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Sexist Beatdown: Tiger and Cheetah Edition

You know what’s fun? Cute animal names for people behavior! It is like dressing a dog up in a little outfit, but in reverse. So adorable! “Older” ladies who date younger dudes are “cougars,” and younger “older” ladies who date younger dudes are “pumas,” and people who date people their own age are “yaks,” and people who go on dates during the wintertime are “emperor penguins.” And date rapists are “cheetahs!”

Wait, WHAT? That’s not cute! Not cute at all! Not even an animal name can cheer me up about that! And yet, it is the case, as per the New York Observer and its no-doubt-intended-to-be-hilariously-tongue-in-cheek article re: the cheetahs. It’s too bad the date rape brought the whole thing down, really! And also the sexism. Because then I had to be miffed about it, on the Feministe. But now it is time to bring the conversation to A Higher Level (people who do this are known as “mountain goats”) by talking about the supremely downery and difficult topic of how ladies are capable of abuse and bad stuff sometimes. And how we deal with this, in a world where ladies are stereotyped as The Weaker, Nicer Gender. (Hint: jokes!) And also Tiger Woods. Because, UGH, why not. Coincidentally, can you guess which story a person with a Google alert for “Tiger Beatdown” will be hearing A LOT about? Yep.

Anyway! Time for a surprisingly joke-free Sexist Beatdown, featuring Amanda “Ruffed Wood Grouse” Hess of The Sexist! And me, of Tiger “Tiger” Beatdown!

Prin2_VicelandILLUSTRATION: Ha ha! Silly Princess Fluffy Snowball, those are PEOPLE clothes! That I forced you into while you spit and growled and hissed and took big chunks out of my inner arm with your claws and… oh, who am I kidding? I can’t be mad at you while you are wearing that hilarious and adorable outfit, Princess Fluffy Snowball! Now let me take your picture so that I can show it to all my OH GOD NO NOT THE EYES AGGGGGGHHHHH.

SADY: hi! sources inform me it is CHEETAH TIME!

AMANDA: you are mistaken. cheetah time is around last call, which situates it around 2 a.m. here in washington d.c. although i am ignorant to the exact hour of cheetah time in new york.

SADY: well, i kind of hope that no time is cheetah time? because the new york observer informs me that the “cheetahs,” this new and playfully named subgroup of ladies, are actually kind of engaged in some QUITE UNETHICAL behavior, possibly.

AMANDA: what are you going to do about it? round up all the cheetahs and put them in … some sort of zoo?

SADY: THE JAIL ZOO.

AMANDA: i have determined that the only way to deal with the very rapey behavior of these “cheetahs” is to jokingly incorporate them into some sort of homosocial masculinity-building exercise, in order to not have to think about women sexually assaulting people.

SADY: oh, good! i think some people have already started this project, potentially!

AMANDA: grrreat!

SADY: i mean: i don’t actually think that we are meant to think that the cheetahs as described in the observer article are out date raping people. i should say that. i think it’s just an unfortunate combination of language choices and hyperbole, intended for humorful effect, that leaves one with that unmistakable impression. but still: i think it’s worth noting that the language choices and hyperbole went unnoticed as “accidentally coming together to describe a serial date rapist” because the serial date rapist in question was a lady. because if it were a dude behavior pattern this article was talking about? people would PROBABLY NOTICE. and not give it cute animal names and a tongue-in-cheek article treatment.

AMANDA: well, it’s interesting, because whenever i write about sexual assault, particularly DRUNKEN sexual assault, i always get the same comment from men: “how is this different from the time i totally got beer goggles and woke up next to a super ugly chick i instantly regretted fucking?” and i can say, well, i know the difference between having sex and then saying, ‘oops. bad idea,” and, you know, rape. but this article made me question whether men really have a way to talk about sexual assault experiences as something OTHER than the beer goggles

SADY: yeah. there’s a crucial difference between “i shouldn’t have wanted to do that but at the time i seriously did want to do it, OOPS” and “i did not want that to happen and then it did because i was unable to resist or know what was going on.” and in this article, one blends in to the other in a way that disturbs me. because i seriously do wonder if the conversation we have around rape – which is a conversation i take part in, a lot, and which i’m happy with on a number of levels – does us a disservice in that it doesn’t stress that informed consent is necessary no matter WHO you are. so the possibility of a dude being taken past the point of informed consent, bullied, abused, coerced, intimidated, etc. doesn’t register as serious for us. it registers, if at all, as FUNNY.

