Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Feminism and me

So, I mentioned previously that I am trying learn about feminism.  My wife is taking a minor in woman’s studies for her associates degree because (aside from the fact she is truly interested) it’s a study path that gives her the most credits transferable to her bachelors in political science. So, I’ve been reading her textbook and some of the recommended supplementary reading.

So, here (at my currant level of ignorance) is my opinion of feminism.  First off, I think feminism makes a lot of valid points.  It asks questions that it wouldn’t occur to most people to ask.  For instance, most people are probably aware that women, in general make about 75% of what men make.  Some people are aware that women primarily make less because they work less hours, for fewer years, with more frequent career and work site changes.  Adjusted for this, you would find that women make 93% of what men make.

Feminism, looks to the fewer hours, for fewer years, with more frequent career and work site changes and says, but why? Because we have a two tier job market: One tier for people who have no other imperative responsibilities but servicing the job (most of whom are men), and a second tier for people who might need to change hours, or be absent from time to time (most of whom are women).  Now, lest you think the first tier exists to provide good employment, it doesn’t.  The high wage earning man can be fired at any time.  No, the first tier exists to service the industry, and the second tier exists (with poor wages) to subsidize the industry of  first tier and not the people in it.  Factories can’t keep churning if the (predominately men) on the line have to nip off to pick up sick kids.  Nope, thats the woman’s job.  Women make less because if they don’t take crappy jobs that let them take care of the kids in addition to work, their husbands will get fired.

Bravo feminism! I would have never noticed that on my own.  The perspective of women showed me something I, as a man, would have never thought of.  It turns out that there is a lot more flexibility of hours (and far less hours all together) in Germany and France, and better social protection (ie, getting paid even when you can’t go to work) yet according to the UN and CIA those countries have as-good-or-better a standard of living as the US.  So, a system with less hours, more flex, and more social protection doesn’t even have to hurt.

But then, I randomly run into these perspectives, under the umbrella of feminism, that are just bat-shit insane. Notably, that Marxism could fix everything if it was just given the right chance, that the phrase “blaming the victim” is a magic spell that can be invoked in any context to absolve the victim of any responsibility whatsoever* and that a the media, and not a person’s choice to believe all outlets of the media are a fount of truth is the cause of bad self image.

*I note here, there in some cases the victim has no responsibility; Rape is such a case. Child abuse is such a case.  Poverty is not. Poverty has many causes, some are systemic but some are personal.  The people of the US, and the government they elect has not even scratched the surface of the systemic causes of poverty, but that policy failure does mean that we can ignore the personal issues.

I am glad there are feminists out there, and their probably needs to be more.   I think feminism is imperative to the healthy functioning of democracy. If I had a sum of money to give away, I could give it to some feminist agencies with clear conscience.  I support the goals of the movement.  I support the spirit of the movement.

But if Marxism is the answer, what was the question?

October 18, 2009 Posted by | feminism, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boobies and Feminism.

Several months ago, I was reading an ongoing message-board about feminism.  A lot of the guys were saying things that I found reasonable, and a lot of the women were pretty distraught with the guys’ statements.  One women, a self proclaimed feminist, made a point that went something like this…

“You have no idea what you are taking about.  You aren’t even entitled to an opinion because you don’t even have the facts to form one.  You are reacting to what you think feminism is, instead of what it is.  Take a single semester class in women’s studies.  Read a single book on feminism.  At the least, go to feminism101.  Just please, don’t ask a feminist to take the time to argue with your strident ignorance of the most basic principals of feminism.  Know what the hell you are talking about, and we will go from there.”

I was offended, and yet…Did I really know anything about feminism besides what I had heard from Rush Limbaugh and my pastors?  I had no real facts, instead I had my feelings, about second and third hand “facts”.  So, I sat down and read through the Wikipedia article on feminism, read through the feminism101 site, and took a cursory pursing of women’s studies.

