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Davis, California

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Column: The Rise of Tolerance

Sometimes I hear people complain that the world is becoming “too PC.” These people are worried that their freedom to speak, uninhibited by respect for other people, is under attack. But as long as people like Tiffany Lew are writing columns like “Rise of the Girly Men” (Jan. 22), racism, sexism, homophobia and heteronormativity will have a place in the public media.

“Trend” columns like Lew’s are meant to be low on substance and high on humor. Lew certainly did write a piece without substance, but her attempts at humor, which target “girly men,” “metrosexuals” and people of Asian descent, not only fall flat but are also disturbingly prejudiced and misinformed.

“Rise of the Girly Men,” is a complaint about the decline of mainstream “masculinity.” Because of its blatant stereotyping, the column received a lot of negative attention and was quickly taken down from The Aggie website. Justin Louie Lock, representing Asian & Pacific-Islander Queers, wrote a condemnation of the column in Tuesday’s Aggie.

When a friend of mine brought the column to my attention, my first impulse upon reading it was to just point and laugh at Lew’s general cluelessness. Its insidious undertones, however, should not be ignored. I hope the outcry against it will serve as not only as a rallying point for supporters and allies of all marginalized people, but also an opportunity to educate those still in the dark.

In a time when LGBTQ rights are a high-profile issue in our country, Lew’s column vaguely posits that those who don’t conform to their gender roles are “an epidemic we’ve got to fix.” Lew may be an undergraduate newspaper columnist, but she sounds an awful lot like Pat Robertson equating queerness to some kind of perversion or social danger.

Additionally, Lew’s dismissal of people of Asian descent reflects the discrimination they face as this generation’s “model minority.” I discussed “Rise of the Girly Men” with Amber Yan, a friend of Asian descent who was particularly struck by Lew’s “Western Orientalism.”

“Asian culture, and specifically Chinese and Japanese, is notorious for being extremely patriarchal and generally male-dominated,” Yan said. “Any conscientious Asian-American can attest to that. To continue perpetuating the stereotype of effeminate Asian men (and submissive Asian women) is insensitive at best, offensive and degrading at worst. I mean, isn’t that kind of thinking a little late 19th/early 20th century imperialistic?”

Indeed. The real social danger here is what Lew’s mindset represents. That a column mocking people based on race and gender identity was written for a college newspaper, and that an Aggie editor thought it was worth publishing, speaks volumes about the prevalence of prejudice in a place even as progressive as Davis, Calif. This column reveals not only her prejudice, but also the ignorance that permitted it.

“Rise of the Girly Men” makes a lot of basic mistakes, like confusing sexual orientation with gender identity. According to Lew, if you’re a man who spends time on your appearance, you’re in danger of “ditching your manhood.” Masculinity, therefore, is reliant on following carefully proscribed gender roles, such as inattention to appearance and not indulging in “emotionally-intense conversations.” Women, it seems, are the only people ridiculous enough to spend time on grooming; men, it seems, are not allowed to have feelings, or to express them.

Lew does allow a loophole for gay men to be “girly.” Gay guys are “set with their sexuality. They know who they are and they’ve left no room for confusion,” Lew argues. Her implication that all gay men are “effeminate” is ridiculous (is she sure that she knows any real live gay people?), but what else is implied is that it is demeaning for males to behave like women. Men who identify as straight cannot be “girly” because this is a bad thing – although Lew doesn’t explain exactly why.

Lew also seems confused about another construct: race. Asian men, she says, are “statistically and genetically destined to be predisposed with more estrogen than any other race.” Citation not provided. Relying on old stereotypes – like that Asian men are asexual, or less “masculine” than men of other ethnicities – is much simpler than citing sources.

Despite the offensive nature of “Rise of the Girly Men,” I really do hope that people can channel their frustration into outreach and organization. These discriminatory misunderstandings about the queer and Asian communities can be changed thanks to the people who are fighting to make the world “too PC.”

HALEY DAVIS can be reached at hrdavis@ucdavis.edu.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s see some academic discipline against Lew. She hasn’t learned anything: the joking and apathetic comment on her facebook reveals this. Racist and hegemonic people, apathetic towards minority groups like Lew disgust me. Honestly, Lew’s “apology” means nothing: it’s just a way of saying she had enough attention and she want it resolved. I’m saddened to think that I attend a world-class university with an individual like her.

  2. First, by dissecting Lew’s column line by line or word by word, meanings can be twisted in any way.

    But ehhhh. How is this column suppose to help people “channel their frustration into outreach and organization”? All it is doing is promoting more hate against Lew with all these slip in personal attacks.

    The rise of tolerance? There is no act of tolerance in this piece, so how are people even suppose to start learning about how being more tolerant with its contents only base on assumptions and personal attacks.

