Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kayleigh's Ranty Soapbox of Rants: The Internet and Absolutes

So I've been wanting to get some stuff off my chest and I finally decided to sit down and write a post about it. Like most of the times I do something like this, it'll probably be garbled and steam-of-consciousy but hopefully my tangled thoughts will at least approach the realm of sense making.

At any point there are usually hundreds of annoyances and niggles floating around my head. Like why does The Invention of Lying equate telling the truth with being an asshole? If you can only speak the truth why does that mean you'd walk up to a stranger in the street and tell them their ass looks huge in those pants. That movie was really dumb you guys. But while some are mini and insignificant like that, some are larger and end up becoming this great huge bezoar blocking me from moving past and concentrating on more important, and usually more rational, issues.

Right now the issue clouding my vision is the internets. Oh how I love it and I hate it. One of the best things about the internet is meeting people who get fired up by similar things. I have a lot of dude friends and while I'd say they're all feminists and would happily call themselves that, they're hardly the type to rant with me for hours about rape culture. They're much more likely to nod their heads and dart their eyes worryingly when I start to get caught up in one of my anger-spirals (I feel for them, truly, I can go for hours). So it's nice to come to the internet, especially if I've just witnessed/heard about something particularly demoralising, and see that I'm not alone, there are literally millions of people only a click away thinking just the way I do, getting angry like I do and abusing GIFS the way I tend to.

Of course, there's always the flip side of this. I'm not talking trolls or hatemongers (although those guys make me want to cry) but people who refuse to see anything except in absolutes. The thing that really frustrates me about sites like Tumblr or Jezebel (and stop me from getting more involved with either site) is that people are SO quick to pile on or judge or demand apologies over complete non-issues or misplaced rage. One of the best examples of this is the Heath Ledger/Joker tumblr thread that happened a few years ago.

Granted, I don't know if this one actually happened or was a joke about how quick people on the internet are to make snap judgments but it shows the point I'm trying to make. If you've ever made a rape joke you're pro-rapist. If you ever criticise another country's policies you're pro-Hitler. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun when discussing a trans person you're a huge pile of shit. There are no allowances for human error or for a slip of a tongue, you are written off immediately and no attempts to apologise or explain yourself will suffice.

 JLaw has landed in hot water a few times over things she's said, and while some of them can be taken badly, I'd personally chalk most of them up to being young and really not understanding how offensive it is. I 100% believe that JLaw has probably read over articles calling her transphobic and realised that her quippy joke about her cat wasn't the wisest thing to think or say out loud. I know it's easy to look at people younger than you and say "you should have known better" but seriously, how many people haven't said some shitty dumb things in their lives but are lucky not to have a microphone in their face when they say it? This isn't to say people don't have a right to feel offended, they absolutely do, but maybe we shouldn't be so quick to cast stones for a few off-the-cuff remarks made at 20.

Then there are things like Jenny Trout's (or Jennifer Armintrout or Abigail Barnette) article "Jennifer Lawrence Body-Shames You More Than You Might Realise" WHICH ACTUALLY BODY-SHAMES JLAW WHEN TRYING TO SAY SHE BODY-SHAMES US. It isn't JLaw's fault that the public doesn't react to her and Melissa McCarthy's comments about weight equally. Just because there are larger actresses out there doesn't mean that JLaw doesn't come under fire from her management, producers or tabloid magazines about being too big for film. Just because she is skinny by IRL standards doesn't negate the fact that Hollywood is fucking appalling. In fact, it makes it worse. Look, I love Melissa McCarthy but it's not like you can deny that she's larger in size. I couldn't care less if she lost weight or put more on as long as she's happy and healthy, but of course she's been skewered by producers and tabloids, she doesn't fit their idealistic beauty standards by a mile. But JLaw is tiny and young and gorgeous, she should be their ideal for beauty. The fact that anyone in the industry thinks otherwise is exactly why that industry is so broken. The fact that they're telling a young girl who can't possibly weigh more than 55kg to lose weight is so disgusting it makes me want to vomit. Neither woman should feel pressured to lose weight to get work and neither woman should be abused if they say they just came from eating a burger at Maccas. But just because people would throw mud at MM for saying the same thing doesn't mean JLaw should have to censor herself.
"What are you gonna do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That's just dumb."
How is that statement body-shaming larger women? Are thin women not allowed to state the obvious and say that diets are dumb as hell just because there are bigger women out there? Are you not allowed to say you enjoy a burger AND mention that you hate spending time in the gym but have to for work? How can Jenny Trout not see that her argument has nothing to do with JLaw and everything to do with society and the Hollywood system? I don't know if this is simply the backlash we all knew was coming for JLaw, misguided internet social justice or misaligned anger based on JLaw's transphobic remarks I mentioned earlier, but it is so stupid I want to tear my hair out.