The majority of expectations feminism holds for society and the individual strike me as both reasonable and moral, so I make an effort to meet these expectations.  Most of them are very simple, like “Women should have the same value as men.” or “Rape is caused by the addition of a rapist.”  Some are more complicated, like “Don’t view women objectively”, the subtleties of of which are little difficult at first. Observe the following images…

nude1142

In this image, the woman’s breasts are the center, the focal point.  The eye naturally goes to the central portion of an image.  In fact, if you draw an imaginary line from the top left corner to the lower right, and another from the upper right to the lower left, you will see the lines cross almost perfectly in her cleavage.

Now, compare that to this image.  Again, the cleavage is perfectly centered in the “cross” of the image.  The total focal point of the image is the breast. It’s superficially similar to the first, except something uniquely subtle and horrifying has happened in this image.  It’s not a woman anymore! The first image is a naked woman, and breasts are the focal point.  The second is just a picture of breasts, completely divorced from the human being that is them and the sum of all her other parts and thoughts.  There is no mouth to speak, no eyes to communicate subtle emotional state, no hands to suggest ability, and little body to express body language, age, or strength.  The breasts are completely dehumanized, an independent object with no humanity.

I agree with feminist ideology that objectification harms the objectified and the objectifier.  That said, I love me some boobies.  Often, I make eye contact with women not because I want to, but because my desire to stare at their breasts reminds me to.  I find breasts captivating.

There is no real reason to be captivated by them.  I haven’t been in middle school for a long time.  Seeing something I enjoy no longer produces any fantasies about it.   Nor am I in high school anymore, I have no urgency to see women I don’t know, in any state of partial undress.  If the opportunity provides itself to glance, I take it, but I’m not out looking for it.

In fact, it’s mildly frustrating.  I wish I could turn it off sometimes.  Today we were at the grocery store and a woman was going up the same isles we were, but from the opposite directions.   Her breasts were just really interesting.  I successfully didn’t ogle, stare, ect., but the amount of effort it took not to was irritating. It wasn’t a sexual thing, but a bouncing bosom is simply more fun to observe then rows and rows of nearly identical consumer food products.   Why? I dunno.   Some people say evolution.  Some people say sin.  All I know is that for two swinging sacks of mostly adipose tissue, they sure get my attention.

Ultimately, that relates to my greatest disappointment with feminism (and several other ideologies, for that matter).   For most males, the female breast, in almost any context, is more fascinating than any other viewable item in that context.  When feminism seeks to teach society acceptable and unacceptable ways to act upon that fascination, everyone wins.  When it seeks to pathologize that fascination, everyone loses.

My apologizes to the vast majority of feminists who respect the makeup of both sexes and merely seek to see women valued equally to men, you folks are not whom I am referring to.  Thanks for reading, all.

July 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Feminism, Sex, Values, me, and a beautiful woman.

So the last post was actually supposed to lightly touch on feminism and talk about an experience I had recently.  I realized that I would have to explain what I meant by values so much in the comment section I made it another post of it.  Anyway…

Feminism means different things to different people.  Ask one person what it means to be a good feminist and they will give you different answer than another person.  Despite the lack of clear guidelines, I think “feminism” is an implied value system.  Like all value systems, the resident values thereof are self evident to the practitioners and somewhat arbitrary to everyone else.

I have over the last 6 to 9 months become functionally aware of some basic feminist thought.  Aware enough that I know some feminist would say that parts of my thought life are wrong (ie, a sin against the feminist value system.)  So I want some feedback (preferably from feminists) on the following story.

A while ago, I had had some things to do which required me to sit through the standard “boiler plate” reading of some instructions.  The task took seconds, the instructions took about 20 minutes.  Even though we were all done, the person had to read all the instructions.  This had to be done twice.  So, I had about 40 minutes to do nothing but stare at the person talking.

