DOUBLE STANDARDS – Dick jokes, dick staring, hypocrisy and control

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EquilibriumShift commented in the thread on DOUBLE STANDARDS – Jon Hamm and the Female Gaze:

This is absolutely related to the previous post re: Adria Richards power play to police sexuality to her standards.

He’s right. This really is about women controlling men’s behavior and speech. Adria Richards had the management of a conference throw out two men based on her accusation, and this accusation later caused one of these men to lose his job. That’s power. In the case of Jon Hamm’s package, women are indulging in behavior they excoriate in men.

And that excoriation is not the impotent rage of the powerless; women have all sorts of powerful allies they can marshal against men they can portray as offending or threatening them.

It is the same vein of thinking that allows a woman to become offended when he makes a pun that alludes to a penis, when that very same woman has no problem making dick jokes herself. It’s the same thinking that allows women to become offended at the sight of pixelated titties in video games, while ignoring the hundreds (thousands?) of bare chested men. (Ever played the video game “Heavy Rain”? As a check on how highly you value sexuality of the two genders, were you more shocked by Ethan getting nude and taking a shower, or by Madison doing the same? I know I didn’t bat an eyelash when the guy got nude, but I was a little shocked I would “get to” see the chick get naked.)

Then he picks up on the false equivalence of breasts and penises when it comes to staring.

Somehow, breasts are always compared to penises, as you noted, Ginkgo. Sexual economy (and it’s inherent devaluation of men’s sexuality) at its finest. And the women who do so are the self-same writers who rage, all full of sound and fury, at “objectification” of women, and how women’s sexuality is valued so highly. Of course, they would never say it like that, because it doesn’t sound ominous that way. They would of course say a woman is judged by her sexuality, or that women only matter to men because of their sexuality. One might as well say that men only matter to women because of their ability to provide stability and safety.

This misuse of “objectification” is just one more instance of damseling, in this case, the form I call “Turning privilege into oppression.” Is female sexuality more valued than male, i.e., does it confer privilege? Then it must immediately be spun as an oppression, and the objectification narrative is trotted out.

He continues:

At any rate, I think this very well presents a solution to the argument that many 3rd wave feminists put forth:

1) An oppressed group always understands what it is like to live as both oppressed and oppressor

2) Women are oppressed by men

Therefore: Women understand what it is like to live as a man.

I don’t think the bullshit level on this argument really needs to be pointed out to people here, but the whole John Hamm situation really highlights just how wrong at least one of those two premises is. FWIW, I think both tend to be wrong, with 1) being pretty much wrong, and 2) being utter crap.

His point is that the women writing about Jon Hamm clearly have no clue about men, what men experience, what’s going on here.See Arwa Mahdawi’s article in the Guardian for an example. In other words, they are femsplaining.

To which I add:

The first half of that syllogism is false. Sun Zi tells us that if you understand your opponent and yourself, you will prevail. It follows then that if you do not prevail, you probably do not understand your opponent, your oppressor, as well as you imagine.

The second half of that syllogism is a matter not in evidence. Every instance of oppression of women that can be sited is a result of women’s social neoteny, a neoteny that obligates men to feed, house and protect women form the outside world and its perils. Women can decry this all they like but until they stop enjoying the benefits of that neoteny, those objections are hypocritical.

Hypoagency: These two cases put hypoagency and its uses on display. Here in both cases we see women being as agentive as they want to be and then disavowing that agentivity. Adria Richards aggresses two men, resulting in the loss of livelihood for one of them – and yet gets to present herself as the victim, and the believed! Women stare at Jon Hamm’s crotch, and yet somehow he’s the one aggressing them, he’s the one who needs to and his behavior.

Hypogency really is benevolent sexism. Its benevolent to women and sexist towards men.

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Jim Doyle

<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="3074 http://www.genderratic.com/?p=2770">26 comments</span>

  • I think Vollman is nice too, but he’s much longer and spends an inordinate amount of time discussing technical details of photographic processes and comparing Lincoln to ants.

  • Hiding, either you meant to post that in some other thread or that’s a comparison between Hamm and Vollman I’ll just speculate on.

