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I think the trend is changing, though -- the fact that more and more women keep their names when they marry, for example, shows a trend away from patriarchal marriage. Another piece of evidence is that these poor fools have to put up a billboard to remind people of "traditional" family values.

As for me, not only did my wife keep her own name, she's the one who proposed to me -- ring and all. Of course, we had been living together for a couple of years by that point, and had been dating for several more. If only we'd seen that billboard!

The ring is merely a symbol of a long term relationship. Not all relationships are for procreation, but many, many are. Nurturing and raising children, in my experience, is best accomplished within a dedicated relationship. There are always exceptions, and individuals are free to make choices, but there is some basic biology to consider here, which is how such a social norm comes to be.

Yes it would be nice if parents and society allowed kids to explore themselves and find out what makes them happy and not worry about following conventions. We all need a little liberating.

I agree that the trend is changing. Still, I find the mentality that you have to find a husband still pervades. I remember a girl in undergraduate studies telling me that she was their to get her M.R.S.

Maybe, it's another backwards Alberta thing...

Shaken, remember the message is abstinence. Is sex only for procreation? Isn't birth control an option?

Polly, there is an equivalent imperative for men to find a mate as well. Of course, one does not have to. Again, I would say this is a norm. You asked me if sex is just for procreation. I would not pretend to know the answer to that question. That being said, if that is nature's sole purpose for sex, then one would think that conception would be nearly 100%. There must be a biological advantage to a much much lower probability, and this is likely (again, I speculate, how can I possibly know?) about maintaining the bond of the relationship. Stability in the relationship tends to improve the outcome for offspring (again, not always, but usually), as it takes such a large and long investment to raise human offspring, long term relationships provide a basis for meeting emotional and physical needs of children over that long haul. Again, there are always exceptions. I've always seen sex as a mutual experience, just as I see the responsibilities of raising a family.

Adopting the social norm of marrying and raising a family is a choice I made, and I am very glad I made that choice - my relationship with my wife is rewarding beyond description, and I marvel at every day I have the honor of sharing a life with my children. This is what I would wish for anyone: that they have the freedom to make their own choices, that those choices are informed by wisdom, and that at in the perspective of time, they are satisfied with the choices made.

Living is a fine balance between fulfilling immediate desires, and seeing further down the road ahead. We could be struck by lightening tomorrow - we could live to be 106. A life plan that focuses at one end of the timeline, or at the other, can hardly be considered optimal. Live for today's pleasures, or forsake entirely until some far off future date. Neither is really a fully functional plan.

I think the sign is about providing some wisdom to sexually mature but perhaps relationship and resource immature young adults. It's a bit of a stretch for me to think of it as a patriachal harness. It's not the only approach to life, and not the only wisdom out there, but it has its place. For sure, following this course can prevent unwanted pregancies, so it's a valid option, and a valid piece of wisdom.

Well, certainly there are biological reasons for most bonding- we benefit from others in our lives, community. No problem there. Parenting partnerships are often beneficial in many ways, ranging from true co-parenting to just an extra set of hands. I am not saying that this is limited to male/female parenting either.
But this does not seem to be a debate about parenting and biology, this is about the notion that sex is something to broker to get other needs or wants met, whether marriage,a promotion, validation, or "bling". The idea that sex is something to offer up or withold, as though we derive nothing from it! That is not the same as saying that the bonding of sex may in fact have a biological rationale. But we can have both the bonding aspect of sharing and also recognize that we deserve to be sexual people in our own right.
But in our girl-destroying culture there are reasons for this externalizing of worth too- we condition girls to think this way. Aspire to get married! Stay thin, pretty, catch a good stable man! Do we say that women should consider their own resource building?
Perhaps the boss that mentioned the cow was misguided...what if he had said "why not be sure you have resources, an education, some savings, some autonomy...then consider marriage". THAT might have been more acceptable than reducing you to a commodity like milk!!!!
Who judges choices like that anyway? Oh, for the love of judgemental bosses!! WOW.

You're so right, RM. It's so bloody annoying because it's part of this whole process that you describe as "the externalizing of worth". And, this relates to my post on porn, because it's like women's sexuality is always constructed in ways to please others and establish their worth, rather than relating to their own desire and fulfillment.

