Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Sk8r Boi", "You Belong With Me", misogyny and rape culture

I was ranting about Sk8r Boi on Twitter (I never had a social group until now that I could vent and I realized how much hate for that song I've been storing up) and how it's basically a Nice Guy™ anthem.

There's this pretty and popular girl, she ignores this guy who likes her, he ends up rich and famous and with a hot girlfriend, the girl ends up pregnant and alone.

There's a lot of issues w/ this, of course, there's single mother shaming, there's misogyny, there's the implication that a good reason to date guys you don't like is that they may become rich one day, and there's the usual social encouragement of women to hate each other and view each other as competition and enemies. >:\

But I was also ranting about Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" and it's spiritual follow up song "Better Than Revenge".

For those that don't know, the first song is about Swift singing about a guy she likes that is only friends with her and is dating the popular cheerleader. The virgin/whore and geek/jock dynamic is strong here: Swift's narrator is said to wear pants and sneakers while popular evil girl wears skirts and heels. She's a band geek, the popular girl is a cheerleader. She gets his humour, popular girl yells at him... etc...

The second one is about Swift's narrator's boyfriend cheating on her with a popular girl (who she slut shames specifically by saying "she's more famous for what she does on the mattress") and Swift talking about getting revenge on her for "stealing" him.

I find it interesting that even in the Nice Girl™ narrative, the villain is the woman. Think of it, the Nice Guy™ narrative also has the ignorant love interest, also has that love interest's partner be abusive and uncaring, but in THAT one, the girl is blamed for CHOOSING the "bad boy" over the nice guy. She's blamed for making poor choices (in Sk8r Boi, there's no abusive husband, but it's implied that her single motherhood is her fault and she's lonely now).

In the Nice Girl™ narrative, a woman is STILL at fault. You'd think the narrative would be reversed, that the boy would be blamed for making poor choices, for dating a "bad girl", but it's the bad girl that's at fault. She's a slut. She's a bad, manipulative person. She abuses him. It's not his fault.

But for a girl, it IS her fault, the Nice Guys™ don't blame the boyfriend, even when they rant about the abusive boyfriend, the rant is WHY SHE IS STAYING WITH HIM, not THAT HE IS ABUSING HER.

In the 2nd song, the guy CHEATS on her, and she still blames the woman. And both of these narratives aren't unique to Taylor Swift, they're all over our media, and even influences the way we see things in our own lives.

The narrative of the bad woman, the slut, the innocent guy deceived by the conniving jezebel are deeply entrenched in our society. It also plays into the idea that when it comes to attraction and sex: men know not what they do. That it's up to women to be pure, and not tempt them with sex. He's not at fault for cheating on her, the other woman's at fault for breaking the female contract and seducing him. ALL women must watch out for the uncontrollable lust of men, and if they cheat, it's our fault.

Men's sexuality is treated "as is."  Male sexuality is pure and innocent, it can't be controlled, merely handed off to a woman to be responsible for.   When it comes to sexuality (and things we see as sexuality, like exotification, abuse, rape, etc) men are neither pure, nor unpure, they're a force of nature, they just are.  Even when men are "evil" and they rape or abuse, we still have a lot of attitudes that suggest they're more of a storm than a person making choices.  We ask abused wives what they did to provoke their husbands, wives call the woman their husband chooses to cheat on a "whore" and a "slut", we ask female rape survivors what they were wearing, what they were doing, if they led the guy on.  For the longest time, we didn't consider marital rape a crime, because the wife has taken responsibility for her husband's sexuality, she's the one who chose to be responsible for the tiger, she's the one who couldn't live up to her end of the bargain. 

Women earn our purity, or lose it, by how we act, speak, think, etc, that we don't act in ways that turn loose the hurricane that society views as male sexuality.  And of course this also leads into rape culture, and how male rapists and female survivors are seen.

Yes, we do hate male abusers and rapists (on the occasions we believe they exist, and a lot of that is because of feminism changing the narrative), but in the undercurrent of it all, there's a sort of sad understanding.  We have storm unprepared for, the animal misled.  The rapist that we all forgive, because she led him on, she put raw meat in front of the wolf, she chose to go outside when the storm hit.  And we have the animal unchecked, the raging storm.  The rapist we hate, hate hate hate hate, but in a way understand.  His desires can't fit in our society, and we can never trust him again, but it's not for his actions, it's for his desires.  He can't help himself.

This also explains why the narrative in society around rape is about men raping women, because society doesn't get things that go against this narrative.  A woman raping a man seems as bizarre in this context as a human biting a wolf.  Humans don't bite wolves, humans don't injure storms.  Misogyny fucks everything up because it divides up men and women as if we're different species, but it also doesn't place us on the same level playing field.

Because on some level, women are to blame, we're the temptation, we're the ones who made the choices that "attracted" men.  We didn't go inside when the storm hit, we didn't put in the raw meat when the animal came.  Even if men committed the act, we committed the sin that brought on the act.  Just as Eve handed the apple to Adam, we're seen as being complicit in our own abuse, and our own rape.


  1. I think you make a lot of good points here.

  2. I'm reminded of how the argument for veils and other concealing clothing for muslim women is to keep men from being tempted by them. The mentality you're describing is world-wide and deeply ingrained.

  3. I think the Nice Guy mentality and always blame the girl thing to me links to the strange basis that society has where the girl (who traditionally had the least say in a relationship back when fathers arranged marriages) is supposed to be completely responsible for the maintenance of the relationship.

    Women's magazines populate with all tips and tricks to improve your relationship, how to plan the perfect wedding, how to fix a relationship, etc. Popular media from Disney to adult drama promotes this idea that a woman's ideal goal is to fix a bad boy, etc. If she can't fix her abusive, cheating, apathetic partner and make him a Disney Prince well then she had just one job.

    Guy's primarily get told by media that our job is to be successful and then bring the woman gifts until she marries us (or moves in) and then just provide for her and expect her to manage the relationship, raise the kids, manage our relationship with the kids, etc.

    This is particularly highlighted when you go to MRA/MGTOW forums and you see that most of them link their bitterness to two women:
    1. The "nice" girl who's unforgivable sin was to not choose the MRA as their partner - she was supposed to have a sixth sense to see all his potential and forgive all his misgivings and be "into" him because he's so awesome.
    2. The "evil" girl who accepted him, then mismanaged the relationship. She got pregnant, it wasn't his fault he didn't use condoms because it was her job to know if it was safe. She didn't make family love and support him, she didn't raise their children to prefer him over her, she didn't manage to make a budget where his low pay job would allow him to party like a bachelor and send his kids to Havard, etc.

    Mostly the reason I feel like most guys promote this system is because it allows them to spend more time doing only things that they want to do for themselves and to get respect in their peer group - even if their peer group is a bunch of guys who complain about their child support payments and how they can't get laid.

    1. That's a really great point. Even within a relationship, it's the woman's responsibility to maintain it.

  4. I keep meaning to tell you how much I enjoy your posts--they always make me think. Sometimes they remind me to talk with my daughters about these things. Hope all is well with you. :)

  5. "For the longest time, we didn't consider marital rape a crime, because the wife has taken responsibility for her husband's sexuality, she's the one who chose to be responsible for the tiger, she's the one who couldn't live up to her end of the bargain."

    In Hindu marriages (well, the ones I've seen), there's this strange ritual where the guy's family members raise him higher and higher and the woman's do the same and the woman has to garland the man at which point everyone stops the raising.
    It's an obvious metaphor for taming the dick, and I couldn't have said why I was so uncomfortable with it before I read this paragraph.