How we See Women - Politics | PoFo

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By Wellsy
Think I see a good reason to not revive really old threads now that I have twice become the OP of a new thread when responding to an old thread.
The old thread asked for people's thoughts on Objectification as summarized in John Berger's Ways of Seeing.

If one has been keeping track, one will find that the passive object is not necessarily how women are presented.
Rather, women are presented as sexual subjects who desire to be sexual, but its dubious to what extent such a desire originates authentically from the woman.
So for example, when you read a text where there is a female character or view a movie with a female character who is sexual, we suspend judgment that they aren't real in order to be immersed in the story. When this happens, we forget that the character isn't a person with agency exactly, particularly if there is no real person acting it out, but she is a fiction that acts under the wishes of her creator.
So when I write a smutty story about some woman that desires me, there is no woman, I am the one that presents the fiction of a woman who desires me of her own will.
In advertising and porn, this sort of tension exists, where women perform many tasks and they are pressed to perform things in a way that they desire to someone sexually, that they have sexual agency, but this is fantasy. That it would be argued that women do this because its economically incentivized, a worker might really internalized and thus conform to norms of working their ass off for barely any money, but they are different from a person who simply complies with things because of the limitations of their circumstances.
This is how some with a rather empty sense of agency/freedom speak of women having the 'choice' to go into prostitution or use the commodification of their bodies and sexuality for economic benefit. Whilst others would point to the institutional and structural limitations on the woman's options, so that when we look at the Thailander girl from a village and a poor family who moves to the city to have sex with foreigners, she does so out of economic necessity.

This is why there's tension around how a woman's sense of things can be corrupted by what is considered patriarchal norms where her own desires are moulded by such a society so that she desires things that she is ideologically immersed in.
And this is interesting because when a persons desire and way of interpreting the world is moulded by this, they do in fact desire such things, but feminists would speak of it as being corrupted. That one doesn't really have free will because one's sense of the world has been distorted and that free will is only valid upon a person having a approximate and clear understanding of reality.
Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. This holds good in relation both to the laws of external nature and to those which govern the bodily and mental existence of men themselves — two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality. Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject. Therefore the freer a man’s judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined; while the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that it is controlled by the very object it should itself control. Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development.

The way I understand this is that its the difference between consenting to a medical procedure based on one sided knowledge or something we might consider informed consent. That when we truly understand reality, or at least have a practical approximate abstract sense of the world, it allows us to see the options we really do have. That if I don't understand certain things that are relevant to my possible avenues of action, then I am not empowered to really discern the best course of action because my understanding is limited. And in this we might speak of how one gets half truths or unhelpful perspectives that are seen as distorting one's ability to see more appropriate abstractions of the world because they are simply neglected by adopting only a single abstract perspective.

I imagine this shift comes after the time we label as the sexual revolution, where much is simplistically explained as a direct result of the introduction of the pill, which isn't insignificant but there are other elements to consider the nature of the sexual revolution. But from the sexual revolution, men came to interpret women as sexually available because they could just go on the pill, the worry of pregnancy was so diminished as to be treated as a non-existent risk or one so negligible not necessarily worthy of consideration. Women truly were benefited in the sense of disconnecting the relationship between pregnancy and sex, but it didn't suddenly emancipate them sexually and change the sexual ideologies in a way that empowered women. People frame the Victorian era as simply repressive, no one can be sexually or sexy and this then places a sense of how progressive and empowering it is to be sexual.
But the choice to be sexual within itself doesn't really explain what is empowering about it because simply improving ones ability to make a choice doesn't place that choice within a social and concrete reality.
And we're still lingering on that notion that this choice is empowering and selling it to young girls that their primary worth is based on their sexuality, whether we say its through the instrumental use of their sexuality or through the projection of purity and lack of use associated with it, both positioning women's value on how one evaluates her sexuality. Thus not emancipating women from being primarily viewed on the basis of sexuality by many. The resolution likely being a synthesis of not simply being hedonistic and reckless fuck machines, that we responsibly use contraceptives and evaluate the possible consequences of our actions upon our own well being and others physically as well as socially/emotionally. But we don't simply restrict ourselves and reject the change entirely and try to recreate the Victorian era.

