Saturday, March 19, 2011

Do women get to define what's beautiful?

There have been some men's officers appointed on campuses in the UK, much to the displeasure of certain feminists. These feminists have organised to have the following motion carried by the National Union of Students (NUS):

We must fight against the existence of men’s officers, and attempt to prevent the creation of any new men’s officers

This move was justified at the NUS conference in part for this reason:

Student Unions should not be reinforcing the gender binary on campus as it goes against the concept of safe space as self defining trans students may feel they do not fit or are alienated from their own Student Union

I know a lot of us are used to this kind of thing by now, but consider just how radical this is. If something is specifically identified as male, the feminists are complaining that this supports a gender binary (i.e. the existence of two sexes male and female), which is then oppressive to "self-defining trans students." The expectation is that men shouldn't organise as men for fear that this might limit the opportunity for some transsexual students to self-define their own gender identity.

But doesn't the existence of women's organisations do the same thing? No, they get a free pass because:

Women's Groups do not exist to facilitate stereotypical women's activities, but to campaign for liberation against the repression women face and as such do not represent an extension of the gender binary and do not encroach on safe space

The feminists are trying to have it both ways. They want to be able to put out pamphlets with slogans such as "Women: innovating, leading & liberating" whilst still pretending that they are not upholding one side of the traditional man/woman gender binary.

The pamphlet put out by the NUS to campaign against men's officers is interesting for other reasons. For instance, there is a section opposing the sexual objectification of women. The feminist complaint (p.9) is that:

Objectification deprives women of their power to define what is beautiful, what is sexy, what is desirable, and places this power in the hands of the (male) viewer/judge.

So women are to define for themselves what is beautiful and desirable? Sorry sisters, it doesn't work that way, no matter how much you want it to. First, beauty has an essential character and can't be redefined in a direction of our own choosing. Second, the nature of relationships can't be so one-sided. Feminists cannot define for men what men find attractive in women. These feminists are so focused on female "agency" that they think it can be extended even to the sphere of relationships, as if men had no "agency" of their own.

Then there's the thorny issue for feminists of individual choice. Feminists believe that there are no objective moral goods, only the good of unfettered individual choice. But if this is so, then how can they oppose women choosing to pole dance, or wear sexy clothes? Well, the contorted argument they give is this one:

The idea that feminists are trampling women’s rights to behave as they like is a red herring. Likewise, arguing that women are ‘empowered’ by pole dancing lessons, naked calendars and sexy lingerie is too much of a generalisation. Just because someone says they know one or two women who enjoy it does not prove that every woman is therefore automatically required to put up and shut up. Women are empowered when they define their own sexuality and sexual expression, and when they are not penalised for avoiding mainstream definitions. The ‘right’ to get naked and exhibit yourself for male pleasure is not addressed in the Geneva Convention on Human Rights, but just because a woman has chosen to do it does not make it right or OK for every woman.

It's as if they expect that sexuality can exist in a vacuum. Every woman would choose her own sexuality, with no influence from men or society, and none would be penalised by her choice.

That might maximise female agency in the abstract but it's useless as a way of understanding how a sexual culture changes in practice.

How did Western sexual culture get to be the way it is? In part, because feminists themselves insisted on 'liberating' women sexually, by which they meant women choosing relationships for sex alone, rather than for love or marriage. When that happens women are more likely to choose player types, and in such a culture, in which people are increasingly selecting on the basis of sexual attractiveness alone, men are more likely to think of women in terms of "hotness".

If you want to change this, then you have to think not in terms of female agency alone, but in terms of what men and women are selecting for, how they influence the behaviour of the opposite sex with their choices, how they reward or punish the opposite sex with their choices, the influence of moral codes and so on.

But it's not possible to tweak the outcomes so that every woman can present herself in any way she wants with no penalty. If a woman chooses to be unlovely, then no amount of indoctrination will make her appealing to the average man.

15 comments:

  1. Likewise, arguing that women are ‘empowered’ by pole dancing lessons, naked calendars and sexy lingerie is too much of a generalisation. Just because someone says they know one or two women who enjoy it does not prove that every woman is therefore automatically required to put up and shut up.

    The only people arguing that pole dancing 'empowers' women are those using feminist jargon.

    Feminists let the genie out of the bottle, now they are trying to put it back in (only the parts that they have now realised don't suit them of course).

    If I say that women are illogical, does that make me a sexist ?

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  2. Women's Groups do not exist to facilitate stereotypical women's activities, but to campaign for liberation against the repression women face and as such do not represent an extension of the gender binary and do not encroach on safe space

    The dementia is just astounding.

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  3. Louise

    They are not demented but pragmatic. There is not enough money for everyone. Funds spent on Men's Officers are no longer available for the projects that the Feminist groups prefer.

    The rhetoric is empty because they do not want to risk it being used against them in the future.

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  4. Does this mean I am objectifying women if an ugly chick doesn't give me an erection?

    Sorry, I'll go and flay myself in the corner until it does....

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  5. Slightly off-topic, but still, I think, relevant to sexual corruption in general: SPECTATOR AUSTRALIA has now published two columns in two successive issues (one by Peter Coleman, the other by Robert Manne) indulging - in Manne's case actually deifying - Michael Kirby and the homosexual agenda.

    And this in what is supposed to be a conservative magazine.

    What say readers of this website write to the editor, Tom Switzer, and let him know EXACTLY what they think of his activities as the sodomites' friend?

