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Archive for February, 2009

It’s no secret that I am, at least, critical of science. The fact that science is culturally constructed, and hence is influenced by cultural norms is never talked about. I’m also downright antagonistic of the ways that science is used by popular media: the health and science sections of the NYT, or CNN and BBC segments. Those places where one study is taken as unquestionable fact. The ways these studies are portrayed is always questionable to me, especially when they deal with gender. Too often, I think, a critical eye is not cast onto these reports (and science in general). Especially since when these reports about gender are published they often support patriarchal, heteronormative structures. Case in point is a recent CNN.com piece about how men objectify women.

It may seem obvious that men perceive women in sexy bathing suits as objects, but now there’s science to back it up.

First line. What? I’m curious as to how science is able to back this up.

Although consistent with conventional wisdom, the way that men may depersonalize sexual images of women is not entirely something they control. In fact, it’s a byproduct of human evolution, experts say. The first male humans had an incentive to seek fertile women as the means of spreading their genes.

This is a little later down the article. Why does science continue to back up the “Boys Will Be Boys” sentiment that is prevalent and continues to be an excuse for misogyny. Who are these experts by the way?

So the evidence is based on a study of 21 male Princeton students. They were given a survey to determine if they harbored “Benevolent” sexism (i.e. women belong in the home) or hostile sexism (women try to dominate men). As if there were only two categories of man who must fall into these.

The article goes on to explain the study and how they showed these 21 male college students images of both bikini-clad and fully clothed women, and how these men were more likely to view the bikini wearing women as objects to be acted upon.

What this entire article, in trying to determine some essential male quality, ignores is that 21 men who go to Princeton who choose to participate in a psych study is not a sample that can be conflated with the entiretiy of all 3-4 billion male human beings that exist on this planet. It ignores that the culture we are raised in has an effect on how our brains function. It ignores that even if certain parts of our brains are going off, it doesn’t mean we are thinking identical things as to when those areas activate over something else.

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So Vassar offers mini-courses, small classes taught by any member of the college community who signs up and gets approved. Imagine my surprise when I saw this course on the list:

The Language of Ladies
Instructor: ———-
Thursdays 7:00pm- 8:00pm, Rocky 101, starting March 26

This course aims to take a critical look at dating across lingual/cultural barriers. Experts in each local will be brought in to the class for instructional purposes. Coming out of this class students should feel informed enough about different mating rituals to approach women of different national backgrounds.

What?

I’m amazed that this got approved, but maybe I still have too much faith in my school, and common sense in general. A course for learning how to seduce women from different cultures, with experts? I guess it’s so when you go JYA (Junior Year Abroad) you can fuck a local woman no matter how different she is from you.

The use of the phrase “mating ritual” also gets me. It highlights a major problem: it’s not enough to want to have sex with women as objects, but you have to reduce them to an anthropological/biological object of inquiry.

Fortunately, I’ve heard that there have been a number of complaints.

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  Ok I know this is the second time I’ve sucked Obama’s dick on this blog, but this is fantastic:      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/us/politics/28web-abort.html?hp

~Lucie

What a dah-ream boat!

What a dah-ream boat!

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three cheers for eve ensler?

lucie this may be of particular interest to you

i know that we are trying to be more congenial on this blog but if people want to have long debates about this please email me. and if you dont know what my email address is, i guess ask someone who might? (sarah) i dont wanna post it here.

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NYTimes.com had a short documentary on the education for women in Swat Valley, Pakistan which I must admit was, for me at least, quite moving. I understand this is a delicate issue, and we have to be careful not to take a paternalistic attitude, however I also found it incredibly refreshing to at least hear from the young girls we generalize about all of the time. I thought the piece was interesting and inspiring, and really showed the resistance and strength of the young girls. I dunno. Thought it was cool, but what do you think? Check it out.

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Georgia Legislators are using the financial crisis as an excuse to cut Queer Theory, and other sexuality studies from the Georgia University System. For a ridiculous laugh and a half I encourage you to watch Rep Byrd’s youtube video. How is it that our politicians don’t even know basics about sexuality studies (or how to make a youtube video, seriously I could do better on my macbook)?

