Monday, May 23, 2011

Do Girls Rule The World? A Response To Beyonce Inspired By A Young Feminist

It's really amazing what you can find on the interwebz
A feminist vlogger who posts to YouTube under the the name NineteenPercent is responsible for an incisive critique of the new Beyonce song "Run The World (Girls)." This young intellectual, who could give any second waver from the 1970s a run for her money, points out that putting snappy tunes out there about how girls (or women) "run the world" is diss-information since equality for "Lady Humans" is not on the agenda nowadays.  Then she runs it down how bad things really are:  in one state a bill making cockfighting a felony crime was passed recently but a bill that would have made assaulting your wife a felony failed.

If women are making 78 cents to every dollar a man earns, NP points out, women do not run the world.  Not even close to it.  Furthermore, women are definitely not running the anti-violence agenda if, when we discuss crimes that are overwhelmingly committed against women, we have to footnote our remarks apologetically by acknowledging that women are not the only victims of that crime, and men are not the only perps, and so it can't really be a way of enforcing systemic gender discrimination, right? 

Take rape for example.  This is a crime that Beyonce and her girlfriends are able to prevent in the video by dancing skillfully in front of a gang of men who have apparently come to beat and rape them.  Much as Austin Powers defeated the fembots, Beyonce and her dancers terrify their assailants into submission by donning metal fingernails, shaking their scantily-clad hoo-hoos at them, and proving (DUH!) that girls run the world.  However, apparently this technique has not yet been deployed on college campuses, which is why the rape of women by men (78% of college rapes are by a known assailant) is a huge problem.  Perhaps because it is a well-known fact that girls run the world, should you be in a situation convened to discuss said rapes, you may be reproved by men and women alike if you do not adhere to the following rules for discussion:
a.  You have to constantly amend everything you say to include the (often pointless and unproven) "fact" that men are raped by women too, and women are raped by other women.  You have to stipulate this even though, according to Department of Justice Statistics, 91% of rape victims in the United States are women, 99% of rapists are men and you are probably in that room because of a recent and (too) horrible (to cover up) rape of a woman by a man.  Go here if you want to see a truly idiotic discussion on the topic of female rapists that nevertheless semi-accurately reflects every exchange I have heard the under reporting of these dastardly criminals who are using forced sex to maintain their rule of the world.  Only one commenter interrupts the thread by asking: "how can women rape men without a penis? like, with a strap-on?"  No one answered this incisive question, so eager were they to break the silence and report on the dozens of men they personally knew who had been raped by women taking time off from ruling the world.

b.  You have to refer to a woman who has been raped as a "survivor" as if she had suffered a near death experience, or was returning from a form of social death caused by the rape.

c.  You have to have long conversations about consent, as if unwanted sexual intercourse had occurred because of a failure to communicate rather than a WOMAN being physically overpowered by a MAN who wanted it, and wanted it now.  What now passes for anti-rape programming is often commonly called "consent training." It is a lot like dog training, in which women are taught to send very clear signals (andnotgetdrunkandnotgoplacesaloneandneverleaveyourfriendsatapartyandstayprettycoveredupbecausea guymightgetthewrongideaanddontputyourdrinkdownanywheresomeonemightputsomethinginitanddontgoupstairs atthefrathousewithanyoneandalwaysmeetaguyinapublicplaceforthefirsttimedontlethimknowwhereyoulive) and men are taught to keep their ears free of wax so they can hear a woman say no -- "which means no!"  The difference between consent training and dog training is that in the latter case dogs receive treats when they listen and respond to commands (here's an idea:  women could carry cans of beer, and when they say no to sex and men agree not to rape them, the guy gets a can of beer.) You would be surprised how confusing "consent training" is to college women who end up believing that the outcome of any given sexual encounter is a fifty-fifty proposition even when they said quite clearly that they did not want to have sex
OK sure, did we expect much of Beyonce anyway, given that she was the woman whose big hit a couple years ago informed the man she dumped that she had done so, not because she didn't dig him, but because he hadn't "put a ring on it?" I think we know from whence she thinks grrrrl power derives (should Hilary try this in the Middle East?)  So without further ado, let's hear from NineteenPercent.

