It’s not easy having a unisex name. Roughly half of folks read my name and assume I’m a guy, and the other half responds with “Really? I’ve never known a guy Casey. I always think of it as a female name.” Then there are the few stragglers who assume that since I am denied a Y chromosome, my name must be manipulated into the more feminine “Cassie” or, worse yet, “Cassandra.” The occasional hopeful has asked me what my middle name is in order to establish firmer gender grounds. Alas, while “Jo” is the female spelling, it is also short for nothing. Said out loud, my name is pretty damn neutral. Simply presented, such as through writing, people assume what they will, and I’m sometimes met with surprise…even disappointment for not being a dude. I assure you, I’m bummed too, guys. Bras are really expensive, not to mention the other costs associated with being a woman.
Why am I leading in with that blurb? Because I’ve seen gender bias all my life. It’s everywhere, and it sucks. Sometimes I can suspend my disbelief and righteous fury in order to actually get through the day without blowing my lid. After all, I am a fan of horror films, and those can be notoriously sexist. But really, honestly, I have to ask: why is everything sexist now?
It’s not new that our lady popstars are critiqued mostly on how they look and how capably they can gyrate their bodies than how they can sing. That’s what autotune is for, right? It’s also not new that there’s a tendency for male lyrics to subjugate women in rather disturbing ways. But for the love of God, every time I hear “Blurred Lines” on the radio, my impulse to shake my shoulders along to the catchy beat is defeated by my absolute disgust. “I’ll give you something to tear your ass in two”?! I know I can’t speak for the entirety of womankind, but I personally like to be able to sit down from time to time, and I’m much more interested in someone who doesn’t serenade me with ‘sexy’ threats. If you haven’t seen the comparison of Robin Thicke lyrics to the words of rapists, please give that link a click. The overlap is beyond creepy because the song is too. Then you have the music video where topless women dance around fully clothed men who need balloons to tell the world that they have a big dick. They’ll claim that it’s all in good fun. To that I say: your penis is likely very small, and your brain smaller.
It’s not that this video is worse than decades of hip hop, pop, and rock videos with women dancing in little or no clothing. It’s just that we’ve made so little progress that this can be crowned “The Song of the Summer” with uncensored nudity on YouTube (because ART), but parodies that subvert men in similar ways are decried as being sexist, going too far, hating men. If you tell a woman that she wants to have sex with you when she doesn’t, and you act on that impulse no matter what her opinion is, she is an object to you, not a person. You are the problem. You can laugh off how “charming” and flippant Robin Thicke is, but the guy has appeared with naked women on multiple occasions for press, claimed his wife insisted, put his hand on another woman’s ass (and likely did much more), and gets away with it because he’s a guy. When Miley twerked all over his body, she was the one crucified, even though his Beetlejuice outfit was arguably more garish than her PVC flesh colored bikini…thing. If it sings like a creep, leers like a creep, and fondles like a creep, it’s a creep.
But let’s move away from music before my brain explodes. I never had a vested interest in Robin Thicke’s music anyway, so of course I can roll my eyes and shake my fist. What about something I enjoy? Well, folks, I have an example for you there as well. When I moved to New York City all by my lonesome, it took me a while to find a job. In the midst of the depression that came from all my rejected applications, I had only Netflix to keep me company. That was when I first binge-watched Dexter. As I’ve said, I love horror, so I’m used to separating my lady senses from the rest of my brain to enjoy a bit of gore. There are some spoilers from here, so tread lightly.
Dexter’s appeal is its emotional manipulation: the coldhearted serial killer trying to pass as normal while doling out his moral justice to more heinous criminals. We want to see him defeat the Big Bads and take out some other guys on the way. Dexter was driven to kill by seeing his own mother hacked to pieces when he was just a baby, and he tends to take a firm stand when women are raped and/or murdered. What could be more feminist than that?
Well, a lot. Women on the show only exist to be victims, nags, or love interests, often occupying more than one box. Even when women are a threat to Dexter, they inevitably meet their doom in a rather convenient way. The show was even gracious enough to give Dexter’s adoptive sister Deb some super incesty feelings toward her brother-from-another-mother, because the poor girl didn’t have a bad enough time falling in love with pretty much anyone who would die a horrible death anyway. For the record, the incest thing doesn’t work as well on a modern show as it does on Game of Thrones.
So this is the last season of Dexter. I believe it ends Sunday or the week after. I’m not sure since I stopped watching. I’ve made it through the incest, the women who die for Dexter, the rape victim who physically throws herself at Dexter for saving her, the serial killer he couldn’t dispatch because she was just too damn sexy. Now? I’m just over it. Of course when a long-lost daughter turns up to give Masuka a bit of well-deserved back story, she works in a topless restaurant. (The actress who plays her, by the way, is 21. Gotta get those barely legal tits in there!) I’m not going to moralize and tell women what to do with their own agency, but as the show winds down, it’s apparent that women only exist to fall in love with Dexter (the equivalent of falling in love with a monotonous piece of cardboard that is a really shitty father who’s never around) or stand in his way. It doesn’t matter how many women appear to save Dexter only to be murdered in a terrible fashion. All we’re supposed to care about is Dexter getting away with it, preferably with his leggy blonde who returns to him even though she’s wanted for murder and really ought to avoid the city where she committed her crimes. It makes no sense, and I’m sick of women only existing as accessories on an increasingly poorly written and plotted show. Don’t tell me the ending; I’ll roll my eyes at Wikipedia instead.
So Modern Culture, yes, we’re free to take off our clothes and be free, but could you please, please give us an option between being sexy or being utterly ignored? We can take things in stride–we have to every day just to avoid having strokes on a biweekly basis–but give us a fucking break. Not all of us want to hump wrecking balls naked to get attention.