An earlier commenter alluded to a "girl-destroying culture". As the father of a young girl, of course, I am quite concerned about this. The problem I have with such a viewpoint, notwithstanding that some girls are destroyed, is that it instrinsically is a statement that girls are innately unpowered, or underpowered - they are vulnerable to a more powerful force. They are not. Girls are as powerful as anyone. They must learn to recognize their power. I teach my daughter how advertising works, and why it works, and to recognize what strings are being pulled, and how. I am teaching her to be aware. I am doing my best to make her alert, and aware, and informed about the choices she makes.

There is more to say, but for the moment, statements that position women and girls as victims, inherently robs them of their power.

You can only be destroyed if you allow yourself to be destroyed. Be strong.

You are saying that girls have innate power undaunted by externalities then you say that you teach your child about advertising, etc. A bit circular, no? You seem to be making a leap that elements that erode self esteem are invalid because of this innate power, and yet you seek to educate your child about what you see as irrelevant?? With all due respect, I think you need to rethink this position and read the context in which this was stated. To say that the culture has elements that are disempowering, corrosive, or destructive TO ME, FROM MY VIEW is simply an acknowledgment of the very same forces you are talking about ie marketing etc.. You sound like you disagree but then you sound like you agree and your comments seem to support my point rather than the other way around!
All people might possess an inherent power, worth, energy, whatever you want to call it. But this does not mean that elements of our culture do not serve as obstacles to a female's ability to be in touch with that, or impede the ability to internalize autonomy and worth. I did not call females victims nor did I derive any concluding point from a victim perspective. I do not believe women to be weak, victims, powerless... but that does not mean that I cannot see how marketing or discrimination is designed to sell messages that tell women they are not ok as they are. What I am refuting is the notion of ascribed worth from externalities.
If you see women as unmoved by culture, as immune to any destructive elements- why do you educate them about it? According to what you wrote, their power is within and these aspects would be irrelevant.But you teach them because these elements are not harmless, are they?
In my opinion, I teach my girls otherwise because these factors are not irrelevant-- and denying their existence does not acknowledge more or less power to women.
Thats like saying that a person of color has innate power and so we do not need to talk about racism because they can only be discriminated against if they ALLOW it. Thats not really true or fair to say as far as I am concerned! Try to apply your logic to multiple situations. If women are unmoved by chauvinistic behavior, why does is have such a harmful effect? It is not a matter of 'letting" somebody destroy you, I can be a powerful woman and be raped and my 'power' has been comprimised, hasn't it? It does not reduce me but it certainly is an act of force and violence. My internal power and self worth would not change the fact that in that sense I am a victim.
To invalidate any victim is not a right that I possess. I can not make conclusions about the validity of anyone else's power or lack thereof. I can say that yes, women are powerful beings with strength but I can also suggest that we indoctrinate our children with messages that are damaging.

Girls and women are absolutely vulnerable to a very powerful force - it's called sexism, and its a very real form of oppression that takes form in everything ranging from insults, legislation, violence, poverty, and so on.

Just as RM says, you can't pretend sexism or racsim away. Also, I don't believe that being a victim is antithetical to strength. I have been victimized in my life, but that does not mean I am without power. This is once again a male, dualistic construction of vulnerability and power. Indeed, it is my vulnerability, my humanity, and my strength to overcome that breathes life into my sense of purpose and power.

Girls and women are vulnerable to sexism. In other words, they are less powerful than men?

That's sadly defeatist. I would never, ever put such a notion into my daughter;s mind. She is not vulunerable. She is strong.

