I figure that this is a perfectly apt subject for a post, especially considering the mood in the rest of the fandom right now thanks to the spoilers. You have to go look for them elsewhere on this journal – I don’t want any accidents. For those of you who’ve read the spoilers, THIS IS A SPOILER FREE POST. Do not post them in the comments. For those of you wanting to avoid spoilers, this was mostly written before I even read the spoilers. For those of you who’ve been happily spoiled, if you look around to how readers are losing their minds, you’ll be able to see why this subject is so appropriate. Now you can see how undercurrents were always there. Always.
So, one of the things that I did when I was looking around for this post is delve into some pretty misogynistic sites. People who oppose feminism, and generally don’t like women at all. I don’t actually intend to link to the places that I found these statements, however, because these guys scare the living hell out of me. I certainly wouldn’t want any of them tracking me down, since I am enemy number one – woman and feminist. If you want to get a sense of what they do, if you’ve read the serious spoiler, and go to visit CH’s facebook page, you’ll get somewhat of an idea. Except there’s thousands more messages like that, and many of them threaten rape and physical assaults. Already, too thanks to people losing their minds over spoilers, some people think it’s okay to just wish explicit violent sexual assaults on CH.
And since these guys will do things like swarm on women and feminists, and post their personal information online – with the directions to her house and contact their employers – and as I said above – have threatened women with rape and murder. I’m not talking about a couple of messages either. I’m talking, one of their latest victims, it’s been two weeks, and there’s thousands of threats. So far it’s fear and intimidation, but it seems that they want it to go further, for the sake of attention, and someone will get killed sooner or later. Since I’m not down with being the first feminist getting raped or murdered as a result, I’m not going to link. You want to go gawk, find some way to PM me, and I’ll give you links to these sites in private, but no way, no how would I ever publicly draw them here. If you link in the comments because you figured where you’d seen similar sentiments, Ima delete your comment. None of the statements will find you a result on Google either, mainly because I checked, and took out the ones that lead directly to those sites. These guys have endless amounts of time and energy to harass the living shit out of someone, and I’m being extra-cautious.
So here are some statements by these charmers so you can get a feel for it:
1. Females never develop past the childhood stage so her age is irrelevant [thus why paedophilia isn’t wrong].
2. Women have a natural talent for being sneaky.
3. Females are more nuisance than help.
4. Women mostly parrot sounds they have heard others make, in what they believe to be an appropriate context.
5. If you must fuck, go pick up an 18 year old (even if you have to pay for it), fuck it stupid.
6. I finally realize that there are indeed some things women do better than Men besides whoring, squirting out fuck trophies and bleeding from the hole between their legs. Out-stupid us.
7. Females get off on violence–it is the only thing they really understand and respect.
8. I can’t criticize a man for hurting a woman.
9. Women do not love boring men.
Terrible statements about women, no? They certainly don’t think very highly of them – and that’s me cutting out the Google-able quotes about how women like being raped, and ask for rape. Or the ones where they claim that women love getting beatings and basically ask for it so they can get horny. Or where any woman doing anything can just be referred to generally as a “cunt” – it’s the replacement word for “woman” on some of these sites.
Wait a second….uh oh… I made a mistake. TWO of those comments have been made in THIS fandom – from weeks or months ago. Yeah, that’s right. One from a story, and one from a popular forum. Nobody took fault with them by the way – they just passed into the mainstream of this fandom like they were nothing. And they’re by no means rare comments either. See if you can guess which ones? I will give you a virtual backpat if you can and reveal if you’re right in the comments.
See how seamlessly they fit into serious misogyny? That’s because this fandom has a bunch of internalised misogyny. We’re raised with all these messages about how women are shit, and both men and women absorb them and use them on women. That’s why you get women calling other women “sluts”. It’s not really because one woman is worried about the primary reason for slut-shaming – ie. making sure that the child you have together is genetically yours – it’s because men and women get messages about why sluts are bad, and women never really think about critiquing the message instead of going along with it. We’re not taught to question it – and men tend not to encourage us to question it, since it’s mostly in their interests. After all, women know that the child they birthed is indeed their child, barring an accidental switch at the hospital.
