I very much enjoy reading and listening to Camille Paglia (because of her rapid fire talking I rather read than listen). She’s insightful and has a firm understanding of history at a fundamentally human level (if that makes sense). She likens the trend of photos taken from behind a woman (a la Kylie Jenner and her kin) to the ancient stone age fertility totems like the Venus of Willendorf. You know, the really obese stone totems of women.
Looking at them you must admit the similarities are fascinating. Paglia writes, “The sexual revolution sought and won by my 1960s generation envisioned women as responsible, mature free agents, equal to men. We certainly did not foresee that “booty pics,” reducing women to their buttocks like Stone Age fertility totems, would become a wildly addictive genre of Instagram self-portraiture.” When I read her idea of what we now call “classical feminism” I find the description to be rational and reasonable. Of course women should be “responsible, mature free agents, equal to men”.
I think feminism ran into problems on two fronts.
First, what being a “mature free agent, equal to men” meant was different to different women. I don’t think they set their objectives firmly enough to know what exactly they were striving for. Women who banded together to get the vote had a clear goal. When were they done? When women could vote. Clear, precise, with an obvious end. There is no obvious end to “equality” though. I know what I think it means. I think it means that women have the same rights as men and are judged based on what they can do not on what body parts they have. But I really do believe that somewhere along the way women got this notion that they could only be equal with men if they were just like men. They had to talk like men, think like men, have muscles like men, and they had to engage in the kind of sexual antics they thought men engaged in. I say “thought” because men are hardly the out of control sexual monsters they are painted to be. The whole myth that men think about sex every second of the day has been so exaggerated but it stuck and women have to live up to that myth.
Paglia believes that women have lost something important, vital, and powerful.
Women, she indicates, have reduced themselves (through a misguided idea of what feminism and the sexual revolution were) to stylized butts and boobs, and robbed themselves of, “…their once world-famous genius for portraying romantic passion.” She writes, “The current surplus of exposed flesh in the public realm has led to a devaluation of women and, paradoxically, to sexual ennui.”
It seems to me that feminism has done more to make women as men are and failed to understand that do so was never necessary for equality. We have been told that casual sex isn’t just for men. It’s for women too. What if it isn’t? Not that women can’t, but what if it’s not in keeping with their general evolutionary/psychological make up? We’ve been told that women should be assertive. Little girls are told about “girl power” and how they can be just like boys. I’ve said a lot lately about the difference between what you can do and what you should do. Sure, we all know women and girls can do things and that there are exceptions among both men and women when it comes to generalized ideas of behavior, but exceptions aren’t the rule and sometimes trying to make them so isn’t the right thing to do. Women can do anything but – should they?
As I said, there are exceptions. So when I ask “should they?” the answer is usually, “if they want to” which ignores the point being made.
I believe that we are finding the same is true with men and masculinity.
Men want to be men again. They want to be the things that they see as manly and they suffer an angst that requires an acknowledgement of their gender to get rid of. I suspect we are in a beneficial process of reversing the damage that feminism and the sexual revolution have done. I suppose it’s a little difficult for some people to understand that equality doesn’t mean being the same. That men and women can be equal but different. I feel that modern feminism doesn’t honor choice anymore. In our modern world a woman who wants to be a mother, who comprehends the importance of that role, she’s now frowned upon or made to feel that her life isn’t as important as that of a woman who has a “job”. What hogwash! It’s also hogwash that a man is somehow evil and predatory if he acts stoic, powerful, and manly.
I hope that we are in a correcting of things. I think part of that correcting actually has to do with the increased visibility of transgenderism.
A man saying he’s a woman, a woman saying she’s a man – I think – has caused people to reflect on just what it means to be a man or a woman. Is it something you can put on a dress and become? Can chopping of your breasts and putting on a suit make you a man? I firmly believe that most people are aware that the answer to that is “no”. There’s more to being a man, to manliness, than a penis. But feminism has reduced being a man to just that. And now it seems they’ve reduced being a woman to her butt turned toward a camera.
What an odd journey our culture has gone through, what a backwards twist I think we’re seeing. As I finish this ponder I am left feeling confident (and glad) that I believe we are turning a corner on these things and we are coming to a time where men can be men and women can be women in a natural way – meaning a way where we just don’t think about it all that often. But first we have to go through a readjustment period where people put on a show of their gender before they can just be comfortable in their own skin.