Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Wishes and Organisations

Here's a 'feminism has failed' article by Rosie Boycott. The commenters below the piece make most of the substantial points for and against her argument. One line, however, is worth further consideration - 'The world, in short, is still organised to meet the wishes of men.' My response to this sentence is nothing to do with being pro- or anti-feminist. As it happens, I'm pro-. Rather, I am interested in the words 'organised' and 'wishes'. Men have one thing in common - they are not women. Not being a blank slater, I think this involves certain predetermined tendencies, some or all of which may be suppressed or rejected by any given man and none of which need carry any particular moral force. In that context, one can say that it is statistically likely that men will behave thus and women thus, assuming one is discussing a sufficiently large sample. But it would be absurd to say that any individual will behave thus simply because he/she is a man/woman. That is why 'wishes' is such an absurd word to use. It is implying that there are individual men who want things which are, miraculously, realised in the social order. But if she means that men's 'predetermined tendencies' are forming the social order, then 'wishes' must be the wrong word, since, by definition, these are not voluntary and, almost as often as not, drive men in directions in which they would not wish to go. In fact, predetermined tendencies must have some effect on the social order since the sample involved is sufficiently large, but, to repeat, these do not in themselves have any moral force (unless, of course, we decide they do). Which brings me to 'organised'. By whom? Boycott points to child care provisions in Denmark which allow women to work. The assumption here is that what works in Denmark - does it? I don't know - would work here. It might, but the idea that there is some generally better way of organising a society is faulty and dangerous. As with the notion of generalised male wishes, this suffers from the old Enlightenment problem of universal values. It is irrational to assume that what works in one culture would work in another. The irrationality is based on the notion of 'organising' a society. One can organise some things, but one can't organise the inclinations of an entire culture - the desire to do so indicates a failure to understand the meaning of 'culture'. One can, of course, destroy a culture, but that has, in the past, resulted in an enormous number of corpses. Both the word 'wishes' and the word 'organised' betray a quaint style of thought, one that sees a world of conspiracies and power struggles with clearly defined battle lines about which one can have strong, simple opinions. I thought we'd grown out of that, but perhaps not.

13 comments:

  1. I'm not sure she is talking about the wishes of all men, as such, but more specifically about the power relations within society, which, historically, have been heavily weighted in favour of men. So, in that sentence you quote, it is the word "still" that is important. She is referring to the way in which the social order tends to reproduce itself so as to favour those in positions of wealth and influence. Feminism has failed to bring about a rebalancing of the power relations witin society and so men remain in all the key positions of power and influence, as they have done for millenia.

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  2. semantics. we all know what she means! what a sad article, I almost wept in my pint...anyway, I'm off to shovel coal - someone's got to keep the little ones in shoes....

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  3. Feminism had it's place once upon a time but more often than not, feminism is just academic masturbation. Real women, strong women just do what they want and have been doing so for a long time. The middle class middle England house wives and kept wives may perpetuate the myth that men are running things but the reality is that in most of the country and in most strata of society, women are firmly in control. Man's only real domain was manual labour which has all but vanished. In this service industry world a man's strengths are a weakness because they are superfluous. All of the instincts of the male mammal, to forage and to find new territory, to build a home and to protect his tribe have been superceded whereas the domain of the female mammal has been exaggerated through the unholy splicing of materialism and the nesting instinct. They have been duped into thinking that career advancement is the same thing as freedom - it's the opposite. Unwittingly, women are driving the corporate machine and will ruin us all.

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  4. 'Organised to meet the wishes of men', eh? Not in my house, Bryan - nor, I suspect, in yours. If only...

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  5. Quite right Bryan and trampmajor!

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  6. Now, I yield to no woman in my affection for Bryan, but once again, the male’s reasoning is either convoluted or obscure. For what he is saying, apparently, is that women suffer from their inadequacy, while men take pleasure in it.

    Nor do I see myself as un homme manque, a permanently disappointed creature struggling to console herself with secondary substitutes. Let us face it, folks, the female is adored for her difference, not for her likeness to the male.

    Or for those who prefer it in French: Vive la difference!

    Dreamy

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  7. Precisely, SD! we have our cake and they eat it.

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  8. Dreamy, you beat me to it. Precisely the phrase I wished to quote.

    In the course of my life, I'm happy to see men becoming more like women and women more like men, though the former seem to benefit more from the gender bending than the latter (think Tilda Swinton as woman who is more aggressive than a man in "Michael Clayton"). I love to see dads being so much more involved with their young children than dads were when I was a kid. My own dad never changed a diaper, but my husband and most of the fathers I see now are very hands-on and thus even closer to their kids.

    Trampmajor, you're full of it -- women absolutely could not get the jobs men had before reliable birth control made it possible for females to control their pregnancies. Women couldn't even vote until well into the 20th century. Gimme a break.

    But I do know a great song you and Phil Walling would love: "Detachable Penis" by Jeff Bern. It's quite funny.

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  9. Correction: "Detachable Penis" is by King Missile. You can hear it on Youtube. (Mix-tape mix-up; scusi.)

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  10. Susan, the nappy/diaper thingy re. men, had more to do with not being allowed anywhere near the little bundle for fear that the big rough fingered bloke might impale the full two and a half inches of the so-called safety pin. Since the advent of the strip, women are more than happy to allow men near the rancid produce. So, not feminism, just glue. Men like kids, on the whole, women tend to fear the idea of them.

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  11. I think men like kids more than babies, true enough. But it's nice to see men interact more easily with babies these days. As for the "safety" pin, my mother said that wasn't the reason my dad refused to change diapers. Instead, he just wrinkled up his nose at the smell and said, "Forget it." He was pretty good with kids once they could communicate effectively, but that takes a few years.

    By the way, I am a lover of men in all ways -- I have great brothers, husband, son, male friends. The world would be soooo boring without men in it, IMHO.

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  12. If Feminists weren't full of shit they'd be out there on the streets, fighting Muslims and burning burqas.

    An angry German Feminist once told me that every time a man looks at a woman he's oppressing her. Not 'every time a man looks at porn' or even 'every time a man looks at an image of a woman' but 'every time a man looks at a woman'. She'd probably approve of burqas, then; or blinding all men, or forcing them to walk with their eyes downcast before the awesome vaginal power of the Sacred Eternal Feminine.

    They're so full of shit these Feminists, i'd only take them seriously if i found them wielding claw hammers and paving slabs against the Jihaddist wife-beaters on the streets of Bradford. And till that day they're just whining gouchers on a par with petty crooks who feel hard done by & so entitled to preferential treatment, i.e. breaking into your house.

    Feminists are filthy scum.

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