Hat tip.


droyles said...

Don't forget this gem, from "Upgrade U":

"I can do for you what Martin did for the people/Ran by the men but the women keep the tempo/It's very seldom that you're blessed to find your equal/Still play my part and let you take the lead role"

J. Otto Pohl said...

I am not disputing the figure of 91% of rape victims being women. But, I would like to know how they factored in male on male rapes in prisons. The US has one of the largest prison populations in the world and rape is a huge problem among this population. I am also guessing that prison rapes have an even higher rate of not being reported than other cases of rape.

Anonymous said...

On the language of survivor - it's worth noting that many women who have been sexually abused as children, assaulted, and/or raped (for me it was all three) choose survivor for themselves as a way of saying, goddamn, the odds have been stacked against me, and I am surviving.

This is not a call for everyone to be called a survivor, nor a castigation of women who prefer another word with which to identify themselves - it's instead a suggestion that there are good, women-centered, women-chosen reasons for some of the words that we use.

Tenured Radical said...

J. Otto: The numbers on all prison rapes are spongey, in part because a lot of them -- on men and on women -- are committed by prison guards. There was a report on this issued a couple months ago: go
here for more info.

Anonymous: Thank you for pointing this out -- my objection, perhaps not as tactfully phrased as your response, is to using this term as the one all women would naturally choose.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I wonder what percentage of those raped men were asked what they were wearing at the time, and whether they had been flirting with their rapist.

Anonymous said...

But couldn't we read "Run the World" as cast in the subjunctive mood, rather than as a declarative assertion to be affirmed or refuted? Isn't Beyonce's video kind of like the Yes Men's spoof New York Times page ( We all know those headlines aren't real, but it's satisfying and somehow uplifting to read them nonetheless. So too Beyonce's triumphant danceoff against the patriarchy.

Tenured Radical said...

Honestly, I think Beyonce's politics are of the pu$$y power variety. The video argues that we buy into tat minute of triumph at the cost of not recognizing that we are not anywhere near gender equality.

the rebel lettriste said...

I think Judy Butler is giving the commencement speech there at Grinnell.

Barefoot Doctoral said...

I think the song (and the accompanying video) need to be classified in the same class as rape scenes from older movies where the woman struggles profusely at first, only to eventually succumb to passionate kisses, or current Bollywood movies where the woman vehemently protests the advances of the man at the beginning of the song, only to give in to him by the final chorus.

I don't know what message this sends to Beyonce's regular female audience. But I suspect that to her male audience, this is nothing but another note on "see how badly they want it? It's okay to give it to them."

Tenured Radical said...

Dear rebel: if you ever meet her, it's Ju-DITH. I've seen awful things happen to people for saying Judy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is Ju-DITH. I heard her ream out (not in a good way) some upstart who referred to her as "Judy B" in a conversation happening directly next to her. It was not pretty, although I did appreciate her use of the compound swear.

Dr. Koshary said...

The funny thing to me is that I suspect that, if you parsed all this to Beyoncé, she would immediately say that she doesn't believe any of this seduction-as-liberatory-power stuff, even though a lot of her career is built on it. This is not the work of an independent singer-songwriter bringing her creation to life; this is globalized industry-mediated, corporate-produced, literally spectacular pop music for mass media. This stuff is not designed for serious thinking or serious messages. That doesn't necessarily excuse Beyoncé for shaking her hoo-hoo while implying that such eroticism is somehow equivalent to claiming actual political authority or other forms of legitimating social power, but it explains why she might have trouble perceiving that. Big-time pop stars tend to be, shall we say, solipsistic; with that in mind, it's not hard to imagine that Beyoncé perceives her own position within the culture industry as a runaway success that in and of itself demonstrates her power and independence. The lives of most women who aren't pop idols are likely pretty alien to her now.

On a more subjective note, I think even the song itself is stupid, let alone the video, and I think it deserves to flop on sheer artistic merits even before people process the corrosive gender politics that Beyoncé is buying into.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

My read of the lyrics is that Beyonce is saying that if women get wealthy--like she is--then they can insulate themselves from the oppression of men. I suspect that she might actually believe this, because her own wealth and celebrity cause people around her to kiss her ass 24/7.

