Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Column: A study 'inane and phallocentric'

Men have long stood accused being the insidious architects behind "slut shaming": the enforcement of cultural standards of modesty for women. But a recent study suggests this is untrue. It concluded that women themselves are to blame. Gina Barreca asked to join me here, no doubt to apologize on behalf of all feminists for this egregious, decadeslong calumny against an entire gender.

Gina: Tell them how the study was conducted.

Gene: Pairs of college-age women were brought into a room and told they were participating in a discussion about female friendships. The real experiment occurred when another woman, extremely attractive, briefly entered the room, ostensibly to ask directions. Sometimes, this woman had her long blonde hair in a bun and was dressed in pants, a polo shirt and sensible shoes. At other times, her hair was down and she wore high leather boots, a miniskirt and a tight-fitting top that bared oodles of cleavage. Same request for directions. Researchers in the room graded how the test subjects reacted to the visitor. When demurely dressed, the woman elicited no comment at all. When provocatively dressed, she was snidely dissed, particularly after she left. The study's conclusion: Driven by Darwinian instinct to mate, women are ganging up on, and punishing, someone who is a competitive threat.

Gina: Now please disclose the official name of the scale the researchers used to measure the subjects' reactions.

Gene: "Bitchiness."

Gina: Exactly. This is a study begun with a bias against women, carried out with a bias against women, and interpreted with a bias against women. It is extrapolating wildly from the trivial. Describe the behavior that earned "bitchiness" points.

Gene: Sometimes derogatory comments, but mostly body language. Eye-rolling.

Gina: Eye-rolling! The shame of it all! Women are serial eye-rollers! Now look at the photo of the woman, dressed provocatively.

Gene: I am.

Gina: What can you conclude?

Gene: I'm still looking.

Gina: Noted. I'll save you time. What's happening here is that women, once again, are being punished for daring to be "unladylike," violating rules of society set by men. Women are not supposed to express robust negative opinions. We are permitted, perhaps, a single tsk. You know what happened in that room? Women are justifiably indicating disapproval, because the revealing outfit is situationally inappropriate. She is dressed like the Naughty Nurse in a cheap porn video. To imply this is somehow related to a matter of competition for men is inane and phallocentric. Gentlemen, it's not always about you. For example, you yourself have in the past wondered why women go to great lengths to avoid visible panty lines. Why does that seem counterintuitive to you?

Gene: Men love visible panty lines.

Gina: A reasonable point, if women dressed for men. We don't. We dress for other women. And we know that visible panty lines serve as a demarcation for where our butts are supposed to end, but don't. We hate VPL.

Gene: So you are contending that the snideness shown by the subjects in this experiment was unconnected to sexual competition?

Gina: I am. And you?

Gene: I think what happened was exactly what would happen if a group of men were out deer hunting, and a guy showed up with an AK-47.

Gina: (Rolls eyes.)

© 2013 Washington Post Writers Group

Column: A study 'inane and phallocentric' 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 11:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post - Writers Group.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge


    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    Jason Jerome Springer, 39, is accused of threatening to kill a U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich, according to a federal indictment.  |Hernando County Sheriff's Office photo]
  2. Editorial: Tampa Electric customers should not pay for utility's fatal misjudgments


    There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers. Monetary considerations will not begin to …

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers.
  3. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity


    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  4. Money is the issue as Hillsborough strains to fix school air conditioners


    TAMPA — With more than 200 repair requests tumbling in every day, school officials in Hillsborough County are broadening their circle of air conditioning mechanics as they struggle to control a debilitating cycle of breakdowns and sweltering classrooms.

    Hillsborough school officials want to expand the number of contractors who work on broken school air conditioning systems. But it all gets rolled into a workload that has increased by 40 percent since 2011. "With no increase in budget, no increase in equipment and no increase in manpower, and as the equipment gets older and needs more maintenance, this is going to continue to grow," said Robert Weggman, general manager of maintenance." [
  5. At Bayonet Point Middle School, solar eclipse becomes a lesson


    NEW PORT RICHEY — At 2:30 Monday afternoon, students and faculty members streamed out of their classrooms and onto the athletic fields at Bayonet Point Middle School. The attraction: the solar eclipse.

    Isiah Echevarria, 10, left, and Andy Shaw, 11, right, take in the solar eclipse during a schoolwide viewing Monday afternoon at Bayonet Point Middle School in New Port Richey. "It's pretty cool," said Andy, 11. "This is actually my first eclipse. The next eclipse won't be for at least 30 years."