I have finally escaped the wilds of northern California and am now back in New York, where I thankfully have electricity but no internet. Good thoughts are with Feministe readers and loved ones who may be less lucky. I did manage to squat at a friend’s house to write my Guardian column, which is about what it means that we anthropomorphize a hurricane into a slutty, bitchy woman:
Sandy was a real bitch.
She was a whore who screwed cities across the eastern seaboard. She can blow real good, but we’re glad she’s gone. She’s sorting the men from the boys. She’s the most important woman in the swing states.
Hurricane Sandy was awful. It has left dozens of people dead and many more homeless. But it was an it – a hurricane. Not an unpleasant woman, and not a “she”. Anthropomorphizing the storm can be a fun rhetorical trick, and I’m hesitant to be the crabby feminist who lectures everyone on word choice. But talking about storms like they’re angry or promiscuous women is not benign. It’s a symptom of a misogynist culture.
Roundups of tasteless and sexist Sandy commentary have been curated elsewhere, so I won’t belabor the point that discussions of the hurricane, especially on social media, rely heavily on calling the storm a bitch or a whore. The inevitable “Hurricane Sandy is a bitch” Facebook groups have popped up. #SandyBitch was a popular storm hashtag. Bad jokes abounded about Sandy blowing the East Coast. And a whole lot of the tweets and Facebook posts were weirdly violent – Sandy is a slut, and so users “will cut the shit out of a bitch”, “beat that bitch”, “stab a bitch” and “hope you fuckin die you dirty bitch fuck u twice.”
Putting aside what I assume is our collective moment of terror upon realizing that these missives were typed by grown adults who, in just a few days, will be choosing the next president of the United States, what does it say about our culture when we image a natural disaster as a woman and then fantasize about beating her?