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Opening that can of worms again...

It's time for another post about everyone's favourite can of worms...Misogyny. 

As you all know, I LOVED 7x08. But, there was that one little aspect (of perhaps many) that threw some people off ...mainly, the fact that Sam was "roofied" and tied to a bed. I thought it was a great send up of the film Misery, and since Becky didn't actually do anything to Sam without his permission (besides kiss him and marry him), I was fine with the scene in general...heck, since male sexual-assault is one of my favourite sub-themes on Supernatural (not in a kinky way), I thought the whole episode was really par for the course.

Now, both the SuperWiki and some other sites pointed out that it was also very similar to a scene in Wedding Crashers (which I have never seen), in which the female actually does rape the man tied to the bed. When I heard this, I thought "weird...I thought Wedding Crashers was a comedy..." 

Two days ago, katsheswims sent me an blog article -  In Bed With Sexism - about the scene in Wedding Crashers, because obviously, she's gotten to know me fairly well. I was thinking of saving it for a larger meta I'm planning, but then realized that it's sort of off topic, so I'm going to share it with you today.

Basically, it asks the question: How come a female raping a male can be considered comedy? How come rape isn't rape when it is done to a man by a woman? 

I've always wondered this - because there's virtually no support system or even acknowledgment in the world of female against male abuse/rape. One of my theories was that it was because men were supposed to be stronger and not have that sort of thing happen to them (which is ridiculous), but the article actually points the finger at...well, our favourite can of worms: The level of unperceived misogyny that exists in our culture that goes unnoticed.

I thought it was a very interesting take on the subject. And maybe helps to explain why I'm one of the very few people who seem to realize that male sexual-assault is a recurring theme on Supernatural (though, in recent years it's gotten more blatant and more people are noticing, which has been very interesting for me to watch as well.)

Also, I've learned that I should never watch Wedding Crashers, because it would send me into a rage.

I kind of like this example, because it shows that my misogyny test (as opposed to the Bechdel test, which I loathe), actually works! My test is simple: If I genderswapped everyone in the story, would my reaction to the story be the same? Would the characters still be believable? Would I be more outraged or less?  I'm not saying it's a perfect test, but it's better than goddamn Bechdel. I HATE that thing.

Anyway, uh, as usual...sensitive topic...so if you comment, please be respectful. I'm not asking to open up a debate about whether or not Supernatural is misogynistic or not. So, I won't be engaging in any arguments of that sort myself. If you argue amongst yourselves in my comments, that's fine, but again, just be respectful of one another and anyone who might be reading in passing.

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( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
ramblin_rosie
Nov. 17th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
It's a fair question, and there's the related problem of why there's virtually no support for battered husbands (i.e., male victims of non-sexual assault by a spouse)--which, well, Sam is, if you consider getting whacked on the head with a waffle iron domestic abuse.
I haven't seen the ep, and plan not to, precisely because I don't find that kind of thing funny. Not that I judge you for your own opinion of the episode, mind! It's definitely possible to think something's hilarious while still acknowledging its problems. But in the larger context, that kind of humor smacks not just of misogyny (which it definitely does) but also of misandry--the assumption that the man is always the aggressor and the woman is always the victim and that somehow a man who is genuinely the innocent victim of a female aggressor is someone to be mocked by both men who think he's weak and women who think he had it coming. It's just flat wrong all the way around.
No one deserves to be raped. No one deserves to be beaten by a spouse. No one deserves an abusive relationship. End of story.
And no, I'm never watching Wedding Crashers, either.
ramblin_rosie
Nov. 17th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
Just re-read and noticed that you *had* mentioned "abuse/rape"--my eye skipped past it somehow. Sorry.
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Nov. 17th, 2011 06:05 am (UTC) - Expand
katsheswims
Nov. 17th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
Yay, you mentioned me! I'm glad you posted something about it.

I don't actually have much to say on the subject. Like you I've noticed the rather abundant amount of times Sam and Dean have been sexually objectified by other characters/and the camera and outright (or by implication) sexually abused. And actually I enjoy that the show is acknowledging that men can be victims of sexual abuse etc. Funnily enough the treatment of women by the show never bothered me (until the Ruby/Meg naked torture scenes, but I've accepted them because of the horror nature of the show).
hells_half_acre
Nov. 17th, 2011 06:00 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've also really enjoyed the fact that Supernatural actually "goes there", and I've liked the fact that they've been more blatant about it too recently. Unlike some people who criticize the show, I think they've handled it rather tactfully and realistically.

