Archive for January, 2016

Enough with 1%er Weddings and Attempting to Succeed with Excess

18 Jan

The following is tragic example of the world in which we live. To be so oblivious to one’s own excess is disturbing on so many levels. Sadly this kind of excess and shallow materialism has been the hallmark of the 1% for some time. If the rest of the world knew how the wealthy really lived there would be riots in the street. Ironically though, even the wealthy cannot afford to live like this and in order to keep up with their well to do acquaintances (I will not even write friends) they cut corners, go into debt, manipulate the markets, and steal from the less fortunate. I have been fearing for some time not only for America and the entitled across the globe, but everyone due to the inevitable clash of classes and instability to come. Here’s hoping the upper classes wake up and a more equitable redistribution of wealth becomes a way of life and not a (violent) remedy.





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The Rise of Faux Feminism

12 Jan

Let me begin by stating that I consider myself to be very much of a feminist. If feminism means that men and women should both have the right to equal opportunities like equal pay and equal education along with other common sense approaches like equal treatment and recognition under the law, than I am all for that just as much as any other person could be. In fact, sometimes I wonder why women are not given reparations or tax breaks given the centuries of injustice they have suffered. However, while I consider myself to be a feminist in the true sense, here is what I am not: a faux-feminist, and there is a very clear and simple reason why. First, however I should define what faux-feminism is.  Faux-feminism is the process of blindly trying to promote women to act in a manner similar to men which not only ignores modern realities but has a three prong effect of undermining the true feminist movement, placing women in a worse position (in almost every way), and perhaps worst of all, allows women to be exploited in greater fashion by the male patriarchy. For these reasons as a feminist I can have no tolerance for faux-feminism and why you should not either. If my theoretical point is not clear maybe some examples will illustrate what I am trying to advocate.

Example One: Miley Cyrus and Musical Acts of this Ilk

Of course this example could pertain to any number of exploited pop-singers and actresses but I will go with Ms. Cyrus due to her current place in pop culture. To begin with I consider Miley Cyrus to be quite talented; she can sing, she has good timing when it comes to acting, and she does have natural charisma and honest personality which is refreshing. However, it is an absolute shame that a women with such talent is forced to writhe around on stage with next to nothing on, and often solely for the shock value. Now of course I am sure to be met with the standard “no no what she is doing is empowering, what she is doing is being sexually liberated and that is empowering” but my question is, is she really?  Or is this what her record company has convinced her is the best course of action in order to generate buzz in order to sell records? And whether or not her label directly or indirectly has this intention in either case is it not exploitative? If they directly tell her something akin to “hey Miley by taking off your clothes you will sell more records” they are exploiting her and if they act more clandestine manner and/or simply do not caution her given their level of experience with the countless acts who have gone before her that have had shortened careers due to the inevitable tiredness that comes from worn out shock value (i.e. there are only so many clothes one take off and teddy bears one can hump) then  that is just as exploitative.  However, moving past the individual exploitation, Miley Cyrus the act also has detrimental effects in other ways as well. Namely, that not only does her shock value act detract focus from important issues that desperately need attention (i.e. equal pay, access to education, entrepreneurial training, sexual education etc.), but she sets the standard that no matter what your talent level is you must take off your clothes and show your ass. That’s the message and that is the blueprint. Almost every female signer on the charts from Beyoncé to Katy Perry to Nicki Minaj makes music and videos where the focus is on their body and appearance and not really on the music. And those girls who have talent but wish to keep their clothes on? Well you can ask the Vanessa Carltons the Michelle Branches, Jewels, and Fiona Apples of the world, marginalized and kicked to the musical curb. That is not free choice and as such it is not empowerment. It is quite simply show your ass or get out, and as such is extremely exploitative. Miley Cyrus might not have created this machine, but her act ensures that the gears keep it turning. Finally, like any machine there is a purpose and the purpose is profit. And more specifically, profits to the very place where true feminism has fought its toughest and longest standing battle; against the male, white, privileged, patriarchal establishment. Miley Cyrus the act is therefore a classic example of faux-feminism as it undermines the true feminist movement, places women in a worse position, and allows women to be exploited in greater fashion by the male patriarchy.