Dorothy Potter Snyder said...

What's also weird is that Beyoncé and Jay-Z got divorced after it came out that she was beating on his ass. Um, Beyoncé, abusing other people is not Gurl Power. It's a crime. And you are last person I'd want to give any advice to a daughter of mine.

Anonymous said...

Male on male prison rapes are still rapes committed by males.

I don't see evidence of females raping people--either males or females.

m said...

Women do commit sexual assault, including rape. I've held off commenting on this post because of the throwaway manner in which TR seemed to bring this issue up (and the fact that she seemed to be getting more at the way female sexual assault is used in misogynist discourse). But anonymous 5:06, it's just a fact. Of course rape (and our cultural understanding of it) is structured by patriarchy and misogyny, but that does not mean that women are only victims and never perpetrators. It does happen, and denying it is not a feminist act but an act of ignorance. For an entry into the scholarly literature on the topic you can try Gannon & Cortoni (eds), _Female Sexual Offenders: Theory, Assesment and Treatment (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). A truly feminist understanding of rape must incorporate this reality rather than ignoring it.

Tenured Radical said...

M: true, but 99% of offenders are male. So to plan your conversations and programming as if males are equally threatened by being raped by women is actually offensive to me. Haven't read the book you suggest, and I will, but "sexual offender" is a loose category which includes statutory rape of young men of 17 by "older" women of 19 -- a change in the sexual offender laws that occurred in all 50 states between 1981-2.

Fuckthepatriarchy! said...

Dear TR: Firstly, let me say that I agree with you that conversations about rape culture are often hijacked by people who attempt to erase the enormous (and disproportionate) impact rape/sexual assault has on women. I’ve seen them do this in different ways, including, as you note, by somehow inappropriately making sure to note aggressively (in a way that isn’t balanced, fair, or useful) that A) men are victims, too or B) women are also perpetrators. I agree that they do this to somehow try to minimize the extent & pervasiveness of the horrible, inexcusable behavior of men against women. And that’s not okay. However, it’s also not ok for you to be offended by putting those facts (about women also being offenders, or men being assaulted) on the table in a true conversation about ending rape/sexual assault/sexual abuse.

Given that both A & B ARE TRUE, it is possible (and, in fact, NECESSARY to a good, feminist, anti-oppression-focused debate that is actually focused on ending sexual assault/abuse/rape and other oppressions/power imbalances) to have these truths be acknowledged, respected, and appropriately incorporated into discourse WHILE STILL underscoring the importance of how rape disproportionately impacts women due to patriarchy. Furthermore, I want to state that is offensive to me to read (what I'm interpreting as) your blithe dismissals of the harm that some people -- men and women alike -- have had visited upon them by women who have raped or sexually assaulted them. How dare you minimize the experiences of either men or women who have been raped/sexually abused/sexually assaulted, or try to silence people who have had this bad experience when they want it incorporated into a discussion on rape/sexual abuse/sexual assault?

I know that many of those men and women raped(sa/sa) by a woman wouldn’t for one second minimize the experiences of another person who was raped/sexually abused/sexually assaulted by a man – so why should you do it to them because they were sexually assaulted/raped/abused by a woman? Your words don’t live in a vacuum – or even only in your stupid fucking ivory tour. They impact all sorts of people reading this blog, including those who have had the experience of being sexually assaulted/raped by a woman. It seems arrogant and inappropriate of you not to take this into consideration.

When discussing rape culture, it is so important that men be held responsible for the ways in which they hurt women, and the stunningly horrific inequalities of how women are impacted. It is absolutely necessary to call out and smash the patriarchy and misogyny. However, it is also a responsibility for all of us to view this type of assault as a product of overlapping oppressions – we won’t solve this one piece without solving all the parts that weave together. We won’t solve this while not allowing some bits of discourse to be brought to the table.

FTP said...