Shaken,
I think the trouble here is that you are drawing conclusions based on what you THINK I am saying. Who says that because a woman is vulnerable to sexism that she is less powerful than a man? Why do you necessarily draw THAT conclusion? We do not derive our power by relativism, and there are no absolutes. Our sense of power changes with age, circumstances... one day to the next at times. It is not a fixed thing. Its a process of an evolving self. That we all have potential and strength- I agree.Perhaps you are confusing acknowledging sexism with saying women are limited. Thats not what was said.
It is a matter of acknowledging oppression and not equating external forces, good or bad, with empowerment but recognizing the legitimate impact of those forces.. Vulnerable is not necessarily weak, to succumb to sexist forces and permit others to control your destiny is a different matter than saying that an admission of influence makes us powerless.
Your statments seem to work like this: You bought lemons therefore you must be making chocolate cake. Your conclusions are not based on what was said. Its not only illogical but does a disservice to a discussion when you conclude something that I've not said because it forces us to defend an assertion we've not made.
Pretending that sexism does not exist does not deflate its impact on power- the opposite is true- calling it when we see it and addressing it when it exists goes further than denial. Truth is what deflates sexism. Strength is rarely found in shutting out reality, but in transforming that reality.
Its your 'in other words' that I see the disconnect.
Would I teach my daughter that sexism is a big myth?? hell no. Thats a misogynist notion, actually! I would tell her that other people do not define you, that you will be many things and people will seek to pigeon hole you in all sorts of ways- mothering, your choices of family, career, race... You forget that many people have MANY 'isms" to contend with. What if I were a black,urban, immigrant female AND single mother with HIV who happens to be a lesbian. I would have many forces trying to bring me down, and the strength part comes in how far we permit it.
Are you telling me that admitting to bias against me for ANY of those things amounts to an admission of powerlessness? Oppression goes beyond white little girls. You might consider a broader view, that takes a more generically 'human' approach to power. Can't we say that all PEOPLE have intrinsic worth, dignity, and power? That at different times, different oppressive forces like racism and sexism undermine our autonomy and so we must strive to transform that?

I would agree that all people start out life with intrinsic worth, dignity and power. But there are myriad ways that one can diminish that. Shooting garbage into your veins certainly diminishes one's worth. The only victim in such a case is the one doing the injecting.

Does sexism exist? Of course it does. But to what extent?

Would you say that 90% of men are sexist? 80%? 50% 20%? 10%?

I am on the right course with my daughter. She is happy to be a girl. The world is her oyster. Nobody can stop her. She is free to choose. She is a happy person, and likes most people. Most people are likeable. Some, not many, but some, are useless, awful, and a waste of time, oxygen, food and water. They had their intrinsic worth and power and squandered it.

Shaken,

I almost get the sense that this discussion scares you - You keep responding defensively as though we're trying to take something from your daughter. I am sure that she is a lovely little girl and that she will do wonderfully in this world.

I have to tell you though that one of the detectives in the sex crimes unit here in Calgary told me that he has always educated his daughters on the realities of violence aginst women. Does that mean he tells them that they are victims and powerless? NO WAY! He helps them become powerful by letting them form ways to protect themselves - like sticking together when they go out to a club.

Are all men sexist? Probably not in a serious way. But, all women are vulnerable to sexism.

We're not talking about violence here, we're talking about relationship contracts and abstinence, and why young man or woman would choose abstinence. The objection I understood you to be making is that this proves that men expect women to trade sex for material things.

I do expect sex in my relationship. I provide material things. These are both realities in a complex, rich and rewarding relationship. I believe if you asked my wife if she was trading sex for material things, she would promptly end the conversation.

I don't scare in conversation. I completely agree with education and awareness of the risks in life, of all forms, is vital in order to develop fully functional, healthy and self-sufficient adults.

As I teach my daughter of these risks, I also teach my sons of the risks. Some girls will use sex in a relationship as a point of leverage, which is unquestionably demeaning as well.

Perhaps there's something to the observation of fear. For some people, its almost like if we admit it, it has power over us instead of the other way around. I think we should stare it in the face though, not hide under the bed to be empowered, is really my main point.
We all trade lots of things for material and non-material 'things'. The parent that puts their infant into daycare and goes to work is trading that time for something else. It could be to be able to provide for the child, it could be to drive a Mercedes. Who can know? But we all make choices with our bodies, time, lives, skills, energy, etc. Its not limited to a woman giving up her body for material things. Sometimes it can be. But see in a good, real relationship I don't know if we look at what we are giving up or what we are getting, I hope that it is a mutual thing and that providing material items are not in exchange but as part of a partnership.

RM, it was my point that in a good, real relationship, it is a mutual thing. While I make no excuse for any abusive, violent or manipulative behavior, it has been my experience (fortunately) in life to see that most, by far most, relationships are like that.

But let's suppose one is standing in a dense forest, and around the place you stand is an area where all the trees have died. Based on that, one can conclude that all trees are dead. Elsewhere, other conclusions are being drawn based on other observations.

It's great to have a cause, but I believe one must be careful to be balanced. If one's rhetoric tends to indict all men, it is discounted by a large part of the population, because it is divisive, and conflicts with their actual experience in the world.

