Monday, April 17, 2006

A Letter On Courtesy In The Blogsphere

Dear Amber,

It just came to my attention that you wrote this "Then you get grown women harboring the insecurities of their early teens like a cancerous tumor," about me as part of this post. That's hilarious. First, because you don't know me at all, yet that didn't stop you from tossing aspersions at my character. Second, because the posts that you refer to, both of which were humorous and frank attempts to confront an issue that many women (although apparently not you, as you have repeatedly proclaimed loudly and emphatically) find problematic in their own relationships, do not discuss anything of the sort.

To desire a male companion that refrains from behavior that I find disrespectful has nothing to do with insecurity. The issue has to do with respect. Respect for myself, respect for women in relationships in general, and respect for women who are objectified. I explained that in detail in two posts, here and here.

Instead of looking at what I actually wrote (none of which discusses any alleged insecurities I may or may not have experienced as a teenager), you apparently chose to ignore my words so that you could use my post as a twisted support for your rant about a sex-positive society. I hope that worked out well for you.

What you apparently fail to grasp is that part of creating a sex positive society is developing mutual respect between women and men (that means both parties in a relationship feel respected). Part of that entails refusing to tolerate displays of overt sexism and objectification by men (particularly ones in relationships) of women, as you yourself agreed when you wrote that you would "have a problem with [your] boyfriend "ogling" women, as [you would] have a problem with anyone ogling" anyone.

The line between ogling/objectification and sharing appreciation of female (or male) beauty is different for all women, and their level of comfort with certain behavior may vary depending upon the relationship they are in. That's a give-in. Each woman must decide where that line lies for herself. As long as women feel that their partners are respecting them the way they want to be respected, there's no problem. However, when women start to feel disrespected, then the situation becomes problematic - which is what I was speaking to in my posts. You and your boyfriend, and your happy non-problematic arrangement of mutually sharing your sexual attraction to other individuals was NOT the type of scenario I was speaking to precisely because you are happy in that scenario. Good for you Amber, but I wasn't talking about situations where women feel respected and content.

I was talking about situations where women feel disrespected, they feel like their partners are ogling other women, their partners are refusing to respect them by stopping that offensive behavior, and the women are sick of it. If women in that situation really were as insecure as you apparently feel that they must be, I would expect that the women would just lie down and take it. They would be so insecure that they couldn't bear to say anything for fear that they would lose their boyfriends. However, what I'm suggesting is that women should have the confidence to stand up for themselves and to refuse to tolerate behavior from their partners that makes them feel disrespected. This has to do, not with a sense of personal insecurity, but rather with a sense of personal worth and value. I know that I deserve to be respected, and I know that all women deserve to be respected.

If women are in relationships where they do not feel like they are being respected, they should have the courage to speak up about it. Even if that means that men, and women like yourself, will attempt to undermine the legitimacy of their experience and opinions, blame them instead of their partners, and falsely accuse them of personal weaknesses.

Another part of a sex positive society is having women support one another - not trashing women as "insecure" for standing up for themselves and other women. I mean come on, that's the standard infantile response given by men when women attempt to call them to account for disrespectful behavior. Instead of admitting to their sexist tendencies, they blame the woman. They aren't wrong. It's the woman's fault. She's insecure. She's too sensitive. Or she's a femi-Nazi bitch who hates men (granted you stopped short of suggesting the latter). By the way, I've seen both sides. I've had my boyfriend ogle women, and I've been ogled plenty by other men (no doubt the boyfriends of others). I don't appreciate either behavior.

Part of blogging is putting yourself out there, and with that comes the risk that people, like yourself, will take your words and twist them for their own purposes. I understand that risk, and that's why I'm not more bothered by your gross and presumptuous mischaracterization of my words.

However, what I do find aggravating is that when you commented on my site I respected you by welcoming you to my site, reading your words, and thoughtfully commenting back. I gave you the courtesy of trying to understand where you were coming from.

It's disappointing that you did not extend me the same courtesy.


Amber said...

My point was not to "trash" you, and I'm disappointed to read that you interpreted it that way.

As you can tell from other comments I've left on your blog and mine, I'm interested in a dialogue about these issues. I've always been a firm believer that one's beliefs are strengthened by careful examination of other, conflicting beliefs - especially when, sometimes, those beliefs are not conflicting at all (if that makes sense).

Must work now; more later.

Gypsy said...

I love your take on this Buttercup! Even though I tend to be in the camp that doesn't mind (to a point!) "oggling," I absolutely agree that women should stand up for what they want in a relationship. As should men.

Now, if L tells me that I can't call Matthew McConaughey my boyfriend anymore, then I'll just have to comply. Grudgingly ;-)

gravelly said...

#1 A wise person once told me to "Pick your battles".
#2 Even though I am older, I can see guys who look handsome and would want to say so. I thought Jake Gylenhaal looked hot in "Jarhead" (he was in great shape). Now just because I said he was hot doesn't mean I want to have sex and run away with him.... he just looked awesome. My saying it also doesn't mean I no longer think my significant other is my one and only. If I think someone looks handsome or a girl is very beautiful, I would want to say it, but I am not disrespecting my partner. Looks are superficial and relationships aren't built just on looks (hopefully). Jake Gyllenhaal might be a total dud, but I don't even WANT to find out, it was just a comment on his outward appearance.