Irrelevant sex/gender information

So… took the cat to the vet for the first-time last week.  Happened to see a female vet.  I needed to make a follow-up appointment for Friday, and couldn’t do the time that she was on duty.  So I asked if we could see a different vet.  The receptionist said that there was another female vet available Friday evening, which we also couldn’t do.  She said there was yet another female vet available on Thursday, at another inconvenient time.  I was puzzled that she kept mentioning the femaleness of the vets, but then thought maybe some people prefer female vets (as I prefer female gynecologists, although the reasoning is a bit harder to discern).  So I explained that I didn’t mind a male vet.  She said “Oh, but all our vets are female. The male vet’s on holiday.”  Marilyn Frye, in “Sexism”, discusses the tendency to act as though sex/gender is relevant when it really isn’t.  This seems like a really striking example of that.

Advertising to Men

Following the earlier post and discussion on affirmative action for male feminists I thought I would post this piece of advertising aimed at men, since I think it raises something about the experience of being a man that is of interest to feminism.

Scruffs Advert

This product is directed at construction workers, the kind that stereo-typically wolf-whistle and leer at women. One of the things I think is interesting is that just as advertising aimed at women (of the kind mentioned here) seems to make women view themselves in terms of their appearance and attractiveness to men, this kind of advertising does something similarly unhelpful.

First, and obviously, it helps to impose a male only exclusivity on the construction industry. Second, it helps define maleness and male sexuality as tough, and aggresive (“banging”, “drilling”). And thirdly, I would say it suggests something to men about how to view who (or even what) they have sex with. Banging, Screwing, Drilling are activities that we go around doing to things. When we draw a connection between this and sex, then sex is just something men go around doing to things. You can see where I’m going with all this – maybe this is the way men are taught to objectify women, maybe just as women are subject to the male gaze and self-police, perhaps men are subject to a continued checking of their masculinity and self-police their activities towards women, and so on. Anyway, I just thought this kind of advertising towards men was an instance of why certain male experiences are relevant and interesting to feminism.

Substantive Political Journalism

Update:  In case you’re interested, Ms Magazine has made it easy to send a letter protesting the detailed analysis of candidates’ cleavage.  

From the Washington Post: 

Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease. It means that a woman is content being perceived as a sexual person in addition to being seen as someone who is intelligent, authoritative, witty and whatever else might define her personality…To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres is a provocation. It requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever.       

Wow.  What shocking clothing did Clinton wear? This. ClintonCleavage  Next time your students insist that we no longer trivialize women by focussing on their appearance, show them this article.  It’s WARTIME, and she’s RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.   And, for God’s sake, she’s not even wearing anything scandalous!  OK, calmer now.  It is actually interesting to look at the messages said to be sent by cleavage:  not *necessarily* “objectify me” (that’s nice), but nonetheless a provocation if there are no hors d’oevres.  Good to know.

Rich men, rich women…

…and how to bag one, respectively. Useful advice for you, Monkey?Although women after a rich man might find the advice worrying – you’ll have to be willing to be objectified and commodified, it seems. The author notes that:

  • ‘Having sold yourself as a Ferrari [to bag the rich bloke], you have to maintain yourself like one. There is a reason Ferrari issues a new model every few years or so (a shiny knob here; a new electrical gadget there; that crucial extra iota of acceleration): it appeals to their core client, and there is never a shortage of beautiful, witty young women coming on to the market.’

But it’s not all bad news for the women: if you don’t manage to upgrade yourself sufficiently often, and find yourself replaced with a newer model, you might nonetheless do well out of a divorce settlement. Finding yourself laden with riches and without a man, the advice on offer about dating millionaire women will then come in handy, no doubt:

  • ‘What a clever, professional woman wants in a long-term partner is an equally clever, professional man.  It doesn’t matter if she makes all the money; as long as he has a brain – and uses it. So while the tennis coach or yoga teacher may suffice for a flirtation, he will not cut the mustard around the dinner table.’

Hang on a minute: how come women who date rich men have to be ‘like Ferrari’s’, but men who date rich women have to be ‘more substantial’?A classic example of gendered stereotyping and norm-perpetuating tosh, that does injustice to men and women. Still interested? See news of a training course on how to get a millionaire. Key strategy:’Your favourite words and phrases [should be] … “Yes,” and “I can be whatever you want me to be”.’Moreover women who take this course will 

  • ‘learn how to wiggle their hips, kneel in a posture of mock subjugation and eat a banana suggestively by practising in front of a mirror – all with a view to some day applying those techniques to the anatomy of a very successful man’.