The speaker was a woman.  The first thing I noticed were her eyes, they were the deep brown-black of espresso. She had glossy, black hair which bounced on its slight wave as she spoke.  Her skin was a creamy camel brown, with a dusting of chocolate freckles.  The makeup and clothes she wore were very tasteful and classy.  She was full figured, and I thought she was beautiful.

My form was filled out, and my mind wandered as she spoke.  I thought about how beautiful she was. I thought about how I would like to be seen with her or someone who looks like her. I thought about how lovely her skin must feel.  I wondered if she was married or single.  A glance at the enormous rock on her platinum wedding band told me she was married and to someone of some comfortable income.  I wondered if she was clever or funny, if she was a good story teller, if she knew good jokes.  If I could magically take her out to dinner without it being wrong for either of us, I wondered what we would talk about.  I wondered what she would look like naked, and wondered what kind of partner she would be in bed.  I wondered if her husband found her as desirable as I did.

At the end of it of the instructions, I had to turn in my papers to her desk at the front of the room, and wait as she looked them over.  I’d noticed earlier, she was wearing a low-cut blouse, and I took a fraction of a second’s view at her cleavage, which I found quite pleasant.

Now, I pose this to any feminist who wishes to help me understand.  Did I do anything wrong by your values?  Never once did I think I had a right to stare at her, nor did I stare inappropriately.  I was supposed to be looking at her, and I spent the vast portion of the time looking at her beautiful, brown eyes and freckled face. I didn’t oogle.  I didn’t think then, nor do I now, that she was an object.  I did think about sex with her, but I thought about it in passing, and in the context of a relationship.

Was I not supposed to notice that she was attractive?  Is there something wrong with desiring sex with an attractive woman? Is anything I did or thought, somehow unethical?

I welcome all comments on this one.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Male Privilege and me

Privilege.

Hello, I am a white, straight, male. This means I am the privileged member of the Patriarchy.  When I first started reading feminist blogs the whole Patriarchy thing really pissed me off.  It seemed this whole bugaboo with really bogus standards of existence: “Don’t believe in the Patriarchy? It’s because you are the Patriarchy!” I mean, I’m not sure that there isn’t a conspiracy which that couldn’t be applied to.  “Don’t believe in the Reptilians? It’s because you are one!”  “Don’t believe that Elvis is alive and the truth is being suppressed by a conspiracy? That’s because you are part of the conspiracy.”

Several (male) posters made this argument.  A lot of the responses were vindictive, cruel, and not particularly helpful.  With time, though, I heard some good data.  First of all, that the concept of the Patriarchy is the most misunderstood concept in feminist thought.  The Patriarchy as visualized is bunch of old white dudes with mutton chop side burns and full beards.  They’re these semi-immortals that have been locked in a boardroom since 1885.   They’re wearing old suits, sitting in overstuffed leather chairs.  There’s mounted endangered species everywhere from antelope to zebra.  The guy at the head of the table leans back in his chair and pulls a long drag on his huge, expensive cigar.

mutton1

“Boys,” he says with British accent, “we gotta do something about these feminists!”

General “Harrumphs!” ensue.  The men smoke cigars and drink bourbon from crystal glasses as they control and manipulate the whole world, sliding little brass tokens across a sepia world map.

The truth is both simpler and more complicated.   There is no boardroom.  This is not a conspiracy of the grand sort, this is a conspiracy of peers.  Friends take care of friends.  People feel most comfortable with people that look like them, act like them, value what they value.   That’s the basis of a whole lot of ‘isms, racism and sexism most obviously.  It’s not a purposefully conspiracy, it just happens.  Life is series of choices.  When we don’t force ourselves to think about, we make choices that are helpful to people like us.  The people that aren’t like us don’t quite advance as fast as we do.  With time, people think the backwardness of the people who “aren’t like us”, is accepted, a given.  It’s the way it was meant to be.  Then come moral statements.  They’re like that because they are morally inferior.  They don’t advance because lack the moral fiber it takes to succeed.   Because we don’t hold them down on purpose, it seems like the most reasonable explanation for their failure is themselves.