  • No, I was comparing Vollman with Sun Zi in his capacity as a philosopher of conflict (I certainly can’t think of any other way to classify ‘Rising Up and Rising Down’). I admit that he isn’t in Sun Zi’s league when it comes to significance or even, in many respects, to quality, but there is something about his obsession with data and categorization which attracts me to his work on the subject.

  • Ah.

    Well the essence of Sun Zi’s excellence is that he is 1) succinct, to the point of opacity; 2) profound in his observations and 3) accurate. His observations work in just about any social setting.

    He has the ultimate and most profound argument for non-violence I have ever seen.

  • Nice highlight of how Standpoint Theory underlies a lot of this stuff. I’d agree with that. I have a different theory, though, concerning what is wrong with it. It seems to me ST is wrong because it over-intellectualises things. There really isn’t much ‘discourse’ involved in male sexuality. You may well have to really experience it yourself to know why there’s something just very, very wrong with the way some women talk about it.

    The notion of ‘being reduced’ by the ‘male gaze’, for instance. If what these women said about male sexuality were true, men would respond to pictures of body parts. I can’t think of any examples where this is true. If you’ve got too much time on your hands, go to that reddit where people upload pics of themselves. No.1 request is always that people show their faces. Men just aren’t that interested in detached bits. Instead, the only way men can find body parts attractive is by seeing them as an irreducible part of a full human person. They can certainly find bits attractive within the context of knowing who the bits belong to, but that context is crucial. What happens, it seems to me, is that some people miss this context because they experience the focus on curves on bits and miss the all-important set-up (focussing on the face). Hence, you get the complaint about being treated like an object or ‘a bit of meat’, when actually this is very inaccurate. One can’t be treated like a bit of meat if it’s essential that this ‘bit of meat’ is a full human person with a face.

    Now, this doesn’t show up in any ‘discourse’, because it’s much more simple, and it’s to do with raw intuitions that by-and-large bypass conscious awareness. People simply know what they like, and don’t know why. Men can’t correct these women when they say stuff about ‘objectification’ and the like because they simply haven’t thought about the way their sexuality works. They don’t have a ‘discourse’ here at all, let alone one that dominates our culture.

  • femdelusion: you’re absolutely right, but you don’t quite go as far as you might have. Not only do men not respond to disembodied body parts, and need at least the illusion of a whole person (other than pornography, the classic male masturbatory aid is the blow-up doll), but which sex is it that uses dildos and vibrators (to a great deal less shaming than men receive for using pornography or blow-up dolls)? That’s right, it’s women who get themselves off with disembodied bale parts. The accusation that men reduce women to body parts is just another example of feminist projection.

  • Femdelusion! Welcome! I have been hoping you would visit! I hope you stay.

    My problem with ST is that it’s essentialist and therefore clumsy and misleading.

    “The notion of ‘being reduced’ by the ‘male gaze’, for instance. If what these women said about male sexuality were true, men would respond to pictures of body parts.”

    Two things here.

    English does not distinguish overtly between various types of direct objects, or rather the category direct object is syntactically rather than semantically defined, so that various semantic categories of verbs and their varying effect on the object are conflated. Specifically there is a difference between verbs that change the object, causative verbs such as ‘kill’ that change the state of the object, versus experiential verbs like ‘see; that have no effect on the object.

    Mandarin does make this distinction. There is a preverb, ‘ba’ that you put before an object to prepose the object to the verb. You can only use it on objects that undergo change as a result of the verb’s action.

    So a man looking at a woman has no effect on her, all the effect is internal to her, arises from within her and is completely under her own control, and attributing it to the man is hypoagency, does nothing but reinforce patriarchal gender norms, is only one more instance of feminism as the ladies’ auxiliary to the patriarchy.

    Disembodied body parts – a good illustration of this is the evolution of gay porn. Early gay porn was indeed a lot of unattached asses and dicks. That was during the period of internalized homophobia and all that Boys In the Band bitchiness and self-hatred. Modern gay porn is exactly the opposite. A lot of it has extended conversations as part of the performance. And this tracks tectonic changes in gay culture and the larger matrix culture.