We imbibe all these things about how we should police other women – their clothing choices, their work choices, their sexual choices, and all the other choices they make in every other realm of their lives. There’s absolutely nothing that doesn’t escape criticism about women – what someone thinks a woman should do, be or stand for. And the range of acceptable behaviour is usually very, very narrow. The majority of times, these things that are criticised are not in the generalised interests of women – and conforming to a very small spectrum is not in the generalised interest of anything so broad a category as “women”. It’s actually in women’s interests to make choices for themselves, how they want to live their lives, and yet so much of it is up for scrutiny. And usually it’s not just scrutiny, but using scorn as a method of control.
This leads to largely unfair criticisms of women, because we’re holding them and ourselves to high standards for the benefit of one gender. We spit this shit back and forth at each other for men’s benefits, and in doing so, damage our own interests. Because seriously? Who reading this hasn’t been called a slut? I know I have. I’ve been called a slut for what I wore while I was a virgin. I’ve been called a slut mostly because I have big boobs. Sure, I got called “slut” for actually having sex (and mysteriously the men I had sex with got off scot free) as part of the criteria for throwing that around, but it’s used pretty routinely to put women in their place – to be the receptacle for society’s ‘virtue’ – instead of doing what they want with the bodies they own.
Sookie for example has been called a “slut” for a range of things. The BillBabes threw the epithet at her when she slept with someone other than Bill. The EricLovers threw it at her when she didn’t stick to just having Eric (and minimise Bill). While Bill and Eric have hundreds upon hundreds of women they’ve slept with over the years, the insult gets levelled at Sookie far more than it ever does at men. And even if it is levelled at Eric (usually) then it’s seen as something that does not affect his character. It’s rarely a dismissive insult designed to diminish him – by his own fans. It’s used as “Eric is a bit of a slut, but he fell in love with Sookie” whereas when it’s used against Sookie, it’s to diminish her – ie. “Wow she jumped into bed with ____ a bit soon. Lol. Slut.” Forgetting completely that however long Sookie has known any of the men, that’s as long as they’ve known her. And I’ve even seen Sookie called a “slut” for swallowing after giving a blowjob, with many ewws – while neglecting the fact that men who give oral sex to women, you know, have to swallow. And let’s ignore the whole drinking tears and blood thing, right?
Lest you say that “slut” is used in such a way as to reclaim it? Yeah, that’s not how that works. If you want to reclaim something it has to be a compliment. Women using the word “slut” to apply to other women is not reclaiming it. If Sookie came out and said “I’m a slut and proud of it”, then that would be reclaiming it. She’d have to put it out there all the time, and she’d have to do it as a positive thing. That’s how queer was successfully reclaimed – with positive stuff from groups of advocacy groups embracing and celebrating “queer” as a positive. Making shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” – associating positive things about the gay community with the word queer. Not just using it to call each other names (although having practically lived in gay bars during my dissolute youth – it was thrown out as an insult back before it was reclaimed). Calling Sookie a slut, or having Eric call Sookie a “dirty slut” in bed is not actually reclaiming it – it’s reinforcing it.
So when we see Sookie criticised, insulted, or readers relishing Sookie getting beaten or hurt; that’s because in part, of their own internalised misogyny. They don’t realise that when they love writing something about Ginger getting kicked across the floor at Fangtasia, there’s a whole bunch of men out there who would love to do the same shit to them. That in fact, feeds these men – because then they can say “Hey, women think it’s fine, so it’s fine. Equality.” In that way, they can even try to use feminism against women – by co-opting equality to say that what you think, you feeble female – should be allowed into reality. You know, as long as they as men get to kick women they don’t like around the room, they’re all for it. This idea that there are different standards for various women that pervades this fandom – let me assure you – misogynists think just like that – except it is you who doesn’t make the grade for sleeping with a man, or wanting to sleep with a man. Setting the standards to your comfort level is great – until you realise that upholding the standards at all isn’t in your best interests.
As I stated before, a strong female character, or any woman can be critiqued. But it needs to be a FAIR critique, and not one based on someone’s secretly held belief that all women are substandard. Ginger sleeping with Eric and being a “slut” is not reason to kick her around the room. Seriously. She’s doing no more or less than what almost the entire fandom wants to do with Eric. You call her a slut for wanting to sleep with Eric and run with vampires, and you also want those things, well, what conclusion does that lead you to? Because Eric isn’t offering Ginger marriage, so do they seriously believe that he would offer something completely different to all the women who go ga-ga over him? And Askars ain’t even married, so you know, it’s not as if you can delude yourself that you’re really lusting over the actor who’s ready to settle down with you.