But in my mind one of the biggest internet absolutes has to be surrounding MRAs (men's rights activists). This is actually tricky ground because 95% of MRAs are absolute assholes who are pissed that a woman might ever have the same rights as them. They're the kind of privileged rich white man who would also march down New York streets with signs saying "diversity = white genocide". Ugh.

But there are 5% of people there with legitimate causes that get grouped into that bundle of assholes just for being a man. Grab the pitchforks ladies, how dare he think he has anything to complain about! But he does. Take male rape. It's a very real issue but either people don't believe it exists (because apparently being aroused biologically - which they cannot help - negates a firm NO) or mock/ridicule men who do come forward as victims. The latest campaign by NO MORE with Mariska Hargitay is actually brilliant because it targets male AND female rape myths and tries to re-educate the public about both of these issues. Or how about the fact that a large chunk of MRAs (of that 5% obvs) are actually focused on equalising rights when it comes to their children. Whether it's paternity leave or shared parenting rights* - these aren't outrageous issues to bring up and aren't actually specifically male issues.

I saw a post on Tumblr** the other day which said that patriarchy is damaging to everyone, not just women. Because of the patriarchal values that still reign supreme there are unreal expectations placed on both women AND men.

Thanks go to Tika for reblogging this

In the case of the legitimate MRAs, they are essentially fighting for the same thing as feminists. They want to be treated equally in all areas of life, which requires removing the patriarchal chains that bind us all. But because of the bigots who hide behind the MRA moniker people on Tumblr and Jezebel hurl insults at anyone who dares bring up a male-centric issue or utter the words men's rights. Yes it's largely a defense mechanism against the horrible people that usually use those words, but it's so fucked up that people just disregard legitimate issues because there are assholes out there. Not everyone who is pushing for men's rights is a white rich cis-gendered bigot.

We all turn to the internet to be our perfect escape from the horrors of the world, so when someone threatens to destroy that I think we all get a little defensive. It's understandable, I've been there, I've made those snap judgments. But it's getting to a point where everyone has to tread so carefully because if they make a wrong step they'll be hated by the internet for the rest of human existence. Damn straight we should call people out when they say something stupid or bigoted or incorrect, but maybe let's not jump to calling a commentator a slut-shamer because they're worried about the direction Miley is headed down or transphobic because they slipped up and called someone a he instead of a she. We're all human and we all have opinions and we all make mistakes. So how about we share out some of that special empathy we all have for minority and subjugated groups and treat everyone like human beings and give them the chance to explain themselves or explain to them why they're wrong. Can't we for one second step off the gas and just calm the F down?

So that's where I'm at right now. I guess I'm basically saying don't be a dick and don't assume the worst of everyone. And maybe give people, obviously trolls not included, the benefit of the doubt. It's not so hard is it?

*two areas*** which are majorly skewed in the favour of women, primarily because of patriarchal ideals that women = caregiver and men = breadwinner.

**In one of the rare instance where I came across rationality on Tumblr

***and two areas which are still grossly inadequate when it comes to everyone involved. Everyone gets a raw deal, and both need to be seriously re-evaluated at the most basic level (also yes, I did note a note)


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