Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's shit for the goose

Some anti-feminists like to point out bad things that happen to men, in service of the delusion that this invalidates the feminist contention that women should be treated like human beings.

This is a profoundly stupid argument. If you'll excuse my fowl mouth: what's shit for the goose is also shit for the gander. If certain gender norms currently lead to acid being thrown on women's faces, the cause of equality is not served by throwing acid on men's faces. Likewise, being a jerk to women who are sexually assaulted does not suddenly become acceptable behaviour if you decide to be a jerk to men who are sexually assaulted, too.

Feminists present analysis in gendered terms because at the moment, many people invoke "because she is a woman" or "because he is a man" as a justification for the ill-treatment of human beings. Since this invocation is so widespread, and so commonly accepted, it stands to reason that attacking this bullshit gendered reasoning helps to undercut the social illusions that sustain social environments friendly to ill-treatment.

But there are kinds of ill-treatment that are all too ready to find all kinds of homes. When society hurts men in a way that it more typically reserves for hurting women, that doesn't make the wrong against women any better. It just means more people are getting hurt.

And given how lucrative it can be for companies to promote insecurity so as to peddle fake and possibly dangerous "cures" to non-existent "problems", it should be no surprise that men are increasingly being taught to hate their bodies in a way traditionally reserved primarily for women.

Make no mistake about it, men, sexual objectification shouldn't be seen as pro-you but anti-women. Objectification hurts everyone. It's pro-nastiness and anti-human. We should rejoice about the extent to which you escape it, and work to extend that comfort and confidence to women too.

The sad example of Franklin Heng, who died after undergoing liposuction, is one particularly graphic example of what can be at stake.


  1. "Make no mistake about it, men, sexual objectification shouldn't be seen as pro-you but anti-women."

    I suppose that was so in the past. But presently, and as seems to be increasingly the case, the sexual self-objectification of women seems to be, to some degree, purposed for the subjugation of men - especially amongst the chinese whom are generally appealed to 'face-value'.

    Haven't you noticed how so-called 'sexy' or 'beautiful' women frequently pick 'goondus' for boyfriends? When we take into account the overarching and hierarchical need for 'control' in chinese societies, the 'sexual objectification' of women might just very well be for the purpose of dominating (chinese) men.

    That said, I'm certainly with you on 'overeasy's' sexploitation. However, when considered together with the above, it becomes a paradoxical situation where the end-result sees what seems to be the weaker (male)sex amongst the chinese tethered and compliant.

  2. You are talking about heterosexual relationships in which one partner (the woman) is expected or required to do vast amounts of work (as well as spend time and money) in order to maintain conformity to beauty norms, but the other partner (the man) is not. The idea that the man is being "dominated", "tethered" or "compliant" in this scenario makes no sense.

    I don't think you understand the meaning of the word "objectification" at all. Please start reading here and here and keep reading.

  3. ed: Honestly, you are the poster boy for cramming as many stereotypes and generalizations into a comment as possible.

    While this is quite a talent, the painting of entire populations with a broad unflattering brush is the kind of thing we're working against here at the Barn.

    Just thought you might need that pointed out.

  4. MC, I take your point, of course, but is it true that objectification hurts "everyone"? Every inequality serves *someone*; in this case, doesn't it serve those men who would quite like women to continue to be socialised into pegging their right to exist to their attractiveness, and who are fortunate enough not to feel analogous pressures themselves?

  5. I agree, Nicholas. I would add that capitalists who profit, too, benefit in some way. But your specific example is a perpetually difficult matter for me.

    I believe that although this inequality (like many others) advantages men over women, it nevertheless hurts men, because the social attitudes promulgated prevent those men from ever seeking and enjoying the fulfillment of authentic and egalitarian relationships with women. I think women, like all humans, have a lot to offer on this score, so the men are missing out.

    Sometimes I think of sexism as like a crappy script for a play, where some may get better roles than others and all the attendant perks; and indeed they get the immense security of knowing, beforehand, and with a large degree of certainty, that the plum job is always theirs. But everyone is worse off from being made to act in this shit to begin with; and the thing that objectification is meant to stave off for these men, the alarming possibility of being judged and never being found desirable enough in their own right, is in fact always lurking, still, in this avoidance of mutual, genuine vulnerability.

    However, perhaps this is a trick of perspective. I am not always able to sustain this happy hope, and sometimes do find myself wondering if I am attributing needless psychological depths to the drive for power.

    Alas, I am Magical but not free from internal conflict.


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