Neither is criticism actually supposed to be a personalised attack. For example, as I mention above, wishing violent sexual assault on CH is not fair criticism. That’s toxic behaviour, and something I see just as much from the misogynistic groups as I see from women supposedly calling someone out. We’re not supposed to be emulating the worst of toxic masculinity we can find – or we shouldn’t be. Just like making Leeloo kick arse like a conventional action hero doesn’t make her a fully realised character, becoming just as bad as these men is not something that deserves praise as “feminist ideals of equality”. I could see someone saying “I hate that, I hate what’s happened, it’s wrong” but that’s not the same as wishing violence on someone. That is not critique, not by a long shot. That’s hatred and vitriol and it certainly shouldn’t be okay.
Nor does it mean that if there is ever a critique of her person that Sookie should “fix” it – or that any real life woman should fix herself. For example, I’ve been critiqued online for swearing too much. I’m well aware of my swearing, enjoy it, and it keeps me attached to my working class/poor-as-shit roots. I don’t actually intend to stop, no matter what random internet person thinks. I’ve thought about it, and I keep it around for good reason. A critique doesn’t mean that I have to change my person to please whoever would like me better if I didn’t swear so much. Plus fucking is such a useful word and comes from poem by a Scottish aristocrat. So I’m using it. Fuck you.
There is this expectation that if Sookie is not enough ____ (job/house/looks/educated/friends/compliance etc. etc. take your pick – someone somewhere wants to fix her for something) that she must respond to that criticism. It’s not enough to say “You know, Sookie doesn’t have a tertiary education, but she’ll do it if she wants to now she has the money and the net”. Oh no – we’ve got to expect her to become Dr. Sookie Stackhouse with a booming social life who kowtows to Eric nightly. And yet Eric doesn’t have a Ph.D. and I’ve yet to read any suggestion that he shouldn’t work in a bar, because only stupid people do that, and he needs to do something more. I wonder how many readers have gone through tertiary education in this fandom – because judging by the amount of people who make serious grammar or spelling mistakes, then I’m thinking it’s not 100% by a long shot. That’s okay, but it just shows the completely unrealistic standards set for Sookie that people want women to live by, when real women don’t measure up.
Sookie is constantly exhorted to make herself better, or put down for what she is. A lot of fun is made of working as a barmaid, and that is seen to be something for which people should be spit on. I should say too that a fair amount of this is a class issue. Many people who have the internet are middle class or up, and so they don’t care much for the lower classes. Waitresses are seen to be dirt because they serve others and don’t get rich at it. The idea that Sookie could continue to work at Merlotte’s and be happy with that is considered to be something not that she should be praised for, but that she should be looked down for. Sookie’s made fun of for a variety of things – it doesn’t matter what it is. She even gets criticised for not using her telepathy perfectly, for not using it as a money making exercise, and for sometimes missing things or not paying attention enough to everyone in the room.
As an aside, I never really understood why Sookie would have to work with vampires or weres if she wanted to make a pretty penny with her telepathy. She could pretty much charge humans who want to know stuff from other people’s heads. A human can’t leap across the room and kill with one bite, and you can call regular old police on them. Sookie’s got the fighting skills to kick arse of stronger beings – and she’d have ample warning of what a human’s intentions were. I’m not sure that I understand why everyone wants Sookie to work for vampires, who sometimes have battles at their bars, their weddings, their parties, when you could work for humans, who….well….don’t. Shit – they sell that teen tracker app – how much money would regular human parents pay to get Sookie to read their kids and see if they’re taking drugs? How much money would be made by Sookie if she could guarantee your spouse had been faithful? And not half as long as it takes to work out vampire plots, with 100% less Fellowship of the Sun, and a lot of repeat business. Lack of inventiveness, people. If you’re going to make her a conduit for boring shit, at least make it safe boring shit. *sotto voce…Wait…I see the fatal flaw – this would not make Eric more powerful or facilitate him killing humans – hence it’s not a possible career path for a “smart” telepath who’s using her “gift” to “help” others. By which I mean Eric.*
There is pretty much nothing that Sookie is not exhorted to do better. She’s not allowed to have flaws, or be human in the face of the world – she must not just be a strong female character – she must be the untouchable, right female character who exists only to serve others. But I don’t think that this is a solution either – because the untouchable, right female character gets criticised too. Even in fanfics where all the personality is sucked out of her and she does as she’s told, Sookie is still not good enough. She’s not ____whatever enough. Sookie never gets to the point where she is good enough to escape criticism, or being told what to do – there’s no moment where she actually gets praise. Merely what happens is that she just doesn’t do anything and so it’s easier to concentrated on what Eric is doing right and ignore Sookie until she needs another telling off.
