Tuesday, October 11, 2011

“But If He Lies to Me about Being in Love...: Rookiemag.com and the Increasing Disconnect Between Logic and Reality”

Before continuing, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the website mentioned in the subtitle.  If you do not, please be aware that what follows assumes that you have at least encountered mention of the same.  (Ed. Note: We found a good, non-Rookiemag article that discusses the site here)

“If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and smells like a duck then you need to kill it and perform an autopsy before you can determine whether or not it is, in fact, a duck.”

Judgment, assumption, stereotyping, and solipsistic rationality are not new breeds of cultural insensitivity.  It is sad, therefore, that they are becoming a kind of cultural touchstone; the mark of the twenty-first century intellectual.

Rookiemag is the emerging phenomenon that purports to celebrate feminist ideology and female empowerment by disabusing high school students of their popular misconceptions.  The heart of the magazine lies in its unflinching stance on girls and the difficulty of existing in what is universally acknowledged as one of the most poisonous environments sponsored by the government and society in general. 
Hailed as a radical new voice and forum for teenaged girls to express themselves in a free-flowing context that attempts to subvert stereotypes, Rookiemag is a powerful medium through which previously ignored or sublimated discussion points are illuminated and deconstructed.
This should sound quite liberating, and it seems to be truly enlightening.  The problem is that it actually isn’t.
Steeped in a kind of lazy philosophy, the site builds straw men out of flimsy invective and burns them as effigies for supposed cultural failings, without bothering to contextualize or offer salient observation on the stimulus for the faulty premises on which the problems themselves are based.

Reading the magazine, as a male, is a bit like reading The Color Purple.  It is exceptionally difficult to come away from the experience without wanting to walk straight into your bathroom and castrate yourself with a rusty spoon.  That is, until you get into the bathroom, splash some cold water on your face and realize that the hate you feel for yourself is the result of bathetically irrational arguments that have no purpose except to allow the teenage girls for whom the site is written to excuse their own behavior and actions.

The “ugly” truth is that the bastardized and perverted form of sexuality practiced in the United States continues to spawn monsters.

There is nothing inherently wrong in practicing a form of ethics or morality that allows for a highly sexualized personality characterized by either behavior or fashion.  Blaming the victim in a rape case is like blaming thermodynamics for a house fire.  Or, perhaps more appropriately: blaming the house.

Rape and sexual violence long pre-dates skimpy outfits, skirts, and deep cleavage, so there is nothing wrong with the argument that “my little black dress doesn’t mean yes.”  But making that argument becomes a parody of itself when you extend it to try and suggest that hypersexual appearance should somehow be ignored.  That it is a fundamentally wrong, even perverted, for a member of the opposite sex to even look or appreciate someone who is dressed in that manner.

The magazine goes so far as to suggest in another section that it is a pathetic and embarrassing failure on the part of a guy who “doesn’t even bother to try to hide it when he stares at my ass in a short skirt.”  So it would be ok, as long as he hides it better?  This is depressing.  Either it shouldn’t be ok in any case, and hypersexual dress should be as unnoticed as conservative clothing styles, or you should embrace the honesty that the rest of the magazine attempts to convey and acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with smiling when you see a muscular guy with a full head of hair, his swim trunks pulled down provocatively but thankfully not too far, his arms strong and tan in the afternoon light, his abs hard enough that you could probably drive your car over them, showering in the public stall at the beach after striding out of the water carrying his board.

Convenient morality is problematic, and it is dangerous to try and construct a system in which certain behavior, barely recognizable as different from other behavior, is acceptable, while the other is derided.  The recent rise in reported female-on-male sexual violence—whether it makes you laugh or not—suggests that the problems with sexual predation are not going away.  Despite the best efforts of SlutWalk or Take Back the Night, the issues are still there.

Getting drunk, flirting aggressively, dressing to make yourself look and feel good, or even being sexually liberated should not make one a target for sexual crime.  It is hard to imagine that any one truly believes that the victim “was asking for it.”

The issue stands, however, that the same magazine (and its progenitors) lambasts male behavior such as “creating dependency,” or “playing.”  Again, this is an issue of convenient morality.  The argument that the magazine portrays is that it should be accepted by everyone that girls are going to flirt and behave hypersexually, but that it is an egregious sin if a boy tells you that he loves you while he is actually just using you as a ride to school or to copy your homework.  The implication is that sexual (physical) manipulation is fine while emotional manipulation is morally corrupt. 

The magazine attempts to suggest that these teenage girls should feel free to behave however they want to but that if teenage boys do the same thing, they should be arraigned.  Please note, this is not in regards to sexual violence.  It does not matter how flirtatious a woman (or girl) is, if she doesn’t want to take you home or meet you in your parent’s station wagon outside the party, there is absolutely no excuse to be offended or to “take what you want if she won’t give it to you.”  Instead, this is intended to shine a light on the magazine’s disconnect between non-sexual coercive-style behavior when practiced by males and when practiced by females.

Far stronger than the message of female empowerment contained on the website is the message that suggests passing the buck to the notion of male failure—not necessarily in the sense that perpetrators of sexual crime are perverse outliers, but that men, in general, are failures.  Preaching a message of “girl love” is inspiring; suggesting “boy hate” is problematic.

In a deliciously masochistic way, I have grown to not only appreciate but also take bizarre pleasure in the thousands of intelligent men who are now trying to defend themselves from an increasingly vocal opposition in the form of equally intelligent angry women.  However, I believe it is fair play to demand equal accountability for the rationality of the argument.

There is a slippery slope to the approach taken by the teenage girls behind Rookiemag.  Personally, reading an article on, of all things, a Magic: The Gathering website (suggested by another writer on this website you’re reading now), taught me that there is still a long road to walk on before we reach a gender neutral environment.  Yet, I’ve never believed that any girl, no matter how many sexual partners she has, is a “bad” person for her choices.  Why is it that I am okay with considering a woman a “stud” if she gets a lot of action instead of patronizing or decrying her behavior as slutty?  I wish I could figure that out, but unlike so many people, I think we can get to the point where everyone feels the same way without resorting to what amounts to name-calling and finger-pointing. 

I suppose I want to end with the idea that if a woman chooses to dress to fit her body and her confidence level, and that outfit ends up being gorgeous and sexy—even if it pushes the antiquated standards of decency—I am willing to stand right next to her and vote or demand that something be done to curb the disturbing frequency of sexual crimes and a dramatic re-evaluation of the prosecution of rape to put the blame squarely on the perpetrator.  But there is a good chance if she’s wearing that outfit, I will be circumspectly staring at her boobs, and the truth is, I don’t want to go to jail for that.

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