Emphasized Femininities, Gender Ideologies and their Prehistoric Protectors

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The article I chose to read was called “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape,” detailing Ashley Judd’s  experience of gender harassment (the inappropriate calling attention to women or men’s bodies, sexuality, etc. to enforce traditional gender roles or in response to violation of those roles) and sexual objectification (being made into a thing of another’s sexual use) on twitter (Aulette, Wittner 526, 533). After tweeting some “controversial” commentary about a basketball game she was in attendance of, Judd received a multitude of negative, objectifying responses that clearly meant to frighten and threaten her. Many of the responses came from males who detailed a variety of explicitly sexual acts she was deserving of, trivializing the seriousness of rape. She was appalled by the reaction her seemingly innocent comment evoked and went forward with saying as much only to receive responses from various individuals downsizing the seriousness of the misogynistic (the hatred of women)  commentary and hyper-sexualization (the act of extremely accentuating one’s sexuality) she was on the receiving end of (Aulette, Wittner 529, 528 ). Judd went forth and released an op-ed (http://mic.com/articles/113226/forget-your-team-your-online-violence-toward-girls-and-women-is-what-can-kiss-my-ass – if you’re interested in reading the whole story for yourself) where she spoke about her past experiences with rape, incest and sexual molestation and how her online abuse was not an isolated incident unique to just her, but a social norm that many girls and women fall victim to.

Though the threatening tweets made by the individuals in the twitter-sphere in this specific instance were directly targeting Ashley Judd, they are not at all uncommon or the result of an isolated act of anger but rather, a combination of male patriarchy (societal dominance of male power over women)[1] with gender essentialism (the idea that there are innate differences between men and women and that they are universal and do not vary with context), double standards (a rule or principle that is unfairly applies in different ways to different people or groups) and misogyny (Aulette, Wittner 526, 524). There are many instances where men make aggressive comments during sporting events and go unpunished, simple because they are male and sports fit into the hegemonic view (representations of men and women in stereotyped ways), establishing a double standard between men and women and the way they can enjoy certain things without breaking the mould (Aulette, Wittner 527). Ashley Judd rejected emphasized femininities (dominant images of the supposedly ideal women) through her tweet and that threatened many of the males that had responded in a violent means (Aulette, Wittner 525). This incident is not just an instance of one particular woman being mistreated for a few words said online, it is an instance that stems from the ongoing issue of gender inequality and the spheres that men and women are specifically assigned to when they are assigned their genders at birth. Ashley Judd is an example of just another individual who has been targeting for rejecting aspects associated with the gender binaries (the idea that factors such as sex, sexuality of gender can be categorized into two exclusive opposites) (Aulette, Wittner 522). She had strayed away from subject matter that was socially acceptable to dabble in as a woman and therefore suffered the consequences; being threatened and harassed in a way that emphasized her place as a woman among men, the submissive among dominants. Judd was also blamed for bringing the entire thing upon herself and deserving of the uproarious reaction to her tweet, similar to the means in which victim blame generally takes place when a woman is raped.

This case reminded me of the online abuse that Anita Sarkeesian had been the victim of when she launched a campaign to fight the sexism in video games back in 2012.[2] She had expressed her concerns with gender tropes in video games, emphasizing the issues with the common concept of the “damsel in distress” character-type that was entirely too apparent in the video gaming universe.[3] Many were outraged at her attempts to create change and eradicate the harmful mediums in gaming that they took to personally attacking her through a multitude of social media outlets. She was threatened in the same way that Judd was, a victim of hypersexualization, gender harassment and sexual objectification. People went as far as to create comics featuring her drawn in a similar form to popular female video game characters being raped and one individual even created a computer game that allowed downloaders to beat her brutally and repeatedly.[4] Again, this was an example of a female being subjected to such an overriding and highly publicized type of dehumanization due to her attempts in changing something that is generally deemed as a male interest and fighting the emphasized femininities present in the gaming world. She left her designated space as a woman and treaded into territory that is, in many instances, reserved for males and suffered accordingly.

