The Vice of Subjectivity
I used to describe myself as a Feminist. As one Feminist I dialogued with on Xanga years ago put it, I believe that, “women are people too,” and heartily buy the idea that men in general exploit and abuse women in general in this society. I think that, because of the former, the latter should change, because it is wrong.
I also used to describe myself as a Masculist. By the same token that I believe that men in general exploit and abuse women in general, I believe that society in general exploits and abuses men in general. Obviously, I think this should stop.
I don’t describe myself as either anymore.
You may have noticed that I didn’t provide a moral justification for having been a Masculist. In the culture within which I operate, I didn’t need to in order to make sense. Because I am a man and I feel that society generally exploits and abuses me and my sex in general, obviously I was going to be a Masculist. In this culture, however, I needed more than that to explain why I was a Feminist. I had to take a step back and do my best to look at things from another point of view. Obviously, as a man, provided I didn’t think too much, I could have easily enjoyed living in a society that gives me advantages over roughly half of the population and expects them to serve me to one degree or another. For me to get past that, I needed to, well, think– to try to understand the way thing work from a perspective outside my own.
That’s basically why I don’t describe myself as either a Masculist or a Feminist anymore. The more I read of either side, the more I realized that they really are on different sides; neither side is working towards a better society in general but a society that is better for either men or women. Instead of stepping back and saying, “Hey, society is messed up and we can make it better if we enact such-and-such a change,” it seems like neither side is stepping back at all and that both sides are instead saying, “Society isn’t treating me/us well and we can make it a better place for us if we enact such-and-such a change.”
Both sides are based on subjective premises and thus are flawed in both their basic philosophical framework and their practical outcomes.
Philosophically, these sides are flawed because they are based on self. Instead of seeing a flaw in society (admittedly made easier to see because you are experiencing it) and then concerning themselves with bettering society by fixing it, they experience an unpleasantness in society and concern themselves with eliminating the unpleasantness for themselves- with making their experiences better, not with making society better. This concentration on self taints even actions taken by these sides that actually do make society as a whole a better place.
Practically, many of their outcomes are flawed because they are focused on self without regard for other points of view. A prime example is “Lipstick Feminism”, the school of Feminism that centers around using the female’s sexual attractiveness to exert power over men. Putting aside the (rather simple, in my opinion) question of whether Lipstick Feminist behavior is good for the women engaged in it, is it good for society in general? Is one faction of society exerting power over another faction of society ever a good thing? Ironically, I would have thought those in the Feminist movement would have said “no!”
Good examples of this inside Masculism are a little less prominent– not only is the Masculist movement much younger and much, much less culturally dominant than the Feminist movement, but it is hard to distinguish between traditional “Patriarchal Male Chauvinism” and “Masculist Subjective Fallacy.” I was able to find this [This link appears to be dead. It was to a controversial masculist club at a college, the name of which I cannot remember. The reader is encouraged to search the internet for examples. Put your finds in the comments.], however, after a little searching. There are so many obvious ways this group fits the topic of this post, but the most basic, in my opinion, is the attitude of “if they can do it, so can we” which both puts this group firmly in the Masculist camp (as Patriarchal Male Chauvinists would be saying “we can do it, you can’t”) and doesn’t address the issue of what is best for society as a whole.
Unfortunately, gender politics are not the only area where this vice of subjectivity affects our society. One can see the effect this inability or unwillingness to think about things from outside one’s own perspective has on class issues, economic issues, international issues and race issues.
The most recent high-profile example of this, I think, would be Obama’s genius political move, where he decided to call police arresting an African-American friend of his “stupid.” Now, are the general race-related grievances Obama expresses valid? Definitely. What I question, however, is the President’s judgment in, firstly, deciding to weigh in on an issue when he admittedly didn’t have all the facts and would be biased and, secondly, projecting a race issue onto an incident that he (as he didn’t have all the facts involved) didn’t know was a race issue. While it may be good for those in minorities to be able to cast racist doubt on any and every arrest, what good is that for society as a whole? Should there be an uproar every time there is an irrefutable case of racist police action? Definitely! What Obama did, however, was to approach the entire case subjectively- that is, from his own perspective only- rather than try to look at it from multiple perspectives, for the good of society as a whole. He forwarded an opinion that he himself claimed was most likely biased, which can never be good for society, instead of withholding comment until he had all the facts and he had time to look at the incident from perspectives other than his own. When this vice of subjectivity is as widespread and systemic as it evidently is, if we take the President’s practice of it to be any indication, I fear this post will have precious little impact…
If, then, in conclusion, I can’t call myself either a Feminist or a Masculist, how do I characterize my stance on gender politics?
Currently, I consider myself to be a Jonesian. In my opinion, we can best hit upon what is good for society if we aim for what is good for the family, that is men and women and boys and girls and the relationships that each of them have with each other; but that’s a topic for another post.
(Originally posted elsewhere in late July 2009)