Misogyny is so odd!

I love looking at what stories Yahoo News pulls for its Odd News section (or what stories are submitted; I don't know how it works), because, with alarming frequency, they are news stories, often international, about the mistreatment of women. Today's line-up, for example, includes these three stories:

Stand-in mistress sought to take wife's abuse: "A Chinese businessman has advertised on the Internet for a stand-in mistress to be beaten up by his wife to vent her anger and to protect his real mistress, Chinese media reported on Monday."

Girl lost in poker game pleads for help: "A teenage girl in southern Pakistan, whose late father lost her in a poker game when she was 2 years old, has asked authorities to save her from being handed over to a middle-aged relative. Rasheeda, 17, said she has filed applications with the police and a local councillor asking them to prevent Lal Haider, 45, from taking her to his home."

Jealous husbands may face trial in court: "Mexican men who display extreme jealousy or avoid sex with their wives could be tried in court and punished under a new law, the special prosecutor for crimes against women told a local newspaper on Friday. Men who phone their wives every half hour to check up on them, constantly suspect them of infidelity or try to control the way they dress are committing the crime of jealousy, special prosecutor Alicia Elena Perez Duarte told Excelsior newspaper. … In Mexico, about 75 percent of all murdered women are killed by their husbands, Perez Duarte said."

In recent months, I've read under the heading of "Odd News" stories about a man branding his wife with a hot iron, a man coercing his wife into having plastic surgery to look like his deceased first wife, wives/girlfriends/exes being held against their will in various "odd" places including a coffin, women being traded for "odd" objects or offered as reparations for "odd" transgressions (along the same lines as the daughter lost in the poker game), and all other manner of outrageous indignity which is reported alongside such frivolous fare as online dating sites designed specifically for pet-owners (which itself gets in on the misogyny action by quoting the site founder asserting "there are more women than men who have several pets, as men tend to work full time and have less time for animals").

Aren't the travails of womanhood just so gosh-darn odd?

This strikes me as one of those nuances of sexism that many men don't notice or understand. To have women's experiences like this trivialized as "Odd News" is just infuriating, and being obliged to think about someone chuckling over the hilarious oddity of a girl being used as a chip in a poker game by her father can make a gal angry as fuck, particularly as she recognizes that the constant positioning of humiliated women as the butt of jokes humiliates us all. This shit is important, and even as I say it, I know why it doesn't seem like it is, or should be.

The thing is, the real cost of sexism to women is not in our paying a single emotional penny here for this insult and a single emotional penny there for that disgrace, but in the cumulative negative balance it leaves inside each of us. Even if we let this thing or that thing roll off of the thickened skins of our backs, we pay another penny each time; letting it roll off your back is just another way of saying keep your complaints to yourself, but it doesn't change the reality that sexism takes its toll, whether one has the ill manners of mentioning the offense or not.

As I've said before, the word that comes to my mind when I try to explain how sexism affects me is history. And I don't mean history in an academic sense, as in the history of the feminist movement, but as in my own history—a thousand threads of experience that come together to weave the fabric that I regard as my life. That history contains lots of wonderful and not wonderful things, related and unrelated things. Little things, things like seeing so many stories about the mistreatment of women culled under the heading of "Odd News," prick at a particular thread as though it's a guitar string, but instead of producing sound, it produces memory, memory of all the other times I have seen women or their stories belittled for others' amusement, memory of all the times such degradation has been used to mask the need for helping women in real need of assistance, or even just in need of being regarded with some basic fucking dignity.

I don't carry these memories with me because I want to. I carry them with me because they have left indelible prints upon me, affected my understanding of who I am to other people. I don't want to be bothered when I notice things like the treatment of women in "Odd News" features. But it doesn't matter what I want. To protect myself against this reaction is to deny my experience, to deny part of myself.

I write posts like this in the hope that they will speak to a man who has never had to think about what it means to be a woman in the world, who doesn't understand what women are "still complaining about," or wonders why we can't just let pass without comment, without anger, a sexist t-shirt or a misogynist slur or our irritation at the way stories about women are presented in the news. But mostly, I write posts like this for other women, who see things like this every day, and feel it chipping away at them, and whose pain is assuaged only by knowing that other women share it. In other words, I write posts like this for me.

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