October 27, 2005

Insulting to women, insulting to men

As Amanda points out, sexism often deploys just as offensive and patently absurd portrayals of men as of women.

Virginity is the sort of human version of Real Doll-ness in this case--it makes the woman a blank slate to have fantasies projected on without interference from knowing she had a sexual past, which sounds a little stupid, but remember, we're talking about men here who think women have nothing else to offer men to keep them around except sex.[...]

To tell women that we have to grind our subjectivity out and be walking fantasies of blank slate virginity to be marriagable is to say that men are incapable of loving women as human beings. Granted, sexists blame women for this, on the theory that women are loathsome and have to bribe men with sex. Still, if I were a man, I'd be wildly insulted, not only to be told that I need my partner to be a sort of human blank slate but also that I have the brain of a humpy dog and can be coerced into relationships I don't want with sex.

But Amanda has missed something here, something she's caught in other contexts ('doofus dads' on teevee): 'men are stupid'/'men are run by their dicks' narratives provide an excuse for bad male behaviour, such as viewing women as sort of interchangable customized covers for vaginas. But, while the iron grip of biological determinism means men aren't responsible for womanizing, it also means that women are entirely responsible for 'not being women enough' -- women who don't conform to their 'essential female nature' are to blame for their own (supposed) lack of husband and brood. Men are biologically determined; women have a biological essence. Hence, ironically, women are granted much more agency and free will than men are, and agency becomes not a sine qua non of ethics, but an obstruction to proper behaviour.

And, really, this shouldn't be a surprise. Philosophers as diverse as Plato and Kant, writing on metaethics, provided devastating critiques of any ethical theory that grounds itself on mindless conformity to the mores set down by church Elders. The rejection of moral autonomy and rational agency is just the flip side of the call to zombie religiosity: for a fundamentalist, agency REALLY IS incompatible with morality.


Grumlock the Destroyer said...

Great post. And that is exactly my objection to magazines like Maxim. It portrays men as sex-obsessed idiots and tells them to be proud of it. It excuses and promotes abominable behavior.

And it's not funny.

And it's considered more socially acceptable than Playboy because there's technically no nudity, but I find Playboy to be a far superior magazine in every way. Playboy may be read by idiot, lecherous men. But it isn't written toward them.

MosBen said...

Vis a vis sexual politics I think you're absolutely right about Maxim, but it also does frequently have some funny, if a bit juvenial, bits.

Grumlock the Destroyer said...

I disagree with your use of the word "frequently", but yes, Maxim has its moments.