jailbreaking the patriarchy

Someone on reddit recommended this chrome extension called, “Jailbreaking the Patriarchy.” Essentially, it flips the gender references on the webpages you’re looking at, so instead of,

“Like most guys, Tommy preferred riding motorcycle to baking cakes. He was more comfortable in a garage than a kitchen, and felt lost and confused when surrounded by a crowd of chattering women.”

it would say something like,

“Like most gals, Tommy preferred riding motorcycle to baking cakes. She was more comfortable in a garage than a kitchen, and felt lost and confused when surrounded by a crowd of chattering men.”

The idea of the extension is to highlight subtle generalizations and gender stereotypes. I’ve had it installed for a couple hours now, but noticed little difference. To be honest, I frequent a lot of feminist and liberal websites, and I tend to stay out of the nasty mainstream reddits, so I haven’t really given it a chance.The extension can be toggled on of off, so after a bit I just toggled it to off after a bit.

Well, I was clicking around on Salon, and saw some advertised content at the bottom of the page: 5 Things Wrecking Your Sex Life. That sounded like a pretty stereotypical GlamourCosmo/ Marie Claire-style sex advice headline, which almost guaranteed it would be packed with gender stereotypes. So I went ahead and turned the extension on before clicking on the article. This is my favorite part (quoted with gender’s flipped, as the extension had me reading it):

4. Being Embarrassed – What man hasn’t almost screamed in horror when looking at his thighs in the mirror, or had an absolute mental breakdown when passing gas in front of someone? When these things happen in the bedroom, it can feel like the end of the world. It’s important to realize that once women turn on their sex-brain, very little can turn it off.

That was pretty interesting/ enlightening. I mean, when reading the article in “normal” mode, it’s apparent that it’s directed toward women. The assumptions that women need help amping up their desire, that women need help being comfortable in the bedroom or becoming aroused or reaching orgasm is prevalent throughout the piece.

Equally prevalent are the assumptions that men are driven by sex/ always ready for sex/ never say no to sex. These social assumptions about men can be just as damaging — it puts a pressure on guys that makes them feel they are somehow un-masculine if they aren’t in the mood. The assumption that guys “always want it” can also damage relationships. For instance if a guy refuses sex because he’s tired/ has a headache/ doesn’t feel well, that doesn’t fit the gender script. To some women, it is so inconceivable that their guy could “not be in the mood” that it’s easier to say, “Oh, he thinks I’m fat/ ugly/ gross. He’s no longer attracted to me. He’s cheating on me. He doesn’t love me anymore,” than it is to just accept that he’s tired or not feeling well.

These sorts of assumptions (for both genders) have irritated me for years, but they’re also so very common that it’s easy to overlook them or let them slide. It’s funny how flipping the script the way this extension does just absolutely highlights how absurd and endemic these sorts of assumptions are. This is the closing paragraph of the above-linked article, genders flipped:

Talk to your partner. Most women aren’t mind readers, and if you’re struggling with a sexual issue, she may not notice until you tell her. Be open and honest about what you are feeling, what you want, what you dislike and how you can both work together to improve the situation.

I mean, it’s sound advice, no matter which gender it’s marketed to — but it’s telling that this closing paragraph reads so very oddly when it appears to directed at men rather then women.


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