The Patriarchy is the end result of this advancing people just like us.  The tiny, top of the pyramid of exploitation. The reason that most people in charge of the world are white, straight, and male.  I am member of this privileged class.  I get that now, and I accept it.

But it would wrong to feel guilty for it.  I didn’t choose to be born the straight, white, male child of two college educated parents.  That which I did not chose, I will not apologize for.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  Now, if I use this position of privilege that fate granted me to fatten myself at the expense of others less fortunate, then I have done something wrong.  I have become the exploiter.   But on the other hand, I did not make this world.  I am not the person who said a white, straight, male’s opinion was more valuable than other peoples’.    And I will not take my “bully pulpit” and ignore it.  Me not using the position of privilege I have as the person I am to make the world a better place,  would be as wrong as me refusing to walk just because there are people out there who can’t.

I admit it.  Society privileges me.   And I vow to use that for good, and not evil, and never to feel guilty for it.

April 16, 2009 Posted by | feminism, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Using our genitals to sell meat product.

Textual Fury, Feminist 101, maybe Lottie?, and a couple other blogs I read have all mentioned Womanist Musings

Feminism sort of makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not going to rule out the possibility this is because I am part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  I take that possibility seriously, and when I read self-described feminist material I do so with an open mind.   I think that movement which aims to have all human beings treated as such is worth one, and even if I don’t always agree with the conclusions, I think a democratic society needs the voice of feminism.  That said, sometimes the the things that upset feminist are frankly confusing to me.  Consider this: a post providing a juxtaposition of two food commercials with both blatantly and sexualize men and women.  One is for fish sticks, the other for pork sausage.   The fish stick commercial is about salmon.  Salmon is pink, which (in case you live in an Amish community) is a slang term for the intervulvalar region.  The other one very obviously using the phallic nature of sausage.  So both ads are selling food by talking about genitals.

Renee, the author of Womanist Musings, points out something I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.  The fish stick is passive and objectified.  The only way the female is show to have any power is by allowing herself to be viewed.  The male, on the other hand is shown as active, powerful.  The sausage is doing things, going places, improving things.

That’s a good insight, and think accurately describes the ad, as well as the cultural undercurrents which allow such a presentation to get our attention in the first place.  However, I think the fact that the giant, greasy dick-of-a-sausage getting flippin’ eviscerated at 0:18 partially contradicts the “Ah yes, the penis is so great, look at all the stuff it can do.”

The first commercial shows women being objectified by showing off her “pink”.   The second shows what the ad carefully construes as a penis being emasculated.  Isn’t coercive emasculation at least at bad as the exploitation of stripping?  Can’t we say that both are equally destructive to the human experience and both are exploitative?

I don’t want to be “that guy”.  The guy that always finds some bizzare, left-field example to counterpoint every feminist argument, so that he can stay comfortable with his vindictive, entitled way of seeing the world.  I agree with her overall viewpoint on this.  I just think that a dick getting sliced and diced is not really the best example of phallic worship, no matter how awesome the narrator hypes it up to be first.

April 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rape 2

tears

In my earlier post about rape I mentioned the Christian/Conservative/patriarchal party line as my starting point, my beliefs in high school. I explained why I felt this view was wrong, and I agreed more or less with the feminist party line.  That post climbed up over 1000 words and I quit, saving the second half for another day.  This is the half where I admit thought I agree with my own conclusion, I am concerned by the direction society has taken in response to the tension between these two view points.

For some reason, women trust me.  They tell me things they would not tell other men in their life, and this contributes greatly to my disillusionment with Christianity.  Being a fundamentalist home schooler, my high school was the kitchen table, and not a lot of sexual coming of age happened there.  The place that “grew me up” was my job at East Iowa Bible Camp.  A busy lifeguard, I sat stone still, watching my grossly over crowded pool carefully.  There was room for two my stand, and to make sure I didn’t miss anyone, I didn’t talk.  I just listened.