Any subscribers? erm…

Please Sponsor My Surgery

Following Monkey’s post on websites for dating Rich Men , I thought this was kind of interesting. Should a women want breast implants (and why wouldn’t she?), all she needs to do is find a “benefactor” at Myfreeimplants, offer to send him photos, personal gifts(and something which is mysteriously refered to as “and more….”) and he’ll send her money towards helping correct what nature got wrong first time around. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (or BAAPS – honestly) doesn’t approve of this apparently. Erm… what more to say about this?

Affirmative Action For Male Feminists?

A discussion in comments has led to something I think is worth discussing in its own right.

In the journal rankings discussion, commenter Anon pointed out that Hypatia’s editorial board is overwhelmingly female. This led me to speculate about the possibility that feminist philosophers should not simply take for granted that this is an acceptable state of affairs. Yes, some feminist philosophy draws on the experience of being female. But much of it doesn’t, or needn’t. And work drawing on the experience of being male could also be (and in fact already is) really useful and interesting to feminist philosophy. Ross Cameron, in comments, suggests that actually it’s more important for men to be feminists than for women to be:

In some ways, it’s more important that men be feminists than it is that women be. (For the same reasons that the people you’d *really* like to convince that blacks aren’t inferior to whites are white supremicists, not black people who most likely believe that anyway.)

So, should we try to make feminist philosophy more friendly to men? I think we should, for lots of reasons. But one especially relevant to recent discussions is this: People are more likely to know and respect journals they read. They are more likely to read journals in areas they work in. If men feel unwelcome in feminist philosophy, they’ll be unlikely to read feminist journals. With philosophy’s male/female ratios, how can we possibly hope to mainstream feminism and get widespread respect for feminist work if most of the profession feels sealed out of feminism?

One might argue that men can’t possibly feel like feminism is off-limits to them, given their general dominance of philosophy. But this just isn’t true. Aside from things like stereotype threat and the problems with solo status (see Haslanger), there are major feminist philosophy conferences (UK-SWIP, definitely, and I’ve heard conflicting things about C-SWIP) at which they’re not to permitted to give papers.

Separatism has its place, but that place isn’t very helpful for mainstreaming. So I say: let’s make an active effort to get men into feminist philosophy.

Body Basins… and more

Over at feministing, news of some strange and disturbing wash basins…

And this took me to their ‘disturbing product poll’. Some of which are very disturbing, such as the T-shirts proclaiming ‘I like my women like like my chicken: battered’, ‘I’m too pretty to do math’ and ‘it ain’t rape if she ain’t awake’. Disgusting.

But perhaps useful in teaching as examples of blatant sexism. And a useful example of the potential illocutionary disablement of ‘no’ here (scroll down).

I then ended up linking to this ‘sexy furniture’ company website (click on portfolio and scroll along). It doesn’t seem to me that there’s much sexy about women’s dismembered bodies. Creepy.

More Critical Thinking Fodder: Presuppositions

Surprise, surprise, Fox has a backlash-y new reality series coming out, When Women Rule the World. Jessica Pozner does a nice job dissecting their press release. But she doesn’t note something which really fascinates me. The whole show is based around the idea that women ruling the world is a reversal of the normal order of things. That is, it’s based around the presupposition that men currently rule the world. But this is what anti-feminists routinely DENY. The most common negative response to feminism these days (at least in the US and UK) is that women already have equality. In its press release, it seems to me, Fox is tacitly admitting that this just isn’t true. To see what I mean, here’s a taste of the press release:

The participants will be brought to a remote, primitive location where the women will have the opportunity to “rule” as they build a newly formed society – one where there is no glass ceiling and no dressing to impress. For the men, their worlds of power and prestige are turned inside-out and upside-down. And for these women, turnabout is fair play!

The Worst of Sociobiology

This article represents, to my mind, the worst of sociobiological bumf.  It says that “our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are produced not only by our individual experiences and environment in our own lifetime but also by what happened to our ancestors millions of years ago”.  True enough.  But supposedly what follows from that is that human nature is static and human “choices” are largely a product of our biological inheritance, not any thinking we might happen to do. So, for example, men prefer young women (greater reproductive success), blondes (because blonde hair meant, in the past, that the woman was young), long-haired women (because long hair indicates several years of a woman’s health), and big breasts (because big breasts will droop with age, so, if not droopy, they indicate that the woman is young).   This seems to me to be mostly invention.  It also suggests that men are the dupes of their biological drives.  And that men who like short-haired, dark-haired, small-breasted, or even (goddess forbid) non-young women are reproductive dead ends.