Also, in response to point C of your post: the consent talk has been re-framed by many sex-positive and awesome feminists in writings, the one that comes to mind most quickly is the Yes Means Yes anthology. Seems like your third point ignores lots of newer, and more awesome (less shaming) thought that seeks to hold men responsible for their actions. Talking about consent matters -- and, yes, it also matters which paradigm through which we view consent. I think the "yes means yes" model is hopeful and useful.

the rebel lettriste said...

BTW, I was indeed jesting with the "Judy" bit. As one whose given name is frequently shortened and given those same sorts of diminutive "-y" endings--but who goes by the full moniker, always--I know whereof she speaks.

And she looks good, here! No?

Tenured Radical said...

FTP: I love the "how dare you" comments -- that's the point of feminist blogging. We dare. If it pisses people off and gets them to write back, I will dare again.

I honestly don't mean to condescend to you, or even argue, as the things you say are true -- it's just that the things you say about me aren't true. They are a hook to get your own ideas out. Fair enough. But you can do that without misrepresenting and trying to deauthorize me.

What I said was this, attending to the words in bold:

"So to plan your conversations and programming as if males are equally threatened by being raped by women is actually offensive to me."

There is nothing I said that minimizes the experience of anyone being raped by anyone. That said, 1% of sexual assaults are committed by women. That is a very significant number.

And yes, consent training is important. But what I said was that consent training and anti-rape training are not the same thing. The Lisak study, conducted at UMass Amherst suggests that the vast majority of male on female rapes are not a result of failed consent: they are planned and perpetrated by serial rapists.

So while consent training serves an important function in helping young people communicate, it also serves an important public relations function for universities.

I don't think taking these positions minimizes anyone's pain, nor do I think I have the influence you suggest. And I *do* think that the position you are taking is one that discourages dissent, or even conversation, by suggesting that the person who disagrees with you is a mean, insensitive person and a bad feminist.

Historiann said...

Lulz to how this thread has been totally jacked by an insistence for a discussion of the tiny minority of female rapists! Well done, threadjackers.

Next time TR you dare to talk about the 99% of all rapists, just delete any comments that try to get you to address either women rapists or male victims. It's all too predictable where these threads will go otherwise. If commenters are really up in arms about the damage that rape does, they'll be happy to discuss the overwhelming majority of male rapists and their female victims. These jackers are like people insisting on discussing the ways in which white privilege really hurts white people too, or people who want to talk about how damaging patriarchal gender roles are for men. Although that might be true, it's far from the most damaging effect of the problem.

Later, h8terz.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to avoid discussing female rapists. The same does not go for male victims (of other men).

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Male rape of women is a key enforcement mechanism of a worldwide system of oppression that benefits all men. Female rape--while surely heinous--has nothing whatsoever to do with maintenance of a global system of oppression. Accordingly, female rape is no more relevant to a discussion of male rape than a myriad of other heinous violent crimes, such as armed robbery, carjacking, etc.

FTP! said...

*This is less related to the other points of my post... but I think worth mentioning: given the incidence of LGBTQ partner abuse (including sexual abuse) -- and the lack of funds supporting DV work in this community, and the lack of support and conversation around it -- don't you think that your assertions questioning the veracity and validity of these claims are particularly hurtful to queer folk who have had the experience of being raped/sexually abused/sexually assaulted by women? How do you feel about that as a queer/dyke (sorry, I have no idea how you identify) person? Also, the bits in your original post about the "incisive" comment about women lacking cocks (and therefore cannot possibly be rapists?) are so oddly phallocentric for a dyke to be making. Really, "incisive?" As many dykes/butches/queers know so well (I'm not trying to presume your gender id/expression... I'm drawing from my own), having a cock has precious little to do with fucking (although having a cock involved can certainly be fun, too).

FTP! said...

TR - thanks for the response back. I don't feel like you're condescending to me - I actually feel like you're just incorrect. Also, I wasn't just writing about your responses in the comments section - I was really writing mostly about your original post.