CNN’s pretty ridiculous excuse for coverage can be found here.

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Man and/but/or Feminist

Man and/but/or Feminist

Miraploy’s comment on orkinson’s vm post ticked me off from the get go. To be honest I have an extreme dislike of most men that call themselves feminist (what about me? self-hatred?), or rather if that is the first thing out of their mouth before saying something misogynistic or sexist (ah, a qualifier. I don’t hate myself!).That said Miraploy made it easy for me to explain something I’ve been thinking about– Those man-but-feminist-types (it’ll be clear in a bit). So I found the easiest way to detail what I meant, was to do a close reading of Miraploy’s comment.

I’m a man, and I came upon this post by accident, so maybe that disqualifies me from commenting.

Obviously it didn’t. See, the man-but-feminist first humbles himself, pretending to be, or actually is, aware of his privilege. This statement should never be made. Why would you comment (either on the internet or the material world) saying you might not be able to comment, or shouldn’t comment. It is a sure sign that a big, ol’ BUT is about to pop up.

But I consider myself a feminist and I think your post is ignorant and lacks context.

What!? Why is it a BUT? As if man and feminist are incompatible in some way. As if there is if there is some essential quality in men that prevents them from caring about women, or women’s equality/liberation/rights/desires/(etc etc etc etc). Also the man-but-feminist will attempt multiple times to exert his feminist-iness on you until you understand. And quickly a switch to attacking the post (or in the real world discourse a person used). Who the hell, gets to say whether someone’s opinion is ignorant! But even more how does a person of privilege call someoneelse’s position ignorant.

Traditional feminism, second wave, or whatever you want to call it before it imploded, was all about rebelling against the historical patriarchy and establishing women as equal to men, putting them on the same playing field and giving equal importance to their needs, or conditions, or whatnot. So on this basis, I think your critiques are horrible.

Thanks for the context. Thanks for throwing your knowledge, and thanks for not critically engaging in what was written, but instead using facts, your knowledge of textbook feminism (which looks pretty lacking anyway, btw’s), etc to disprove a real, live woman’s experience.

I had written a bunch of shit addressing every single point in your post, but it got deleted when my browser crashed.

The man-but-feminist always has a lot of facts to back up points. This is what he thinks about when he isn’t listening, and then tells you you are wrong.

So I’ll just address where I think you’re most wrong, and that’s on sexuality. Female sexuality is defined in terms of what men want. That’s how biology works. It’s OK if you don’t want to have sex with men, but the human race is built for males and females to have sex together and reproduce. And that’s not necessarily (though it can be…) oppressive or patriartical.

The man-but-feminist always knows. He won’t even admit that this knowledge comes from something he read, or heard, but rather is pure objective fact. Often with calls to science and rationalism to back him up, the feminist-but-man knows more about you than you. Oh also! A good dose of biological determinism (in this case) or poorly understood social constructionism (for the more hip man-but-feminist) come in here.

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

The man-but-feminist never quickly gets to his point– he can’t just prove you wrong, but provide enough bulk for you to have a lot to respond to. I may have made up this quote, but I skipped a similarly sized passage. This was just more entertaining than those long, droll sentences.

But last word on that topic. In this culture, female sexuality has historically been ignored, vm is in the tradition of trying to oppose that. Has it gone too far? Next paragraph… But this type of message is still needed. There are places in the country, much less around the world, where female sexuality being under lock and key is the norm. This message is the symbol of western feminism and is worth promoting as part of a multi-front battle against sexism.

Hazaah! Suddenly his points of knowing more about you than you have a purpose. Our glorious knight-but-feminist will liberate all of the worlds women from their primitive captors. In this case he saves them so they can enjoy sex (hopefully with him, perhaps). The man-but-feminist isn’t an ally towards a feminist vision, but feminism’s golden messiah who will deliver women to safety on his celestial, anti-sexist penis.

Has it gone too far? I don’t think so. Does it reduce females to their genitals? Yes. Is that bad? No. There are plenty of media that reduces men to just their genitals. If you don’t think so, you’re not watching enough mainstream media. But you raise this point in #9.

