The Sexist

The Morning After: Peevish Humorless Feminist Edition

* Scientific American's Jesse Bering debunks feminism:

The IAT was designed to assess people’s “hidden” beliefs about minority groups. If you ask folks in, say, a straightforward interview format, most will tend to report explicitly that they’re not racist, or that they don’t think obese people are stupid or that those with handicaps are dull. Obviously such views aren’t exactly okay to say aloud or to even acknowledge having as a fleeting thought. But the IAT presumably flushes out people’s unconscious (implicit) negative associations with such social outliers.

Although administration of the IAT varies, the basic idea is this. Participants see randomized combinations of negative and positive words at the top right and left corners of a computer screen (for example, in one trial, they might see “lazy” on the left versus “hard-working” on the right). Then words representing different social targets appear in the middle of the screen (for instance, “black” in one trial and “white” in the next) and participants are asked to rapidly decide—by pressing the e key for the left side or the i key for the right—which of the two words at the top of the screen it belongs with. In some cases, the participants are instructed to match the social target with the stereotypical concept; in other cases, they’re told to associate the social target with the non-stereotypical concept.

So implicit bias is said to be evidenced by faster reaction times when stereotype-consistent words are paired with a marginalized social group (e.g., black-lazy) relative to other groups (e.g., white-lazy), and slower reaction times to pairings of positive words with the marginalized group (e.g., black-intelligent) relative to the comparison group (e.g., white-intelligent). The idea is that, when asked to match positive concepts to words describing marginalized outgroup members, participants’ latency of response captures a dragging of their cognitive heels because they’re working against the grain of their inner bigot.

So guess what happened in Jenen’s IAT study when college-aged men and women were asked to match the category “feminist” with either positive or negative words? The most pertinent findings were that the participants were significantly slower to associate positive words (“happy,” “joy,” “peace,” “wonderful”) with the feminist than they were negative words (“awful,” “evil,” “nasty,” “terrible”).

Bering takes these results to mean that the feminist movement has been hijacked by "the most obnoxious, peevish and humorless feminists," turning it into "a term loaded with negative stereotypes of the kind exemplified by [the] sour and overly vigilant, accusatory, men-are-brutes outlook on life."

So, can we also use the IAT results to conveniently ignore ingrained racism and instead accuse lazy people of "hijacking" the black community? Or does the poor view of the feminist movement instead reflect the work of people like Bering, who are invested in framing feminism exclusively in negative terms?

* The Washington Blade's abandoned National Press Club newsroom remains abandoned.

* On acronymsMichelle Rhee chooses the term "LGBTQ" for her Blade op-ed.

* SAFER Campus covers the latest in cutesy nicknames for sexual assailants: In L.A., serial rapist and murderer is known as "The Grim Sleeper."

* Seed Magazine reviews Sex at Dawn, a husband-and-wife team's take-down of human monogamy:

When we think of the first swinger parties most of us imagine 1970s counter-culture, we don’t picture Top Gun fighter pilots in World War II. Yet, according to researchers Joan and Dwight Dixon, it was on military bases that “partner swapping” first originated in the United States. As the group with the highest casualty rate during the war, these elite pilots and their wives “shared each other as a kind of tribal bonding ritual” and had an unspoken agreement to care for one another if a woman’s husband didn’t make it back home. Like the sexy apes known as bonobos, this kind of open sexuality served a social function that provided a way to relieve stress and form long-lasting bonds.

Photo via Nationaal Archief

  • http://britisshameless.com Britni TheVadgeWig

    I always use "LGBTQ." Because not everyone identifies as L, G, B, or T, and the Q is an all-inclusive term that includes any and everyone under the queer umbrella (including me!)

  • Ryan

    That Jesse Bering thing is unbelievable! He's ignoring that people with privilege have an INVESTMENT in believing that less privileged groups fit all these terrible stereotypes, and aren't as a rule pleasantly delighted when someone challenges the stereotype. So giving an example of a woman who is not stereotypically "compliant" or "subservient" will create an equal and opposite reaction of bigotry and the woman will be called a harpy. And an African-American person who is not "lazy" will be called uppity.

