Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Apr 28, 2009

It's Not a Compliment

The more I circulate through non-Objectivist communication fora on the Internet, the more I've noticed something that bothers me a great deal: people complaining about the "objectification" of women (and sometimes men) in "the media". This is a really common thread topic on The Escapist because huge jiggling boobs are a perennial feature of video games. Periodically some feminist or a male trying to be modern will feel the need to raise somebody's consciousness and start a thread about it. Either that, or someone partially infected with the modern quasi-feminist neo-Puritanism will feel the need to trundle out a load of guilt, tangled justifications, and confused psychologizing.

None of *this* really bothers me because I realized that the prevailing view of women as oppressed by American society is hogwash. I personally find it endearing that most (read: straight) men are so enthusiastic over female anatomy. I don't like it when otherwise ordinary (again read: straight) men attempt to pretend that they're "above" all those considerations and only interested in women for their "minds". If their pretense is thin (i.e. they have 800 Mb of porn pics on their hard drive), it's just stupid, and if they take their "modern consciousness" seriously they are repressing and in danger of making themselves psychologically ill.

I don't like it when guys are indifferent to beautiful women, but what really bothers me and, on occasion, has made me so angry I became incoherent, is the attempts by modern men to give me or other women backhanded compliments by saying that overdone women are UGLY.

Indifference is bad enough. Physical beauty is not something that just happens. It takes real work and a willingness to devote yourself to eating right, staying in shape, maintaining your skin and hair with painful exactitude, applying makeup, choosing and maintaining clothing, and a host of other tasks. It's not viewed as work because a lot of women do that stuff anyway, and some of it for reasons other than physical appearance. I don't do it myself, but if I were to go through all that effort I'd hate for my reward to be indifference. I think that this is precisely why I have such a hard time bringing myself to exercise those labors--because I am ingrained with precisely that sort of indifference, and I'm the primary beneficiary!

But saying that a woman who clearly has put in quite a lot of effort is "ugly"? To me, this is frankly disturbing. The ramifications of a statement like that are incredible, particularly when it is made in front of another woman as a sort of compliment, which is how I hear this most often. Even if I ascribe the best of intent to the man making the statement--he is saying this particular woman is not his type--it implies an ugly comparative standard. He is saying to the other woman present that she should be pleased because he is elevating HER appearance above that of this other, idolized woman. I'm sorry, but no rational person wants to be valued only because they're BETTER THAN someone else. They want to be valued because they are good by an objective standard.

The man saying this is, in effect, declaring that he has no objective standards, no judgment, and no respect for anyone's achievements. He is declaring that no amount of effort could raise your appeal if you don't happen to luck into his whimsical and probably undefined personal parameters.

What possible value could the admiration of this person have? It's completely random, influenced by factors even he is probably not aware of. Far from being a compliment, this sort of comparison is an insult.

1 comment:

Jaz said...

Read about this posting from Van Horn's mention in his this morning's post, and quickly clicked the link.

Fantastic post. I agree with your observations and have always been bothered by the underlying psychology. It is an attempt at assault of human values as such in a very basic sense when one thinks about it. It is an attempt to undercut human effort at acheiving and maintaining values as such.
Since these premises have for the most part not been formally identified, acknowledged and studied, (especially before Ayn Rand) it has acted as a silent killer with half-truths that has made culprits of both good and bad people, and men as also women are many a times involved in the crime (e.g. envy of other better looking, better dressed women from women who have not taken the efforts themselves for improvement but harbor these irrational feelings nevertheless).
In my view the perpetrators of this crime are willing to deny metaphysical existence into oblivion in an attempt to hold on to their tottering pseudo self-esteem.