“Stop bitchin!,” exclaims the man-but-feminist. Men have it bad too, it sucks for all of us. This point always comes up, rarely with any acknowledgement of differences of levels of privilege and oppression.

You might be tempted to say, well it’s bad for both men and women, nobody should be reduced to just their genitals. I disagree. Art exaggerates, art caricatures, art reflects both our cultural fears, cultural sins, and amplifies them. I don’t know where you’re coming from, and so arguing this point here might be pointless, hence I’m not going to bother. But my view on this is, ridiculing or insulting people is ok, so long as it is in the name of art.

Translation: Don’t be a feminazi! Art is cool. It makes me think, but mostly makes me laugh. I don’t care how uncomfortable/oppressed/angry/sad/(insert emotion here) it makes you don’t critique!

I can also give a 2 hour long lecture on the biological and sociological history of this type of ‘reductionism’, but suffice it to say that this type of thinking has always been part of us, and always will be. It is integral to how we think as human beings, and when used by educated people will not be taken as more important than it actually is. That is, people do not actually think women are just vaginas despite what vm says.

” I know science!” “I also know a lot!” This point never grows old. It will be repeated until you tire of reading the comment, and then a new comment will pop up.

Though you seem to be the perfect fit for me. I’m OK with having sex with just your clitoris if you’re ok with my micropenis.

“I want to have sex with you,” says the man-but-feminist. Man-but-feminists can’t help bringing this up when sex is the topic. The proposition is always given with a bit too much sarcasm to be sarcastic if you know what I mean.

Also! The powers of the inevitable, and holy vaginal-orgasm-you-gotta-have-this-phallus argument are ever so persuasive.

#7: I agree, materialism has nothing to do with vaginas. I don’t know why vm has so much of that shit.

The man-but-feminist has to agree on something, or else he can’t prove he is a “man, but a feminist.” Conceding on the one point, that he managed to desex, degender, and/or depoliticize, he can agree whole heartedly: “I too dislike consumerist materialism. Now back to how much you are wrong, and I am awesome.”

#9: You’re a huge hypocrite aren’t you.

Gotcha! The man-but-feminist will try to find someway to just straight-up call you wrong, but not with detailed (but please lord concise) arguments, but with a name. Appealing to your sense of guilt about some privilege you posess is easiest. Hypocrisy is such a loaded word, that is really hard to throw around. Responding with an insult is the easiest way to avoid making a solid argument. (Oh and the argument’s have been so solid so far, haven’t they, or at least excessively long).

“Dark hordes,” to use the words of Bq. Homogenization.”

Uh huh.

“Now you can have whatever you want, men, because women are in cahoots with you because of this stupid play.”

“Uh huh” “Uh huh” Dismissed! Even better than the one word insult, is the complete dismissal of what has been said, with a “uh huh,” or something of the like.

All this is not to claim that I think I am some perfect feminist. I am a man AND a feminist. Or at least I try to be. I read. I listen. I’m down with women’s liberation and equality. I am generally sucessful in treating women like human beings. Not to say I don’t have, and haven’t had, my man-but-feminist moments (hours, days, weeks, years). But to say that I try. I think the biggest differences between the man-BUT-feminist, and the man-AND-feminist is that the man-AND-feminist remembers that he is an ally for women seeking equality/egalitarianism/autonomy/liberation, that being an ally is about recognizing privilege, and that the most important tool at an ally’s disposal when talking to women (or who ever you are an ally for) is to SHUT THE FUCK UP & LISTEN. STFU&L is important before ever making a comment, that will hopefully keep the man-AND-feminist from becoming a man-BUT-feminist.

*Check out the male privilege checklist if you aren’t sure what sort of privileges you have.

**A helpful guide to privilege.

***Also note: Almost sorry, Miraploy, to use you as an example. Your comments just embodied everything that I had been thinking about lately. And I mean, the words did come directly from you (minus some blahs! but they were just filler for blahtastc stuff) I don’t have any worries really though. I’m sure (after your attempt at criticism) you can take some constructive criticism, you’re a big boy.

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