Example Two:  Sex and the City, Girls, and Other Representations of this Ilk

Although I have previously outlined my opinions regarding the television program Sex and the City , I will briefly state that it is a show centered on selfish women, who shallowly attempt to find happiness through rampant materialism, random sexual encounters, and other mindless pursuits that somehow provided six seasons worth of content and managed to somehow garner critical acclaim and a large following. The show has spawned countless knock-offs including the prominent (yet not so popular) Girls written and directed by one Lena Dunham. In this Sex and the City derivative, although the four women are in their 20s and all sport alliterative names, the show is essentially the same save for the fact that it has been heralded as a more realistic depiction of sorts. This is truly sad because if one watches the show it appears that instead of being gritty, the show seems to be gross, and rather sad. Replaced with 5 star restaurants and fancy shoe stores are dingy thrift shops, murky apartments, and women urinating in the street. With respect to the content I would simply describe it as a more disturbingly enhanced version of its inspiration where selfishness, addiction, materialism, and sexual exploitation are taken to new heights (and that is saying something given the gauntlet laid down by Sex and the City). And while I am sure others would remind me that it is just a show, I would counter that when impressionable people are presented with messages, especially those that are labelled realistic, the effects can be significant. If we want to hold the mainstream accountable for the depictions of unrealistic beauty standards for women via magazines, and billboards, then so too must we hold other messages and mediums, especially when they are as revolting and harmful as those depicted on these type of me-first exploitation based shows. I cannot think of a more dis-empowering relationship then the one young Hannah has with her psychopathic boyfriend Adam whose actions are condoned and he simply excused as being aloof despite his abusive and selfish actions.  Yet this along with the glamorization of hard drug use, promiscuity, and the joy of abandoning one’s responsibilities when things get to rough (be it relationships, jobs, or higher education) are somehow and someway not only passed off as entertainment, but critically acclaimed and even cited as milestones in the women’s empowerment movement. In truth then one person’s milestone must be another person’s roadblock, as the messages I see conveyed in this show and passed off as reality do nothing but hurt the status of women. Drug use, promiscuity, materialism, and all of the other aforementioned hallmarks of these programs do nothing but hold people back, men or women. Moreover, when people are slaves to the sorts of vices promoted on these show not only is there self-worth undermined but they become more susceptible to manipulation due to low self-worth and the financial and emotional dependence on other people that comes along with that. Again while some people might say these types of shows are just entertainment, when society is submerged in these types of messages and when they are passed off as reality you cannot tell me that there are not people whose behavior is modified by what they see and what they interpret as common place (or worse yet when the behavior of some people whose behavior is excused because it now fits in with the new normal).  As such, given my definition of faux-feminism and the three prong effect which results, there can be no doubt that programs of this nature can be categorized as faux-feminist.

Example 3: Questionable Movements Which Detract from Feminism’s True Purpose

As previously stated, I consider myself a feminist if the goal of feminism is concerned with ensuring equal rights and opportunities for men and women, especially in regards to education, jobs, and equal pay. However, when certain “causes” arises that are labelled feminist yet in actuality do nothing but distract or undermine the true feminist movement those instances must be labelled faux feminist. The questionable activities to which I refer often come in two forms. The first are those I would label distractions and they are the type of choices and headline grabbing attempts which distract focus from the important and essential women’s issues (employment,  health and safety, reproductive rights etc.). These pseudo movements are largely focused on shock value or the belief that the road to equality is rooted in appearance and include such things as the right to go topless, shaving/not shaving one’s body, and even the refusal to use hygiene products during one’s menstrual cycle. Although these types of actions could be classified as frivolous or relatively minor, not only do they draw attention away from the larger needs of the feminist movement, but they are divisive, in that they cause feminism to be something to fear and alienated because of the shock value that can irritate and repulse the masses.