You write in your original post that "You have to constantly amend everything you say to include the (often pointless and unproven) 'fact' that men are raped by women too, and women are raped by other women."

a. I'm not disagreeing with you that those in power often manipulate the conversation about rape so that those who are responsible (men raping women) are let off the hook... and that is profoundly wrong. BUT it's also not ok to blithely dismiss other types of rape/assault that occurs.
b. It's not a "fact" that women rape (either men or other women) -- it's a FACT -- no quotes needed. It's just true. Why the quotes in your original post?*
c. It's not "pointless." While being sure to recognize and underscore the ways in which women are more impacted by rape than men due to the structure of the patriarchy is key! But in order to have a complete conversation that incorporates all power imbalances/oppressions seems necessary to engage in this conversation and necessary to dismantling rape culture completely. Do you think these 2 things cannot happen together?
d. it's not "unproven;" it's true that women rape/sexually abuse people.

You say I misrepresented you... explain to me what I missed in that section above, please? Saying it's pointless & unproven, and perhaps not even a fact, is hurtful to victims of rape/sexual assault by women. Do you disagree?

Would you consider amending your original post -- not to take away your important points of how discussions of the problem of men raping women needs much more attention than it gets (and is often purposefully ignored by those in power to let men's horrible behavior slide) -- but that doesn't cast into question the real rapes and assaults that are committed by women?

Also, how is asking to explode & expand the conversation about assault -- while still underscoring the vast disproportionate impact of this type of assault on women by men -- silencing anyone? What am I missing in what you're trying to say to me?

Also, is what you say really so daring? Haven't people been telling victims that their assault isn't real or valid forever?

I'm not attempting to stop a conversation that talks about how women don't run the world (I agree), or how conversations about rape are taken over by male apologists who bring up facts irresponsibly to cover up men's role in stopping rape culture (I agree) -- like you say, feminist writing should be provoking conversation and making people think hard. However, it doesn't have to ignore real facts, real trauma, and real feelings that happen when people read your words. Hard thoughts and difficult conversations can happen without being hurtful.

Historiann said...

Also, commenters who leave comments that are longer than the original post are pests.

Also, leaving progressively longer and more demanding comments will usually result in deletion and banning.

Also, why don't you start your own fucking blog?

Meghan R said...

@Historiann: right on.

really not impressed with your feminism said...

i do find tfp's point to be compelling, and the way that this person is being 'shamed' off your blog to be informative. the original point of the first commenter seemed to be asking not for 'equal airspace' for female rapists, but instead was responding to someone who flatly denied that there was any evidence that proved female rapists exist. honestly this thread would not have been 'jacked' if the author of this post had acknowledged that in a polite way. white privilege is just not the same as rape. someone who was raped has had their bodily integrity violated -- which is trauma, plain and simple -- a little different than being turned down for their top school choice in favor of a latin@. honestly i think this post/thread rises to the level of triggering for someone to read who was raped by someone female bodied. the comment 'i don't see evidence of females raping people' is just plain horrifying, and is very reminiscent of people fifty years ago saying things like 'he couldn't possibly rape someone, he's the mayor of the town. i didn't see it happen, therefore he's innocent and she's bad.' it seems like you are making the very problematic assumption that the 'threadjackers' (i suppose this includes myself now) are all men looking to get their jollies and absolve themselves of any feeling of responsibility. i myself am a radical queer femme dyke who identifies as a feminist, and i see each person on here who has been accused of 'threadjacking' doing two things:

1. strongly agreeing that most rape occurs in a male-on-female setting and strongly agreeing that it's really really important to keep on discussing it (oh, wait, that was your point: not 'jacking').

2. asking for respectful language around the existence of female rapists. i see a request that their existence a) not be denied (happened on this thread) and b) their victims not be erased (implicitly happened on this thread and the original post)

that doesn't seem like too much for someone to ask, particularly if you give them the benefit of the doubt that a) they might be female bodied and b) they might be a survivor of female-perpetrated rape.

Tenured Radical said...

Not impressed:

your claim: "flatly denied that there was any evidence that proved female rapists exist."

my blog: "true, but 99% of offenders are male"; "There is nothing I said that minimizes the experience of anyone being raped by anyone. That said, 1% of sexual assaults are committed by women. That is a very significant number;" "You have to stipulate this even though, according to Department of Justice Statistics, 91% of rape victims in the United States are women, 99% of rapists are men and you are probably in that room because of a recent and (too) horrible (to cover up) rape of a woman by a man."

