Wednesday, March 3, 2010

FLG Has Biases

He knows this. To try to compensate he likes to read from as many perspectives as possible, including feminists. Now, one would conclude from the previous sentences that FLG is somehow a misogynist if feminists are the opposite of his biases. FLG doesn't see it that way. As he has said over and over, he wholeheartedly agrees with the idea that men and women ought to be treated equally and have equal opportunity. He, however, has less time for the idea that they are the same and that equality means equal outcomes in all fields.

Furthermore, FLG accepts that many gender traits may very well be socially constructed, but he has precisely zero time for the idea that biology plays no role in the differences. This isn't to say that biology is the sole determinant and certainly isn't to say that because something is biological or natural that it is therefore right or just. There are just certain indisputable biological facts that have relevance in political and policy discussions. Some examples: Men are stronger than women. Paternity can be ambiguous, but maternity is never. Etc.

Also, FLG also has issue with the logic feminists deploy. Too often a single exception to a rule is presumed to disprove the rule, and so this leads to a post he read at Feministing that bothered him:
The fact that these varied experiences with hooking up can all exist and be equally valid--that one lady can be perfectly happy sleeping with a different guy every weekend and another can't imagine having sex with anyone but the person she wants to spend the rest of her life with--is the very reason that most feminists have long defended the sexual revolution against its conservative critics.

By this logic, it would appear that if even one woman enjoyed having sex with different guys every night, even if most other women were miserable, that somehow if we could magically getting rid of the hookup culture, then it would be terrible because it would constrain the one lady's choices.

It continues:
I think many in my generation are quick to offer an impassioned defense of the hook-up culture to (often) older concerned critics because we have seen--and lived--this diversity of experience; we know girls and guys who've been hurt by the hook-up culture and those who've not and everything in between. The hysteria over hooking up flattens the complexity of our histories and relationships.

The issue for conservatives is not about knowing girls or guys who have or haven't been hurt. To put it statistically, it's about overall averages. There's probably a normal distribution of these things. Conservative critics are arguing that 1) the female distribution and male distribution of the benefits and consequences are different and 2) that the female distribution is skewed more towards the negative side. That a friend loves hooking up and doesn't seem affected now does not disprove this.

And then it gets to the most frustrating logic I always hear from feminists:
And Amanda notes, we also need to focus on teaching "boys to appreciate girls more as human beings." I agree. If there is one thing I hope for the next decade's worth of debate over the hook-up culture it is this: that we do not ignore the ways boys are affected by it. This is at once insulting to them--since it assumes they are a homogenous bunch only looking to get laid--and lets them off the hook too easily--because too many of them do take advantage of girls and it should be on them to change their behavior, not on the girls to guard themselves (their hearts and their vajayjays) against it.

What's frustrating is that it's always society's or male's fault. Either society needs to change or men need to change. Usually both. Now, let me, for the sake of argument, concede the point. Let's say men are assholes and that is the real problem with the hook up culture. This is like arguing that people shouldn't be told to lock their doors, the problem is thieves.

A similar, but slightly different, argument comes up around rape. Whenever conservatives say that women need to be more careful getting when drinking or with whom they go back to their place or whatever, the response is always accusations of blaming the victim. And I'm sympathetic to that accusation, but it also ignores a key point. Feminists often repeat tropes like, "If there were rapists, then there would be no rape." Which is true, but also useless. "If there were no criminals, then there would be no crimes." But there are criminals, and so you take precautions like locking your doors and not walking alone in dodgy neighborhoods at night.

16 year-old boys are jerks. They have always been jerks and will always be jerks. This doesn't make it right or just. It just is. Saying that the problem with the hook up culture is that boys are jerks and that is what needs to change, while perhaps true, is much like wanting the Sun to rise in the west.

The answer to this is apparently, though, suck it up:
We can definitely do better. But even while working to make the hookup culture more equitable and satisfying for all, we also have to acknowledge that mistakes and regrets and heartbreak are part of sexual and romantic relationships--particularly those scary and confusing and wonderful first ones. As (slightly) older and wiser ladies it may sometimes be painful to see our (literal or figurative) younger sisters feel shitty after drunken hookups or cry over immature 16-year-old boys who don't have a clue.

Now, on one hand I see the point, which is that it's better to have the choice and possibly fuck up or get hurt, then to not have choice or be otherwise constrained. But this seems disconnected from the usual attacks on conservatives concerned about the hook up culture, which is usually goes along the "they're trying to reassert traditional gender roles" lines. If you admit that there is some pain from the hook up culture, then a fair-minded person would have to attribute at least part of the conservative critique to concern about the well-being of young women. And I think that is actually the point. Conservatives legitimately see a lot of pain in the hook up culture, particularly for young women.

But then this is the kicker:
But as feminists we have to remember what our job is--and what it isn't. Our job is to make sure that young people have the information and resources they need to have safe sex whenever they have it. Our job is to make sure that girls can explore their sexuality--even make missteps along the way--and not be socially punished for being "sluts." Our job is to help ensure those immature 16-year-olds eventually grow into mature, caring men. Our job is to provide models of healthy sexual relationships of all kinds--from one-night stands to decades-long marriages. Above all, our job is to teach girls--and boys--to be emotionally resilient, learn from every experience, and keep searching for what's right for them. Our job is not to shield young women from the risks of being human; it's to make sure they are granted the freedom to explore their humanity as fully as possible.

Their job is not to discuss whether or not to have sex and at what age or with whom. That's a forgone conclusion. No, it's about providing information and resources about how to do it safely. To provide examples of healthy sexual relationships, not necessarily loving or spiritual relationships.

Personally, I think much of the conservative concern about the hook up culture is both overstated regarding the consequences and, in particular, the scope and depth. Sure, people hook up, but most people who are having sex are in committed relationships. Or as committed a relationship as a teenager or early 20-something can have.

On the other hand, I find the feminist defense complete off-base. You can't say your job is simply to provide information about safe sex when in the next breath you admit that there are emotional causalities on the other side of that decision. It's just irresponsible. It's not just about making people emotionally strong, but also acknowledging that any discussion of safe sex has to discuss the possibility that there is emotional risk in sex. Conservatives argue that women are more likely to have emotional consequences, and I tend to agree, but even if you assume that boys and girls are equally at risk for feminists just to ignore the existence of it or write it off as an inevitable part of the process seems both cold and unrealistic.

I think I've said this before, but if I had to sum up my problem with modern feminism in a nutshell it is this -- they assume that men and women are the same (ignoring or dismissing as irrelevant all logic or evidence to the contrary) and then, and this is where I think they make the biggest mistake, often argue that women ought to act in a way that was traditionally associated with men. Be sexually empowered and even aggressive. Be ambitious. Be assertive.

That's the fatal flaw, I think. Feminists decried that traditional power structure and roles, but accepted the existing rules. Their solution to male power was and is, often and ultimately, to act like men, which is futile and stupid. Women aren't going to beat men at their own game.


Julia said...

I agree with you about almost all of this, but I think that you're underestimating the degree to which women are naturally assertive and ambitious. Some of us aren't faking it.

Anonymous said...

I think the same view as I gave on Yg can be fruitful here: it's throat-clearing to indicate that you are on the same page as your soul-mates. Do it well, you get invited to the nice parties and the pretty girls show interest in you. Accuracy? Pfui! dave.s.

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