  • Patrick Brown:

    I don’t think that comparison really works. For one thing, I would argue that the fleshlight has long since eclipsed the inflatable doll as the primary form of male sex toy. It is true that such products are almost always associated with a face on their packaging and in their advertisements (many even license the names and images of porn stars), and I believe this is also true of similar products marketed to gay men. This sort of thing certainly seems to be less common with dildos, although it is not unheard of (I know that places like Bad Dragon come up with names and personalities for every product they make), and completely nonexistent with anal toys, regardless of the sex of their intended market. I think that the difference may lie less in the target demographic and more in the extent to which a given product is intended to serve as a replica of actual genitalia. Most male sex toys I’ve seen advertise themselves on the basis of lifelike textures, whereas I think this is far less common in dildos. For what it’s worth, I’ve tried both and I don’t think the objects themselves really express anything more than simple practicality of design.

    In my experience it is blatantly false to say that women on average do not care about having a face to attach to their fantasies or are more likely to view others as body parts rather than whole people. For example, if you ever see or hear groups of women discussing their preferences in illustrated pornography, the most common (and perhaps only universal) complaint is always that they hate images in which the man’s face is hidden or the man is otherwise rendered as a blank, generic, or incomplete element of the scene (techniques usually practiced by artists who either just don’t care about anything other than the female body or who wish to facilitate self-insertion by male viewers). Listening to them, it becomes fairly obvious that they want to fantasize about people, not just parts, quite as much as men do (I am deliberately leaving guro out of this discussion).

    That said, I do think that it is probably correct to say that there are strong elements of projection and unacknowledged self-hatred at play in typical formulations of sexual objectification and male sexuality as inherently damaging or perverted.

  • Interesting point about the fleshlight. I’m pretty sure the majority of blow-up dolls are probably sold for stag parties, but I’m guessing the fleshlight must be getting some takeup because I was at a stand-up show last month where the comedian – Chris Addison – got a lot of mileage out of it, using much the same “sad and lonely” stereotype that would never be used about female sex toys. The one bit I liked was where he said the name “fleshlight” showed it was invented in America, because on this side of the Atlantic we don’t use the word “flashlight” – if it had been a British invention it’d have been called the “tworch”.

    In my experience it is blatantly false to say that women on average do not care about having a face to attach to their fantasies or are more likely to view others as body parts rather than whole people.

    Good thing I never said that then. I’m really only interested in the psychology of accusing men of thinking like that about women. I’ve been hearing all my life that men view women as objects, as pieces of meat, and considering the most common romantic memes from a male point of view involve impressing women and trying to win their favour, it really doesn’t make sense, unless there’s something going on in the minds of those doing the accusing, i.e. not the average woman but the feminist theorists who have propagated the idea.

  • Well, it’s good to be here, Ginkgo. I’ve been lurking for a while, incidentally.

    I like the point about the passivity of observing, and how that’s reflected in Mandarin quite explicitly. That’s really interesting. Is there a translation of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in Mandarin? It’d be curious to see how they dealt with it, because there’s a whole section in that book called ‘The Look’ where he describes someone looking at you, and it suddenly turning you into an object for another (for Sartre, this wasn’t some moralising thing, but merely a facet of Being in that we are always see-sawing between seeing ourselves as objects and pure points of subjectivity).

    But surely you’re not claiming that, if you went over to China, and just started staring at people’s crotches, they wouldn’t find it objectionable? There must be some point at which we’d all go: ‘erm… you’re freaking me out, please stop.’? And there must be some point at which we’d all be offended by someone doing that? Maybe it comes slightly earlier in Anglophone countries for exactly the sort of reasons you mention, but surely it wouldn’t make that much difference?

    The point is well-made, in any case, that there are some pretty hefty double-standards in play because we can be pretty confident that men and women are treated very differently over the issue of appropriate dress and the respective gazes. Indeed, no one denies this: they merely offer up ST in order to justify the standards. We’re agreeing that it doesn’t, but doing so for different reasons. One way or another, though, ST does appear to be pivotal in a lot of feminist debates, and is probably worthy of examination in a lot more detail.

    @Patrick – cheers for the comment, but I’m not sure I agree with that direction. Surely there’s this reply available to your interlocutor?: masturbatory aids are merely for physical stimulation, and are not really part of the psychological arousal at all. No one, for instance, would claim that washing machines are erotic or part of the fantasy, but they can be pretty handy for physical stimulation.

