Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Give It To Your Woman!

Original article can be found at, Pants' washing instructions read 'Give it to your woman'

Recently I engaged in a discussion on a friends Facebook page about the sexist message in this label. Below is the conversation and how it spun rapidly out of control... I have left out everyone else's comments except the woman I was debating with.

We have continued our discussion as Facebook messages, and I have removed any of the more personal comments that have no place in the discussion.

Me: Very amusing! As a society we still need to laugh at ourselves and things like this. Clearly this was meant to be funny, and not to offend.

Aubrey: I don't think it's very funny at all. Sad that this is still publicly acceptable. Can you imagine KFC putting a sticker on a bucket of fried chicken that read, "Feed it to black people." Sad that it's socially acceptable to be sexist and that people who are offended are "not good at taking jokes."

Me: I believe intelligent people know the difference between an intentional hurtful racist comment such as your KFC example, and a joke about our past when women were stereotyped in this manner. If anyone these days thinks that women should be "barefoot and pregnant", or their role is to only stay at home and do house work, they're not sexist, they're idiots. As a society we have thankfully moved past this stereotype for women, and African-American's in your example. Insulting a group intentionally is still not appropriate, but laughing about our horrible past can sometimes be a part of healing as a country.

Aubrey: Simplistic and overused gender stereotype... just don't find it very funny. It's not much of a reach or a very sophisticated joke if you ask me. And of course, when it comes to females, it seems not to be egregious. But not with race, because it's more socially acceptable to be sexist than it is to be racist. I dont' think this joke is meant to laugh about a horrible past, especially when that past isn't past at all. And if you do think it's in the past, watch a few laundry commercials and tell me if you see a theme.

Me: Not to be hurtful, but some people take things way to personally. Becoming so offended over something like this should cause you to look at yourself, and why you find this so personally offensive. Most women don't need you to fight this issue for them, so why then are you? We see this type of behavior when minorities view everyone is against them because of their status. If someone doesn't get promoted it's because they are black, or a woman, or gay, or a Mormon. It's never because they just were not the best choice. (Granted sometimes racism and sexism do play a role, but not as much as people try and push it). You can find something distasteful to your own personal thoughts, which is perfectly acceptable. When you abuse the thing and cry sexism that must be stopped at all costs for the good of everyone, you have slipped over the edge of sanity just a tad. :)

Aubrey: Also not to be hurtful, but coming from a white man who rests at the upper echelon of the hierarchy in most of the world, I'm going to stick to my previous comments. Sexism and racism play a socially institutionalized role and I think you downplay their effects. Have a great day! :)

Me: And there it is. I'm white, and a male, so I have caused everyone in the country from not succeeding. Based on our current president, those types of excuses are rapidly losing traction. Enjoyed the conversation. Thank you for the chance at verbally fencing with you. :)

Aubrey: No, I don’t' think your personal life is responsible for people not succeeding. I am merely saying that privileges afforded to you for being male and white (and presumably heterosexual) are things that a lot of people don't have. And usually, one who has these privileges doesn't realize it. (BTW- If having a black president has taught us anything, it should be that it hasn't done anything to change the black/white gap in this country. E.g.: White wealth to black wealth is 20:1 Also enjoy myself a debate--back to work now, I promise. Just didn't want my statements to be mischaracterized.

Me: Do you think the fact that 63.7% of American's are White might have something to do with these numbers? I'm just saying... My "privileges" were hard earned. I joined the Air Force and put in over 20 years. While in the Air Force I went to school and got my Bachelor's degree so when I got out I could get a decent job. ANY American can have the SAME privileges I have if they would just get off their butt and quit whining about it! My skin color or sex had zero to do with my success in life. Granted if you're 40 and have not done a damn thing but live with your mom and complain about life, you might have a harder time. Then again, that would not be societies fault, but yours. Point blank, if you live in America and work hard, you will be fine. If you instead sit back and whine that you don't get the same opportunities as your neighbor, I have no sympathy for you. If you're lucky I'll toss you a box of Kleenex.

Aubrey: I am a statistician, so these numbers that are shown here should be explained and interpreted as though there were equal numbers of the population who identified as white and black. That is, the average wealth figure calculated takes into account that there are more whites than blacks, and it also takes into account outliers, rendering your point about there being more white Americans a misunderstanding of statistics.