However, in addition to distraction there are certain movements which are believed to help the status of women but in the long run actually serve to undermine it in real and powerful ways. I have touched on the promiscuity aspect in the previous two parts, but the push amongst many feminists and the media for women to carry themselves in a sexualized and promiscuous manner in the same vein men have is not empowerment. And to be clear it is not empowering or something to embrace whether man or woman. Sexual activity without feeling although might seem like a great idea, but over time it serves to lower one’s self-worth and degrades the soul. Just because men have been associated with this type of dangerous activity in the past, does not mean that women should as well. Why have two flawed sexes? The same goes for the notion that because men are obnoxious, suspicious, selfish and downright Machiavellian in not only their approach to work/business, but in their lives in general, that somehow it is a good idea for women to become just as aggressive, suspicious, and hostile as well? If femininity defined by some philosophers as kindness, generosity, and compassion than why forsake those traits in order to adapt to the generalized shortcomings of men? Is the better route not to embrace those traits which have helped to hold humanity together for centuries and try with a kind hand and loving heart to make men better people? Is that course of action not the greatest prospect for the empowerment of not just women, but for all of humanity?

Before concluding I would like to finally caution against the increasingly popular push against such things like marriage and committed relationships and the greater acceptance of certain arrangements like prenuptial agreements. While there are many people who would advocate that this in some way is empowerment and that it should be accepted given its increased prominence, I would remind them that marriage in addition to being a formal declaration of love, was and is a way to protect the security of partners who often make sacrifices or certain choices that allow the other partner to be the primary earner in a family. As such, with the increased prominence of relationships without commitment and things like prenuptial agreements which often greatly benefit the primary earner, these things popularly swooped up in the talk of empowerment, often erode the security and true equal rights of one partner (often the woman) to the other partner (often the mane) when things do not work out. It also makes it that much easier for the financially stronger spouse to terminate the relationship without consequence and often whenever they wish to the great determinant and expense of the other spouse. Perhaps more importantly this arrangement in practicality ensures a power imbalance throughout the relationship and causes the less financially secure spouse to work that much harder at the relationship just to guard against being discarded. As such this can hardly be classified as equality or empowerment. Of course every situation is different and justice should be determined on a case by case basis, but the blanket preclusion of even the prospect of evaluating what is fair due to new cultural norms and pressures is not in the least bit just nor does it serve the interests of the women’s movement.

It is my great hope that after reading this piece that the reader does not consider this piece to be anti-feminist. To the contrary the purpose of this piece was to illuminate minds to the dangers of depictions and popular shifts that on the surface claim to serve the cause of women yet in reality actually undermine it. In so doing they hinder the progress, security, and future of the status of women. Faux-feminism defined in this piece as the process of blindly trying to promote women to act in a manner similar to men is an impediment to the feminist women and has three main effects; it undermines the true feminist movement, it places women in a worse position in a myriad of ways and it all allows women to be exploited in greater fashion by the male patriarchy.

This piece has described three prominent manifestations of faux-feminism, but those concerned with the true health, security, and general status of women must be vigilant to recognize and combat the many other forms it can take. As general rule perhaps a helpful test for faux-feminism would be; is that which claims to be feminist a friend of the misogynist? In other words, is that thing which claims to be a tool of woman’s empowerment actually welcomed and an asset to the classic male chauvinist or true enemy of feminism? Example 1- Sex and the City, Girls, etc. in their promotion of materialism and casual sex allows the chauvinist greater ease to secure that which he desires (i.e. meaningless and easy sex). Example 2- Not getting married or being in a committed relationship allows the misogynist to be involved in a relationship with a woman he knows he can exploit for his own needs that he can drop anytime without repercussion. Example 3- Aggressive often borderline sociopathic behavior on the part of women allows the chauvinist the opportunity to relate to more human beings in his comfort zone thereby helping to ensure that future generations replicate this unhealthy behavior and further helps to stomp out any remnant of good, kindness, and humanity left in the world today. If the world has become a worse place today than it ever was it is because we are ignoring what has truly made the world go round for centuries, love, kindness, compassion, patience- in essence what philosophers and scholars across time have called femininity. Let us not lose that, not make the mistake ok equating equality with one sex blindly copying the other but take the best traits of both sexes across on equal playing field to make the best world we possibly can. It is up to all of us to have a hand in crafting the world we want to have and recognize any and all threats to it.   

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