    (Unfortunately the only "Contact us" page on the magazine's website seems to involve writing to the British Speccy's HQ. Here it is: http://www.spectator.co.uk/corporate/contact-us/)

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  6. Objectification deprives women of their power to define what is beautiful, what is sexy, what is desirable, and places this power in the hands of the (male) viewer/judge.

    Alas, the other anon beat me to it, but I will also say that what is sexy and desirable is most definitely in the hands (or more accurately, the boner or lack thereof) of the male. She can "self-define" her sexiness however she wants, but if he isn't hard, it's a Woman Power EPIC FAIL.

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  7. Interesting topic, and I agree that it is illogical to think that you can tell someone else to find you desirable. But, I am not so sure that the women leading the charge in this discussion are doing so without full knowledge that "it doesn't work that way" precisely because they want to minimize the needs and wants of men in order to make you needed less and less.

    For example, no one is going to mistake me for some young hottie who is objectively beautiful. However, i can look in the mirror and find features that i like about myself, so i dont walk around thinking of myself as unattractive even though some men may find me that way. And my
    boyfriend tells me I am attractive to him, so I am happy for that :). But, there is a significant difference between that and insisting that men in general find me attractive because I am not repulsed by my self and my bf is attracted to me. Instead of sticking with encouraging women to work with what the got and accepting it and looking for men who do find what they got attractive and that being plenty good enough, they insist in pathologizing the normal, objective standards of beauty. The reason for this has to go beyond women's "power" toward an attempt to make men obsolete.

    I hope that made sense!

    Learner

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  8. The idea is to eventually neuter both sexes so that there is "true biological equality".

    It was alluded to in your earlier post about breast feeding. I think the ideal would be something like forced neutering of children until the age of puberty at which point the individual child would be given choice as to what "gender" the child wants to assume, including a customized combination of gender(s). In this way, there will be no more "men" and "women", but instead a free range of "gender expressions" akin to the variation between tattoos -- all customized, expressionistic and individualistic.

    In that kind of world, although beauty very much remains in the eye of the beholder, the ideas of what is beautiful would be radically different, and personal expression of one's specific gender expression would be given more weight, likely. This is their nirvana endgame scenario, and they hope to bring it about by biological science and social policy.

    As for today, most of the women complaining about "male beaut standards" are unattractive women, or women who struggle with their appearance for various reasons. It's a bit like short men whining that women strongly prefer tall men. Understandable, but pointless and bitter just the same.

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  9. Objectification deprives women of their power to define what is beautiful, what is sexy, what is desirable, and places this power in the hands of the (male) viewer/judge.

    Preach it, sister. I've always found it appalling that defining what is sexy and desirable in men is in the hands of women, instead of where it belongs, in the hands of men. I'm sure these egalitarians will welcome being compelled to desire fat ugly louts with beer guts and empty bank accounts. They're awaiting your delectation, ladies. Fight the power!

    But it's not possible to tweak the outcomes so that every woman can present herself in any way she wants with no penalty.

    That's the crux of the biscuit, eh? The entirety of liberal insanity can be summed up thusly: to want to have, at one and the same time, both absolute freedom and universal approval. But this is impossible. Demanding and enforcing approval destroys others' liberty of action and judgment. Aside from being simply childish and cowardly.

    Nor do they ever discern that the "liberal project" ends up reducing women to their value as sex objects far more grossly than traditional Western mores ever did. In a completely materialistic universe, shorn of any transcendent notion of culture, of human value and human dignity, that finds any "gendered" role in the family meaningless - well, what else *are* you good for, ladies? It's either your "hotness", or your contribution to GDP - which in most cases, will be less than "loser" males can manage to bring to the game. Happy now?

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  10. Leaner said,

    "they insist in pathologizing the normal, objective standards of beauty."

    If you look at the modeling industry you see some absolute physical shockers, androgynous, stick thin, with "interesting facial features" ie looks that are bizarre or alien, promoted to the top of the catalogues. At the same time more traditional feminine beauty is seen as passé. If this isn't an attempt to redefine beauty at the high end then I don't know what it is. Having said that many women find such models pleasing to look at even though I don't.

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  11. ""She can "self-define" her sexiness however she wants, but if he isn't hard, it's a Woman Power EPIC FAIL.""

    A sexual organisms attractiveness is based on their attraction to the opposite sex, which is partially cultural but mostly biological.

    I mean, to try and change that you would have to have a fanatical cult of dedicated devotees trained in brainwashing employed in every school in Australia.... oh...

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  12. Of course women don't get to define what is sexually arousing to men, but we do get to define what is beautiful TO US.

    I can decide that I feel sexy wearing goth clothes (I don't) so long as I accept that others do not share the same definition of sexy.

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  13. Student Unions should not be reinforcing the gender binary on campus as it goes against the concept of safe space as self defining trans students may feel they do not fit or are alienated from their own Student Union

    Why are feminists speaking on behalf of trans students (who are actually usually quite fond of "stereotypical women's (or men's) activities") instead of trans students themselves?

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  14. Jesse 7 rightly notes the problems with the modelling industry. Of course that industry is one where male perverts (er, sorry, "gays") flourish with appalling strength. Here's a website that touches on the resultant moral and cultural problems, and which, indeed, suggests possible solutions:

    http://www.femininebeauty.info/what-to-do

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