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The Year of Everyday Sexism by David Foster Wallace

Reposted in part and without permission from here.

The campaign against everyday sexism has shown that a deeply unpleasant¹ vein² of misogyny still runs through our society. But in highlighting the antisocial, misguided³ behaviour of some unreconstructed³¼ individuals, it is important³½ to be aware that such behaviour is not representative of most men’s attitudes. More worryingly,³½½ from the perspective of a progressive sexual politics³½½½ there is a danger that the campaign is promulgating a view that any direct sexual advance is tantamount³¾ to harassment. If directly propositioning somebody for sex is automatically³³ condemned as misogynist, as the campaign appears to assert,³¹³ then the movement risks being highly counterproductive to the feminist cause and playing into the hands of the sexually repressive, patriarchal ideology that feminism strives to counter.


¹ The use of “deeply unpleasant” may seem a needless flourish where “shallowly unpleasant” or any other alternative may not present itself as appropriate, here, there, or anywhere, but beginning the endnoted section of an essay with a stylistic comment on the abuse of adverb may strike some as an even more needless flourish, if not an indication of yrs truly’s overt intention to derail the work above and below into some miserably downer-type territory, in toto. 

² Another intriguing choice by your loyal correspondent where a “vein” that features running matter is most likely to be either a. blood or b. a precious metal such as gold, but at this point the grammatical objections are piling up on top of themselves like so many instances of street harassment pile onto the conscious experiences of women around the world every day, and maybe we’ve reached the point where this whole thing has gotten silly and we should let yrs truly get through at least the rest of the sentence uninterrupted before continuing to provide supplemental information on the text provided above.

³  By this point the delicate wrist-slapping and tsk-tsking of those poor misguided (by who? the women?) men may have you in the howling fantods, but I assure you that there are veins of precious words yet to be uncovered and strip mined as incentivized by their artificially inflated prices on the market.

³¼ Sorry for the interruption, but what is the process of reconstruction that is sought here, and does it necessarily involve publication in the Guardian or the subsequent sesquepedalian fuckery that is likely to be provoked by one’s name which is sadly close to but one-third off of a more prominent English-language writer?

³½  By implication, the rest of the essay is not important. You have your correspondent’s permission to ignore it.

³½½ The worry is all on your behalf, folks – rest assured that your faithful Guardian-published correspondent has nothing to be worried about in terms of pitching the proverbial CiF column, as it were.

³½½½ Progressive (according to Merriam Webster Online) – a: of, relating to, or characterized by progress b: making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities c: the political philosophy ensuring that the inherent right of man to pursue sex shall not be infringed, even within a capitalist system where economic violence is still deployed by the class controlling the means of production which has also included in its strategem the policing of one section of the working class by another – e.g., the public and vocal harassment of women by men to serve as a daily reminder of their suppression, and so reduce the potential for solidarity, &c.

³¾ Yr correspondent has never met a mount he hasn’t liked.

³³ Automatically, as if it were a reflex that existed before experiential input from encounters with – name of the essay, take a drink – everyday sexism within their patriarchal society. Consider, also, the lobster – it automatically reacts rather badly to the sight of boiling water, when it could afford to be much more progressive and discerning and realize that it may not even be plunged into that particular pot.

³¹³ The campaign appears to assert many things, such as banning talking to strangers in public, if you’re prone to this extrapolation and spending a bit too much time with the onanistic navel-gazing (would that it were only the navel).

™ Not an endnote – your faithful correspondent seems likely to go down to the trademark office and register The Feminist Cause to his name.

∞ Have no fear, though, ladies, your sexually progressive Guardianista narrator is here to liberate you with his concupiscent columnizing. A familiarity with the lived experience of women, or even a Wikipedia-level glance of Foucault or Mackinnon’s “difference v. domination” or literally any thing ever written by someone who has spelled out what the patriarchy means, it turns out, is merely optional. You may thank him later in whatever way you choose (the man is known for his quote-unquote column output if you catch my proverbial drift), perhaps as soon as someone can answer the still-standing question — see, what I would like to know, is, why did it take a man to finally write about how an anti-street harassment campaign may be a bad thing?

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