i was disturbed by this commercial and the truism it illustrates about het partnerships in general: men “not listening” to their wives and gfs does happen, and its frequent enough that everyone knows about it. and as i learned when i googled it, feministing has done a brief takedown of its own: the above video is disturbing because its “blatantly sexist” and its blatantly sexist because it features “rewarding a man for briefly listening to his wife.” yes, all true! but…whats “sexist” about it specifically? and why is this a problem, and why is it a problem for feminists? i mean, anyone would have hurt feelings if they were ignored this way, wouldnt they? is “sexism” *just* about hurting womens feelings?
clearly, the answer to this is no. feminism is not about catering to or protecting womens feelings, as if womens subjective experience of the things that are done to us under patriarchy is the real problem, and definitely *not* the demonstrable harms that flow to us from misogynist institutions and the behaviors and entitlements of misogynist men. we must understand this, if we are to get anything done, and if our critiques of media images are to be meaningful: its the demonstrable harms to women we are talking about, perpetrated on women by men, to benefit themselves. we are talking about context. “sexism” isnt just a word, or an idea, its a tapestry of interlocking systems of sexualized oppression that work in tandem to destroy women, and elevate men.
speaking of context, heres another ad for klondike bar featuring another misogynist pasttime: hating on mothers-in-law:
again, this is a “hurtful” image and a sexist commentary, used to sell ice cream (WTF?) but why is it harmful? how is any of this specifically harmful to women, or what does it demonstrate about the interlocking systems of sexualized oppression that work in tandem to destroy us?
when taken together, i think these two media images* illustrate how the het partnership is designed to be socially isolating to women (ie, its intentional). our male partners arent expected to listen to us or nurture us emotionally, intellectually or any other way really…but we also arent allowed to hang out with our female family members anymore, either, or have them “hanging around” anymore after we are sexually partnered off with men. women are expected to abandon our female family members specifically, (mothers and sisters are especially not welcome) and put all our time and energy into building up our partnerships and building up our partners, but they arent expected to give anything back. and (AND!) we also arent allowed to fill the obvious gaps left by the het partnership model with anything else, especially anything of substance: women who have loved and nurtured us for decades (but who have faults, sometimes severe ones) and particularly mothers, who are old enough to know better and who have been there, done that in many ways, and perhaps have managed to cast off some of the trappings of femininity and patriarchal mandates in their old age. this seems specifically forbidden, in the context of the het partnership.
why is this a problem? well, its a problem because isolating women makes us more dependent on men; making sure we are unfulfilled makes it likely that we will work very hard to make our het partnerships “fulfilling” but in the end, all this time and energy is probably misplaced. the het partnership model is fundamentally flawed, really: two people do not a “support system” make, and men usually die first. hello! women are pretty much guaranteed to be left alone and vulnerable, even under the best of circumstances (ie. a “happy” het partnership that lasts a long time).
and its a problem because the wisdom of women is not properly passed down like knowledge must be, in order to give historical context. women who dont like PIV (for example) think they are the only ones that have ever felt that way, and they run to doctors for help (thats about 16 red flags right there, just in that sentence alone, in case anyones counting). women who sense (correctly) that theres something fundamentally terrifying about the het partnership and womens vulnerability in it, are left trying futiley to “save their marriages” instead of forming all-female living spaces free from men, and male influence, and mens PIV entitlement, and abandoning the het partnership model entirely.
and all of this is deliberate, on the part of men. thats the thing. once you see the result of a system or a behavior, and you continue to do it anyway, it becomes very obviously deliberate. and in the case of the het partnership, the desired result appears to be this: socially isolating women and cutting them off from real nurturing, especially from older females, so that they continue to have PIV with men who demand PIV within the context of het partnerships, and so that women spend all their time and energy building up men, instead of providing a safe place for themselves and other girls and women. thats whats offensive about these images: they illustrate misogynist patriarchal institutions that work together, to benefit men financially, sexually and in every other way, at womens expense.
*i actually had another video in mind that i think better illustrates the isolating exclusion-of-female-relatives issue, but i couldnt find it anywhere online, which i found strange. i wanted to use the new wells fargo mortgage pre-approval commercial, where dood doesnt want to live across the street from his wifes sister…but its not like this isnt a running theme. other media images demonstrating the same thing are everywhere; the prevalence of this message in general is kind of the whole problem. ie. its het-partnership propaganda, where the het partnership model is specifically deleterious to women, and elevates men at womens expense.