Are you a sexist?

So, again, another article bashing the choices of people was written by The Guardian’s columnist Jessica Valenti.

This will be the discussion with the lady’s arguments, but feel free to discuss the topic.

Your taste in music, books, television or art sends a message about what you think is worth your time and who you think is smart.

And here I thought that it says what are my interests. Actually, I keep some “these people are so stupid” writers and “this book is so stupid” on my shelves. I hope Ms. Valenti can understand why I would keep those things.

Not my fault that the books I chose based on topics were written mostly by men… I don’t look at the sex of the author. I look at the topic/plot, the fragments from the book and based on that, I choose my lectures.

Sexism is when you put off a book because a person of ‘the wrong sex’ (man/a woman/T-person) wrote it.

When you live in a world with outrageous, explicit misogyny – domestic violence, sexual assault and attacks on reproductive rights, to name a few – it’s easy to breeze by the small stuff. After all, there are issues more pressing than whether or not the culture someone consumes is too homogenous.

So how about USA readers reading just/mostly USA(based) writers (without looking at the ethnicity)? Or just mostly USA/UK writers? I did check the table of contents for the Paris Review No. 212, Spring 2015. 19 names mentioned (fictions, interviews, poems, etc.). There is one British (Hilary Mantel), one Italian (Elena Ferrante), one Japanese (Shuzo Takiguchi). There is one Serbian-American (co-poetry editor of Paris Review) living in USA since 16 yo (currently 77) and one German photographer Thomas Demand who is also working in Los Angeles. USA population in the whole world population is below 5%. Hint hint.

As Paris Review wrote on the pages:  I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they’re good. So, actually I have to believe that less than 5% world population creates vast majority of the good things in the world culture?

But passive bias is still bias – and it has ripple effects into the broader culture. Is it really so much to ask that we pay attention to what shapes our tastes?

I agree, see above.

For example, I was riding the subway recently when I noticed my seatmate scrolling through a Twitter feed that looked remarkably like mine. I was tickled to be sitting next to a like-minded person, but as I looked on I noticed there was one thing that seemed to be missing from his newsfeed: women. He was following fantastic and smart men, but still – as far as I could tell, all men.

You nosy woman not respecting other people’s privacy. But since you try to use it, please do understand that the name (even if you think it’s referring to a man) or an avatar (the photo as avatar) don’t necessarily give you enough information for assuming the sex of the person.

I got the same uneasy feeling when I listened to a podcast interview with a TV showrunner and writer that I admire. He spoke eloquently about his passions and mentors – and the people whose work he liked most. All men.

If it was a lady talking only about her lady mentors, would you think it’s ok she didn’t mention any men?

I’m sure both of these people are smart, engaged and not deliberately or actively sexist – but when your worldview is solely shaped by men, you are missing out.

What does it tell about a person if their worldview is solely shaped by USA/Anglophone writers?

How is it to have a worldview solely shaped by “islam is bad and makes women unhappy” type of books?

So if the only culture you pay attention to is created by men, or created by white people, you are making an explicit statement about who and what is important.

If the only culture you pay attention to is created by USAns, you are making an explicit statement about who and what is important.

Part of the problem is that while art or books that white men put out is portrayed as universally appealing, culture produced by women or people of color is seen as specific to their gender or racial identity.

Whose fault is that? There is a lot of arrogance in USA when they think that their point of view is universally appealing (both culture and politics) and try to preach that. How about the literature with LGBTQ characters? “Gay writers” “Gay literature” etc. How many “best romance” lists actually put non-hetero romance among their titles?

Even if I’m white, I do despise the term “people of color”. I had hellish memories linked to being singled out as “white” in Indonesia. Yup, I know I’m of Caucasian descent, I didn’t have to be pointed out on the streets by people of all ages. I just wished that they would stop that and treat me as a normal person, not a “strange thing”. I didn’t stop being Polish.

When author Shannon Hale visited an elementary school to talk about her work, for example, she realized that the audience was all girls: the school administration only allowed the female students out of class for her event. As Hale wrote at the time: “I do not talk about ‘girl’ stuff.”

That isn’t right. But I don’t think I’d like to read a book about girls taught and competing for the sake of a guy. Isn’t that telling girls they can get to the top if they can please a man and get picked by him? And it was given awards. Scary!

This kind of passive sexism has wide-reaching impact – the annual VIDA count, which tallies the racial and gender diversities in magazines and newspaper bylines and books reviewed, for example, shows we still have a long way to go for equity in cultural representation.

Racial? I showed you statistics for Paris Review. It’s not even racism, it’s countryism. Gender? How about transgendered writers? Why it’s only 0 and 1 – women and men? And if one doesn’t want to be labelled as one? Gender diversities… So what happens when a book is written by a couple of men and women alike? Quite a lot of books on my shelves are by writers of mixed sex.

Part of that challenge is not just about what kind of culture we consume – but what we put out into the world as well. Last year, technologist Anil Dash, for example, wrote about a new years resolution to only retweet women – he came to the idea after realizing that even though he followed men and women equally, he retweeted men three times as often as women.

So, what Rihanna is putting out into the world? For example in Shut Up and Drive video? I want to puke at the very idea of watching this video. Or how about going back to the abusing partner? It’s not enough to just promote women. But guess what, most of the promotion and media coverage of women goes to those I wouldn’t like to be a idol for my child, no matter their sex (If I had one).

I’d like retweeting people based on the quality of their tweets, not based on sex. I don’t usually retweet, I usually favourite tweets. If most of the favourited tweets are by ladies, can I feel good about myself? But then, I’m probably sexist, because I have most books written by men…

Yes, our tastes are our tastes – I’m not suggesting you put away all books written by men or only listen to female musicians (well, not yet anyway). But our cultural biases – as unintentional as they may be – are worth thinking about. Not just to address broad inequalities, but to open up our own minds.

Yes, yes. So how many transgendered writers or LGBTQ-themed culture is on your shelves? How about the number of non-USA (including USA-based) and non-Anglophone authors/artists are on your shelves? How about “I’m Muslim and I’m happy” etc.?

If there are so many problems, why do you just care about a small problem, that could be easily worked out if you promoted more diversified culture?

 

What do you think about the sex-based promotion?

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