Did you know that the patriarchy is keeping women from being able to properly operate cellular phones?
It’s true. I learned it from Medium. In an essay titled “It’s a Man’s Phone,” Zeynep Tufecki complained that all of the photos she had taken from a protest in Turkey were blurry and unusable. The reason? “Good smartphones are designed for male hands.”
It was easy to have a spot of fun with Tufecki; she was, after all, using one of the most ginormous phones on the market, the Google Nexus 4. Now, granted, it’s not the most ginormous phone on the market. But it’s a biggun, a not-quite-phablet monstrosity clocking in at 5.27 inches tall and 2.7 inches wide, featuring a meaty 4.7 inch diagonal screen. When she complains that she can’t operate the beast with one hand, it’s tempting to ask, “Well, instead of blaming the patriarchy, why didn’t you buy something a bit smaller?”*
The iPhone 5, for instance, is roughly 10 percent shorter and 20 percent skinnier. And you’re not sacrificing much, performance-wise: I assure you, you can grab some pretty great shots with the dainty iPhone camera. Or maybe she could’ve gotten one of those nifty new phones with the buttons on the back to ease one-handed use?
Regardless, blaming “the patriarchy” because you bought a phone too big for your itty bitty mitts is a trifle rich. Or so I thought, until Elise Foley, a fine reporter for HuffPo, chimed in: “Why is annoying to you that a woman would want a phone that better fit her hands?”
This is, of course, a dodge: There are plenty of phones out there that she could have purchased that are smaller than the one she wound up with. It is not annoying that she would want a phone that better fits her hands. It is annoying that she would blame society for her poor choice in mobile. The subtext, however, was as clear as it was chilling to the conversation: “You have no standing to comment on this, so sit down and stop mansplaining.”
Her comment stuck in my craw because it is a tactic becoming more and more routine. When one views life through the prism of gender—when one can’t help but see some sort of conspiracy, accidental or otherwise, in something as simple as the mobile phone market—it becomes easier to demand that debate be shut down.
“Male allies” are just as likely as feminists to indulge in this trope, of course. For instance, in response to a piece about Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy’s controversial new film The Counselor, one interlocutor on Twitter was disgusted that anyone would advocate seeing the morally derelict entertainment under discussion. “I don’t understand the ‘It’s pretty misogynist but whatever it’s valuable’ thing,” tweeted Daniel Walber. “It’s 2013. No thank you.”
Progress means never having to say “Yeah, I’ll experience that thing I might disagree with.” That some find the film misogynistic is enough to damn it to obscurity in this man’s eyes. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad—and if freethinkers like Camille Paglia hadn’t been fighting this fight for more than 40 years now. “You cannot apply a political agenda to art. When it comes to art, we have to make other distinctions,” she told an audience at MIT in 1991 about a rough-and-tumble she had with some friends in 1969. “We had this huge fight about the song ‘Under My Thumb.’ I said it was a great song, not only a great song but I said it was a work of art. And these feminists of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band went into a rage, surrounded me, practically spat in my face, literally my back was to the wall. They’re screaming in my face, ‘Art? Art? Nothing that demeans women can be art!’ There it is. There it is! Right from the start. The fascism of the contemporary women’s movement.”
Is it “overstatement” to call this fascism, as Rod Dreher suggests? I’m not so sure. The goals—to co opt art to make it reflect your worldview and to instantly stifle debate—are undoubtedly fascistic in intent. And it’s important to note that the effort to force the world to reflect your preferred worldview is by no means limited to random cranks on Twitter and at Medium. Swedish institutions, for instance, have begun to apply the Bechdel Test when deciding what a movie will be rated.
To pass the “Bechdel Test,” a film must feature two female characters, who are named, and who talk to each other about something other than men. In order to achieve the new “A” rating, a film must do just that. Publicly funded media are only too happy to use their power to promote this vision, according to the AP: “The state-funded Swedish Film Institute supports the initiative, which is starting to catch on. Scandinavian cable TV channel Viasat Film says it will start using the ratings in its film reviews and has scheduled an ‘A’ rated ‘Super Sunday’ on Nov. 17, when it will show only films that pass the test, such as ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘’The Iron Lady’ and ‘Savages.’”
Where would we be without Oliver Stone’s feminist triumph, Savages?
More important than what they will show is what they won’t show. Again: It’s all about stifling views that do not conform to whatever entirely arbitrary worldview the gender cops have created.
For our own good and for the betterment of society, of course.
* “Or maybe, you know, use two hands?”