Posted on | May 14, 2016 | 23 Comments
Stop objectifying her with your male gaze, misogynists!
Years ago, Professor Donald Douglas of American Power began a sort of blog feud with Occidental College Professor Caroline Heldman, and at the time I had no idea who she was. Back in the day (circa 2008-2012), I treated academic feminism as a joke, the way all conservatives did. Those were the years when I was up to my eyeballs in campaign politics, the Tea Party, etc., and it wasn’t until 2014 that I began seriously researching feminism. Among the weird concepts I encountered was object relations theory, a concept explored at length in a 2011 book Fixing Gender: Lesbian Mothers and the Oedipus Complex by Natasha Distiller. This brain-straining attempt to adapt Freudian psychoanalysis to feminist purposes has an ideological ancestry, as it were, traceable to Nancy Chodorow’s 1978 book The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychology and the Sociology of Gender. Not to delve into this too deeply, but because feminists believe everything is “socially constructed,” their attack on men, marriage and motherhood required them to develop a theoretical refutation both of (a) the idea that sexual behavior is a matter of biology, and (b) Freudian theory about the developmental origins of sexual behavior. Since the 1970s, basically, feminists have been blaming patriarchy for whatever they don’t like about men and sex (which is to say, everything about men and sex), and this is where Professor Heldman’s anti-male/anti-heterosexual propaganda becomes relevant.
How old was I the first time I rolled my eyes at the phrase “sex object”? No older than 19, I’m sure. “Everybody Loves a Pretty Girl” (Rule 5) is a fact of human nature, and all complaints about it are futile. Lecture all you want and write yet another book criticizing “objectification” as “sexist,” and still the fact will remain: Beauty exists, and men will always prefer beautiful women to ugly women. Nevertheless, despite the already vast library of feminist nonsense on this subject — Femininity and Domination by Sandra Lee Bartky (1990), The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1990), Beauty and Misogyny by Sheila Jeffreys (2005) — the same basic arguments continue to be endlessly recycled. To recite the main points of this dreary theme, there is no such thing as “beauty,” nor any reason (other than “sexism” and “misogyny”) why anyone would notice the difference between Kate Upton and Jaclyn Friedman.
Jaclyn Friedman, feminist (left); Kate Upton, supermodel (right).
According to feminists, it is wrong for men to admire Ms. Upton’s beauty, and also wrong to think maybe Ms. Friedman should lose a few pounds. Feminists insist there is no objective basis for preferring one to the other — no biological fact of human nature is involved — and anyone who disagrees is a victim of patriarchal brainwashing:
Overtly, the fashion-beauty complex seeks to glorify the female body and to provide opportunities for narcissistic indulgence. More important than this is its covert aim, which is to depreciate woman’s body and deal a blow to her narcissism. We are presented everywhere with images of perfect female beauty . . . These images remind us constantly that we fail to measure up. . . . The female body is revealed as a task, an object in need of transformation. . . . Every aspect of my bodily being requires either alteration or else heroic measures merely to conserve it.
So wrote Professor Sandra Lee Bartky in 1990, and this claim — women are victims of a sinister “fashion-beauty complex” — is one that feminists never get tired of repeating, as if repeating it could make it true.
Yet even if it were true, and if by some magical power (an edict from the White House or the United Nations) all the advertisements for fashion and beauty were abolished, (a) men would still prefer good-looking women, (b) women would still want to enhance their beauty, and (c) feminists would still be bitching about it. So here is a 13-minute video of Professor Heldman lecturing about “self-objectification”:
She made this argument in a 2008 Ms. magazine article:
A steady diet of exploitative, sexually provocative depictions of women feeds a poisonous trend in women’s and girl’s perceptions of their bodies, one that has recently been recognized by social scientists as self-objectification — viewing one’s body as a sex object to be consumed by the male gaze. . . .
What would disappear from our lives if we stopped seeing ourselves as objects? Painful high heels? Body hatred? Constant dieting? Liposuction? It’s hard to know. Perhaps the most striking outcome of self-objectification is the difficulty women have in imagining identities and sexualities truly our own. In solidarity, we can start on this path, however confusing and difficult it may be.
Oh, “social scientists” say this? Well, that settles it! You can prove damn near anything with “social science,” but never mind whether this is true. Correlation is not causation, and the question Professor Heldman wants us to ignore is, “Why would a women want to be a ‘sex object’?” Also, we must ignore another question: “Why is ‘the male gaze’ thus specified?”