The other part to this – the serious internalised misogyny – is that Eric is portrayed as pretty much unassailable. As I mentioned above, Sookie has lots of things people want to improve about her. And yet there’s almost no critique on his character and what he should do. All he gets is a bunch of defences about why it’s cool he’s the way he is. No mention of his faults without a big fat BUT in the middle of the statement. Usually he gets the St. Eric treatment – the eternal victim of the evil Sookie who chooses her way to do things, and he suffers under the yoke of her love. Despite the fact that he has less education than Sookie does, he’s never exhorted to do more than own part of a bar – which is effectively exactly the same as what Sookie does.
On top of that notion, it’s seen that Eric is the true victim in everything. Like he doesn’t actually have any agency over who it is that he’s with – that he’s powerless in the grip of a “backwater barmaid” and totally not at fault for being there and “putting up” with her. Unlike Sookie, who is supposed to be at fault for everything. Despite the fact that he turned up in her bed, on her road, stayed in her house and married her all of his own free will (if not of his own timing) he is somehow her victim, and totally not responsible for anything he does wrong.
If Eric bites Sookie hard, you can watch the contortions about how it’s all her fault. If Eric is found with some girl on his lap, that is then Sookie’s fault, and just as equal as finding her looking at a computer screen with another man, which I have ranted about before. Lots and lots of apology is made for what Eric did wrong – he’s rarely if ever made to own it. I know I’ve been accused of hating Eric just because I’m blunt and call a spade a spade. I won’t try to fudge:
I could torture you until you told me the truth, or until I was
sure you had been telling me the truth from the beginning.
Club Dead, p. 43
I could make out like this was just joking, just some fun. Even though Sookie is actually scared by it, and Eric actually chose to say it out loud, you can find it getting fudged. You’ll find people saying that Eric’s character has been “made” mean in later books, when come on – he’s idly chatting about whether he should torture Sookie. He’s no angel. But instead, the excuses given are either that he wants to look tough in front of Chow and Pam, or that he didn’t do it so that makes it okay, or that Sookie should have thought he was a liar. I could wilfully ignore it all, and make out like it’s immaterial. And then ignore all the other times torture is mentioned, as if there’s not a theme here.
There are plenty of other dark themes in the books, that mostly, people just ignore when it comes to Eric saying them – but not when it’s Sookie saying them. Like, it’s okay for Eric to be fine with the fact that a child is taking one for the team, but not okay that Bill is still alive and unpunished. Some, I would imagine would say that using Appius as an example is unfair. Because Eric has to obey. And yet Mickey required no such obedience, and yet sum total of shits given is still zero:
“He’s capable of…things that are barbarous.
Don’t go around Tara.”
“If she’s involved with Mickey, she’s just meat on the
hoof,” Eric said with brutal simplicity.
Dead as a Doornail, p. 41
As well as the fact that he calls Bill and Sookie’s relationship “rocky” after the rape in the trunk. I could chase this point round and round the garden path, but I’m sure you get the picture. Some people won’t allow this point to be pinned down, because otherwise they might have to acknowledge that there’s a standard they set for women, and a standard they set for men. Sookie’s standard is automatically set way higher than Eric’s is in a pretty consistent manner.
Eric rarely has to account for the words out of his mouth. I could easily find you ten statements about “Viking God” or “Sookie doesn’t deserve Eric” then I could find discussion of Eric and his acceptance of human women getting raped. Lots of energy is spent concentrating on his looks or skills, all about praise for Eric – what he looks like, how cool he is, how beautiful he is, how powerful he is. At least half the fucking people in this fandom don’t have a clue that Sookie’s eyes are denim blue or that she’s 5’6″, but they can recount at length what exactly she has done wrong over time.