    Ooooh, so now it’s ok to publish articles that contain all these personal attacks? Wow.

    What’s the point of this column? All it is going to do is create more drama and fuel people’s anger. Wouldn’t it more useful to write something that actually focus on promoting tolerance and acceptance instead of trying to get even.

    Bravo.

  3. To Haley and the Editors. I am an educator and would like to add a comment. It is very easy to criticize other people. Did you think about her age, background, culture, etc? You talk like you know someone when you don’t. If Ms Lew is a freshman at UC Davis, then couldn’t it be that she was not intending to hurt people, but in return, she received personal attacks. She’s there to learn in a college environment. If she is a sophomore, junior, and senior, then she has had those years in college, and had experiences at each stage of campus life. This is a time for every student to learn and gain knowledge about the cultures around them. The way most people learn the best is to be given constructive criticism. After four years of college, in the real world, it is very hard to be forgiven and in that venue it can result in legal problems and lives damaged. I just wonder that through all this, where was the editorial staff to guide and give Ms Lew feedback about the article. Just as Ms Lew is criticized, don’t you think the editors should be part of that criticism, when there is an experienced editorial staff that should be making suggestions to her if she is a new writer? How many people raise their children in the gender neutral way in our society? Doesn’t our hospitals, when a baby is born, give the boy blue and the girl pink (diaper bags, clothes, towels, name tags)? Do you see any change in this “tradition”? No, it hasn’t changed. Do we blame this on our society? This is not a one day problem. To make change, is to educate people, and it is your job and my job. To raise our children under a gender neutral and diverse environment takes much effort and time. Regardless of your views, always put your feet in the other’s shoes. We are the ones that can change the world and its views in a peaceful way. We are all decent humans.

  4. What is offensive is the way Haley writes a completely one-sided opinion tearing down Ms Lew’s article with personal attacks on the character of the writer. To say that the article has “insidious undertones” shows that you are totally oblivious to the fact that there is a large number of people who do not find the article offensive. If a writer does not realize the outrage that the article would generate, how can you judge that she had insidious intentions? And how can you expect someone who is not GLBT to feel the same as you do, let alone impose your demands on them to empathize with you? How can a person be called racist for commenting on his or her own race? It’s a given that calling out your own race automatically makes racism an unfounded charge. Blacks can call other Blacks the N word without invoking cries of racism. Even the quote you include that “Asian culture, and specifically Chinese and Japanese, is notorious for being extremely patriarchal and generally male-dominated,…” has nothing to do with the context of the article. No one is questioning the traditional facts on Asian heritage. The opinion was not offensive to many Asians as you would like to believe, and it is laughable to call it racist. To quote “that kind of thinking a little late 19th/early 20th century imperialistic” is another twisting of the thought of the article. It’s talking about the modern trend in male norms which happens to be within the last ten years. How can you question “is she sure that she knows any real live gay people?”, Well, I think her statement about having gay friends means live, not dead, gay friends. But it’s too hard for people like you to believe this. In your article, you dissect Ms Lew’s attempt at “dry humor” aimed at an audience that can understand there is such a thing, as if it were a research paper or critique on the subject. If she’s talking about straight girls with straight men, as she definitely says, then why can’t she express that opinion? Again, it is in the Opinion section. This article attacks the character of Ms Lew and is insidious itself in presenting one side, the GLBT side as the only side. The other words you called her are “prejudice, clueless, ignorance”, and so on. Even the comments and interviews are begging the question—you’re arguing about someone’s character and intentions without even knowing the writer’s intention or true feelings, jumping to conclusions, because you refuse to believe it represents an opinion of straight girls (okay, not all, but nevertheless, many). Then you draw conclusions on your presumptions of Ms Lew’s supposed hatred. If you think the writer is intolerant, then I can see how many critics of her article are even more intolerant. You may say the article was wrong too, but you can’t say there’s only one correct view. By taking every phrase from the article and literally interpreting them, you just show that you are intolerant. Did Ms Lew really plan on taking action because it has “got to be fixed”? Apparently not. I took it more as any girl thinking, “Oh my gosh. I hope he’s not going to be another effeminate guy”. It’s one thing to criticize the article for it’s content, but it’s another thing to continually ridicule it and take a sanctimonious attitude that you know what’s in everyone’s minds. I just hope people don’t keep criticizing someone for their views, but try to see there are two sides to everything.

  5. Love it. Haley, your articles are awesome. Thanks so much for publishing another response to Lew’s article. We need more voices to be heard. Because judging from the responses that I’ve seen here online to my letter, as well as the original thread for Lew’s article, there are a lot of people who are unaware of the oppression. There are also people who just flat-out do not care about the issues presented regarding Lew’s article.

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