In Which I Explain How Wil Wheaton is Being a Dick*

As a periodic enjoyer of Wil Wheaton's blog, I have been pleased with the fact that he and I support the same presidential candidate. Nonetheless, karmic justice is more important than loyalty, so I feel the need to call Wil out on a recent post he wrote about the Democratic primary candidates. He started the post talking about why Obama is his president and how Clinton has been a major let-down during this campaign, all of which I'm totally on board with. But then, he goes on to extol the hilarity of a post he found through Reddit called, "Hillary Clinton: the Psycho Ex-Girlfriend of the Democratic Party." The title says all we need to know about the post for this discussion.

After that, Wil writes the following:

And allow me to just head something off right now that's already come up on Twitter: I'm not sexist. This isn't sexist. That's a stupid straw man, and if you try to make that claim, I will point and laugh at you.
So, it looks like there are two definitions with which Wil is unfamiliar. First, let's look at one of the definitions of sexism:
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
Second, let's look at one of the definitions of straw man:
2. a weak or sham argument set up to be easily refuted
If there is anyone who thinks that comparing Hillary to a psycho ex-girlfriend is not exhibiting "attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles," I have one question for you: Why is that funny? Seriously. If sexism weren't an integral component to that comparison, no one would get it. If Hillary were a man, would that comparison even come up? Would he be the "psycho ex-boyfriend"? No. Because we don't think about males in those terms. A stereotypical male corollary would be something like, "Unable to Admit He Can't Find His Way to the White House, Hillary Still Refuses to Pull Over and Ask for Directions." That is an equally sexist statement (yet, oddly enough, is one that would never be made for any male candidate).

So, now that we've easily refuted Wil's "this isn't sexist" straw man argument, let's move on to the bigger picture. I'm going to do some of the men out there a favor and let you in on a little secret. Your egotistical behaviors and attitudes are getting fairly tiresome (<--See? That was a sexist statement.). The fact that Wil said he's going to "point and laugh" at me for explaining that he's wrong about something is a case in point. It is possible--I know it's hard to believe--that, in general, women may know a bit more about sexism than most men do. I know we've been told, directly and indirectly, throughout our lives that men are more serious, more rational, more authoritative than women, but sometimes, it just ain't so. Sometimes, men are wrong about stuff. And that's ok.

As we've seen (in the previous paragraph, for instance), women aren't the only ones subjected to sexism. Stereotypical gender roles, and the cultural status levels based on them, can be harmful for everyone. For instance, when a Clinton supporter praises her "testicular fortitude," he is magically demeaning both Clinton and Obama simultaneously. Unless Hillary has undergone some major surgery recently, she has not acquired testicles. And the implication that she needs them in order to be strong demeans her as a woman and as a president. And implying that Obama doesn't have them is equally demeaning to him both as a man and as a president. So, sexism works both ways and can be bad for everyone (and anyone who views testicles as a symbol of strength, let someone kick you in them, and you'll see how strong they are).

So, rather than making a "this isn't sexist" straw man argument, a more honest statement might be, "this is sexist, but I don't care." And there is a case to be made that comparing Hillary to a psycho ex-girlfriend really is a benign, albeit sexist, act. Since Hillary's entire presidential campaign has been fraught with sexism inside and out, we can discuss the possibility that we shouldn't worry about directing more gender-based stereotypes her way. She and her campaign staff and surrogates have felt free to employ them when they work for her, so maybe she should also have to put up with them when they don't. I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that. But when you have to throw away one of the defining characteristics of sexism in order to make a claim that your argument isn't sexist, you're insulting the rest of us. Which means you are, in fact, being a "dick".

* I generally don't use genitalia as an insult (for obvious reasons), but Wil's blog tag line is "Wil Wheaton says, 'Don't be a dick!'," so I couldn't resist.**

** Has anyone else noticed that I've been using asterisks in my titles a lot lately? I wonder what that means.

Nothing New byslag at 10:18 AM

10 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here):

psilocynic said...

There are psycho ex-boyfriends, too. The kind that drive by your house at 12 in the morning blasting Dashboard Confessional. I think the psycho ex-girlfriend comparison fits Hillary's behavior. Likewise, I feel the psycho ex-boyfriend comparison fits Mike Gravel. He is clearly stalking the race to the whitehouse long after the whitehouse has moved on and started dating other people. But the Gravelanche won't give up. Only nobody care because he has become just another youtuber posting inane videos

slag said...

psilo: Yes. There are psycho ex-boyfriends too. But the psycho ex-boyfriend analogy is rarely ever made. So, it doesn't turn into a gendered stereotype (as any intellectually honest person will admit). Just like there are women who are too stubborn to pull over and ask for directions. But it's not a gendered stereotype. That is one of the definitions of sexism.

Or as Jon Stewart said to that lady who asked Obama if he "believes in the American flag" and then said that she wasn't questioning his patriotism: If you have to actually say you aren't questioning someone's patriotism, most likely, you are.

So, if you feel the need to say "this isn't sexist", most likely, it is.

Really, this concept isn't that challenging.

slag said...

PS You should listen to Thom Hartmann more. I heard him the other day telling a caller that using the word "manipulative" to describe Hillary is sexist. Not because men aren't manipulative. But because using that word to describe a woman recalls a specific gendered stereotype. Same deal.

psilocynic said...

Fortunately for me I am rarely, if ever, intellectually honest. But that's part of my boyish charm

Gye Greene said...


I initially wanted to disagree with your assertion. (Partly due to a pro-Wil bias.)

But, you swung me around. Nicely done; good writing! :)

(BTW -- do readers of your blog know your gender? Given that you don't post your own pics, or refer to your partner's own gender, etc. [Although you could just be a same-sex couple.])

BTW#2: Did any call out Wil in the comments section?


slag said...

GG: Thanks!
re gender: Probably only regular readers know it. I try to avoid talking about things that encourage bias (ie, personal things). But I realize that's not always practical/better.

re comment: I did leave a short smackdown comment on Wil's blog.

Mick said...

Nice job. I've been a fan of Wil's blog for awhile and even bought "Just A Geek", but I have to agree with you. What's really vexing is that he refuses to see it and is ignoring all the well-meaning, well-phrased criticisms.

BTW, I think he meant "red herring", not "straw man".

gye greene: Many people took him to task in the comments and he shut them down. Literally, turned off comments for that entry.

slag said...

Thanks Mick. I've been disappointed to see people who I thought were more introspective and sensitive to these issues behave so defensively about this situation. You'd think that if people actually saw sexism as a serious problem, they would care enough about it to take the criticism seriously as well.

A.F. said...

I really like this post. I've been upset lately that because Clinton has run a horrible campaign, many liberal bloggers have come to believe that sexist comments are now suddenly a-okay.

slag said...

A.F.: I couldn't agree more with your sentiment. I've heard of this derangement syndrome in the past and have found myself sometimes apoplectic about how Hillary has run this campaign. But I fail to see the need to bring gender into my disgust. It only hurts the larger cause, which is something we don't need right now.

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