Eric is often portrayed in fanfic as the perfect hegemonic masculine ideal for example – he has money, he’s white, and he’s in control of his life. To the point where Appius is switched out for Godric in making him more in control. Appius is actually hated by many women in this fandom, not for any other reason – and I’ve seen it stated many times – but because Eric should have more power. Eric is promoted as so in control of his life that the very reason he entered the narrative are ignored. How often have you heard about how cool and powerful and virtually infallible Eric is – that ‘item A’ “should not have happened to Eric”? I’ve heard that one lots. But that ignores the fact that this supposedly infallible guy couldn’t even stop a business partner from embezzling his money – and hence why he needed Sookie in the first place. Of course, I have read the fanfics where that is all a rouse too, to get to see Sookie again. *Sigh*.
Eric even gets praise for shit he hasn’t actually done. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about how Eric would totally get Sookie a car, but for the fact that it would upset her. That he would totally marry her in the human way, but he wants her to want it. That he would have totally rescued Sookie from the fairies and stopped her from getting tortured, if she’d only asked the right way. None of these things he’s done, or intimated that he would have done. But the assumption is made in Eric’s favour, and to the detriment of Sookie’s character. Sookie doesn’t have a new car because Sookie is a bitch. Sookie hasn’t had a big white wedding because she’s too proud. Sookie didn’t get a birthday present because she’s an epic bitch. Even what Eric doesn’t do gets him praise, and gets scorn poured on Sookie at a rate of knots.
It says a lot about a great majority of this fandom – and I think women in general – where even a man’s failures are his greatest wins, or his pitiable vulnerabilities. He’s never actually allowed to be flawed or imperfect, or !god forbid! have faults, make mistakes or do bad things. Remember the big furore when CH dared to say that Eric was less than a romantic hero? Drama, drama, drama. And that’s by chicks who’d already read the above bits about torture and being cool with Tara’s rape and slaughter. This idea that Eric might not be a perfect romance hero (you know, with his acceptance of rape, torture and murder) that this was something to be outraged about. Similarly, you can find all manner of denial from the BillBabes – just mention the words “trunk rape” – see that one go down like a lead balloon, and listen to the many apologies and fudging of the word “rape”. One should use Bill’s words probably like “sex you didn’t volunteer for” or some such bullshit to hide its true nature.
Ultimately, this is not a EricLover issue, or a BillBabe issue – this is a women’s issue. Sure, Sookie is a fictional character. What you think of her doesn’t matter, excepting in my comments (not in my fucking comments). But all these same issues are reflected in real life cases. Jane Doe in the Steubenville rape case was shown to be less important than the rapists. What she did was infinitely up for critique, and the rapists had plenty of people sympathising with them, and how their lives would now be ruined. The victim received death threats for her trouble, while the rapists received all kinds of loving messages of support. This is a persistent issue that can be extrapolated out from the small microcosm of fiction, to how society supports women in their time of need, or just generally treats them well.
As an aside, lest you accuse CH of doing the same for Sookie – with Eric bringing no punishment against Bill for his rape and Sookie never holding Bill to account (and I notice that default blame goes for Sookie and CH – never a critique of Eric for doing jackshit as Bill’s boss) I believe that there is a big difference between reflecting the reality that the vast majority of rapists escape punishment and making out like rape is perfectly okay. As I’ve pointed out previously, Sookie’s rape is dealt with in a very realistic manner in the books, without doubt – up to and including the fact that the rapist got off scot free, and no one punishes him. Just like Eric didn’t stop or punish Mickey for what he did to Tara (he makes it clear Mickey will be punished for resisting Salome) nor did he do jackshit to Bill. And we all know that Eric thinks it’s better to ask forgiveness rather than permission – if he’d really wanted to do anything about the “rocky” relationship (a.k.a. rape) he could have. He just didn’t. But Eric doesn’t get criticised for that most of the time – then it’s time to default to CH (now that Sookie can’t take the fall for it).