  • Shinobi

    I'm so glad that stereotypes have provided me for a guide by which I can live my life. I love my awful, nasty, terrible lifestyle of seeking equality and fairness IN THE SERVICE OF EVIL. MWUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MisterD

    I don't thinks that the point of the article in the Scientific American is to assert that feminism is ALL about peeving humorless feminists, it is about this particular perception of the the general public of feminists in general.

    It's not fair to Bering to dismiss the context of his article ; mainly that he has been accused of being a sexist in a previous post by an feminist and is defending himself, while pointing out that this king of deliberate and overzealous attitude is undermining the way feminists are perceived, just like in any other movement.

    Bering's not framing feminism in a negative way, he is framing that particular blogger who accused him of being what he is not, a sexist. Ironically, this reporting of his article is doing exactly the same thing by selecting exclusive parts in the article to serve the point of view of the author.

    I don't think we can hope to have constructive conversation about perception and prejudice if we keep on distorting every side's point of view.

  • Shinobi

    MisterD,
    He is free to repudiate charges of sexism and challenge the way individual feminists portray feminism without completely misinterpreting research about stereotypes. I might have taken the rest of the article seriously if he hadn't done that.

    The fact that he thinks it is even remotely revolutionary to hate on feminists and accuse them of being humorless man hating hairy ugly evil lesbian cat loving failures of womanhood leads me to believe he HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT when it comes to feminism. These stereotypes have been around for as long as women have been trying to convince men they should maybe be allowed to vote. This is not news, one random feminist on a blog did not contribute to these stereotypes, she was not born yet when these stereotypes began and were handed down through generations.

    Do I think what he previously said was particularly sexist? Not particularly. Do I think what he said in this article was sexist? Maybe a little but compared to most of the comments here, no.

    Do I think he completely misrepresented research about stereotypes and showed a failure to understand how stereotypes are formed and how they persist in a SCIENCE magazine? Yes. And for that he deserves endless ridicule.

  • Emily H.

    The argument in Bering's post is soooo whatthefuckular. Even if it WERE true that feminism had been taken over by "obnoxious," humorless feminists, that would still suggest that there were some regular non-obnoxious feminists still around, and they just weren't airing their views as loudly (or something). Which would mean that viewing all feminists as obnoxious man-haters would STILL be a bigoted stereotype. That is how stereotypes work. The fact that some members of a group actually fit the stereotype doesn't make it a fair assessment.

    I'm also confused by how he acts like the results of IAT are some big validation of his worldview. "Intriguing new experimental research demonstrates that this negative view of feminism is more than just my personal opinion and in fact runs very deep in the modern psyche." Yes, ideological constructs with little basis in fact do tend to "run very deep" in the "psyche" (whatever that means... I thought he was an evolutionist, not a Freudian). That's how they stick around, given that they can't stand up to logical scrutiny. Also, you don't need a lab test to reveal that a lot of ppl have negative associations with feminism. You could figure that out by ordinary observation. This is like when scientists do some study that shows straight men like to stare at boobs, & everyone laughs about how obvious it is. Except Bering apparently doesn't realize how laughable it is?

  • Emily H.

    Also, this: "Incidentally, dear readers, I’d venture a guess that, unlike 'misogyny,' many of you had to look up the word “misandry” (I did), which probably says something about the double standard by which society feels it’s perfectly acceptable for women to hate men, but men aren’t permitted to hate women."

    -- I didn't have to look that word up, you fucking idiot. Don't project your illiteracy onto me.
    -- I think more likely, misandry is a less well known concept because historically, misandrists haven't been in a position to flaunt their hatred with impunity, or to make their views the instrument of harm for large groups of people.
    -- "How come like, black people get to use the n-word, but when a white person like me uses the n-word, people say it's offensive? That's a double standard! Our society is racist... against white people!!" Jesse Bering, why do you want to be "permitted" to hate women? As a white person, let me say this. Even if there are some black people out there who just hate white people, I'm still not going to complain about how I'm not "permitted" to hate black people. BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO.

  • Em

    @Emily H.: *applause*

  • Conrad Davis

    – I think more likely, misandry is a less well known concept because historically, misandrists haven’t been in a position to flaunt their hatred with impunity, or to make their views the instrument of harm for large groups of people.

    Bering's contention is that this is precisely what happened to him when he wrote the first article where he was called a sexist for being grossed out by 2 day old semen balls some lady was squeezing out of her cooter.

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