Who’s oppressing women? Royal baby edition

I recall going to a lecture by Naomi Wolf at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra when she burst onto the scene as the author of The Beauty Myth which seemed to promise some new beginning after the sixties’ and seventies’ ‘second wave’ feminism.

The obsession with women’s beauty and body image was certainly a good thing to be talking about – then as now. But I remember reading the book and liking it but being very disappointed in the ‘explanation’ for what was going on, which, as I recall was a ‘male backlash’ explanation. Men occupying the various Commanding Heights of Our Culture were threatened by feminism and from this sprang their attraction to beauty aesthetics which infantalised women, and associated beauty with androgynous physical qualities of female pre-pubescence. It wasn’t very well explained how so few men foisted this on so many women, but there you go.

This is all from memory so may be somewhat shaky. Feel free to correct me below.

However I wondered why the images which posited anorectic norms were just as strong, (my guess would be stronger!) in women’s fashion mags than they were in magazines for the male gaze. And what’s the ideological significance of this for gender issues in our culture? I don’t want to promote the idea that one gender is more to blame than the other. We’re all part of the culture. But it did seem to me that the female gaze – on other females – was a big part of the story – and since it was inconvenient for Wolf and lots of other feminists of the time to acknowledge it, it received short shrift.

Anyway, when I saw this article on the media coverage of Kate M’s ‘Mummy Tummy’, I thought it was a good exhibit for my argument.  Here’s an assertion which I’ve not researched. There are very few men gazing at Kate holding her baby thinking critically about her still somewhat swollen tum. But it does seem to be a subject of interest to plenty of women. I doubt you’d see much on Kate’s inability to unswell her tummy within 12 hours of giving birth in any men’s mag, but I’m thinking that the coverage on this topic is receiving coverage in women’s mags (though of course also in general reading newspapers what with their readership being fifty odd per cent women – I’m guessing mostly tabloids).

Am I right? If I am I wonder why the facts are as I’ve described and what their significance is?

 

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prismaticmarcus
prismaticmarcus
8 years ago

i’m reminded of something a very good female friend said to me once, ‘when women ‘get ready’ in the morning it’s not for men. it’s for other women’.

conrad
conrad
8 years ago

I think you’re right, although I’d also bet that even many females these days think that, in terms of body weight, females judge females more harshly that males judge females (or at least use qualitatively different types of judgment). Fat ankles etc. — I can’t even begin to imagine worrying about these things, and I’m not really sure how many males find anorexic-style models attractive. This seems historically true also — if you look at art throughout history in terms of the most beautiful females forms generally men could create (e.g., Venus), there arn’t too many anorexic ones. And last time I went to the Norman Lindsay gallery, it was pretty clear what type of female forms he liked!

I’d guess the same is true of males judging males versus females judging males too, it’s just that people don’t talk about this nearly as much since it doesn’t lead to the really dire consequences nearly as often as it does with women. I don’t see women worrying too much about things like baldness, for example, but it seems to often do terrible things for the self-esteem of men that get it early in life, even though the only one that really cares is the person going bald (and other males can feel relieved that they are yet to go bald, for no real reason given few people really care about it). Another example can be found at the gym, where the group you are most likely to impress by having huge muscles is other males trying to grow huge muscles.

desipis
8 years ago

Am I right?

You may be right, but what’s the point of feminism if not to blame all societies problems on the mens?

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  desipis

And that’s why it’s all but impossible to have a sensible discussion about this.

Now someone with a personal grievance against men will weigh in, and everyone else goes to the sidelines while you scream insults at each other and repeat gender war memes that cater only to the identity politics of a noxious minority.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Ho, ho, ho.

An original poster riddles an original post with qualifications and apologies in anticipation of gender war idiocy in the comments, then uses petty sarcasm to insult commenters pointing out gender war idiocy in the comments.

I wouldn’t particularly enjoy a four-page thread of people shouting “misandrist!” and “cisgender privilege!” at one another, so at least the OP can bask in the glory of being regarded as completely irrelevant to the people who give a damn about the topic.

desipis
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

gender war idiocy

I see the internet is still filtering out my sarcasm…

Terence
8 years ago

Couldn’t you argue that the focus of women on these things is, in some strange instinctive way, a form of status competition (something that in itself is not limited to any one gender), but that men are still the culprits because we’re the ones who have set where the finishing line is in this particular race?

Terence
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

By creating (or at least perpetuating) norms of what it means to be a good, attractive women.

And, I know, presumably we* are responding to norms of behaviour ourselves, and so it gets hard to say who’s doing the causing and who’s just being affected, and who is the ultimate culprit. But, assuming we have some agency, presumably we bear some blame for not being a little braver in challenging all of this?

*by we I mean ‘most men’. You are quite possibly free of guilt in this.

desipis
8 years ago
Reply to  Terence

I think that argument is founded on some sexist assumptions.

What you seem to be doing is recursively stepping through the social network assigning an increasingly abstract sense of responsibility to an increasingly vague group of people. If you continue that process indefinitely on you reach the conclusion that society as a whole is in some abstract sense responsible for everything. The term culture could be used to describe this social aggregate.

If you see the end of that recursive process resulting in no responsibility for women and all the responsibility for men, then you’d have to have a pretty dim view of women’s capacity to think and be responsible for themselves. The term female hypoagency comes to mind. Assigning men the responsibility for the collective behaviour of millions or billions of women all seems a bit contrary to the feminist values of equality and liberty for women.