I got a bit ranty in a comments thread over at LP today, but managed to epitomise some arguments much better than I often manage to do, so I thought I’d excerpt them over here as well. The blockquotes are from the commentor to whom I’m responding:
“And to the extent that women are victims of “fashion”, there is a huge difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. In the non-Muslim world the sisters are pretty much doing it to themselves. Most men frankly couldn’t give a damn about underweight, stretched-skin dolly birds – so don’t blame men for the self inflicted injuries that women inflict on themselves. In the west men have largely relinquished reproductive and economic control over women – all that remains is for the women to take responsibility for their situation.”
This was my response:
If most men don’t care about underweight dolly-birds, why do so many men continue to buy the porn and raunchmags and movies that star such women? Why aren’t men writing to the publishers and saying “give us real curvy women with real tits not plastic ones”? The market seems to be failing rather spectacularly to reflect your assertion that most men don’t actually like skinny sexbots with boob jobs.
Of course, what the skinny sexbots do represent that comes with a lot of societal approval is women engaged in unhealthy disciplines involving a great deal of effort, self-control and self-stifling in order to be “fashionable”. And the male purchaser approval of all that effort put into self-mutilation, starvation and self-negation appears to outweigh their, according to you, actual physical preferences, doesn’t it?
There must be a word to describe an attitude whereby large numbers of men encourage large numbers of women to engage in peculiar practises that men don’t actually care about except for the fact that they keep those women more worried about those peculiar practises than they are about other matters. Even though the men aren’t thinking too much about the process whereby their approval perpetuates and facilitates the peculiar practises, they notice that the women engaged in the peculiar practises are more malleable, and they definitely like that.
What might that word be?
He came back with:
Interesting use of the word “encourage” Tigtog. Not “require, “mandate” or “force”? Why would that be? Because as I said above, the sisters are doing it to themselves – and the few men that are encouraging them are probably clothes designers.
I would submit that even “encourage” is too strong a word, and stand by my view that men prefer a well built 12-14 to an anorexic 8-10. Last time I looked at a porn magazine, the women were generally well-built young things – certainly not the victims of starvation diets etc.
There must be a word for an attitude where women self abuse and mutilate, and blame men for the behaviour. What would that word be I wonder?
After a bit of snark about how I just bet he’s one of those lantern-jawed chaps who are too strongwilled to be influenced by enormous advertising expenditure, here I go again:
Is not society’s traditional view of gender roles one of forceful men and malleable women? Haven’t men who married non-malleable women faced the opprobrium of their own gender as being hen-pecked, be-shrewed, proven less than real men? Aren’t openly non-malleable women less likely to find a male partner?
Hasn’t one of the ways women packaged themselves for the traditional marriage market, in nearly every culture in the world, been a fetishised display of discomfort for the purpose of proving general malleability? Even in “advanced” countries the vestiges of this traditional gender divide are obvious simply by contrasting male and female clothing conventions.
I’ll believe misogyny has disappeared when fetishised female discomfort is not bestselling high and street fashion. I’ll believe it’s disappeared when corporate male bosses don’t insist that their female employees wear makeup, hosiery and high heels in their workplace dress standards: when being just clean/neat/tidy (like the male employees) is not considered “unfeminine”.
I’ll believe misogyny is all women’s fault when I no longer hear the same men who make the most merciless mock of women as slaves to fashion also make the most spiteful remarks about women who gain weight, all the while homosocially boasting to each other over the fellatio skills of their trophy girlfriends.
In a society where most people in both genders are gatekeeping the forceful:malleable gender divide as the pair-bonding norm, and discomfort fetishing is the major marker of malleability, it’s not fair to say that women are only doing it to themselves. Male expectations are at fault, and in a society where men still earn/own more, that tips the balance further. It should be noted that lots of men suffer needlessly from the forceful:malleable role demands as well.
(Usual caveats about generalisations of gender roles/expectations not applying to all individuals of the most closely associated sex apply)
I brought it over here because I hope to get some more thoughtful responses than I’m likely to get from the commentor in question. Fire away.