That's not erasure, by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it saying that there is no such thing as female rape, nor is it anti-feminist: it's Department of Justice statistics and not the Gloria Gaynor anthem that you want to hear.

not impressed with your feminism said...

argh -- this is the root of all this misunderstanding? the person who flatly denied the existence of female rapists is anonymous 5:06, who is clearly identified in m's response, which is the comment that started this whole ridiculousness. YOU, tenured radical, i accuse of using dismissive and disrespectful language around this topic, which was TFP's point and I agree. you have a phd, i am surprised at the lack of textual analysis you are bringing to this thread.

furthermore, i'm interested by your fervent adherence to justice department statistics around this issue, when we are clearly in a territory where crimes are underreported. i personally know an adult woman who both sexually molested a child (which counts as rape) and abused her husband. do you think these crimes were reported to the police? do you think if they were she would be found guilty? i am NOT AT ALL claiming that equal airspace be given to female-perpetrated rape. and christ, this thread does seem to be discussing it a lot. but the reason behind that is that you and other commenters are treating this topic in a fundamentally disrespectful way. i do not normally participate in comment arguments like this -- i find them pointless and timewasting. but i am just blown away by two things: 1) the level of nonresponse to my main point that you exhibited, and b) the level of mindless trumpeting of a number that you as a women's historian might find suspect if you thought about it for two minutes. i AGREE wholeheartedly that the problem of rape perpetrated by men on women is a HUGE problem and one that needs much more attention. i DISAGREE that people who have been victimized by women need to be shamed and silenced as part of that very necessary discussion.

are you so committed to your point that you can't see that? every comment that has been part of the dissent on this thread has acknowledged and supported those points. and yet, you can't admit that you might be a little bit wrong. i understand that this is your blog, and i of course understand perfectly that i can start my own at any time. the reason for persistence in this forum is that i feel as though my words are being deliberately misunderstood to serve a political purpose, and to the extent that you will continue to publish my comments, i hope that i can clarify them to the point that someone reading this thread who might feel uneasy about the tone of this post & the subsequent comments might find some support.

at the end of the day, the part of this that i find upsetting is the image in my mind of someone reading this blog who was victimized by a woman. how might that person feel if they read this thread? i hope i can say to those one or two people, possibly female people, that yes, your experience is real and i do not find any reason to dismiss you or the real existence of your perpetrator. i unfortunately can't add my email address to this comment because of the format of your blog, but if you indicate that you would prefer to continue this conversation by email i am more than willing.

NOW let's get back to the topic of stopping power-based sex crimes, most of which are male-against-female.

Tenured Radical said...

And on that note....

Anonymous said...

I do not want to dispute many of the points made here, but I'm getting a bit weary of one fact I see repeated over and over in articles like this but which, thankfully, is completely false.

Women do not make 78% of what men do. How often can this obviously false statistic be repeated before people will start to ask themselves whether it makes sense. It does not, and every recent study has reported the same thing. Is there a disparity between what women and men make. yes. But it's nowhere as high as a 22% discrepancy.

In fact, our current gender equality laws make it illegal to pay men more and as any economist might tell you, there is also a huge economic disincentive to doing so. If women really made 78% of what men made for the same job, then you could outperform any business out there simply by hiring only women.

The situation is far more complex. Men and women are doing different jobs, and the more fine grained analysis becomes, the more this fact becomes apparent.

Now, the fact that women and men are doing different jobs is a different issue, and one which itself is certainly symptomatic of repression. That said, however, we may also find that some of this discrepancy points to the suffering of men just as much as it does women.

For example, though men may have some higher paying jobs, they also commute more, relocate more, work more overtime, work in exposure professions more, and account for about 95% of all occupational fatalities.

For any who do not believe me here beacuse you heard it on Glee that women make 80 cents on the dollar what what men do, check out (among a dozen other studies like it) the US dept of labour report on gender wage disparity (2009)

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