Draw a normal distribution curve. Take a section of the curve at the left end, and right end. Omit these extremes. You are left with the balance of the population, in which you will find happy, caring, busy, contributing and respectful men and women... the green part of the forest. It's important to keep perspective lest one's position be dismissed as orthagonal to reality.

But see thats just it- your 'all or nothing' conclusion. I never indicted ALL men. I think there are women that endorse and perpetuate sexism and discrimination as well, and I made no overtures of generalizations.
If I had a tree near a spring, with a supply of fresh water, but a drought came over part of the forest and some trees began to wither- not all- but the one near the spring grew robust and green, would I conslude that the drought does not exist? That because some trees are more susceptible to external forces than others, that we might equate the impct equally on them all? We are all different and ANY generalization or conclusion based on observation are not really applicable. I cannot talk to enough people one on one in my lifetime to make such conclusions.
I ca only say that sexism or racism, as examples, have been studied, documented, and exist whether power or opportunity exist alongside them or not.
I am not sure of this 'cause' you speak of. My only cause in this conversation is to say that it is not a black and white issue as you have framed it. This started with your claim that admitting to elements that are culturally based that harm females means I am saying they are powerless or defenseless which was never my point or statement, it was your conclusion and I have seemingly been back and forth ever since.
You can believe that admitting to destructive elements translates into defeatist thinking but I beleive the opposite, that denail solves nothing and lets perpetrators of bias get away with it.
A blind eye emboldens those that seek to undermine our autonomy. Power is real, and is relational to the world around you.

Oh yeah, speaking of bling and rings, an article about the 'real price of gold'- what happens during the process to get it from mine to ring, and what the costs are to the world. Now I won't be hypocritical and say I don't have any gold, I do, not that I wear it a lot. But I am guilty of really not giving thought to this until recently.
Whenever I rage about soemthing people say 'Well its unrealistic to suggest we never buy ---" But see heres the poimt- there are alternatives, and there is nothing wrong with having your bling in a more responsible fashion.
Tiffany's is listening- and they are pretty powerful in the industry. Maybe if a few more get on board...
http://losenoose.blogspot.com/2005/12/real-price-of-gold.html

RM, when you say 'culturally based', are you not referring to the majority of the area under the normal curve, less the fringes previously discussed? The thesis of this entire post appears to be that these evils of sexism, and the ensuing exchange of materials for sex, is imbued within the culture. Is not 'culture' established predominately by that population within some number of standard deviations from the mean?

So, within what proportion of that area under the curve is sexism a problem? How large is the problem?

All of the curve! All people manifest sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, etc...to some extent. Also, we're not talking just people here, we're referring to media, cultural practices, etc. Sexism is part of our culture. Men aren't the onle people who are sexist; women can be too. to what extent do people hold sexist beliefs? Well, perhaps we could measure them and plot them along a normal distribution. But, that is not the point. This is something in the culture and to which all women are vulnerable.

"All of them". So, you are sexist?

Well I too took graduate school statistics but am not really sure that this is the route needed for this discussion. I responded to your comments about power. I simply did not agree with your points about linking acknowledgement of sexism with a dismissal of power/potential.
I am in no position to make statistical notes about who does and who does not fall into the realm of culture as this issue is more complex than can be elaborated on here in a comment.
Simply put, I think that 'isms" hurt us all, it might be difficult to see this. We know a culture can mean many things to many people- you cannot accurately describe our 'culture' by taking the characteristics of x# of people and averaging them, and deriving Y culture. Then seek to draw conclusions about Y.
I am an American, but even that you would not know here. You cannot make assumptions about culture. Its too complex, in my opinion. Women have different roles and different opportunities in different cultures and judging them amounts to an assignment of values which can be hard to do.
Culture is not that easy to ascribe, we can exist within multiple cultures simultaneously. We have economic culture, ethnic culture, religious culture, we have mainstream culture-- where we supposedly share certain behaviors and aspirations, which is probably what you refer to. But show me a person that can define it? Yes, it refers to shared behaviors, beliefs, skills, roles, language, etc. But that not really a matter of statistics as our population statistics in America do not necessarily add up to the commonly held beleifs about our culture. Its deceptive, and the media has a role in defining a culture that may not represent the statistical majority at all.
Do average American have the income to buy $500 pocketbooks? No, but they do. Does the entertainment indistry accurately reflect the average sized woman? Certainly not. So what we SAY about culture is not necessarily the reality of culture. Thats why it is disingenuous to seek to generalize- for what gain?
if you talk about numerical majorities, in America at least, are women not the majority? Are people not typically lower middle class, with little if any college?
And yet these are not the people with power, the people with power are rich white men. Its very hard to address your points without getting into culture, power, oppression, marginalization, and then move back to sexism.
I think there are some great blogs and sites that could speak to this with more length than I can in a comment box, I think your terms make it hard to do this succinctly because some of the basic premises are flawed. Polly's blogroll has a lot of good stuff over there <--------.
This is, after all, not my blog, but it sounds like you need to step back, hash out your definitions, then get into your stat talk.