And that’s another part of it too. It doesn’t really matter what a woman does – at all – she never seems to actually get let off the hook for anything. In the latest round of “Bash CH”, there has been a whole swathe of people who don’t read her books coming to give a good bash. “I stopped reading at book 3, but 10 years later, I thought I’d come say she’s a piece of shit” or “I hated the end for Aurora, and now I’m coming back to give a good bash again”. Sookie is still called to account for not “letting” Eric talk to her in Dead to the World, and yet Eric apologising for letting her friend get condemned to death knowing she was a cow for the slaughter? Oh, yeah, that’s forgotten. Every single time, men start with a saintly clean slate, and a woman starts with all of her sins piled up from all time, with the latest offence piled on top. Not to mention what there is to say about personal events in CH’s life – not limited to her rape, her relationship with her children, and honest to goodness pathologising someone who doesn’t agree.
The criticism is all levelled at women. At fictional women, at real women. Women are always the ones who cop it in the neck, no matter what they do. Most of the time, if a woman does something wrong, she receives that criticism. Yet if a man does something wrong, now’s the time to find a woman somewhere who might have had a hand in it. Whether it’s her failure to comply with expected gender roles, or her failure to make him feel welcome to do and say what he likes. It is up to the woman to extend herself, unto eternity, before we sit around trying to think about the culpability of men.
I should say too – because I feel that it is important to mention – that this standard traps real men as much as it traps real women. Real men can’t live up to the standards of perfection, unless the shit they do is glossed over. If they look at what they themselves have done, they can go two ways – deify themselves and end up as misogynists (glossing over it), or they can see themselves as nowhere near good enough because they don’t fit the standards of perfection that other men effortlessly achieve. Nor can they ever repair or apologise for their faults, because, well, they’re never faults that they themselves own. Agency is removed from men – they become merely hapless victims of women, and don’t get any say over their own character and what they do. They can’t – to use Mr. Burns from The Simpsons’ turn of phrase – wallow in their own crapulence.
This was ultimately one of the fascinating insights reading fanfic gave me – a sociological insight into how women construct other women, and thus themselves – and how they construct men. I do a lot of complaining about fanfic, so if you’ve ever wondered why I bothered – this was one of the reasons why. (And also that no forums ever seemed to discuss Terry, Bill, Kenya, etc. whereas fanfic has at least a chance of that). The fandom gives me a good insight into what readers really think. When they’re chatting about Sookie, they’re letting all their real opinions seep out. Their opinions on whether it’s okay to care about your career (unless you’re an owner of an important bar like Eric) or whether it’s okay to care for your ungrateful, scornful and distant relatives (unless you happen to be related to the Bellefleurs) or whether it’s okay to put your life on the line to care for others (unless you can change into a dog in a pack of wolves at will) when you are a woman.
What there was was an evidence of a terrible double standard that shows sexism isn’t in fact, dead. Not in women, and certainly not in men – or the men above wouldn’t have great communities of thousands of members. Women are seen as limited by other women, even when they do the same things as men do. Freyda, for example, got the nickname of “Queef” for a while, while Felipe got none. Looking around at how the blame falls in the fandom – on the women – it’s easy to see why something like Steubenville happens and continues to happen. What makes it to the news is the tip of the iceberg and makes shit like this okay. And that’s just one pressing issue that affects the real life quality of women, and not the only one. I could sit here for days linking about in what ways it’s cool to hold women to high standards, and ignore what men are doing.
Why should this matter to me, then, since I am not CH or Sookie, or any person involved in this? Merely because this sort of thing affects us all. We all end up with someone somewhere making a concerted effort to say damn nasty things and hit below the belt. I could have reduced this thought to an epithet thrown around forums of “You’re all just catty, hateful whores who deserve to die” – but that’s just more of the same, and not what I’m trying to say, or what I’m interested in. I want to examine how this works, not perpetuate it. I want to point out what I see going wrong, and why I think it is wrong.
In our own ignorance of what is internalised misogyny, we hand it around to everyone else. We go too far with other women, and keep that cycle going. Rather than endeavouring to understand and be okay with that, we find multiple reasons to tear people down – for nothing, or for very little, and certainly not in proportion for their supposed ‘crimes’. Rather than trying to be tolerant of other women, women spend endless amounts of time trying to tear other women down. Rather than giving them the privilege that men enjoy – that we will let go of their faults or ignore them – those faults are magnified. And when it is done back to us, it’s because we keep that cycle going. What we should ultimately think of is that this is a cycle that we ourselves perpetuate by first participating in against other women – until what goes around, comes around.