Monday, 20 February 2012

Men do, women judge

Over at GendErratic (an excellent feminist-sceptic blog), blogger Typhonblue has been ploughing a distinct furrow - that mainstream feminist thought is misogynist because, in defining women as passive victims of  "The Patriarchy", it denies their agency: i.e. their capacity to act and effect change. It's persuasive, but I think it's missing something - what women get out of this arrangement. On one of her threads I left the following comment:

Something that occurred to me relating to Typhon’s “agency” thesis. Wasn’t sure where to put it, but here seems as good a place as any.

I think there’s another to wrinkle to this. It’s not just that men act and women don’t, or men act and women are acted upon – there’s also the cultural belief that men act and women judge. It’s part of the mating dance, and a huge part of mating-dance-reinforcing fiction, that men must prove themselves before women will judge them worthy by bestowing their favour. It’s even there in action moves – the female lead “rewards” the male lead with her favour after he’s been sufficiently heroic (feminists notice this and describe the female characters as “prizes” being given to the male characters as a reward, but that denies the agency of the female characters awarding themselves as prizes based on their approval).

We can see it in the infamous “white feather” campaign in WWI – and how many “oppressed” people throughout history have had the power to shame their oppressors into throwing themselves into hell with just implied disapproval?

I see it in my day job working for a housing authority, in the disdain and horror of unemployed women at having workmen in the house to do repairs, walking dirt into their nice clean carpets with their nasty dirty work boots, and generally getting work all over the place.

Women are rewarded, or reward themselves, for their abdication of agency with the belief that they are above acting. Men, collectively, accept women’s authority to judge their actions, without asking if the women judging have walked a mile in their moccasins. That’s why feminist propaganda that paints our identity and sexuality as inherently abusive and selfish has been assimilated into mainstream thought with so little opposition. It’s also why men often react to feminist scolding by, instead of opposing them or telling them to shut up, trying to get them to see our point of view – and also why feminists call that “man-splaining”.

We want women’s approval, because we believe that will validate us as men, and we are distraught when we receive their disapproval instead. Feminists, as bullies do, respond to our approval-seeking behaviour by teasing but ultimately witholding approval to manipulate us into doing what they want (see, for example, Tom Matlack). That’s also why they’re so mean to “nice guys”, because “nice guys” are basically approval-seekers.

I see some encouraging signs that some men are waking up to this – the latest round of feminists attempts to define a “real man”, or a “good man”, are meeting with some resistance from men who, rightly, say that defining men is for men to do, and women can butt out.

Since I wrote that, my attention has been drawn to an article at Scientific American, by Jennifer Ouellette, about the supposed "chilly climate" for women in science. At one point she says:

If a woman calls you out on your behavior, instead of getting angry and defensive, just say, “Wow, I never thought of it like that. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. It wasn’t intentional.” Cop to the behavior, and we can all move on.

It reminds me of a storm in a teacup in November 2010, when cartoonist Kate Beaton complained on Twitter about a fan who had said he wanted to have her babies, saying it was a "shitty, disrespectful ‘compliment’" as well as "uncomfortable, sexist and unfair". Some people, rightly to my mind, argued that she was taking it the wrong way, to which Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics among other books, said:

It may be true that men and women have traditionally adopted different styles of communication and there are some men who might have reacted differently if roles had been reversed, but now that you know it’s offensive to say such things, it’s kind of ridiculous to argue the point.

Two people, one female, one male, demonstrating the assumption that women have the right and the authority to judge men's actions, and that men have no choice but to accept that judgement. It's an astonishingly sexist attitude, one of the many unexamined sexist double standards favouring women, and when held by a woman, such as Ms Ouellette, incredibly entitled. Imagine being able to say "I object to that. I don't need to justify my objection, you just need to shut up", and have society agree and back you up.

Feminists deny women's agency, and women accept that and play up to it, because it gives them covert power. It's a power they've had since "Patriarchal" times, that allows them to dictate to men and to society, and to escape responsibility for their actions, all the while insisting they are powerless.

I mentioned the White Feather Campaign in my comment on GendErratic. In case you're not aware of that, during the First World War, the government mobilised women to hand white feathers to any man not in uniform who appeared of fighting age, to shame them into signing up. It led to teenagers lying about their age to enlist, and to honourably discharged wounded soldiers reenlisting. Emmeline Pankhurst's Suffragettes were enthusiastic supporters of this campaign. Even before women had the vote, they had power.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. You are touching on a major aspect of gynonormativity. One post triggers another.

    This is Ginkgo, btw.