AMANDA: yes, and the men express a lot of discomfort with this situation in the piece, but it’s all carefully divorced from non-consent—it’s discomfort with her not looking good without makeup on, discomfort with kissing a cheetah IN THE LIGHT OF DAY, discomfort with her totally wanting to marry him. nd the idea in the story that these girls have tried to coerce these drunk men into DATING them seems pretty off-base to me. it seems almost like a stand-in for the experience of the women coercing the drunk men into having sex, honestly. i mean, if the “cheetah” (OK. I am going to use the word) is only propositioning the guy anytime she happens to see him drunk in da club at 2 am, and not over the phone on the weekend looking for a dinner date, it seems pretty clear that the lady is looking for sex.

SADY: right. there’s a discomfort there that’s probably meant to be just standard “don’t let ‘em stay for breakfast”-ness but given the details of ladies waiting until a guy – ANY GUY – is wasted past the point of no return and then isolating them from a group under false pretenses and then employing their sex/boyfriend-nabbing maneuvers? it seriously comes across as more sinister than that. and again, so that it doesn’t come across as me randomly accusing some person i don’t know of sexual assault based on a clearly-meant-to-be-funny essay: i don’t think that’s EXACTLY how it went down. i think those elements were played up to make it funnier. but if you knew anyone who operated this way in the actual world, that would be cause for serious, serious concern. but maybe even my urge to be cautious about this is indicative of something.

AMANDA: well, i know that i usually don’t hesitate to point out that behavior like this, while not necessarily rape—who knows what happened after they stumbled into the cab—it’s still something we should address in the larger context of sexual assault. but again, given the obvious hyperbole of the piece, it’s hard to know what’s honest and what’s exaggerated

SADY: yeah. ultimately the only people who know what happened are the people involved. but i definitely don’t think it’s out of line to talk about it in the CONTEXT of sexual assault behaviors. because seriously, all those “accidental” rapes we keep hearing about where the person WHOOPS just up and raped someone? could really be avoided by adopting a measure such as, “don’t pick out piss-drunk people who can’t even form a coherent sentence as sex partners.” but it’s hard to even see it in this case – it almost slips under the radar – because we have the idea that men are unrapeable. always being willing and ready and able to have sex is a big part of our idea about how the male sex drive works.

AMANDA: you pointed out in your piece on Feministe that the joke doesn’t work, but if it DID WORK it would be because a. men want to have sex with everything! and b. it’s absurd that a woman could force a man to do something he didn’t want to do. and it’s interesting to think of the expectation that men are always up for sex in the context of sexual assault, because that traditionally masculine requirement basically translates into a constant state of consent. but the morning after, when the Observer writes a humorous essay about the situation, the perceived damage isn’t that the man had sex when he didn’t want to, but that he had sex with the wrong woman when he did want to, and had there been any hotter, younger, less desperate girl at the bar that night, there wouldn’t have been a problem at all.

SADY: righto. and, i mean, i don’t think it’s out of line to point out that the MAJORITY of rapes, as far as i’ve ever been able to gather, are of women. and that may, in fact, feed into our perceptions of men as unrapeable, because we’re just not used to imagining the victim as of the male gender. but sometimes these things are hard to measure because societal expectations and biases are getting in the way of people (a) naming their experience, or (b) having people pay attention to their experience. like, it’s been really hard for me to find statistics on domestic violence in same-sex relationships, because most people are measuring the rate of violence by straight men directed at straight women. or sometimes, the other way around. but that doesn’t mean domestic violence in same-sex relationships is nonexistent, it just means we aren’t out there looking at those stories enough. sorry, LONG. and also we’re not used to the idea that women are capable of violence? PS? like, gender stereotypes tell us that ladies don’t do violent badness, that is a Male Thing.