The Ruby/Meg torture scenes didn't bother me, because I accepted them as the horror nature of the show as well.

Thanks again for sending me the article! :)
claudiapriscus
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:29 am (UTC)
It's a complicated issue, one of those things that goes so far it doubles back again. Just like female-on-male violence, which is also used as comedy.

So the basic theory (as i understand it) goes like this: We've got certain ideas in our heads as to what constitutes masculine and feminine, and part of this is roles: men as the actors, women as the acted on, men as penetrating, women as penetrated, so on and so forth, I know you've already heard this before but I like starting from first principles. Also, I'm tired and if I don't go this step by step, I'll miss something.

The most easily identifiable aspect of it is that there's this idea that men can't be raped, at least not by women. And mostly this is rooted in old fashioned sexism: it runs contrary to a lot of really stupid ideas about what rape is, about gender roles (Women are the raped, duh! Men all want sex all the time from every female body. It's women's jobs to be the sexual gatekeepers!) The old feminist saying is "patriarchy hurts men too." There are as many poisonous ideas about masculinity as femininity in the misogynistic paradigm.

Then you've got the fact that a lot of humor relies on reversals of expectation. And the thing with reversals, whether used for humor or not, is that they're often used as a way of confirming the social order.

So anyway, the long and short of is that we've got this little social bias in our heads that says the right way of the world is men beating women and men raping women. That's not to say we condone it, just that it's kind of in our brains as the way the world works on the same level of dogs chasing cats and the sun rising in the east. Thus its use for humor: at some deep level, it's regarded as absurd...and impossible.

Which also IMO explains its use as a horror trope, too...especially in this show. In straight, non-supernatural horror, the rapist (or threat) will usually be male and the horror will be of an...emasculating kind. It puts a man (strong, active agent, penetrator, aggressor) into the role of a woman (weak, passive, penetrated, victim). When you add a supernatural element into it, you're throwing it into unnatural monster territory, which allows for truer reversals (demon little girls, beautiful women with giant phallic arm-spikes) that don't threaten the order. Humor can use reversals while confirming the status quo because it's highlighting the reversal as absurd, rather than a threat.


In defense of the bechdel test: it's just a tool to point out a trend in media as a whole. It's not a way of saying whether something is good or bad or not. It should be really easy to pass- any two women having a conversation that is not about a man, but it kind of isn't, but we're sort of blind to it. I mean, the reverse of it is nearly impossible to find (i've looked!) Even in the most sappy chick flicks, at some point, there will be two men who discuss something that isn't a woman/women.

It really shouldn't be used to judge movies on an individual basis (though it has to be applied on an individual basis), because some of the movies that pass it are really, horribly misogynistic, and vice versa.

ETA: I'm really sorry if this sounds all very duh. My brain isn't working very well right now and I can't seem to think in more sophisticated ways. But it's something I think about a lot! And now I have a chance to say something. Except I'm sucking at it and probably sounding kind of insulting.

Edited at 2011-11-17 05:36 am (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
And mostly this is rooted in old fashioned sexism: it runs contrary to a lot of really stupid ideas about what rape is, about gender roles (Women are the raped, duh! Men all want sex all the time from every female body. It's women's jobs to be the sexual gatekeepers!) The old feminist saying is "patriarchy hurts men too." There are as many poisonous ideas about masculinity as femininity in the misogynistic paradigm.

The funny thing about this "old fashioned sexism" is that it's actually fairly modern. The misogyny isn't, but the the "women as sexual gatekeepers" is. Back in the middle ages, it was the reverse. Women were considered the horndogs that needed to be kept in line by men. It's one aspect of the whole Witch-Trials thing that goes relatively unmentioned in popular histories. It was of course due to the sex-negativity of the church (along with the misogyny). If women are bad, and sex is bad, then women must be the sexual aggressor...or some such faulty logic. Today it's been reversed, yet, still men are considered better than women, go figure.

That all goes to say: I do very much agree that patriarchy also hurts men.

So anyway, the long and short of is that we've got this little social bias in our heads that says the right way of the world is men beating women and men raping women. That's not to say we condone it, just that it's kind of in our brains as the way the world works on the same level of dogs chasing cats and the sun rising in the east. Thus its use for humor: at some deep level, it's regarded as absurd...and impossible.