Girl after girl sat on my stand with me.  Enjoying the comfortable silence for a time, and then beginning to talk.  And they told of their rapes.  I don’t remember the numbers anymore, just that it was more than half.  These beautiful young women, with their shining eyes and easy smiles had been raped.  So many of them had been raped.  They were worship leaders, youth group assistants, nursery volunteers.  They were young the face of Christianity, fresh scrubbed and facing the ‘morrow.  It still disturbs the hell out me as I write it 12 years later.

I knew from TV shows I’d watched, the important thing to say, was that it wasn’t their fault, and while I said it to still their tears rolling down their faces so incongruently in the summer sunshine, sometimes I didn’t believe it.  One friend told me she knew she was raped, but didn’t remember.  Klara (not her real name) had been drunk, and she remembered doing a strip tease for the boys at the party.  She woke up with her panties around her ankles, her crotch feeling raw and damp.

Another friend was four.  Her mother left her with a good Christian neighbor everyday.  The neighbor’s son was 10.  He raped her.  He raped her everyday until they moved to the mission field, eight years later, her a budding young woman, him finally legally an adult.  We’ll call her Gina.

These two women never told each other their stories.  Neither ever knew the other was victim, and I’d given my word I wouldn’t tell.  Inside, I seethed.  Both were raped, both had something horrible happen.  Both were shattered inside.  But one was actively trying seduce a stranger and had, with full knowledge of consequences, consumed a huge quantity of alcohol.  The other was four years old.  In general, I agree with feminism, I agree that rape is far to common, but I have always felt any definition of rape which puts these two acts on the same moral level is less than ideal.

I remember believing that raping a drunken promiscuously dressed woman should not be punishable to the same severity as raping an “innocent” women.  This retrospect belief sickens me today.  Feminism taught me that woman should be able to do and appear as she wishes and that only thing that makes for a rape is the addition of a rapist. I feel that is mostly true.  I also feel saying Klara’s experience was as equally not her fault as Gina’s is an enormous slap in the face to Gina.  I feel that saying the only contributing factor was the addition of rapists elevates a Klara as much as saying “She asked for it” rapes Gina anew.

My second confusion is about alcohol.  A woman cannot give consent if she is drunk.  Even if she says yes, her yes is meaningless, because she lacks the ability to consent, and cannot be held accountable for her action.  Yet man, no matter how drunk, rapes if he does not hear and heed a “no”.  This is a horrible double standard.  In short a woman is not accountable for her sexual behavior when drunk, yet a man is.  This is patronizing so called “positive discrimination”.  It is clear sexual Uncle Tomism, that says that woman are weaker and less accountable and need more protection.

This issues are where I step away from the party line.  I am not making statements of fact.  I am stating my understanding of the facts.  I could have them wrong, and I welcome correction.   Please feel free to comment and set me straight, that’s why I wrote it.  I would really like to hear something from some card carying feminists on these two issues.  Thanks for reading, all.

March 5, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Politics, Religion, Self discovery | , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Rape 1

rubens_rape1

I’ve wanted to write a post about rape for awhile now, but it’s a pretty hard topic to write about. I’ve never been raped though I have been sexually assaulted a few times. I want to write about it because I want some discussion on it from my readers. If you never comment on anything else, this is the blog. Unfortunately, I have my usual problem of with holisticness. I can’t talk about rape without talking about gender, sex, feminism, and society. This means a lot of variables which introduce a lot more chance for me to accidentally spew bullshit.

(The purpose of my blog is to purge myself of bullshit. I am out here, saying to the whole world, “Hey, call my bullshit.” So, readers, if I say some total crap, be gentle. I’m here to learn.) Now that that’s out of the way…

When I was in high school, it was incredibly important to me to develop my world view. I’m not sure if my experiences are unique to me, if all young Christian me, all young Christians, or all teens in general feel this pressure to have an opinion on everything. I think because of Christianity, I was in a group of people who believed that they had special revelation about how the world should work, the pre-packaged world view I and other de-cons have mentioned before. The church calls this having a ready answer. I also believe that the rationality that my father taught me as a method for interpreting scripture helped me to be a rational thinker. It was important to me to have an answer that was really defensible.