AMANDA: right, and I also think it’s very much a reflection on who we will accept as a victim. two boyfriends getting into a fight is perceived differently than a boyfriend and girlfriend—first, because people don’t like to talk about gay relationships, AT ALL, and second, because people have a hard time seeing a “true” victim in male-on-male violence

SADY: right. like lil’ wayne and the lady who sexually abused him as a kid! i mean, he was A CHILD at the time, and it’s been spun as “wow, you got lucky at a really young age, HILARS.”

AMANDA: and they’re also so bent on seeing a woman as a victim in a domestic dispute that, in cases where women do beat up on their partners, it’s sometimes ignored, because men don’t want to be seen as victims, either. and so—I know you didn’t want to talk Tiger!—but Tiger Woods’ wife’s club-wielding will be announced publicly by Woods as an “act of courage,” no matter what actually happened that night. meanwhile, he’s getting a lashing in the presses over having sex with a lot of women, which is pretty standard, but also just very tiring to me, because the very serious ALLEGED CLUB WIELDING INCIDENT MY GOD has been all but excused by his infidelity

SADY: yeah, precisely. and maybe part of that has been about the fact that we don’t fully know what happened, too, because i know that there are already people who are like, “this would never be so readily excused if the victim were A WOMAN,” and it’s like: hello, i would like to introduce you to The Many Conversations About How Rihanna Deserved It And Also The T-Shirt To That Effect And Also Basically A Shit-Ton Of Other Incidents Of Domestic Violence And Victim-Blaming.

AMANDA: (I had forgotten about the t-shirt!)

SADY: i mean: yes, it would be excused by some. but also: i think it’s really important to say that this shit is unacceptable no matter who you are or whose car you are beating with a golf club. NOT. COOL. and i think sometimes we, as women, forget that we can be guilty of shittiness to our partners that is just as damaging as a dude being shitty to a lady. i mean: i think the notion that women can’t be abusive or that men can’t be victims of abuse is actually pretty sexist.

AMANDA: it’s extremely sexist. and i think it often actually encourages women to be abusive, because there is the sense that you can’t “really” hurt a man. and that’s awful.

SADY: it relies on this concept of us as impotent, and that our little fits are just womanly irrationality and kittenishness, and that men are always stronger than we are and in control of the situation. and, i mean, i’ve caught myself being shitty with my anger, and seriously had to ask myself if i would ever accept this scenario if it were a dude doing it. answer: sometimes, no. granted, i’ve never gone at someone with A FUCKING GOLF CLUB, but still. the idea that women are weak and men are strong becomes a lot less plausible (if it ever was) when the woman in question is armed with a large metal object.

AMANDA: haha. right. but even if not! i remember, a while back, sort of forcefully slapping my boyfriend’s shoulder in frustration. no golf club! and it took a couple of times for him to tell me that that hurt him and it wasn’t acceptable. and i was confused and then really ashamed about it, because i sort of didn’t realize that it hurt him. which is terrible. :(

SADY: right. and that is the thing! like, everyone in the world should be taught how to identify when they’re being abused, but they should also be taught how to identify when they’re being abusive. Not that we all will be abusive or go around beating each other, but we shouldn’t teach only one population to examine and control themselves. and i actually think the concept of An Abuser, as this super-human monster freak who is always only one way in his (note the “his”) lifetime ever, prohibits people from that. the same way that saying, “that thing you did was sexist” is hard because people hear, “you are a sexist,” and how those are different things, really, but our concept of A Sexist is so scary to us that accepting we are BEING sexist and need to deal with that is hard. like, i think the fact that men are taught to express anger in certain ways may in fact (and does in fact) lead to more men being violent to their partners. but. that doesn’t mitigate the possibility of women as abusive as well.

