On Nov. 28, adult film star and writer Stoya publicly accused her ex-boyfriend and fellow adult star James Deen of rape. In the days that followed, 11 other women made allegations against the male darling of the porn industry.
Much of what made these accusations feel so shocking was the fact that Deen, one of the most famous men in porn, had also been lauded as one of the most "feminist" men in porn. It was a label that added to his boy-next-door appeal, even as Deen himself insisted he did not identify with it.
Deen was seen as attractive and charming, and had said he believed women should be allowed to own and express their sexuality. In the week since Stoya's initial tweets, there have been dozens of thinkpieces written examining the ways in which Deen's "nice guy," seemingly feminist persona duped us all.
But the problem does not begin and end with Deen. His alleged actions and the difficulty in reconciling them with his persona are merely symptoms of a larger societal sickness. The fact is, when we use buzzwords and phrases like "rape culture," "toxic masculinity," "sexism" and "misogyny" we tend to forget one very important truth:
You do not have to be a monster to hate women.
In September's Republican debate, when asked what woman they believed should be put on the 10 dollar bill, Mike Huckabee said his wife and Ben Carson said his mother. Their answers, designed to pull at the heartstrings, did anything but. It wasn't sweet that the only women they respected enough -- or could think of -- to name were women that they personally know and love. These are the same men who vehemently oppose reproductive rights, and who have actually equated abortion with slavery.
This isn't about condemning all men, or saying that all men hate women. This is about nuance. Just as racism is complex, so too is sexism. Gamergaters and Men's Rights Activists are extreme examples of misogynists in our society. As such, they are easy to identify, condemn and dismiss. When we only see misogyny in the extremes, it becomes easier to distances ourselves and our loved ones from the fray.
But what about the more subtle, everyday sexists who go under the radar merely because they might be likable, or charming, or say one decent thing about women? What about the men who may genuinely believe that they don't harbor sexist ideas, simply because they are not "extreme"? Donald Trump has championed women in business, hiring women as some of the top executives in his companies. But he's also been incredibly patronizing to women, once telling a female reporter, "You wouldn't have your job if you weren't beautiful," and tweeting insults about the appearances of female public figures.
We focus so much on the Elliot Rodgers or Marc Lépines or Robert Lewis Dear Jrs. of this world. But we don't focus on the millions of men who will never kill, who do not condone those actions, but who may subscribe to similar beliefs about women. Beliefs including the idea that women's bodies are not their own, that somehow women who don't want to sleep with them are uptight, frigid, crazy "feminazis." These beliefs may not always manifest themselves in physical violence, but they affect our everyday lives all the same.
This is why it's so important to call out everyday forms of sexism, from catcalling to mansplaining, to even less obvious daily microaggressions against women. In order to combat misogyny, we must acknowledge and call out our own internalized sexism, and the sexism within men that we admire and love.
Sexism is something that anyone can be complicit in, in big and small ways. Distancing ourselves from the problem by pretending only horrible people are capable of perpetuating misogyny will do nothing to make it go away.
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