July 13, 2020

Who Gone Check Me Boo? The Backlash to Women and Power

author photoBy Myron Strong

In season two of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a now iconic scene is featured where co-star Sheree Whitfield demanded to know “who gone check me boo?” Her powerful retort came in response to her blatantly disrespectful party-planner refusing to follow her instructions. While meeting with him, the planner started screaming profanities and calling her names saying that someone needed to “check her.”

His aggressive manner prompted Sheree to verbally remind him that not only does he work for her, but also that she was in control. Sheree’s calm but strong-willed comment illustrates how she refused to back down. As she asserted her point of view, the male party-planner felt insecure and powerless--prompting him to say that someone was going to check her to which she defiantly replied, “who gone check me boo?”

Check indeed! The party planner’s attempt to insult and dismiss Sheree illustrates the anger powerful women often face. But it is not just part of reality television; it can also be found within academia and more specifically within sociology.

As uncomfortable as it is, our culture has had to deal with being held accountable for sexism and misogyny. Many men are openly resentful about being held accountable, including many male sociologists and other academics. They often distance themselves when they are confronted with consequences of the patriarchy and sexism cemented within the ivory towers of academia.

Male privilege has put me behind the veil. In my five years within the discipline and my active conferencing–both as participant and officer of the discipline’s national organization–I have seen belittling and dismissiveness towards women’s scholarship. As women, and particularly women of color, have gotten more recognition within the field, there has been a rising tide of male resentment from men of all races. The resentment is fed by the misconception that they are getting recognition only because of the #Metoo movement and not because they are producing amazing work.

This misogynistic backlash is fueled by social change and threats to men’s power. I am consistently the only male at sessions led by women that are centered on female-centric issues. For instance, at the 2019 Association of Black Sociologists annual meeting, there was a dynamic forum entitled “Navigating Academic and Research Institutions as a Black Woman,” led by Professors Whitney Pirtle, Yasmiyn Irizarry, Mignon Moore and others. It was one of the best panels I have ever attended. Something that Moore said really stuck with me, “Academia is all about relationships.” I constantly repeat it now. The meeting was held in a ballroom and had about 100 attendees. As I recall, I was probably the only male there and this is despite the fact that I saw men hanging out before the meeting saying that were going to attend.

A few days later at the American Sociological Association annual meeting, I noticed the same thing at the Equity and Inclusion for Scholars of Color workshop that I co-organized for the “Race, Gender and Class” section. Like the previous mentioned session, it dealt with the intersections of problems within academia by scholars of color. It was led by Professors Katie Acosta, and Zine Magubane and attended by mostly women of color. Again, I was the only male there. It was an extremely powerful and emotional session fueled by personal narratives. Acosta’s discussion of the symbolic violence within college service has stayed with me. She emphasized both the emotional labor and the attempt to exploit Persons of Color with service on diversity committees. Both my discussions and decisions around college services continue to be influenced by her statements.

To be fair, there are a lot of men who do support women, they wear supportive gear like #CiteBlackWomen t-shirts at conferences. I am continually noticing male academics who question why women were getting so much attention. In the hallways, some male professors nervously complain of being falsely accused of sexual harassment by female (but not male) students. To these complaints I often reply, “Nobody wants you,” or “These students ain’t got time to lie on you,” or even, “How about you leave them alone?”

Part of this disdain for women seems to connect to men’s high school experiences. I continually hear men in and outside academia connect their identity, their inadequacies, their insecurities to failed high school experiences. Specifically, high school experiences surrounding attracting women seem to still affect many adult men. This reminds me of a popular meme that circulated a couple years ago that featured a “nerd” being rejected by a young woman who chooses to date a “thug.” Years later the “nerd” is “successful” and the same woman – who appears to be carrying a child and pregnant – attempts to engage him to which he screams “beat it chick!”

Ph.D. groups on Twitter and Facebook, showed lots of men identifying with the “nerd” whose hatred and venom toward the woman was illustrated by their agreement that she got what she deserved for rejecting the “nerd.” The implication was how dare she have her on mind and make her own decisions and that she deserved to have a horrible life. As a male, I do recognize that high school is a particularly vulnerable time for most young males. Men are often caught in a difficult situation. Years of not being able to show emotions and complexities of character have left men both a) afraid to step away from masculinity for fear of not living up to it and b) unable to fully understand how to fix their situation.

Normative masculinity first encourages fit in by hurting others and themselves, then creates an environment and safe space where men don’t have to deal with the consequences. So, if they abuse or hurt someone, there are always men around saying, “It’s ok”, “No one is perfect,” “We have all done that,” “No one can judge you but God.” But emotions associated with the actions do not leave and not dealing with them only makes men feel worse. So, men continue to be self-destructive despite their personal feelings.

This type of social entitlement seemingly has staying power. In academia as in other fields, many more men than women are in positions of power, and many of them take advantage of this power. But if we are to move forward, then it’s time for men to leave high school behind and address their emotional deficiencies and insecurities. There has to be a change to how we socialize men. If sociology is going to posit itself as an agent of change, real legitimate changes and consequences must be instituted.

So as women move forward and are thriving and questioning social roles, critiquing and demanding equity, they ask “who gone check me boo?”

One thing is clear, the scholarship and push for social change by women in the discipline is thriving. 

Comments

Wonderfull and i like this artilce

Enjoyed this read, Myron! And especially liked the reference to the iconic RHOA.

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