AMANDA: i can attest to people freaking out by being associated with being A Sexist, since I have gotten many confused, angry phone calls from people who have been featured in my column who believe that the name of my column, The Sexist, is a reflection of their personal character. it’s really a bit of a problem! what a stupid idea for a column name!

SADY: i find it hilarious and charming!

AMANDA: of course, a lot of the people I do feature are A Sexist. Which is probably why they get so mad about it!

SADY: oh, well. THAT CAN HAPPEN.

12 Comments

  1. Mel wrote:

    Wow. That’s really bizarre. Why do people think of these things?

    The “sexist” vs. “A Sexist” applies similarly to a lot of other issues. People shut down the minute they’re called on their behavior, because as long as they’re not 100% -isting all the time, they figure they’re one of the good guys. Which, argh. This even applies to the Roman Polanski mess–people saying “Well, he’s not a REAL pedophile because he doesn’t spend 100% of his life raping children! He makes movies! Real pedophiles are too obsessive to make movies!”

    (Also, pumas and cougars are two names for the same animal.)

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  2. snobographer wrote:

    I still can’t figure out why people get defensive about being told they said something sexist, when they’ve just finished saying something obviously and egregiously sexist.
    Like when Farrah Fawcett died, this commenter on the Onion AV Club blog called her a “washed-up cum rag,” then actually got defensive when people expressed offense. What exactly do they think they’re being? Or like when people were arguing Michael Richards “isn’t racist” when he lobbed all those N- bombs. He doesn’t go around in a white sheet burning crosses on people’s lawns, so he’s not racist.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  3. Erin wrote:

    Your cat reminds me of Kirsten Dunst in Interview with a Vampire.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  4. caffeineadddict wrote:

    When I called my flatmate sexist, he said he couldn’t be, because he has ‘lots of female friends’. Hmmmmm…..

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  5. Farore wrote:

    I can definitely also testify to the sexist vs. A Sexist thing. My husband, who is, in theory, an ally, tends to react with hurt and anger if I tell him he is being sexist. But.. if instead I just say ‘think about what you just said. would you have seriously also said that about [opposite/other gender]?’ he gets it right away. In fact, when I first started getting into feminism, he seemed to sort of take it as a personal offense, like I felt that feminism was still needed because HE was misogynist, rather than because the WORLD has a decidedly misogynist slant. People are really weird about being A Sexist or A Racist or whatever, to the point that it makes conversation really difficult. I wish we, as a species, could just back up and say ‘Okay, we can perform a behaviour without embodying that behaviour all the time, OVER IT.’

    Of course, I’m also occasionally guilty of the hurtful vs A Bad Person meme, so who am I to talk >.>;

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  6. kristyn wrote:

    I think this article is very, very relevant, and totally true, but at the same time it definitely borders on the ”fodder for MRAs” territory.

    ”See, you lying whore, you weren’t raped because WOMEN RAPE MEN!!! Like, ALL THE TIME!!! But men are just TOO AFRAID to say so because THE WOMEN have BULLIED THEM and WE ARE SO SCAARED like TIGER who got beaten BY A GOLF CLUB!!!! Who’s to say you horrible cheetahwomen aren’t going to HIT US with GOLF CLUBS because you HAVE MORE POWER blah blah blah blah WHITE GUYS ARE THE MOST OPPRESSED PEOPLE EVER blah blah people are too PC blah blah blah.”

    Disclaimer — I know a male person who has been domestically abused and also raped, multiple times, in this fashion because he thinks guys can’t be raped BUT now he is an MRA instead of a feminist, which he used to be, because of it. In fact he thinks feminism is a lie and we feminists are just overreacting because OMG LADIES DO THOSE BAD THINGS TOO, LIGHTEN UP. Oh, and shut up and blow me, bitch.

    So how can we talk about this type of thing WITHOUT breeding women-hating assholes who think all lady-people are sexually manipulative golf-club-wielding animal metaphors?

