Good afternoon! It is time to talk about humor. Are you familiar with this concept? Probably not, if you are a woman and/or feminist, since we all lack it; however, I have done extensive scientific research on the topic, and am here to tell you about this strange and inexplicable male practice.
Let us examine these screen-printed humor vehicles, shall we?
This is a t-shirt which is funny because men beating up women is inherently trivial and comic. I found out about it via Tracie Egan at Jezebel, someone whose work I do not normally read (we disagree on kind of a lot of stuff! Like, the whole “acknowledging violence against women not as a series of isolated incidents which girls were too personally weak and stupid to prevent but as a symptom of widespread misogyny within the culture” thing! That is important!) but who apparently shares my interest in the t-shirts of the damned. When you wear this t-shirt, you are saying, “I am statistically unlikely to be a victim of physical abuse at the hands of a partner, and might even be an abuser myself, and this is something that you should not be at all concerned about, because women’s pain, injury, and/or death does not really matter.” Also, “my masculinity hinges on being a violent criminal, because I apparently hate (a) men and (b) myself.” Also, “I plan to never, ever get laid again.” Fashion: it can make a statement.
This is a t-shirt which is funny because women’s consent is inessential to sex, and rape is OK, and also killing women is a good way to shut them up. I found out about it via Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy, whom I read more often than Tracie Egan, and with whom I also disagree on kind of a lot of stuff! Including some of what she writes about this t-shirt! (Organized, militant revolution to destroy institutions like porn or marriage or gender or what have you is not my preferred tactic; why not identify the specific problems within them and then transform the things themselves? Why ascribe any essential, inherent qualities to something you know to be socially constructed? Also, this leads into “please allow me to judge your sexuality and feminist commitment because you date dudes” territory, which, separatism + self-denial = I was raised Catholic, if I wanted to be a nun I would have just done that.) Whatever! T-shirts! Here is a charming description of why it is no fun to confront those dudes, by someone who did:
He laughed, play-acted that he was adoring the attention she was pouring on him, then used his advantage of size and privilege to completely dismiss her once he’d had enough. Charmingly, he also managed to loudly and to other mutual acquaintances refer to the two of us as ‘ugly lesbians*’ who had a problem with his t-shirt. It was a trifecta of misogynist, privileged arseholitude, right there: Wear a t-shirt that constitutes an active threat of physical violence, bask in the attention you receive for wearing it, and then call the women who have a problem with it ugly lesbians. Do all of this while surrounded by trendy ‘progressive’ hipster fuckwits who will cheer you on for being so ‘daring’ and ‘transgressive’, and who will verbally agree with you about those silly ugly lesbians who have a problem with your absolutely hilarious t-shirt.
Yes, but here is the issue! The thing that was poured on him was attention, whereas in fact it could have been beer! I myself am a clumsy lummox who is known to “trip” and “spill” beer on a gentleman on certain strangely coincidental occasions. If this fellow wants attention for looking like the stupidest fucking dick on the planet – which, if you’re wearing that T-shirt, what else are you looking for? – there is no reason why a sweet and totally apologetic young lady should not also arrange for him to look like he has pissed himself. Also, when you go home, you can protest the vendor’s choice to sell the shirt, which might actually remove it from the site. Getting all het up about that one specific shirt with that one specific dude, though: not going to work. He wants you to be offended. He wants you to be upset. He wants you to give a shit about whether or not he exists, because he is a sad dork (“hipsters,” in my experience, don’t wear brand-new t-shirts with “funny” slogans: just a tip), and that is how he manages to get through the day when he is not, like, writing fan-fiction or pretending to be an elf on the Internet or washing spunk out of his RealDoll. You, a socially functional person, paying attention to him: he wants that, no matter what form it takes. One thing he does not want, however, is cold, damp, smelly balls.
This is a shirt that looks basically like what I wear every day! I have them in different colors; I put them on with some jeans; it is easier than actually dressing myself. It is called a “wife beater” by some people, this shirt, and that is because (a) they are associated with poor people, who are of course more likely to abuse their partners, in the Wonderful World of Inaccurate Stereotype, and (b) men beating up women is inherently trivial and comic. Here is a super funny promotional gimmick from a place that sold such shirts:
Wife-beaters.com, a Dallas-based business that sold wife-beater T-shirts, has been shut down after a San Antonio man complained to the company hosting the site.
…The Web site sold white tank tops, commonly referred to as “wife-beaters,” and gave a discount to anyone who could prove they were convicted of wife beating.
Oh, OK, fine, I’ll join the damn wombyn’s commune already. Jesus.