Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feminism and Gender Debate (continued from FIFE).

So yeah, I've been debating a lot on topics of feminism with Dan of Life Scans Darkly (good music taste by the way). Both on this blog and over at Feminism is for Everyone. In the case of the latter, things have gotten a little off topic from what the original post was about. Our discussion began when he responded to an aspect of a question I asked another commenter, Lindsey, about part of what she had said about the topic of the post. From there, our discussion took over the thread and Dan has asked me if we could take it to email. Since the debate began public, however, I kinda feel it should remain so if there is anything more to be said (at this point I do feel rather done with it on my end). My blog gets pretty low traffic from what I can tell, so I don't think there is any kind of home advantage to speak of. Still, I hope fellow readers will stay cordial or at least civil.

To avoid unfairly slanting the discussion in my summery, anyone that is curious about this post please follow the link to the FIFE discussion board to see what this is all about. The topic does pertain to sexual ethics, so none of this is probably appropriate for minors (when has my blog ever been?).

As for the debate...

Dan, you asked last time if I could repeat my last comment for you to respond to here it is (if not clear to others, quotation marks indicate things Dan said that I'm responding to; these quotes are all from one comment posted by him and should not be read as a back and forth chat--see original post):

"Just as feminism was a result of femininity, femininity was a result of women. Logically - if there were no women, there would be no such thing as femininity."

That's... just...

Ok look, you just arbitrarily picked a sex to blame gender roles on. You could just as easily say 'feminism is a result of masculinity (and yes, PATRIARCHY), and that logically, were there no men there would be no masculinity (or femininity or gender). You offer no grounding for why the woman must be the 'other' of the equation.

"As such, gender no more "traps" women in femininity than a photograph "traps" a landscape in perpetual summer. The photograph is a depiction (result) of the landscape, just as femininity is a depiction (result) of female traits. It's not a trap - it's a portrait."

While I really don't want to drag out Susan Sontag, your photograph analogy is neither that accurate or to your benefit. There is the assumption that in a photograph you do capture something of the truth, but how does one capture?: through the framing and focus. A photo only conveys a moment, of what is in its frame, from the position of the lens--attempting to translate a three-dimensional temporal reality into a stagnant two-dimensional moment. What is outside of the frame, what happened before or after the shot... all excluded. The phenomenon of the event becomes a story, a document through the photo which can never be fully trusted on its own to convey real truth.

Femininity (and masculinity) as photograph is in this sense, at best like a stereotype: a projected assumption of the whole based upon an observation of a portion. So yes, where gender roles are upheld, gender does trap.

"It's one thing to be a non-feminine woman, but to rail against femininity itself is pointless."

I have nothing against femininity. My fiancee is in many respects quite feminine... when she's not kicking ass with a broadsword or pinning a sheep down for her folks to sheer. I have nothing against feminine qualities - both in the sense of western forms and my above description of gender being 'what each sex does'. Behavior is not the problem, its the constraints of gender upon behavior. It's the part where behavior becomes designated and dichotomized by sex.

"As long as women and men exist, so will gender."

As long as women and men exist there will be women and men, gender designations have increasingly become blurry within our society. We are no where near as strict as we were. Women can play sports, men can more and more acceptably be stay at home dads. Men can more acceptably cry. There is a major problem with women being raped in the military, but at the same time there is a lot more acceptance within this generation for them going to war. Forms of behavior have become much more open to both sexes, there is no reason to assume they will not continue to progress.


OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

Frame, focus, lens, dimensionality – for pete’s sake, it was an analogy. If I'd said it was like a painting, you could have talked about how brush strokes don’t perfectly mirror reality. The point was that femininity is a *depiction* of female behavior, like a photograph is a *depiction* of a landscape.

That being said, there was nothing arbitrary about my statement. I couldn’t have “blamed” men for femininity any more than I could say they “invented” electricity. Electricity, like femininity, would exist without men – under a different name no doubt, but a rose by any other name... Femininity, however, would not exist without women. Yes, I’m “blaming” a gender role on a gender.

I do agree with your assertion that when gender roles are upheld - and I took this to mean enforced by society - they can restrict individuals' behavior. However, my initial response to your assertion was based largely on my above point - it seemed ridiculous for women, for example, to feel trapped by femininity seeing as they're the feminine sex, and the basis for femininity. That, and to the tune of the last paragraph in your post - women aren't too "trapped" these days.

Lastly - and this is to some extent a separate conversation - it is my belief that, while recent societal developments have opened up the opportunity for individuals who do not conform to masculinity or femininity to express themselves unhindered, when given total freedom from societal pressure, most people will hew to the traditional gender roles established millennia ago.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

"Frame, focus, lens, dimensionality – for pete’s sake, it was an analogy."

Again, you address my extensiveness instead of my point: that, "Femininity (and masculinity) as photograph is in this sense, at best like a stereotype: a projected assumption of the whole based upon an observation of a portion." I broke down the analogy because it better supported my point than yours. Gender, femininity, is like a photograph of a landscape—say, of Mount Rushmore, where the photo—which with all the procedural factors I detailed before, is taken by someone—captures only Jefferson's face, but is held up by its photographer to be a complete picture of the mountain. I say ‘blame’ because the photographer calls a picture of Jefferson’s face a photo of Mount Rushmore, instead of a part of it. Of course you cannot say men ‘invented’ electricity, because they discovered it, observed it, but were they to say that, ‘energy is electricity’, in the sense that it is the only kind of energy, you would tell them to keep observing. You would blame them for a false depiction of energy.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

“Femininity, however, would not exist without women. Yes, I’m “blaming” a gender role on a gender.”

I used ‘arbitrary’, because you have neatly chosen to disregard any historical and social contexts for how a given femininity developed – let alone the way gender works, which is not as a specific behavior but simply behavior allocated to one sex as how that sex is to behave (i.e., it’s not blaming “a gender role on a gender,” but ‘a gender role on a sex’).

In their early stages, societies developed distinct roles for the sexes out of physical circumstances; this can be seen as the origin of gender (not just femininity). Survival didn’t always mean having money to buy food, it meant laboring to plant crops and hunt meat. Pregnancy leaves women with a period of vulnerability, which while it has been seriously reduced, was a major problem the more primitive a society was. It’s very difficult to kill a deer with stone tools when you are 9 months pregnant. Thus, the formula that frequently developed was that males became the supporters of pregnant women—particularly in monogamous societies or, as a result, producing monogamous societies. From there, in the days of high mortality rates and no contraception, pregnancy became a full time job and thus men simply provided for women period. As society developed and the utilitarian need eroded, the roles of this relationship still persisted and became even more elaborated. (Contraception was and is still heavily resisted by some, after all.) Some women grew used to being ‘the weaker sex’ but ultimately most didn’t know anything different, nor did men for that matter. Originally, a system had been needed to address pregnancy in order to survive, and anyone that deviated from that system wasn’t just 'abnormal', a social pariah, they were usually seen as a threat to the group’s survival. That sense of threat persisted. So, is it really surprising that, as you depict, “most people will hew to the traditional gender roles established millennia ago”?

So, I also say “blamed” because you make all of this sound like some easy choice that women alone made, and that it is “ridiculous” for them not to still accept gender regardless of societal growth and technological development, because “they're the feminine sex, and the basis for femininity.”

11:15 AM  

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