Men as wholes, women as sums of their parts.

From Electric Literature

Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would’ Is the Most Savage Twitter Thread in Ages
The challenge is a fierce indictment of what happens when you try to write a character you don’t respect or understand

The injunction to women describe themselves as a man would has received a lot of notice. One interesting fact that is that women apparently found it easy to describe themseves as men do, and everyone seemed to get that it was a matter of focusing on parts. Boobs seem especially prominant. Men are seen holistically, but women are not.

One further interesting and possibly related fact is that we all seem in general to notice women’s parts first. (See references at the end.) I think it is important that vision is implicated in these differences. At the very least, it means that our explanations of non-holistic view of women are constrained. They need to account for the difference in vision.


I expect that readers won’t have any problem understanding “holistic,” but we can just note for illustration the following example. With the house below advertised for sale, a holistic description might go, “Pretty Victorian two bedroom home close to the city center with West facing garden.”

Journal Reference:

Sarah J. Gervais, Theresa K. Vescio, Jens Förster, Anne Maass, Caterina Suitner. Seeing women as objects: The sexual body part recognition bias. European Journal of Social Psychology, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.1890
Cite This Page:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “How our brains see men as people and women as body parts: Both genders process images of men, women differently.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2012. <

5 thoughts on “Men as wholes, women as sums of their parts.

  1. Hmm… At least in the case of men the focus bias for parts likely arises out the biological job of male mammals.

    1) compete with other males to weed out the weak genes
    2) impregnate as many females as possible

    The focus on parts may be part of the mechanism by which the male attempts to determine which females are most likely to generate offspring.

    A female focus on parts seems trickier to explain. The best theory I have at the moment is that females are competing for men, and they know that parts will often be a deciding factor.

    I’m less sure that men are seen holistically. It seems more likely they are seen through the lens of their ability to provide for the offspring they create. In their teens and twenties women seem pretty open to many different kinds of men, but as the child rearing years approach the landscaper is going to lose out to the doctor pretty regularly.

    Men see parts. and women see bank accounts? Everybody sees what biology has instructed them to pursue?

  2. The other day I was having a discussion with my wife. I think we were talking about the Weisenberg thing of Hollywood that producer guy and the me to stuff. And at some point I was making the point about yeah it’s true man see women as objects, And that could explain why men treat women the way they do. I was saying it’s just a natural thing, I don’t think it’s a cultural construction. The fact of the matter is this. But, it is possible to have a sort of what I could call “partitioned existence” , where despite the fact that I’m generally attracted to the physical’s presence of female bodies, I am able to identify more with there being human as a platform from which to carry-on in the world. I say this having come upon a sort of new manner in the past year or so maybe (incredible enough) where my appropriation of bodily parts so far as one way of coming up on a woman, does not commandeer this other way this way of just seeing human beings, at that, with parts. It’s a matter of weighing perception I suppose and being cognizant and responsible for our perceptions.

    Because if you think about it it’s not exclusive to me as a man upon women but that it is generally predominate and eight that could be a cultural construction so far as it is waited “naturally “in that way.

    I mean when you think about it my brother-in-law is a fit mofo; he is a fucking brick wall of healthy guy. He is a doctor and a surgeon is an extremely into physiology biology mental health physical health etc. when I see him sure I see my brother-in-law but the thing that strikes me when I go to about talking about him is that he’s extremely buff and solid. My go to for describing him, a man, is about his parts is about his shoulders and his physique.

    So I don’t think that it is mutually exclusive to women that men look at women in this way, but men may look at all things in that way that it just so happens that in a rather is Zizekian Way, all things of subjectivity are objects; in the most extreme example of this is really the Internet activity of making love can be understood as a type of masturbation.

    But nevertheless, this is why I agree with the fact that we need more female voices in philosophy. I even go so far to say that I’m not sure that what we consider “reason“ in the Western tradition reflects what is human In the best and most explonatory light.

  3. and, I would say that I wouldn’t be able to represent a female character in any good sense in writing fiction story or something like that. But also I don’t think I’d be able to write about man in that way either.

    I find myself in a sort of middleground, just barely masculine enough to hang out with a bunch of guys but yet somehow feminine enough to hang out with a bunch of women without insulting them or looking upon them as things I want to have sex with. Please polemical categories that we want to put everything in for the sake of fear he I think is likewise a masculine way of situating Theory. And that’s why when you read people like Judith Butler you have to wonder how much of herself she compromised for the sake of being in bedded in the system in order to make change. And I have to wonder right now about all female academics in the sense; I feel like it’s a shame almost. But accommodating that Admittedlypatronizing view, I see it as a necessary evil, at that, because of the systems that are in place. I myself can’t merely attack philosophy for it’s ridiculous methods and singular vector approach; I have to get in there, and act is if I agree with that approach and suddenly start bending the tracks, turn the discourse into something that is more able to view it self, but you kind of have to do it without bringing attention to yourself. It’s so ridiculous. Lol.

  4. … me as wholes women as parts. … didn’t Judith Butler write a critique about Freud and psychoanalysis that had to do with the phallus Penis envy and the likelike 20 or 30 years ago?

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