  • FD’
    “But surely you’re not claiming that, if you went over to China, and just started staring at people’s crotches, they wouldn’t find it objectionable?”

    In that particular example the problem is that as a foreigner you don’t really register as human- I mean people notice you but nothing you do really matters, you’re a non-person, unless you do something so out of control the police have to get involved. But you are still right, that kind of staring is weird and grammar doesn’t change it.

    The problem with this business of the Look doing things to people is that all that doing happens in your own mind. The whole business is solopsistic. That’s a problem with a lot of this kind of analysis. It never really does a real the Battle Damage Assessment.

  • Patrick Brown:

    I apologize for failing to grasp your intentions and inadvertently misrepresenting your argument. I will endeavor to be more perceptive in future.

    I too have been exposed to such statements throughout my life. In fact, because I was bombarded with such ideas on one hand and on the other completely uninterested in that common ‘winning favor’ model of heterosexual romance, I became lost in a quandary of identity and it has only been in the past year that I have really begun to explore and feel comfortable with my sexual identity (I spent my entire public school career and the beginning of my time at university attempting to force myself to be asexual with no results other than misery and self-loathing). I certainly agree that it is worthwhile to probe the psyches of the people who create and propagate such ideas, but I would not personally like to try my hand at it, partly because understanding others has never been a particular skill of mine and partly because I wish to avoid falling into the same trap of denying others subjectivity by claiming to read their minds.

    I will say, however, that when you mention a sexual outlook which regards the other sex as ‘pieces of meat’, Solanas leaps very naturally to mind (I’m sure someone has that ‘walking dildo’ quote handy). It hardly seems much of a stretch to think that some of her admirers would share a similarly sociopathic viewpoint.

    Ginkgo:

    I failed to mention this earlier, but I’d just like to say that I’m still not comfortable with ‘femsplaining’. It seems to me that it preserves all the vagaries of the terms it is intended to parody and invites the same sort of abuses. I really wish we could have a more unambiguous term for this.

  • Femdelusion:

    Surely there’s this reply available to your interlocutor?: masturbatory aids are merely for physical stimulation, and are not really part of the psychological arousal at all. No one, for instance, would claim that washing machines are erotic or part of the fantasy, but they can be pretty handy for physical stimulation.

    Again, women getting off with objects. Men don’t do that so much. And like I say, not judging women for doing that – rather judging feminists for accusing men of doing that when they don’t, and women do.

  • Ginkgo: I agree, The Art of War not only kicks arse it takes its whole…

    Femdelusion: I prefer Sartre’s treatment of ‘The Look’ and his whole Keyhole example to Feminism’s ‘objectification’. He makes it clear (well, as clear as Sartre ever is – he was a French philosopher after all) it’s universal; not just something men do to women, and it’s also clear that it’s something we do to ourselves: it’s about how we view ourselves when we know we are being observed. Blaming the observer is a twist added by Feminist’s and feeds the whole hyper/hypoagency dynamic.

    Though I can’t help but feel his treatment of the look is simply an introvert’s view of it. I get the impression extroverts don’t encounter the same hand-wringing he describes. This is also a major flaw with objectification.

  • Adiabat – I agree. Sartre doesn’t have these moralising overtones present in notions such as ‘the male gaze’. On the introverted thing, though, there’s a difference between the presentation and the underlying point. He may present the idea in a very introverted, even neurotic, way (and here I simply agree with you), but he’s pretty clear that he doesn’t regard being-for-others as a bad thing as such, so the introverted presentation doesn’t reflect a deep point. ‘The Look’ might deprive you of raw subjectivity, but equally it opens up a space for social value. ‘I am whatever you say I am’ (to give the idea its popular phrasing) is both the opportunity for disapproval and approval. Extroverts would likely find ‘The Look’ quite pleasant as a result, even though they are losing being-for-itself in that moment.

  • Patrick – I think I understand. What you’re doing, in essence, is turning certain feminist arguments on their head, rather than putting forward those arguments sincerely. You’ve probably already seen this, but just in case you haven’t and for the benefit of anyone else, I’ve got to link to Pelle Billing doing this with his ‘reverse feminism’ schtick.

