Fox News, our favorite source for social satire, is at it again with their funny-ha-ha business courtesy of late night/early morning show Red Eye. This time, the network has decided to forego harassing elderly people of a minority population for not speaking English and instead focus on another group: feminists! Specifically, feminists and their inability to just deal with sexual harassment. So funny! Welcome to your Sunday morning rage stroke.
In case you don't regularly catch Red Eye in its 3am time slot, it's supposed to be a "satirical" show where, according to their about page, host Tom Shillue and panelists "debate and debunk on the top stories of the day." On a recent episode, the show took issue with members of the Sierra College Feminist Club handing out cards to people who engage in sexually harassing behavior. The cards allow for women to call individuals out on why, specifically, the behavior was inappropriate, with options to tick like "kissing noises," "making unsolicited comments about my body," and "racist, homophobic, or transphobic comments." While Shillue's glibly dismissive description of the card itself alone is infurating, it unfortunately gets a whole lot worse. Some excerpts from the panel:
Shillue goes on to say: "Once you get a couple of checks, you want to get a check in every category. It's like a free coffee after 10 punches on a card."
New York Times columnist John Tierney says, "Feminsts on campus are laughingstocks already, but this is the first good idea I've heard from them... I think it's good to call people out on bad behavior. Now, I mean, a lot of this feminist stuff is probably stupid, but it's a better thing than going on the web and Facebook and posting comments."
Comedian Dave Smith says, "Feminists, or whatever you want to call these crazy third-wave college feminists, they just pick these battles and act like they're these tremendous struggles, and they're nothing. Like, you can answer any modern feminist's complaints with just 'grow up' and 'get over it.'"
Then there's a woman's perspective. Kristin Tate, who is a regular on Fox News and The Drudge Report, and is a former reporter for Breitbart News, says, "I want to say something about whistling as a woman. If a homeless guy or a construction guy whistled at a hot girl on the street and completely ignores her ugly friend, only one of those girls is going to be offended and it ain’t the cute one. The only thing more offensive than being whistled at is not being whistled at. That’s why I hate going out with my super-attractive friends."
There's an exhausting amount of material here to unpack, and that in itself is the crux of the issue. This is exhausting. It is exhausting for women to be harassed for our appearances day in and day out, having our entire worth as a human being reduced to our sexuality and fuckability. And the dismissiveness by which all of these people describe sexual harassment is precisely why women aren't believed when they are sexually harassed or worse, physically harmed or raped—remember Brock Turner?—and why we're simultaneously blamed for someone else's behavior. Because really, aren't they just saying feminists/women should relax and ignore it? Except when we ignore it, we're blamed for not being vigilant enough about our own personal safety (well, she was drunk/wearing a short skirt/walking alone at night, so what did she expect?). It's especially exhausting when it's all supposed to be "in good fun." We've watched as an actual United States presidential candidate told us that his sexual harassment was done in jest, and the women who resultingly came forward with claims of harassment were then discredited as liars and fame seekers. Discredit, deny, demean. Again, and again, and again.
It's actually clever for Red Eye and Fox News to hide some of its material behind the guise of "satire" for this reason. By saying it's just a joke and to lighten up, it's a way to constantly deflect whenever they're criticized. PC culture run amok, again! But it's not innocent and harmless comedy and good fun. It has real-life repercussions. Rapists are serving little to no time for their actual crimes because women just wanted the attention anyway, right? Victims are too afraid to stand up for themselves and name their accusers because they're just looking for money, right? Judges tell women that they should have just kept their knees together to prevent being raped because it's just that easy, right? They say it's just a joke, but somehow we're not laughing.