Very succinctly said, and also, when you lay it out this simply, it seems rather absurd that we (as a society) find it absurd or impossible. As individuals, of course, some of us know better, and wouldn't find it humourous at all.

In defense of the bechdel test: it's just a tool to point out a trend in media as a whole. It's not a way of saying whether something is good or bad or not.

True. I guess I should have been more specific. I hate it they way some people apply it as though it IS the absolute measure of misogyny. It's a fine tool for pointing out the weakness in media as a whole, but it doesn't apply in all scenarios, which I don't think people realize. Because, as you say, some things can pass "the test" and still be horribly misogynistic.

ETA: I'm really sorry if this sounds all very duh. My brain isn't working very well right now and I can't seem to think in more sophisticated ways. But it's something I think about a lot! And now I have a chance to say something. Except I'm sucking at it and probably sounding kind of insulting.

Don't worry! You're fine! I'm not insulted in the least. Actually, as someone who was raised by mathematicians, anything that begins with first principles is something that I like. ;)

(no subject) - ramblin_rosie - Nov. 17th, 2011 08:49 am (UTC) - Expand
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4422shini
Nov. 17th, 2011 06:14 am (UTC)
You bring up an interesting point. This also reminds me of that Nicole Kidman remake film.. What was it? Oh yeah, The Stepford Wives. I've never seen the original, I'll say that upfront. And I wouldn't want to because I was livid when I saw it the first time. Of course the film is misogynist, but what upset me the most was the reprogramming of the women and the sex that would occur after. I was kind of horrified at the rape, considering it was marketed as a comedy, and the storyline kind of responds with, 'yeah, it's wrong, but it's their husbands, so it's more insulting that rapey.' I watched it with my mom and she told me to stop being so sensitive. THAT'S being in bed with sexism.

Remember that episode 4.08 Wishful Thinking? Remember the dweeby guy brainwashes the sexy girl to marry him and has copious amounts of sex? I do.
..Okay I don't know where I was going with THAT comment, but I just felt like bringing it up.
hells_half_acre
Nov. 17th, 2011 06:23 am (UTC)
VERY good point. And yeah, you were definitely not being too sensitive. Rape happens (most of the time) inside of relationships...especially when if we're talking about men being raped.

And I HAD actually forgotten about that...but yeah, Wishful Thinking WAS rapey.

So, I'll add Stepford Wives to the list of movies that I can't watch. Thanks for the warning.
(no subject) - claudiapriscus - Nov. 17th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
I respectfully disagree re: Stepford Wives - jennytork - Nov. 17th, 2011 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
fannishliss
Nov. 17th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
I feel like there was an element of misogyny in this episode, which made me very sad, and I think it was in the utter assassination of the character of Becky. I liked Becky a lot, even though she was kooky, and now I can't respect her unless I strike this ep from the record, which I would dearly love to do. She made choices that are not defensible. She roofied Sam. That's not okay, even though some of the scenes that resulted were pretty funny. She is a villain now, and to me, that's the essence of misogyny -- taking a woman character, reducing her to a pathetic need for a man's approval, and taking her agency and wasting it on a crazy play for affection. Yuck. Very distasteful.

She went from being a wacky force for good in her own unique way -- I often ficced about her being part of a wider network of Winchester helpers -- to being a pathetic loser who would roofie Sam. Very, very sadface.



hells_half_acre
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, my friend who I watch with her in Vancouver felt the same. I did not, but that's me. I know a lot of people saw the episode as a character assassination as you did.
fannishliss
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
"Stepford Wives"
PS on an entirely different note.

Ira Levin is the original author of the Stepford Wives (book, 1971; movie, 1975). He wrote his books during a time of backlash against feminism. The novel and resulting first movie were not what I would call empty misogyny, but rather, loaded cultural response to feminism.

As a result a whole generation of women learned to recognize when cultural expectations wanted to push them into that cookie cutter role of Stepford Wives. The first movie was indeed very much a horror film. I remember it very well, the terror when the woman realizes her best friend has been replaced, the horror of the smirking husband as the friend's tennis court is bulldozed.

It's weird to me to think that the current generation have now received a mixed signal about the meaning of this crystallizing term of resistance to patriarchal pressure.