Moving on, sexual objectification is of particular concern to feminist theorists for issues raised in the above paragraph and because it is thought that the projection of matching sexual desire is an exaggerated perception of men that prompts them to be sexually aggressive towards women on little more than their own delusions or misinterpretations of social cues.
Projection and Objectification, p. 296
Attribution of matching desire, through women's supposed capacity for vaginal orgasm - a science fiction about women that was long accepted as orthodox science. MacKinnon's explanation is that because 'men demand that women enjoy vaginal penetration', they acquire the belief, dressed up as science, that 'vaginal orgasms' are the only 'mature' sexuality; and accordingly the belief that women desire penetrative sex because this is their natural route to orgasm.33 Wishful thinking projects an imagined biological basis for a conveniently matching desire on the part of the woman, and adds whatever legitimisation is granted by a scientific establishment - an eery pseudo-science parallel to the science-fiction biology of Deep Throat. Does such an attribution of matching desire objectify women? One might suppose again that the attitude itself is not objectifying, that on the contrary it attributes an active independent desire to women, a distinct source of pleasure unique to women, that however erroneous, it is at least subjectivity-affirming and autonomy-affirming. This would be too hasty, given that the attitude denies that women have sexual experience they have, and asserts they have sexual experiences they lack- something that may count as subjectivity-denial, rather than affirmation. 34

There may also be instrumental thinking involved; how much more useful if the shape of women's sexual desire were the perfect match to that of men! The theorising in turn perhaps helped to legitimate instrumental sexual use of women by other parties, by silencing, as 'immature' those women whose desires were apparently less convenient.

For the author of the above article, Rae Langton, her focus of projection is used to emphasise the silencing of women, that men project agency and intention onto women that they don't have in order to ignore the social cues that actually communicate the woman's true intentions implicitly or explicitly.
A good summary of this is found in PROVOCATIVE DRESS AND SEXUAL RESPONSIBILITY - Jessica Wolfendale∗, pg. 41 which applies this projection, silencing in the context of attributing intention in a woman's clothing and considering it provocative.
Secondly, and perhaps more troublingly, the provocation model illustrates what Rae Langton describes as the denial of autonomy through the affirmation of autonomy.83 When a woman’s outfit is described as provocative, she is not only reduced to a depersonalised sexual object or collection of sexual body parts. In addition, a specific subjective desire is attributed to her⎯the desire for sexual attention from men. But this attribution is not a form of respect for her autonomy. Instead, it denies her autonomy by undermining the credibility and authority of her actual desires, even if she explicit and repeatedly denies the attributed desire. Her stated preferences, if inconsistent with the intentions and desires attributed to her by men, are dismissed as not reflecting what she ‘really wants’⎯she says ‘no’, but her outfit says ‘yes’. Thus, it is men’s interpretations of her desires and intentions that are take as authoritative. Women’s actual spoken desires and intentions regarding men’s sexual attention are therefore silenced.

The authority given to men’s projected desires above women’s stated preferences creates an additional layer of potential menace to women’s choices regarding their clothing and their actions. Knowing that, despite one’s intentions and clearly stated preferences regarding sexual attention from others, one could still be accused of ‘wanting it’ or ‘asking for it’ is both destabilising and highly disempowering.

This is relevant in discussions about things like street harassment, where people simply ignore any social cues of women and assert that a woman's clothing communicated to them their desire to be treated as such. But fails to realise that the reason that a woman's clothing communicates as such is because of the patriarchal norms that dominate, where the men's projection of being desired takes precedence over the woman's expressed intention. Her intention truly considered in a interactive sense, the sort of behaviour expected between beings of equivalent standing, because one can only simply act upon another without considering their wishes when there is no power relations to assert consequences for when their behaviour is unwanted. In the same way that the sort of dialogues between philosophers in ancient Greece was founded on them being freemen who can't be forced to do things except through the non-force force of effective argument. One acts on a slave at pure will without any consideration of them in Ancient Greece and need not makes arguments for them to comply.

For more on sexual subjectification as its shown in media, summarising how advertising adopts the form/appearance of feminist rhetoric and values but is in fact simply liberalism with a gendered twist in order to promote consumerism, I suggest checking out 'From Sexual Objectification to Sexual Subjectification: The Resexualisation of Women's Bodies in the Media' (short version )and 'Empowerment/Sexism: Figuring Female Sexual Agency in Contemporary Advertising' (long version).

It would seem just as the Marxist wants to raise class consciousnesses in workers to empower their capacity for free will/agency, feminists need to raise conspicuousness in women. Part of that is showing how reifying the abstraction of individualism or only adopting an individualist perspective without any synthesis to different abstract perspective (women as a unified whole on societal level) leads to the sort of one sided perspective of the world that makes people incapable of enacting a meaningful sense of free will.
Even after all this it could be that the woman still acts the same as one who isn't conscious of things relevant to their interpretation and navigation of reality. That one could hypothetically still behave like a woman who really has internalised the projected desires which she has been taught to conform to.
Last edited by noemon on 09 Jan 2017 12:10, edited 3 times in total. Reason: moved due to necroposting in OP with dead links & content

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