    People who are more coherent and less feminist-angry might wish to discuss this, and/or refute me.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  7. Sady wrote:

    @kristyn: Well, that’s the thing. If we refuse to say things – things that we know to be true – because some MRA or whoever could take them and twist them into untruth, then we’re letting the opposition determine the terms of the debate for us. A particularly fringey and known-to-be-nuts variety of the opposition, at that. This is actually something that drives me a wee bit up the wall, about feminist conversations: sometimes I’m afraid we oversimplify certain principles, or refuse to say certain things, because the actual complexities or truths at hand don’t feel “safe” or in line with our predetermined talking points and agreed-upon theories. Whereas it’s precisely those complexities and uncomfortable truths we should be focusing on, really, because that’s where we need to improve our understandings. We need to go out beyond the edges of what we already understand and feel comfortable with, in order to find anything new to say. It seems like every time I write about some not-so-admirable thing that ladies do, someone weighs in to say that I’m not presenting the gender positively enough and/or giving aid to the enemy. And I don’t shitting care about that, to be totally blunt. For one, I don’t think The Enemy reads Tiger Beatdown, and for two, I care about writing the truth, because I don’t feel feminism is served or ever can be served by ignoring the truth and instead telling each other whatever is most uplifting or whatever we most want to hear. Writing this chat felt really vulnerable, for me, which I think is a good thing, because it was confirmation that I was being honest and that I wasn’t just repeating someone else’s lines throughout.

    Plus, if some MRA ever decides that feminists. just. don’t. CAAAARE about bad stuff that happens to men, or will just never ever ever admit that women can be abusive, this is one concrete incidence – one of many – that someone can point to in order to prove them wrong. It won’t make a difference to them, of course, because they’ve already committed to ideology over reality. But for people who are committed to reality, it will be evidence against them.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Erin: It’s not my cat, thank God.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink
  9. Helen wrote:

    Further to what Kristyn said-
    Yes, and the legal system is going to take this meme and run with it re. proving any allegation of rape.
    “M’lud. I put it to you that not only did Ms Z totally ask for whatever was coming to her by getting in a car with the defendant, but that she was planning to rape him.
    Happy days.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink
  10. It is sad – I knew a couple where the wife regularly verbally abused her husband (his friends called it “nagging”, I call “bullshit”) and used to dig her nails into his arm when she was mad at him to the point of leaving scars (which he would show people like it was cute). Their interactions made me deeply uncomfortable because if the genders were reversed, there would be no question that it was abuse (scars, omg).

    But his friends just called him a “pussy” for putting up with it. So a man who is abused is not only being abused, but is openly mocked for being weak enough to be abused. Not because he loves his wife (twisted as that love may be), but because he won’t learn her good by being violent back. How scary is that?

    I once – just once – saw him speak gently and politely to her to ask her not to denigrate him in front of his friends, and she acted like he’d screamed epithets at her. Maybe that’s a small difference, I don’t know – men escalate when confronted? But that isn’t right either.

    The other thing is that men frequently just won’t say anything to women who casually abuse them (I’m thinking here of a friend who had a female “friend” who used to hit him on the back of the head very hard when she was annoyed at him). It’s so enculturated that men can’t be hurt by women that the men involved don’t believe it’s abuse.

    MRAs are a special little group all their own with only the most tenuous grasp on reality, so I can’t really count their opinions as worthwhile.

