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…
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.
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.
I know when you say “I am atheist” people think, “Ah, you don’t believe in spirituality at all.” Actually I do. I believe, with the existentialist, that things, in general, have whatever meaning you give them. From time to time, I have these incredible dreams. One such dream is one of the first things I blogged back on my crappy Yahoo360 account and can be read here.
I was in little cabin, a shed almost. The wood was weatherd a dull, lifeless gray . Sunlight was pouring the open door, and I was looking out into these green, rolling hills. My wife was out there somewhere, waiting for me, but I couldn’t make my self go. Some darkness, some inner dread, kept me from walking out the door. I turned back to the cold fireplace, the fire long gone and stared at the ashes.
There was a captain ladder behind me to the attick and I heard the squeek of someone coming down. I turned, and behind me stood three women. The first was my highschool sweetheart. The second the woman I dated in college, and very nearly married. The last, a stranger to me. They were all beautiful, but etheral somehow.
They smiled, bitter sweet, slightly hurt smiles as they walked towards me. The two I knew gave me a speech, and it went something like this.
Dearest, we are your ghosts, ghosts of relationships long dead. You have kept your ghosts well and held our memories dear. But it’s time to grow up. Please let us go. Stop keeping the memories alive. We’re not real. The women you remember are long gone, and we can’t ever be them again, not in body, not in spirit. You can’t ever be the man we loved again.
Darling, you don’t need us anymore. You’ve held our memories because you were sad and broken then. To a broken you, our love, our compliments, our attention was the greatest thing you ever had. It’s not anymore. You are loved now, respected, treasured. You don’t need us anymore. Let us go.
The one I didn’t recognize stepped forward. She touched my face, gently. As I looked I recognized her. When I got kicked out of Bible college she was the waitress who offered to take me home at the end of her shift, the girl who folded my laundry when I forgot it at the laundry mat, the CNA who rubbed my shoulders as I charted the worst shift ever, the girl who put my arm around her at a hayrack ride in youth group when I was too chicken to do it. She was evey female that ever made me like I was someone special instead of trash.
They all held me.
“Goodbye, my dears,” I said.
“No hard feelings, beloved. Goodbye.” They said
I stepped to the door, and woke up
Once upon a time, Sunday morning was a hectic time for me. It was a time to get shaved, get dressed, hurry through breakfast, and get to church. Becky and I gave up on going to a church building Sunday mornings about a year ago. We still fellowship with people we love, which of course was the point of the commandment, but that is a blog for another time. The point here is that Sunday morning is a delightful time of lolling in bed, munching toast, and taking the time to really talk to each other.
If there is a better feeling than lying around indolently on a big, puffy quilt with the most beautiful wife in the world, I can’t imagine what it is. We talked about how things would have been different if only we had met sooner. We’ve been married for 6 years now. One of my only regrets about our marriage is we had to wait so long to meet, fall in love, and marry. If we could have met at 15, we could have gotten married at 16, and then, we would now have been together for 11 years. Since the last 6 years have been the best in my life, the idea of having another 5 on top of that is very attractive to me.
We’ve talked about this before, but today I said something that hadn’t previously crossed my mind, or at least I hadn’t spoken it to her. My wife, you see, is quite curvy. I mentioned to her that when I thought of her at 16, I thought of how much fun her uniquely curvy 16 year old self would be in bed. And she said…
“Really? When I think about being in bed with you at 16, I mostly think of you not knowing what the hell you were doing.”
That, ladies and gentleman, is the difference between men and women.