Archives for posts with tag: Feminism

I believe the root of violence to be an expression of power, typically exerted as a response to some kind of challenge to it. The domestic abuser beats his wife because he believes himself to be the dominant partner, and if there is a perception of a question to that authority, then a violent response rectifies the imbalance. School shooters are almost exclusively those who feel that their power has been chipped away by the belittlement of others, and excessive violence is their attempt to regain it. A bar fight is a dick-measuring contest between apes, seeing who is the greater alpha male, or, more simply, who is the more powerful. There are of course exceptions, but most of the journals and articles I’ve read regarding violence explain it as an assertion of dominance and control. It’s not even that difficult to project the intentions behind interpersonal violence onto international conflicts, as countries vie for control over resources, subjects, or territory, seeking only to expand their stately power.

The perpetrators of violence, those who feel the greatest need to exert power, are almost all men. There have been several inquiries into the link between violence and masculinity, and one that is easily accessible, succinct, and informative is the documentary Tough Guise which I am obviously suggesting you watch due to my linking of it here. As easy as it is to dismiss violence as solely within the deficiencies of interpersonal relationships between men forcing conformity onto one another, it is critical to realize that social pressures are universally applied.

Ice T, in his infinite wisdom, imparted this gem, “If women didn’t like criminals, there would be no crime.” While charmingly naive, Ice T may well have gleaned some element of truth surrounding the desires of women impacting the nature of masculinity to a certain degree. Remember Elliot Rodgers? He committed an unforgivable act of violence, not due to excessive bullying from his male peers, but from the ostracization he suffered from the hands of women. To the horror of many feminists, message boards lit up in the aftermath saying that the tragedy could have been averted if Rodgers possessed a greater degree of “game.” Progressive conversations raged against this wash of men who sympathized with Rodgers’s rejection as they believed, correctly, that there is no excuse for targeted violence against women. However, the conversation tacitly ignored the reality to which the message boards allude: conforming to the desires of women is significant enough to male needs to a degree that violence is seen as a semi-understandable response to its lack.

It’s pretty easy to understand the muscular definition of male bodies that is often found attractive is a representation of power, but even height, which so many women demand in a partner, is also a sign of physical dominance. Watch any fight on TV, and the man who can tower over his opponent is almost intrinsically seen as the likely winner. Financial success, most commonly seen in the tradition of men paying for the first (and usually subsequent) dates, is not difficult to see as a marker of economic power in a culture driven by the necessity of wealth. Women who wish to feel “safe” with their man are expecting that he possess enough power to provide that security for her, almost as if she needs him to be able to commit violence on her behalf if a situation calls for it. Even confidence is not so benign, and the characteristic women claim to find the most desirable is really the extension of power over one’s self and one’s surrounding environment.

I do not mean to suggest that any degree of power is going to cause a firestorm of violence if left untempered, and I still maintain my Yin Yang approach to desirable human characteristics. For instance, confidence is an easy attribute to defend, but when considered among all the other desirable traits it does not stray from the general trend. If every stipulation of manhood required by both genders, either for romantic interest or peer conformity, necessitates power, then it is of no wonder that detrimental expressions of that power will be unleashed when a man is unable to meet that requirement. Even though violence is a decisively masculine problem, we are all responsible. We cannot point any fingers. Social pressures are indicative of the norms and traditions of a whole society, infused in us, regardless of gender. If we wish to make changes, we must begin with ourselves.

Imagine imagining having basic, vanilla sex. Now imagine seeing that basic, vanilla sex performed in front of you, and what the sight of that sex would create in your brain space. It’s pretty much the same mental image. If I look at a dog, it makes me think of a dog. Visual cues simply lead to thoughts that we might normally have on our own anyway if we had the time or inclination. The visuals merely help to keep focus. Broadly denouncing pornography as immoral or oppressive then essentially brands the thoughts of sex as the same. If one considers the health benefits of masturbation, such as a boosted immune system, stress relief, improved sleep, etc., then condemning pornography as the means to which most men masturbate is not only demonizing their sexuality but also creating barriers to their overall well-being (especially given the shame that can develop when confronted with a society’s hostility). That’s it, blog over, right? Wellllllllll……

Many see pornography as objectifying to women. This is a nonsensical statement, and I’ve already explained why. However, I’m going to look at it again. Why is pornography objectifying women, but sport is not objectifying men? Professional athletes create body images impossible to match through normal means with the help of drugs and hormonal supplements, and engage in impossible lifestyles given the permanent damage their bodies endure in the process. These athletes are only ever considered in relation to their sport, save when scandal strikes, in which case news coverage explodes with how this will affect their team’s season. This wouldn’t be a problem if male physical prowess wasn’t overly saturated in all other depictions of masculinity. Oh wait, it is. However, when people discuss the demerits of sport and its potentially unhealthy impact on the psyche of men, it is the zeitgeist of masculinity within sports that is addressed and not sports themselves. Sport in its purest form is the honing of skill and self using the whetstone of competition to achieve extraordinary feats of physical prowess, either for personal fulfillment or for the amazement of others. I’ve always found the Olympics to be the perfect example, as most athletes maintain unflinching respect for their competitors, knowing first-hand the hardships and sacrifices they’ve made on their own path to Olympic glory.