I believed that rape was a crime, a terrible one that should be punished with death, but only in the case of real rape. A wonderful American girl with good clean hobbies, perfect teeth and and well earned scholarship to a small, but challenging private college, is snatched out of parking garage and raped after a prolonged fight with her assailant.

But in the news a lot was something called date rape. A woman would dress like a prostitute, let a man get her drunk, take her home, get her naked, and then say no. Well, that wasn’t rape at all, she acted like she wanted sex, then got upset when she got what she had, through her actions, asked for all night. I wasn’t sure how this should be treated, but certainly it didn’t deserve the death penalty. This could not be what God intended when he said that a rapist should be killed. If fact, the Torah says that a woman who is raped where others can hear her, and doesn’t yell for help must herself be stoned. (Deuteronomy 22:24)

I remember the scuff about Clarence Thomas, and similar stories, and the consensus among my peers was that these girls hadn’t really been raped, because they were asking for what they got. I remember the humorous incredulity in regard to news story of prostitute who had been raped. You can’t rape a prostitute, we reasoned, you can only rob her by not paying her afterward.

So, now I am an atheist. One of the things I have done is try to examine the claims of people who’s view I rejected outright before. Some I have found that I still reject their ultimate thesis, Muslims, for instance. But feminists surprised me. I found that while I don’t agree with everything they say, I can test many of the basic theories of feminists with a skeptical eye and burden of evidence, and that these theories pass.

You might notice I said “girls” in reference to the alleged victims of rape. I know that they were over 18. Yet, they are called girl, for the same reason that a 50 year old black man is called boy. An unconscious display of power, a statement of the hierarchy, a re-establishment of pecking order. I know now that what this is, and I try to eliminate such patterns from my writing and speech. And the feminist taught me a lot about rape.

First, most rapes are not what I described above as “real” rape (though it too is real). That would more appropriately be called “Hollywood rape.” It’s quite rare. The place where most rape happens: a woman’s own bedroom. The person most commonly raping them? Someone they trust; how do you think they got in the bedroom? Now, I know some people will read this and think to themselves, oh well that’s not real rape.

Rape by someone they trust in their own bed? That can’t possibly be real rape because that wouldn’t happen to nice girls. Whether you realize it or not, if you are going to be really honest with yourself, if you think that sort of rape isn’t real, it is because you have decided that a girl in her bedroom with a man she trusts is already guilty of wanting sex, so she can’t be upset about the man giving it to her. I used to believe that, so it is with some authority that I say, how mind bogglingly stupid.

Imagine going to a hospital and saying you are interested in a vasectomy. You talk to the doc for about an hour, you take the brochure, and you get up to walk out. At the door, the doctor shoves a needle into your left buttock. You instantly don’t feel right, you turn around and fall. As the world goes black and you become increasing powerless you feel the doctor pulling your pants off. You wake up, and you have a vasectomy. You’re not going to sue are you? After all, you’d been asking for it for an hour.

Two women both go to Applebee’s. They both go with someone they trust and care about. They both dress quite revealingly for the pleasure of being seen. They both get quite tipsy. They both get taken home and carried to their bed by their date. One is raped. One is not. What’s the difference between the two situations? The addition of a fucking rapist.

It’s not the way they dressed. It’s not the way they talked. It’s not the drinks they had. The only thing that got one women raped, the only thing that made the situation something terrifying and twisted was the addition of rapist. The problem is not the victim, the problem is the rapist.

Not every man is a rapist, in fact most aren’t.  The problem is not the woman.  The problem is not men.  The problem is rapists.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Politics, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 17 Comments