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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Cyber-sexism: Texts From Last Night’s offensive take on women

Published: November 13, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

The signs were all there. Girlie feminism was a full-fledged movement by the late nineties, bringing along with it the Spice Girls and Legally Blonde. It was only a matter of time until pressures from the opposite side (a Macho movement?) appeared. Now for every book, magazine, movie, TV show, etc. that features empowered feminine women, there is a corresponding masculinist version.

Example: in 1997, Candace Bushnell wrote Sex and City, a collection of essays that documented her experiences dating in Manhattan and spawned the popular TV series of the same name. Two years after the show’s conclusion, Tucker Max wrote I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, a collection of anecdotes documenting the author’s frat boy-esque exploits with women, alcohol and yes, even bodily functions. However, with the rise of social networking sites and the shift of entertainment from TV and print to the Internet, our pop culture is becoming increasingly more male-oriented. Case in point: the website Texts From Last Night, which appropriately enough counts the movie version of Max’s book as an advertiser.

While Texts From Last Night (TFLN) is popular among men and women alike (I admit that if in need of mindless entertainment, this is usually the source I refer to), the texts that form the basis of the site frame women as mindless, submissive bimbos. One recently posted text read, “She thought I was gay, so I told her I’d be more comfortable with anal. She agreed.” Women do contribute to the site, like with “i hope when i become a housewife i’m more of a Gretchen and less of a vicky.”

Granted men don’t come off looking so good either. Most of the texts focus on the male’s drunken and/or sexual exploits, such as “I just lost $50 at the races, got drunk, and woke up to my ex-gf. Apparently the good decisions kept on rolling…” However these texts tend to portray the male action in question as an effect of alcohol or drugs. Few texts actually suggest that the male subject is inherently stupid.

Now, some may accuse me of being “nit-picky,” but it is by allowing these cultural phenomena, few at first, to escalate, that an entire way of thinking takes hold. This is the case of the adult entertainment industry, which got its commercial kick-off with Playboy’s debut in 1953, and is now worth $5.175 billion, according to the Wired article, “Porn Industry Knows Its Worth.” I don’t believe that TFLN is single-handedly responsible for the creation of the frat-boy culture (take as another example).

I doubt the moderators of the site sift through submissions and select the texts that are most demeaning to women. According to the Frequently Asked Questions section, the texts are selected on the basis of their funniness and relatability, pointing to the more pervasive problem of frat boy humor in our culture.

While TFLN is almost like a Darwin Awards for a co-ed, web savvy generation, we must ask ourselves at what cost? Must humor go hand-in-hand with sexism and what is the appropriate action to counter this?

These are questions we must ask ourselves, even if it means sacrificing a laugh for an image of women that doesn’t place women on their backs.