I have to admit I find this topic a bit curious. On the one hand this thread trashes what's essentially the religious right for spreading its message of absentance and essentially seeking to desexualize women until they're married. While another thread shortly thereafter trashes pornography for degrading and sexualizing women. To some degree the "porn" position is simply a more robust form of the entertainment establishment.

Now it seems to me that those two forces are pulling in opposite directions. Either women are overly sexualized and it shouldn't be out there and we should be mildly sympathetic to all the concerned revrends. Or on the other hand its their life, their body let them engage in whatever debauchery infront of as many cameras as they please.

Now those are the polar positions as it were, and what lays between the two is essentially the norm. Based on colloquial evidence I'm going to state that most women have sex before marriage with varing degrees of frequency, but far less than your average porn star!

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the proposition that both sides of the culture war in the US, want women to see sex as a thing for men or to please men. I don't think anyone is going to deny that men like and desire sex. I certainly do. I'm fairly sure that's a characterization applicable to the male gender of the majority if not all mammal species. How applicable the same is to females is something I really can't comment on, however, you all have hormones and your own biological imperative so I wouldn't assume its entirely different. Sex really isn't about power, its about attraction and desire. I'm willing to agree that there are all sorts of unrealistic expectations of what is desirable out there, but I don't think that it applies any more to women than to men. Perhaps society pushes every woman to look like Jenna Jamesion or Pamela Anderson, but to the same degree the perfect male is trotted forth in the same unrealistic manner obviously we're not all going to look like Vin Diseal.

Now, I think to some degree Polly your missing the entire point of the bill board up there. The sentiment isn't trade sex for a material object. The would be to take the billboard at face value. The underlying message is essentially don't have sex outside of a serious, committed relationship. Isn't that essentially what marriage is? A formalized version of that? A ring is simply symbolic of the commitment as it were.

I don't think there is really anything wrong about pushing the message that there should be something meaningful to go along with sex. Personally, I think associating it with marriage might be unrealistic and misguided. However, I supose those involved in such campaigns have their reasons. Perhaps they wish to aim high, and suceed somewhere in the middle. With the trend of younger and younger kids becoming involved with sex, if they at least buy the marriage line till they're really old enough to make a more informed decision I think these sorts of campaigns make a contribution to the public good. The underlying issue they seem to deal with is youths engaging in sex perhaps without fully understanding it.

With regards to the sexism and power issues that were raised by rivermomma, I have to wonder if that's not becoming something of a tired old chestnut to drag out. I'm in my fifth year of university now, and there are always as many if not more women in my classes be they in undergraduate or now law. I don't really see this mythical old boys club that so many rail against in action. Its true there may not be as many women in positions, of power as men. On the other hand is there really any definative way to say that mysoginy or sexism is the cause of it? Taking time out to have a family obviously impedes climbing the corporate ladder, or making the decision to work part time because of the same reason stalls careers. Thus on average its likely more men rise than females simply by virtue of putting in more hours and service. These are simply choices people make, and I really don't see any way that can ever be rectified. Women will continue to have and raise children ad infinitum. That will have economic consequences. Beyond that, there really aren't any barriers in place holding them back. Arguably within the public sector there are factors catepulting them forwards. After all fairly recently, Public Works circulated an advertizement essentially precluding considering job applications for straight white male anglophones as they weren't "diverse". Its also not an uncommon policy for universities to adopt. Now, those are very real and formal barriers. I don't really think anything of that kind exists today and is applicable to women.

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