Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let's have us a conversation! accidental part 2

I wrote this as a comment on the last post, but I got an error from Blogger because it was too long :) so, you'll just get it as a regular contribution to the 'ol blog:

Look at this! What a great conversation :) I'm so happy, reading through all of this. Jessica, take your time.

Esther, you rock. Here are my thoughts after reading your comment:

First, I think the reason I shy away from the 'feminist' label is the same reason I shy away from a 'liberal' label. In reality, I'm both of those things, but I'm more interested in having conversations with conservatives and non-feminists than I am in just talking with people that think the same way as I do. If you sit down at a table with a bunch of conservative thinkers and say, "Hi! I'm a liberal. Let's have a conversation," it's not nearly as productive as just having the conversation without prefacing it with labels or expectations on either side. Lots of my friends are decidedly not feminists, but I want them in on the conversation because they have good, thoughtful minds and I think they could use good conversations like this more than anyone else I know. But once I say 'feminist,' they stop listening.

I love what Esther said about promiscuity and the possibility that media can, in fact, promote healthy sexual expression. Sex in the City is an interesting example too, because none of the characters on the show have really become celebrity sex objects in the way that, say, some of the cast of Desperate Housewives has. I think that's significant.

The only gender-opposite term I can think of for "whore" is "womanizer," and while it's not a positive term, it's significant that the female version isn't "Mananizer." Still, I think the idea that men are all congratulating each other for notches on bedposts doesn't work exactly like it does on TV either. That men care more about physical love than emotional love is just as destructive a blanket-statement as women caring more about emotional love than physical love. They're pseudo-scientific cultural cop-outs that I'm not interested in.

Here's another example to throw in the mix: Victoria's Secret. In theory (rather idealistic theory, yes), lingerie is a product that essentially exists for the purpose of helping women to empower their bodies and get in touch with their sexuality. In a healthy personal relationship, feeling sexy and having physical admiration for your partner is more than important; it's necessary. Physicality is deeply human and exploring our bodies should be celebrated. The problem is, you have to run a successful company in a capitalist economy, and when your product is sexual in nature, how do you advertise it? Their advertisements become primarily directed at the attention of men: Wear this, girls, and you could be as attractive to men as our models are! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've never talked to a single woman who feels empowered by Victoria's Secret's commercials or magazines. They usually feel inadequate, which unfortunately a pretty powerful way to sell a product. To get you to buy their lingerie, they've taken the route of making you believe they possess a level of sexual capital that you don't.

That's the root of a lot of these problems, I think: when sexuality is culturally understood on a sliding scale, 1-10, as something you can compare from person to person, something that's not innately individual, the whole culture loses a really wonderful, important part of its humanity. Our culture has developed such an innately weird understanding of what we all have to offer as individuals. Have you ever gotten to know somebody that wouldn't have made you do a double-take in the street, but becomes OVERWHELMINGLY physically attractive to you because you connect with them in a powerful way? We have the ability to make connections that are real, and THAT is where deeply human physicality comes in. Evolutionary psychology tries to explain things like modern male fetishization of large breasts as some kind of subconscious disposition towards fertility or nurturing qualities, but I think that's silly. The double-takes in the street aren't deeply human, they're culturally learned, through a lifetime of bombardment from Victoria's Secret advertisements.

Lastly I'm SO glad you're all willing to talk with me about this :) I'm very aware that as much as I can contribute as a male feminist, I'll never really understand it the way you kids can (Inside joke alert: Jessica thinks 'kid' is a primarily male noun, so I'm on a quest to use it for women whenever I can.). So understand that my intentions are usually good, and correct me when I'm wrong, and let's keep talking.

I had to copy and paste this into Word in order to get it here, and as it turns out, it's longer than the essay I'm supposed to be writing. Productivity!

Love, Luke

No comments:

Post a Comment