  • Hiding,
    “I failed to mention this earlier, but I’d just like to say that I’m still not comfortable with ‘femsplaining’. It seems to me that it preserves all the vagaries of the terms it is intended to parody and invites the same sort of abuses.”

    Absolutely and in fact that is part of its value. It illuminates nothing and accuses the speaker of ignornace. Its only use is as a weapon, just liek mansplaining. The purpose of “femsplaining” is to suppress the use of “mansplaining” by parody and ridicule.

    “I really wish we could have a more unambiguous term for this.”

    Yes because we need one. There really is a form of blindness when you are commenting on someone else’s life – this bedevils descriptive linguists when they are trying to analyze a language so different from anything they are familiar with that they misanalze things. There’s a whole history of this kind of things in linguistics.

  • “Talking out your ass” comes to mind too. It’s basically just dishonest to pronounce on something you don’t know anything about. Odious comparisons fall in here too – you may know one end of the comparison quite well form your own experience, but not the other end of the comparison, which is someone else’s experience.

    But there’s another layer here too, the meme in the culture that women understand men through and through while women are these mysterious, ineffable creatures beyond the simple minds of men.

  • Femdelusion: “He may present the idea in a very introverted, even neurotic, way (and here I simply agree with you), but he’s pretty clear that he doesn’t regard being-for-others as a bad thing as such, so the introverted presentation doesn’t reflect a deep point.”

    He definitely had a preference (after all being-for-others is a foundation of his saying ‘Hell is other people’), but as you say no moral overtones. I just don’t think that much of what he describes is universal; I don’t think most people would relate at all to the things he describes, such as the staredown and the battles for an ultimately impossible assessment from a free agent. I don’t think he describes the Human Condition as much as he describes Sartre’s Condition.

    Cut out the neuroticism and waffle and you are left with some deep points, in particular about human interaction and how we perceive others and how that affects us. I guess I just think such a discussion can be had that’s better than Sartre’s treatment of it, so my review of him is ‘must try harder’. But then I’m not a big fan of obscurantist French philosophy. In my opinion the second half of your comment to me alone is a better treatment of the issue than entire chapters of Being and Nothingness.

    I think we agree that it’s mainly presentation, I guess I just wanted to highlight that even though Sartre’s approach to the issue is better than the Feminist’s Objectification, it’s still far from perfect.

  • Perhaps they see just enough that really is similar and then just assume the rest. There’s a story, also from linguistics, about speakers of Modern High German reading Middle High German and seeing all these examples of double negation that were not double negatives. In one sentence, the writer would use not just ne or just nicht, and so the modern readers thought, “whoa, that’s weird” and paid so much more attention to them that they sort of ignored the single negations, which were actually in the majorityin the extant texts. The upshot was that this misconception about Middle High German lent unwarranted credence to the universality of Otto Jespersen’s negation cycle idea. Jespersen’s Cycle still works pretty well for some languages (like French for example), but not for German.

    All of which is to say that there are ways to misinterpret due to excessive familiarity (or perceived familiarity) as well as due to complete ignorance.

  • Oh Theodmann, you cannot wave ccandy like that in front of me! Now I have to go look up Jesperson’s negation cycle. I have had this argument ver double negatives in English – they seem to have been a feature of Anglo-Saxon that fell out of modern Englsih ,so that they are an archaicism, or maybe not.

    The situation you describe with Modern High German readers mistaking something in a Middle High German text is what often happens to a Mandarin speaker reading Classical Chinese, where a chance phraisng of words may look identical to a modern compound that has a differnet meaning – either broader, more restricted or just shifted.

    Adiabat,
    ” I don’t think most people would relate at all to the things he describes, ”

    …. which is a big, big part of his appeal. He sounds a lot deeper than he is just because he is strange. This was Yukio Mishima’s schtick too.

  • Ginkgo: “…. which is a big, big part of his appeal. He sounds a lot deeper than he is just because he is strange.”

    I think it’s the whole “ooh, my thoughts are so profound I need to invent a new term every other sentence just to be able to talk about them” that gets to me the most.

    The weirdest part is I quite enjoyed reading him over a decade ago, I suppose as I’ve got older my patience for that kind of schtick has got less and less. Maybe we do get wiser with age, or more grumpy.

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