This leads to the logical conclusion that it is the culture that is infused in modern pornography, and not pornography itself, that is culpable for things like teenage boys seeking sex and nudes before they seek intimacy and kissing. Part of this particular problem stems from a lack of role models displaying proper intimacy in other areas of a youth’s life, and the improper teaching of sexual education, but the type of pornography a young boy is going to consume is also, quite predictably, going to lead him to make unhealthy assumptions regarding sexuality given no other determining factors. This is not new, as the media one consumes in any medium, be it explicit or otherwise, informs the worldview of the person consuming it.

So why not create a worldview espoused through pornography that is beneficial to the sexuality of everyone involved? Feminist porn is a revolutionary idea that would exemplify the women in pornography as collaborators in sexuality rather than its conquest. This practice would incorporate not only healthier social attitudes toward sex, but also toward women in general. While I do not agree with everything the linked article suggests (I disagree that being able to import one’s self into the fantasy is detrimental to that fantasy; sexual fantasy typically is an expression of that individual’s sexuality, not a voyeuristic inquiry into the sexuality of others), whereas some objections, such as violence being committed against women within the realm of dominative sexuality without explicit consent and respect, are obvious to anyone with a sense of decency. Regardless of what I think, dialogues surrounding the damage that pornography most definitely inflicts onto the minds and bodies of both men and women should centre on the distinct changes that would need to occur within porn, rather than simply and ignorantly calling for its abolition.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the blog either, as how one consumes porn is now found to be as destructive as the typically misogynistic content of contemporary porn. A Nielsen study cited in The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein describes the way the majority of the population reads on the internet. In short, they don’t. Text is typically scanned with one’s eyes glossing over the page in an F shape, with headlines and keywords being the only information that is consumed. The illiteracy of web users leads to the success of listicles, as anything more difficult or complex is simply passed over. Beyond this, websites are viewed in a flow. People click in and out, back and forward, through their browsing instead of finishing a website in a single sitting. For those reading this, how many times have you clicked back into your Facebook page or some other site since you started reading this blog? A normal attention span is non-existent when browsing the web, and the same pattern carries over into porn.

Gary Wilson delivers a Ted Talk wherein he describes this phenomenon as it relates to porn, and describes how it hinders us even further than the degradation of literacy that online browsing delivers on its own. Wilson describes the biological effect of seeing potentially new genetic partners in several different windows and tabs, clicking in and out and masturbating to a flow of pornography rather than a still image or single film, consuming more beautiful women in an hour than our horny ancestors would see in several lifetimes, all in an unending search for novelty. Unending novelty, of course, creates tolerance levels, leading to a dependency on further expansion and exploration in a binging cycle akin to traditional drug addiction. Addiction never ends well for anyone, and erectile problems related to excessive porn use is becoming more and more common. Interestingly, older men who give up pornography recover their libido more quickly than their younger counterparts, and this is almost certainly due to their relatively new access to high speed internet pornography compared to the young who have grown up with it. Again though, this is not due to the intrinsic nature of pornography, but the method through which one consumes it.

Pornography by itself is not a great evil nor a threat to the moral standing of a society that allows it. It benefits the mental and physical wellness of those who consume it as it relates to masturbation, as well as contains the potential for proliferating healthier attitudes toward sex and women as an addition to the feminist revolution rather than its obstacle. That isn’t to say its current incarnation is benign, as content and practice are crucial issues that need to be addressed. Is body-positivity and consent-based analog pornography the utopian ideal to which all pornography should strive to emulate? Who’s to say. This is a conversation that is just beginning, as too often the dialogues of the past have hinged on the equally ignorant poles of the moral binary between of abolition and lascivious infatuation.

The term ‘feminist’ gets bandied about a lot these days. It seems more and more people are thrilled to identify themselves as such. President Barack Obama recently declared himself a feminist, as did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton is banking on the success of feminism in America as she doesn’t really have any other progressive chops to stand on outside of her gender. There is a quaint meme circulating the social medias featuring the cultural icon Patrick Stewart with a quote I’m assuming is his saying, “People won’t listen to you or take you seriously unless you’re an old white man, and since I’m an old white man I’m going to use that to help the people who need it.” The image shows the second best Star Trek captain holding a sign defending the rights of women and girls. It’s a touching sentiment that highlights an uncomfortable truth about the nature of the dominant discourse, as well as a thoughtless meme that clutters up my newsfeed. Because what does it mean to defend women and girls? If you claim to be a feminist, and then turn around and punch out a woman, then the identity should in theory become invalid. Broad statements are pointless because they cannot be practically applied in real-life scenarios. Identity politics is inherently meaningless because it detaches itself from deeds.

