On Sexism

I think that what I like most about our painfully long election season here in the U.S. is that the cultural constructs just keep flying up into the air left and right.  (No pun intended.)  Of course, in typical American fashion, we don’t actually try to resolve any of them.  Most of the time, we don’t even let their respective discourses out of their pigeonholes long enough for a taste of fresh air.

I’ve decided I’m going to plug away at them one by one until I run out of words.  First it was anti-intellectualism.  Then, elitism.

Gender issues?  Now there’s something I can’t resist taking a swing at.

They come up on this blog from time to time.  As in Thoughts on Synchronized Diving and The End of Times.

Probably because I don’t usually watch cable news, or anything at all on Fox, when “sexist” started flying around the Democratic Primary trail, I dismissed it as political posturing.  Thank the teevee god for Jon Stewart though, on whose show I saw with mine own eyes a medley of pundits referring to Hillary Clinton as sounding like she’s “asking you to take out the garbage”.  Holy shit! Really?  I thought media figures were at least obliged to publicly affect some contrition after they revealed that kind of idiocy.

Spin on though, spin on…

It’s what they do.

And then, then, the Republican party presented those of us in the lower 48 with Sarah Palin.

Oh my is the “sexist” moniker flying now.

Spin on though, spin on…

I do believe, however, that we really are seeing the hand of gender play a significant role in public dialogue.  We should take the time to examine it while it’s this close to the light.

Here is my first question:  How are Barack Obama, John McCain, and Joe Biden going to remain adequately involved with their families while they are in the White House?

When people asked similar questions about Sarah Palin, I wish she would have said, “Well, at least if I get the job I’ll be able to provide my family with health care.”

We’d call it “gotcha respondalism”.

So let me say this:  I believe that the very fact that millions of women have personal debates about how they would like to balance raising children and pursuing careers puts them eons ahead of men in controlling their own lives as well as their relation to gender.  Eons.

I know exactly one “stay at home dad”.  One.  I also know that he hears a lot of crap about it.

Let me break it down this way:  Each person only has 24 hours in a day.  I believe it is ideal that each person be able to direct how he/she would like to spend that time.  But, efficiency aside, no one gets 25 hours.  Furthermore, for most people, time spent at work is not time spent with one’s family.  You can have both, but not at a total exceeding your time and energy.  Women know this.  Women debate this.  Then, a bunch of people who believe they have a right to tell women how to resolve that debate step in and try to do just that.  They do not have that right.  Nonetheless, there is a lot of social pain related to that patronizing (in every sense of the word) attitude.  Men however, are simply not having enough conversations about how we each would like to frame our own lives as related to families and careers.  There may be less acrimony, but it’s only because we’re too immature to have the argument.

And, oh do I wish it stopped there.

Apparently, the porn industry moves with lightning speed.  Because, apparently, there is already Sarah Palin look-alike porn out there.  And, no, I have not seen it.

I have seen, however, sexually incriminating and insulting Photoshop work of George Bush, John McCain, and Vladimir Putin, and others.

What rings loudly for me here is the way in which each of these types of sexual depiction insult the candidates so differently depending on each candidate’s sex.

I’ll try to sum it up this way:  The biggest wrong in objectifying people (almost always as done to women) is not in revealing that a person plays some role as an object.   The issue lies in denying all of the other aspects of a complete human being beyond objecthood.  In philosophical speak, it is denying one’s subjectivity.  And so it is in the Palin look-a-like porn (I’ll imagine) that she is (I imagine) presented as a physical object, a hot body, and as an object of desire, as a recipient of actions (that I won’t imagine).  In contrast, when depicting Tony Blair “going down” on George Bush, for example, not only is the image presented as repulsive (not desirous), but it is intended as commentary on their action as subjective beings, i.e. criticizing decisions and actions they chose.  It’s very much opposite.  And, it is certainly sexist.

Finally, there is one other problem that I want to address concerning our culture and gender as it has arisen through politics.  It is one that I admire Hillary Clinton for fighting against and one that I believe Sarah Palin is shrewd and goal-oriented in avoiding as a topic of discussion.  It is the deeply ingrained association between masculine gender characteristics and the exercise of power.  I believe this remains a significant and unbroken glass ceiling.  Whereas I think a lot of people have accepted that ownership of certain genitalia should not present a hinderance to career advancement, we accomplished much of the initial growth toward that acceptance upon the burden of women who executed their roles with characteristics typically associated with masculine gender.  And construct your own personality as you choose, please.  In fact, women earning some social acceptance of women adopting “masculine” qualities accounted for overcoming an important hurdle.  But, I think American culture is having a harder time understanding how management and executive action can be successfully accomplished through styles and structures more often associated with the feminine.  I’ve seen it done, so I know it’s possible.  It’s happening somewhere as you read this.  My thought and hope is that as a track record of those successes slowly continues to emerge, eventually, this next glass ceiling with melt, rather than crash, away.

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