, most of the lyrics from Anaconda that you cited are actually part of the original song sampled from sir Mix-a-lot. By combining the original (misogynistic) song with Nikki Minaj’s rapping, she is appropriating the lyrics and taking control of her own sexuality in doing so. I read an interesting article about this, which I will add a link to. In essence, the article argues that Nikki has turned the original song into a conversation rather than simple instance of objectification. Furthermore, it is noted that the final scene in the video (where Nikki Minaj gives Drake a lap dance) also challenges the view of women as objects by keeping the camera zoomed out, rather than allowing it to focus on her body in a way many videos do. I think this is an important angle to consider because otherwise we end up blaming female artists’ sexual song lyrics and clothing choices for rape culture. That takes us back to square one, where slut shaming is acceptable.
    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/aug/22/nicki-minaj-anaconda-video-black-women-sexuality
    Then again, I recently watched clips from a forum on women’s sexuality in media where bell hooks was a speaker, and she read an interesting and relevant quote.
    “My fear for my daughter is not that she will someday act in a sexual way, it is that she will learn to act sexually against her own interests.” –From the book “Cinderella ate my daughter
    She draws from this quote to point to the fact that women’s sexuality is not bad in and of its self, but rather if it serves the wrong purpose it might be. For people like Nikki Minaj or Beyonce who say that expressing sexuality, and wearing revealing outfits is an expression of sexual liberation, perhaps this is in their own interests. However, its difficult to discern whether or not this is really the case. It might also be that this is “sexual liberation” geared towards the interests of a male gaze. I guess what I’m getting at is that I think the role of popular media in perpetuating misogyny, especially when it comes to female artists, is complicated. Perhaps, the lyrics and videos of someone like Kanye West could have served as a stronger support for your point.
    http://madamenoire.com/477942/like-st-boring-bell-hooks-nicki-minajs-anaconda-video-beyonce-female-body-pop-culture/
    Anyways I will be interested to see where this story ends up, given that Judd is apparently pressing charges. As you point out, she is more privileged than many of the other women who endure sexual harassment and abuse, so hopefully that will help her to make gains in creating a safer online and offline environment for everyone.

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  2. Hey Meera! Thanks for the feedback. Your point about the song Anaconda is very interesting to consider. The article you linked was a great read! I definitely think that this is an important viewpoint, and I am all for women taking control of their sexuality. In no way do I think that women expressing their sexuality is a bad thing, I think Nikki Minaj should be able to dance and dress however she wants in her music videos. The reason I used this song was because of the specific lyrics that I pulled and incorporated into my blog. Just to restate them, “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun”, “oh my gosh, look at her butt” and “yeah, he love this fat ass”. These lyrics in particular, in my opinion, actually reinforce the idea of women as objects that are dominated by men. I realize that you said that these particular lyrics are mostly from the original song that Nikki was attempting to turn into a conversation. However, unfortunately, given that the song is entitled ‘Anaconda’ and the chorus continually repeats the line “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun”, I feel as though her message may have been lost with the prominence of this type of language.
    I think your second point is very relevant to this song. The idea that ‘sexual liberation’ might be geared towards a male gaze, rather than in the interest of the woman. Of course this is not always the case. However, I believe the music video for ‘Anaconda’ provides some insight into this question when it comes to the song. The lap dance scene, although it was mentioned that it does not zoom in on Nikki Minaj’s body, portrays an image that seems to be directed at the male gaze. I don’t think that sexual liberation should be considered giving a man a lap dance while he continually comments about the necessity of your ‘buns’. However, this is simply my opinion and interpretation of the song. I agree with you that the lyrics of a Kayne West song would have been better for proving the point that I was trying to make in my post, as it is clear that talking about misogyny when it comes to female artists is very complicated and dynamic. Thanks for the discussion!

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  3. This post was very interesting and thought provoking to read! I really enjoyed how you structured your first paragraph. You gave me a good introduction to the topic and then a strong idea of what you were going to be talking about throughout the rest of post. I really enjoyed how you tied in aggression along with gender binaries. I find the comment about ‘immunity from abuse’ a very interesting point. The ideas of women being polite and frail are ones that stemmed from the past and despite attempts to change these ideas many people, often males, still have them engrained in their minds. Some questions we might want to ask ourselves is why does being male give you the right to this “immunity from abuse”? Why can’t women have this immunity as well? Why can’t women have the option to share their possibly aggressive opinions such as men do?
    I also enjoyed the way you tied slut-shaming into the lens of famous white women. I think this is extremely important to look at because people tend to target famous people due to the fact that they can justify with comments such as “they knew what they were getting into” or “it comes with the job”. I don’t believe that any type of abuse, let alone this type of sexual abuse should be justified just because of your profession. I also like they way you mentioned how although Ashely Judd had access to very useful resources to cope with her past and present sexual abuse due to her high socio-economic status, this is just one lucky case. Many women who receive sexual abuse are of lower socio-economic status and do not have the resources necessary to help them.
    Overall I thought you made very powerful points that shed light on the situation in a new light!

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  4. I like how your blog links the violent and sexual comments directed to Ashley Judd to a greater culture of misogyny. Your mention of song lyrics was really interesting; I agree with you that lyrics like Anaconda portray the sexual objectification of women. Products of popular culture, from music to movies, often portray women as sexual objects. When we are constantly immersed in a sexualized culture it can be hard to see women as individuals deserving of love and respect. I believe that popular culture is a huge contributor to misogyny. I think it is strange that sometimes women, such as Nicki Minaj, can produce material that seems misogynistic and objectifying. It seems bizarre that woman are a contributing factor to misogyny, but I think that it is simply the consequence of being in a patriarchal culture in which sex sells.

    I also liked how you included the fact that Ashey Judd speaks from a position of privilege, both in terms of both her socio-economic status and race. I don’t think that this story would have gotten the same amount of media attention if Ashley Judd had not been a rich and famous white actress.

    It is interesting to observe patterns in the way that we speak about the harassment of women. Your blog post emphasized that female celebrities are often told that harassment is part and parcel of their jobs. It has been my observation that women in all domains of life are told a variation of this when they complain about harassment. People react to violence against prostitutes by asking “What did they expect?”. Young female college students are blamed for their attire when they get raped. The fact that Ashley Judd’s harassment was also justified with a variation of these excuses shows just how pervasive and universal victim blaming really is.

    Thanks for the great read!

    Like

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