Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sexism--at least it's cross-cultural

This morning, I heard a man call Ellen DeGeners "bro'."

6 Comments:

i haven't commented here before, and i usually don't get to watch the ellen show, but a few weird things conspired to allow me to both see the episode you're talking about and come across this post...

i agree with you that calling mixed groups "guys" or calling humans "men" is sexist. but i have to disagree about this particular incident. he wasn't generalizing about the makeup of a group and erasing women from it, he was addressing one particular person in a gendered way that, with our limited vocabulary, made sense to him (and possibly made sense to her).

consider the use of the plural. people will call mixed-gender groups "guys" but when do people address an individual woman as "bro"? i would argue it's generally only when the woman in question has a tomboy/butch affect. and sure, it can be derogatory ("dykes aren't real women/want to be men/are ugly" or "tomboys are not real women and therefore are not attractive in a heterosexual context"), but i think in this case the guy calling was expressing his admiration for ellen while taking into account his reading of her gender presentation. i don't know how ellen identifies (since i know some lesbians are really not into being labeled butch), but as a butch dyke, i was actually kind of amused and touched that this guy would call her "bro" without any rancor. yeah, he was putting her in the "one of the guys" category, and in some contexts that would be offensive, but i don't think it was so in this case. "bro" is a gendered term of affection, yes, but i really don't think it erased her identity as a woman. if anything it just brought attention to the fact that she's a masculine woman.

i also have to say, i struggle a lot with this topic, being both a feminist and a butch dyke. there are a lot of things that aren't terribly easy to reconcile.

By Blogger g, at 9:00 AM  

I appreciate your comment very much and see your point, too. I am, however, reluctant to give the caller as much credit as you do. My gut feeling was that he called her "bro" the same way that people have called me "dude" or "man"--because people use sexist language and think it is okay to do so.

But if you are correct, then credit to him, for sure. I personally do not consider Ellen D. a "masculine" woman, but that is a subjective thing, I suppose.

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