That is what I was talking about when I said that privileges accrued by those who are most privileged in society go unnoticed. For instance, America was built and operated for 330 years under laws that were essentially forms of affirmative action for white men. This is not an opinion. White men were given opportunities that many other minority groups were not. This allowed them and generations like them to build wealth (i.e. OWN things such as property, which are typically passed down from one generation to another). This is not to mention the many laws (HOLC being a powerful one), which enabled whites to move to suburban areas and apply for federal funds to improve their properties, while blacks were left in greatly segregated center cities. Following the white flight of the cities, were businesses… and jobs!

Better neighborhoods also equal better educational resources. Thus, many whites, me included, have had excellent PUBLIC educations. Primarily due to the fact that a lot of school funding is garnered from property taxes.

Access to excellent education opens the door to a lot of other opportunities: emphasis on post-secondary education is one.

I urge you to read this checklist of white privledges afforded to you every day if you think that everyone, regardless of their minority status, has the same opportunities that you do. Your approach is very individualistic, and it completely neglects the many centuries of institutionalized racism, sexism, homosexism, etc. upon which this country was founded. It troubles me that you credit failure to attain the American Dream to one’s laziness. It communicates to me that you do not blame any of the many institutions in this country, which make it difficult to obtain success.

Sorry for the longer response! I welcome any sort of intelligent discussion. A little bit about my credentials—I am a doctoral student who studies political sociology and the sociology of race. I also happen to teach at Temple University—one course being Gender in America.

Me: As far as statistics go, I won't even entertain the discussion on statistics. They can be twisted in a thousand different ways and it's a futile argument. Anyone can whip out statistics to make their point. An example is in the book, "The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" the author uses statistics to prove that the declining number of pirates has resulted in cooler temperatures, showing that correlation does not imply causation. (That last line was pulled from Wikipedia)

I definitely agree that this country has been built on the backs of the minorities, whether black, white Native American, or women. I'm actually appalled that this stuff goes on today, and I know that it does, especially in the South still.

My point is not necessarily that folks are lazy, but the ones who are better motivated can, and do, find ways to better their position in our society.

No society is perfect. Looking around the world there is no utopian culture. Even primitive tribal people have there "pecking orders" in their own way. The amazing thing about this country is that anyone with a half a brain can overcome their station in life and work hard to get out of a bad situation.

Unfortunately kids in lower income level areas have a harder time, and don't get the knowledge that they CAN get out of their situation with hard work. Most are content to hang out at their rung on the ladder. Then as they grow older, it's suddenly the rest of us that is oppressing them.

Are there people in this country that still have a hard time advancing do to idiotic people who are biased? Most definitely. Will we ever see a time where this is not a reality. Most definitely not.

There are many well-meaning people in the world that are trying to change this, but unfortunately it's like trying to clean up an avalanche with a snow shovel. You might make a little path where you are, but you will never stop the problem.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Those of us who are not bigoted teach our children to be the same way. I'd like to think this country is getting better, and from what I see it truly is.

In the end, the ONLY way for people to get ahead in life is to work hard at climbing that ladder and show their kids what hard work can do for them.

It's not a magic wand, but it's the tools we have to work with.

I will oppose anyone who is blatantly racisit, sexist, etc... I will not, however, attack people who are trying to lighten a topic through humor. As long as the humor is not meant to be hurtful.

Aubrey: I'll just address the point on statistics... feeling the need to defend them (as it looks like on most cases, we will not agree--I am staunchly sociological, and your view is much more individualistic)! That is called a confounding variable. These statistics that I showed you are not implying causation, so I'm not sure why you brought that up :) Statistics, done well, are excellent quantitative tools. The problems with most data, and this is what I emphasize to my students, have to do with their methodology. It is crucial to be critical of the methodological approaches taken by those who publish statistics. The Pew Foundation is one of the most reputable sources for data out there (I can't say the same for wikipedia!)

Me: LOL True about Wikipedia, but the reference I used from them was for the book, and I just wanted to give credit for the line I used from them. I definitely would not use Wikipedia as a reputable source for anything.

You're correct though. We're getting into the area that we will just agree to disagree.

I want to thank you for the discussion, however. I love having to think through topics, and also when someone makes me think about one of my positions.

You will always be welcome to comment on any of my articles. I write them specifically to try and get a reaction from people. :)

Aubrey: Likewise, enjoyed the challenge! Have a great weekend!

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