Overall, these are not just instances of women being attacked by a predominantly angry, male audience, they are common occurrences that bring to light the imbalance of power between genders and the entitlement our primarily male, patriarchal society awards boys and men where concerning what they deem to be theirs. The lengths that are gone to in order to instill and reiterate the gender ideologies (widespread beliefs about what men and women are like and should be like) present in the modern day are clearly expressed on a regular basis, not just through these single events (Aulette, Wittner 526). Dated values are existent in the way women are viewed on a daily basis, stripping them of their autonomy and basic rights while simultaneously succeeding in bringing us back to the stone age where the cavemen grunted to communicate, cavewomen were dragged by their hair to ensure compliance and mammoths were still a thing.

[1] http://feminismandreligion.com/2013/02/18/patriarchy-as-an-integral-system-of-male-dominance-created-at-the-intersection-of-the-control-of-women-private-property-and-war-part-1-by-carol-p-christ/

[2] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/566429325/tropes-vs-women-in-video-games

[3] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/566429325/tropes-vs-women-in-video-games

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/us/sexual-harassment-in-online-gaming-stirs-anger.html?_r=0

Works Cited

“Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. “Glossary.” Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2015. Print.

Christ, Carol P. “Patriarchy as a System of Male Dominance Created at the Intersection of the the Control of Women, Private Property, and War, Part 1.” WordPress. N.p., 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

O’leary, Amy. “In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Aug. 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

Sarkeesian, Anita. “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Kickstarter. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

– MasalaCHICKen

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5 thoughts on “Emphasized Femininities, Gender Ideologies and their Prehistoric Protectors

  1. Good job with your blog. You really looked at the situation, and what the larger, societal causes are. I think it important as well to look at how this kind of online violence happens in not just Ashley Judd’s situation, but in other cases, such as with Anita Sarkeesian. Another important aspect to consider is the societal forces at work that result in only white, middle to upper class, straight and presumably cis-gendered individuals speaking up about this hatred and violence towards women. Consider that online violence that occurs to lower class, non white, LGBTQ individuals, whose stories are not told or recognized. It is excellent that Ashley Judd horrific case was brought to light, as talking about it, and recognizing the problems, is a good first stride to equality.
    -rayofsunshine

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    1. I really appreciate your comment and the suggestion that I should look at the intersections that take place when analyzing situations such as this one. It is entirely apparent that online violence is something that is largely an issue that occurs when minority groups are targeted and attacked in accordance to their differences. The intersections of gender, sexual orientation, race, class, etc. are definitely concepts that should be addressed when talking about an issue as heavily prevalent as this one as it displays the unequal distribution of power within society. Thanks for the input! 🙂

      – MasalaCHICKen

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  2. I love your in-depth analysis of social media and the treatment of women and their bodies. Your expert use of terms highlights the many faults with our society (patriarchy, double standards) that are prominent and recurrent. Social media seems to be overloaded with these negative views on woman and I personally believe it has to due with a few factors: 1. many people can remain anonymous online and therefore do not fear a lash back or punishment 2.people group together on these site to create an army of hate to attack certain people. It is important to note that online violence can happen to anyone but to due the intersection of race and gender, women and minorities are the most common. It great to see this problem finally being address.
    -Secretlybatman

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  3. I like that you make it clear that this was not a single instance of a human being attacked in this way. It’s important for everyone to understand that downplaying things as seriously traumatizing as rape is a very dangerous thing to be doing. Pointing out all the things that come together in society to make up such harmful hatred towards women was very interesting and I liked that you were able to list it all. Very enjoyable read! Have an amazing summer! – NoSpeakAfricano

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  4. I like how detailed you were, it allows me to have enough information so that I can understand what is going on and what the large issue is without reading the article. I think it is also important to point out that this seems to happen a lot with women all over the world where they get harassed (mostly by men) when stating an opinion and have to fight hard (once again, mostly against men) to maintain their point. And it sucks that in some social platforms, the harassers can remain anonymous. I like how you bring up male patriarchy because it is an important factor to keep in mind when looking at a topic like this. There are many out there who still don’t see women as equals and think it’s ok to bash on women. But the reality is that they are hiding behind a screen where they are belittled because they know that they would be “taken out” if they were to speak in public. Overall, excellent blog
    -mejicanluis

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