Of course it's still a problematic term -- like when people attack Martha Stewart for celebrating home crafts because she was so good at it that people began to hate her. Calling another woman a "Stepford Wife" still entails an element of misogyny and self-hatred.

Another of Levin's stories is Rosemary's Baby (1968, movie dir. Polanski) -- about a woman who knows something is wrong with her baby but everyone around her treats her like she's crazy because they secretly have plotted for her to give birth to the antichrist. Also very horrific as you can see.

A third is Sliver (1991) -- it's about paranoia in yuppie days. I don't remember it very well! But his novels always play on the fears women have about the culture around them. I think it's too simple to just say "this work is misogynist" -- rather it's more fruitful to say, "this work really points out what is so misogynist in our culture."

Another similar artist of around the same time period would be Kubrick, with his portrayals of Lolita (1962, so, a little early) or of the ultraviolence in Clockwork Orange (1971). The violence against women is so shocking in Clockwork Orange that it changed the way we read that type of violence in film -- alerting us to the pornographic element of watching violence against women -- including educating us to a more feminist way to watch any horror shows where women are viewed iconically in certain ways (like on Show).

There's always a conversation going on between an artistic output and the culture.

In this particular ep I'm betting the writers were in fact thinking of Misery, esp. since they overtly referred to it in the first ep when we meet Chuck.... but I don't think they really thought through how stupid it was to have a character that some fans have identified with to be reduced to a pathetic loser and a morally corrupt one at that.

Sorry, sadface again.

Juliet is no man's Stepford Wife.
claudiapriscus
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
Re: "Stepford Wives"
*applause*

well said.
Re: "Stepford Wives" - fannishliss - Nov. 18th, 2011 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Stepford Wives" - khek - Nov. 18th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Stepford Wives" - fannishliss - Nov. 18th, 2011 04:09 am (UTC) - Expand
hells_half_acre
Nov. 17th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
I agree with all of that, of course. It's nice to know TvTropes has an entry for this stupid phenomenon. :P

Thanks!
metallidean_grl
Nov. 17th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
This has been an interesting discussion going on here. And I do agree that society treats a woman being raped as awful, but when the one being raped as a man, not so much a big deal. Like it was said, the man is strong and powerful and shouldn't have a problem overpowering any woman trying to rape him. So, double-standard to me.

I remember an episode of Law & Order: SVU many years ago where the story was about a man getting gang raped by a bunch of women. All the women in question played it out that he showed up as a dancer to their party and was there for that purpose and he was a joiner. But he was not there for that purpose, the women tied him up and repeatedly raped him. It was an interesting episode and a very hard case to prove. In the end, the women were acquitted, but the man was still raped and now had to deal with the ramifications of the rape as well as the ramifications of the trial. I guess the rape of a man by a woman is not out there as much because it is harder to prove and thus has become this unspoken 'thing' out there that people don't like to talk about. Much like rape of women was 15-20 years ago. I just hope our society will catch up with the seriousness of male rape before it's too late. You can be the strongest man in the world and still be subject to molestation and rape if the perpetrator is clever enough, and in Becky's case, she was, in that she roofied Sam.

As to Becky, well, I was not happy with her actions as I have stated before. Her forcing her will upon Sam was not right. I'm just glad they did have her state that they never consummated the marriage. That would have totally crossed the line for me if they had. So, yes, I'm glad they didn't go there, but still they did cross a line that I was not comfortable with. But yet, the double standards of victimization are very evident here.
hells_half_acre
Nov. 17th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
I guess the rape of a man by a woman is not out there as much because it is harder to prove and thus has become this unspoken 'thing' out there that people don't like to talk about. Much like rape of women was 15-20 years ago. I just hope our society will catch up with the seriousness of male rape before it's too late. You can be the strongest man in the world and still be subject to molestation and rape if the perpetrator is clever enough, and in Becky's case, she was, in that she roofied Sam.

It's also not out there as much because men just don't report it - BECAUSE they're afraid of being laughed at. And, you know, having rape be a comedy trope doesn't help.

Also, I think that it happens most in the context of relationship abuse - where it's not a question of strength (as would be, say, a man attacking a woman on the street), but a question of emotional abuse as well...which is another type of abuse that often goes unreported (for both sexes).

Anyway, this is all to say that my hopes are the same as yours, and that eventually society will catch on that it's a serious issue.
(no subject) - metallidean_grl - Nov. 17th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Nov. 17th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
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