Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Men in cat carriers July 25, 2007

Filed under: critical thinking,gender — Jender @ 8:37 am

 ftwoman400.jpg  This Fay Weldon article, “Bag yourself a ‘must have’ male” initially sounds like another one to help Monkey in her quest for a rich man. But no, it actually addresses quite a different issue: how men are debasing themselves now that women have all the power. You might think the claim that women have all the power would be the main story– it’s news to me, certainly. But instead it’s not even argued for, just assumed:

The gap between men and women has narrowed so much over the decades that the sexes are intrinsically the same, and it’s happening so fast that it makes us uneasy. Equal pay, equal opportunities, Health and Safety makes wimps of us all… what’s the difference between the male and the female? Except, of course, that women occupy the moral high ground, live longer, look better longer, are more employable and need men less than men need women.    

The result of women having all the power?

Now women want to be stick-like and beautiful to please themselves or impress other women – not men. Women like to have partners: they don’t need to have partners. And so it is the man who has to make the effort to please.    

And what does the man do? He uses hair products and cosmetics, diets, and has surgery– all in a desperate quest to please. Heck, he’ll even climb into the cat carrier if that’s what she asks. (Maybe that’s why folks care about the sex of their vets?) Damn, it’s good to be a woman. So, why am I even bothering with this rubbish, completely unsupported as it is by any facts or arguments? Because it’s useful to look at the trope it employs. It takes for granted the claim that women have all the power, smuggling it into the supposedly shared background of the conversation. (The bit about men debasing themselves isn’t like this: stats are given re male plastic surgery.) It becomes impossible to understand the article if one doesn’t take the presupposition on board. The cooperative, well-trained conversationalist (which nearly all of us are) has to fight rather hard to avoid taking on presuppositions like this (see David Lewis on scorekeeping). It’s a powerful technique.Also, it’s important to realize that lots of people *do* share the background presuppositions of the article. This is what we’re starting from with lots of people, including our students, and that’s worth bearing in mind. (Many thanks to S for enriching my life with this one!)

 

5 Responses to “Men in cat carriers”

  1. stoat Says:

    Weldon could do with taking a look at the stats (linked from ‘EOC folds’ post)here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/gender/story/0,,2133346,00.html
    Suggests she is overly optimistic – no, deluded! – about gender equality…

    This thought is only confirmed by her instruction here:
    ‘Men, get your faces lifted, your bodies trimmed and become, like us, nippy, healthy, energetic: we, the favoured ones, the women. And if lipsoction hurts a
    bit, too bad’
    So favoured, so fortunate! Oh, those impossible and unachievable appearance related demands… the lipo, the facelifts… favoured indeed!

    Interesting that in many cases where there’s a gender ‘gap’, any move to close it seems, depressingly, to be heading in the wrong way.

    Here, say: something of a ‘gap’ between the demands upon e.g. the amount of time and money that women and men are expected to put into their appearance.
    Gap closing: in the direction of men putting as much time and money in as women.

    Or: gap between the participation of men and women in the workforce.
    Gap closing: in the direction (incrementally, admittedly) of men and women who take on primary care roles being disadvantaged in the work place…

  2. Marcus Says:

    The idea that equality has been attained in the work place is a harmful delusion, but I think you assume too quickly that the balance of power in relationships is the same as it once was.

    As you said, “it’s important to realize that lots of people *do* share the background presuppositions of the article,” so I wanted to comment on a couple quotes I think are more widely accepted:

    “Women need men less than men need women.”

    I recently had a conversation where my sister, a working single mother, was literally baffled by the notion that my friend needed a relationship to be happy. As much as I was wary of it, I ultimately had to explain the difference along gender lines: a man that is neither sleeping around nor in a relationship is generally not satisfied with himself, regardless of what else he has going for him.

    The construction of the heterosexual-male gender is rarely covered as-such in feminist literature, because it’s the ‘norm’ (when it is addressed, it’s usually the gender typing of boys – not men). But I think it’s worth looking at because the expansion of women’s gender – allowing for more employment (and clothing) options, and the increased tolerance of heterosexuality, while both very good things, have left a lot of men very confused. More to the point, I can’t think anything besides muscles and sex that make a man masculine. It wasn’t always this way, family and a successful career used to play a role, now not so much.

    Of course, discussion is not a mode for manly men to express the confused feelings they have about their gender identity, so it’s likely to remain a mystery.

    “Now women want to be stick-like and beautiful to please themselves or impress other women”

    This I’d readily agree with, I’ve tried and failed on numerous occasions to convince female friends that no man in the world, save maybe a pedophile, likes a woman to be so thin she looks prepubescent. They don’t care. Perhaps the programming of the cosmetics industry is too deeply ingrained, but perhaps male ideas of what’s beautiful really don’t matter.

    I do think it is insidious how this article attempts to normalize the barbaric extents women go to for beautification by convincing the reader that men try even harder (without providing even anecdotal evidence of it), but it’s reflecting a reality as well as an agenda. The advertising blitz I have had to endure for male cosmetics (body sprays, shower gels, etc.) is unprecedented, so it’s not just womens’ magazine trying to make men more superficial.

    As a note, I don’t consider myself a feminist per se, because I think the term often enforces the very dichotomies it’s trying to erase, but I am anti-patriarchy.

  3. Jender Says:

    Hi. You’re absolutely right that there’s a lot of important and interesting stuff about masculinity that *could* have been the subject of a far better column– the increasing male pursuit of beauty is a really significant phenomenon. There actually has been some good feminist work on this, by the way: Susan Faludi’s _Stiffed_ and Susan Bordo’s _The Male Body_ are great examples. You’re also right that female pursuit of the stick-thin ideal is a whole lot more complicated than an effort to give men what they want. Sandra Bartky has a great discussion of this in _Femininity and Domination_. Her claim is that this pressure comes ‘from everywhere and nowhere’– that is, the power is dispersed throughout society. But she also argues that it nonetheless has an important patriarchal dimension. As to the balance of power in relationships, I guess I think that the economic differences between men and women have a serious impact here. There are lots of studies showing that the degree to which women are impoverished after divorce/break-up while men are wealthier. That sort of thing does affect the balance of power, as does physical violence or threat thereof. So even if you’re right about men having a greater sexual need for women, that’s not the whole story about power in relationships. I also tend to think that it’s false, too– but that sort of thing is notoriously hard to study.

  4. auLia Says:

    The idea that equality has been attained in the work place is a harmful delusion, but I think you assume too quickly that the balance of power in relationships is the same as it once was.

    As you said, “it’s important to realize that lots of people *do* share the background presuppositions of the article,” so I wanted to comment on a couple quotes I think are more widely accepted:

    “Women need men less than men need women.”

  5. rif Says:

    The architecture of the heterosexual-male gender is not often covered as-such in feminist literature, because it’s the ‘norm’ (when it is addressed, it’s usually the gender accounting of boys – not men). But I anticipate it’s account attractive at because the amplification of women’s gender – acceptance for added application (and clothing) options, and the added altruism of heterosexuality, while both actual acceptable things, accept larboard a lot of men actual confused. Added to the point, I can’t anticipate annihilation besides anatomy and sex that accomplish a man masculine. It wasn’t consistently this way, ancestors and a acknowledged career acclimated to comedy a role, now not so much


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,514 other followers