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  11. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    Yeah, it’s been pointed out before many a time, but what MRA’s still don’t seem to realize is that it’s precisely because of the same patriarchal ideas feminists try to challenge (women as weak, men always in control, or should be, and if they aren’t it’s because they aren’t asserting themselves as a “real” man would, etc, ad nauseum) that men in abusive situations cannot easily ecape or name what has happened to them–or, in many cases, even recognize that things like verbal abuse, taking advantage of incapacitated men, and scratching so as to leave scars, are actually damaging, and unacceptable. It’s certainly not because of feminists (who are generally against screwing people who cannot consent and committing unnecessary acts of violence, as far as I am aware) somehow conspiring to keep men down. If feminists discuss abuse of women by men more often, it is because this seems to be the more prevalent type, due to the imbalance of power in male-female relations that persists even in the shiny, happy, supposedly too PC Western world. Also, what Sady and Amanda said about lack of data. If women under-report rapes by men (the culturally expected type–and, too often, tacitly accepted, contributing to said under-reporting), what can we expect with men who have been raped by women, or victims of abuse or rape by members of the same sex? How often do they report, and how often are they taken seriously?

    Illustrative anecdata from my own life: In high school, I was not a happy camper and wound up in a therapy group with a boy who had been admitted to a mental hospital for depression and suicidal tendencies. He told about how, at a party shortly before his admittance, he was so drunk he couldn’t move very well or speak coherently, and a girl began performing oral sex on him, which he couldn’t stop. His girlfriend dumped him over the incident, part of the reason he’d landed in the hospital. He called what had happpened rape, so I imagine one of the doctors had given him “permission” to name it in that way. I had a lot of trouble believing him, even though he was sitting there in a psychiatric hospital, in a room full of people telling ugly truths in an effort to get better. If he’d willingly cheated while drunk and felt bad about it, no one would have judged him for saying so. It might even have been easier for him to tell the story that way, make it more believable, say he was depressed because of guilt and being dumped. Though I didn’t say anything, I suspected him of making up a story to cover his own mistake, or at least of enjoying what had happened more than he should have. Because guys always want sex and always have the upper hand. I guess he was lucky the therapists took his word for it.

    This is not to be all “the poor, poor men”. As I said above, the reason people take the line I took as a teenager with regard to male victims of female attackers isn’t that men are downtrodden, it’s that they are expected to be invincible and sexually voracious, and dismissed if they “allow” weak women to get the better of them or admit they did not want a sexual encounter.

    Monday, December 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  12. kristyn wrote:

    Hey Sady, you addressed my concerns beautifully.

    I’m tired, and conflictedly enough, ashamed, of being so scared all the time. I know as a feminist — and skirts and heterosexuality and the occasional foray into kitten heels and eyeshadow aside, I’m apparently a man-hating-feminist stereotype — I shouldn’t live in fear, but I do.

    Fear of my own body, my own opinions. And I know I’m not the only one. Shit, as females, we can’t talk about things that maybe some of us do that are wrong, like maybe even raping dudes, without facing someone’s ire and it sucks.

    I know that I, personally, this person, should suck it up and be braver, but frankly, even in theoretically safe spaces like feminist blogs on the internet, I’m scared. Scared, essentially, when it boils right down to it, that they’re going to find me, find all of us — that they’re going to go straight for all of our weaknesses — and then they are going to kill us.

    There is a famous quote to that effect and I really feel that it is true. Men fear women’s mockery, and women fear men’s violence. Even when we are alone.

    I hope this doesn’t sound unhinged.

    Monday, December 28, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Women’s Reactions to Men Who Are Terrified of Cougars, Pumas, and Now, Evidently, Cheetahs, Sexist Beatdown: Tiger and Cheetah Edition, No woman anywhere should ever be good enough, and probably my favorite blog post of all on this [...]

  2. [...] of sexual assaults against men got an interesting response from some feminist commenters over on Sady’s blog, Tiger Beatdown (Yes! This is a special guest edition of Sexist Comments of the Week!) Namely: [...]

  3. [...] of sexual assaults against men got an interesting response from some feminist commenters over on Sady’s blog, Tiger Beatdown (Yes! This is a special guest edition of Sexist Comments of the Week!) Namely: [...]

  4. Meeting Halfway « Toy Soldiers on Monday, December 7, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    [...] goes on to quote from Sady, a blogger from Tiger Beatdown: If we refuse to say things—things that we know to be true—because some MRA or whoever could [...]