Like all such feminist arguments, Professor Heldman’s rhetoric is superficially a criticism of media “depictions of women,” a Trojan Horse within which she conceals an attack on male sexuality. This kind of “consciousness-raising” aims to incite women to resent men’s normal behavior, and to view male sexuality as inherently harmful to women.
Ladies, if you don’t like Cosmo and Vogue, don’t buy them. If a TV advertisement offends you, change the channel. Everybody is free to ignore any media “depictions of women” they don’t like, and I’ve been criticizing media since before Caroline Heldman was old enough to drive. But while Professor Heldman pretends she is merely criticizing media, what she is actually criticizing is heterosexuality, both in terms of mens’s desires (their admiration of beauty) and women’s response to male desire. Women should never seek to be beautiful in order to attract male admiration, Professor Heldman insinuates, and any male who admires a woman’s beauty is wrong for doing so. Every woman is equally deserving of admiration, feminists would have us believe, and anyone who says otherwise is a misogynist. However women themselves may judge each other, any scale of value applied to women is “sexist” if it in any way reflects male preferences. Whatever men want is always wrong, because men are bad — this is the unstated premise of Professor Heldman’s “objectification” discourse, as of feminist ideology generally:
This anti-beauty message has been a core component of feminist rhetoric since 1968, when the Women’s Liberation movement emerged from the New Left and staged its first public protest against the Miss America pageant. Beauty pageants “epitomize the roles we are all forced to play as women,” the protesters declared, proclaiming that “women in our society [are] forced daily to compete for male approval, enslaved by ludicrous ‘beauty’ standards we ourselves are conditioned to take seriously.”
Notice the words “forced,” “enslaved” and “conditioned,” used to imply that these “ludicrous ‘beauty’ standards” are imposed on women against their will. Are women “forced” to play these “roles”? Do women “compete for male approval” because they have been “conditioned” to do so?
A careful student of rhetoric perceives how feminists employ tendentious language to depict men as evil oppressors and women as their victims. Similarly, we see how Professor Heldman employs the appeal to authority fallacy (argumentum ad verecundiam) by invoking “social scientists” as having proven the harmful effects of “self-objectification.” Whether or not this “research” proves what Professor Heldman says it proves, at what point does the ordinary human concern with appearance and grooming become that awful thing, “self-objectification”? Could we all improve our lives by ceasing to care what we look like? Should my teenage sons stop working out in the gym? Shave their heads instead of paying $20 for a nice hairstyle? Sit on the sofa and stuff themselves with Cheetos? Wear ratty old clothes instead of Abercrombie and Fitch?
Well, I could continue this argument further, but the shrewd reader perceives the basic point: Professor Heldman’s arguments are popular (that YouTube video has gotten nearly 1.3 million views) because she is telling unhappy women what they want to hear. “You are not to blame for your unhappiness,” feminists always tell women. “Blame the media! Blame society! Blame capitalism! Blame patriarchy! Blame men!”
Rationalizations (scapegoating and sour grapes) are attempts to evade responsibility for our own failures, to justify our resentments, or to explain away our disappointments. This is all feminism really is, a gigantic Excuse Factory, mass-producing self-justifying rationalizations for unhappy women. As Peter Lloyd says, “feminism teaches women they’re perennial victims and deserve whatever they desire.”
No paranoid conspiracy theory can compete with feminism when it comes to attributing unlimited evil to the all-powerful Them. Everywhere she turns, a feminist imagines herself confronted with the oppressive power of the patriarchy, and it’s amazing that any of the young women Professor Heldman teaches at Occidental College (annual tuition $49,278) can withstand all the social injustice they suffer, living under the constant hostile surveillance of the male gaze. Professor Heldman is promoting an attitude of sexual paranoia — “Fear and Loathing of the Penis” — which has become the core value of feminism in the 21st century. Feminists are against marriage, against motherhood, against capitalism, against Christianity, against men and thus, ultimately, against heterosexuality.
Could feminist theory ever succeed in changing men’s behavior? Is it possible that somewhere in the world, a lunatic pervert is now masturbating to depraved fantasies about . . . Jaclyn Friedman?
In a world gone mad, anything is possible, you sick freaks.
— FreeStacy (@Not_RSMcCain) May 14, 2016