So what does it mean to be a feminist? The dictionary definition is that it is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, but again, that’s really broad and doesn’t exactly answer any specific questions about how feminism would apply in real-world situations. Let’s assume you, the reader, said yes when my title asked if you are a feminist. Maybe you can help me out.

Do you support a menstrual leave? It’s women being given extra time off to accommodate period cramps. It’s being practiced in multiple Asian countries and is being considered elsewhere as an employment solution to the unavoidable feelings, from discomfort to unimaginable pain, that menstruation can inflict on women. Should it be paid or unpaid? Is it reasonable to ask a business to support an employee who will produce less output in a deadline-based industry? Is it right to draw attention to a woman’s private affairs? Should greater flex time be available to everyone, allowing women to take menstrual leave without concern if they so choose, without bringing gender-specific problems into the discussion at all? How should the monthly female cycle be incorporated into the functionality of modern businesses?

What about the minimum wage? In the US, 62% of minimum wage earners are women. Similar numbers exist in Canada. Should the government enforce regulation on businesses to increase the wages of women as a means of decreasing the wage gap? How do we prevent economic flight in the face of an increased burden on businesses? Should it even be an economic discussion, or are different social forces at play that condition women into the lower paid service professions? Women make up a greater percentage of social assistance recipients, quite likely due to the aforementioned disparity in precarious employment. Do we ask the government to increase social spending? How does that get paid for when our country is already in debt? Does feminism necessarily require serious economic reform? What alternatives are there for improving the female condition if economic reform is out of the question?

What about motherhood? Should we wade back into the economic debate and suggest a government funded child care system, with all the costs and other problems that brings in? Should stay-at-home mothers be paid an income for their traditionally unpaid labour, or does that merely turn child-rearing into just another corporate enterprise? How long should businesses extend a maternity leave? How long should it be paid? How long should it be unpaid? At what point does it become unreasonable to hold a job for someone? A year? Ten years?

How do you feel about prostitution? Do women possess autonomy over their sexuality allowing them to enter fairly into the market to do business as equals among other professions, or is it inherently oppressive for a woman to be considered a product to be purchased as a sexual object?

Can a feminist be pro-life, or are they strictly pro-choice? If a fetus is considered alive, then it would be considered a separate human being from the woman inside whom it is developing. Would not a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body be akin to a woman shooting herself through the hand in order to kill another human being standing behind it? Do we need to degrade the value of a human life in order to be a feminist? If a fetus is not considered alive, at what point does it become a human life? When there’s a heart beat? Brain activity? After birth? What about babies born preterm? Are they not identical to fetuses still in utero at similar developmental stages? Do we need philosophical insight into the nature of life in order to appropriately label ourselves as a feminist?

What about the difference between being an ally and solidarity? Should male feminists take an auxiliary role in the progressive movement, or stand beside their female peers? Do distinct male voices distract from the conversation, or add to it? If male voices are socially louder, and men do not live the female experience, would that not mean a male voice cannot express the truth when it comes to women? But if a man shares his own experiences as to why he believes in the social, political, and economic equality of women, is that not just an addition of another truth? Should masculine issues be discussed in a feminist context, or as a separate issue? Women have fought for years to eliminate the suffix “-man” from their professions because it does not appropriately define them; do men need to adopt the prefix “fem-” in order to discuss their own social problems? Yet feminism is the precursor to gender studies and already addresses many of the masculine issues facing today’s men. Further though, do women discussing men’s issues face the same problem as men discussing women’s issues?

I hope I’ve avoided implementing my own biases into these questions to give the proper nuance of what exactly it means to discuss women’s issues, though I’m sure they seeped through. Some might say that it doesn’t matter the answer anyone gives to these questions, that only the broad acceptance of the term is necessary in order for feminism to be a success. It all comes down to the identity. Emma Watson said that if you stand for equality, you’re a feminist. Regardless of how the equality is implemented, it seems. Christianity has long claimed that morality is intrinsically linked to God, giving them a monopoly on the subject. Today though, one can be opposed to murder and not identify as a Christian, but you can’t support equality and not identify as a feminist? It seems the monopoly on morality has shifted from one ideology to another, and to be an acceptable human being the identity associated with that ideology must be adopted.

Except identity politics does nothing. The answers to these questions matter. Gleefully exclaiming, “I’m a feminist!” does not alter the well-being of prostitutes. The American Democratic party can claim to be feminists all they want, but if they do nothing to address the economic issues of women, the mantle becomes void. The domestic abuser can claim to be for equal rights all he wants, but no one in their right mind would say he’s fighting for the improvement of a woman’s status in the world. This is an extreme example, but it illustrates that there are wrong answers. Just as Christianity does not lay exclusive claim on the antipathy to murder, neither does feminism hold the rights to “equality,” whatever that means. Broad strokes do nothing save create a self-righteous identity, when the importance of equality lies in the specifics. Claiming an identity does not change the world for the better. It is the deeds that are important.