Well, I'll go to the foot of my stairs...

Often startled, frequently amused, sometimes scared; rarely speechless. Can be found at witchywoo22@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, June 09, 2006

I've just formulated a theory...

...and it's not scientifically researched or proven - nothing quite as academic as that - but it is based on a vast amount of anecdotal evidence and so it probably does hold water. (Huh? Who called me Alison?) (sorry....in-joke.)

My theory? Selective humanisation.

Laura's most recent post has crystalised my theory although it's been lying around in my brain for quite some time. I've wondered for years how men (generic) are able to selfishly deny the humanity of some women for their own pleasure? gratification? sense of 'power over'? gods...I don't know why they do it... but then they jealously guard the humanity of other women who, they say, are their friends, or lovers, or relatives, or mothers.

Laura posted about some men she knows who she thought were friends of hers. They went to Spearmint Rhino - a veritable palace of female dehumanisation; a place where women are reduced to sexualised, vulnerable nakedness so that men can experience that powerful sense of faked sexual desirability. Men can sit around drinking beers with conventionally attractive half naked women pretending they like them offering them their entirely naked and gyrating bodies to make them feel even more powerful and sexually wanted - for a fee.

Now, Laura cares about the lives of women and she's wondering how her male friends are able to separate her, their friend - a woman - from the women they're sexually subjugating with their quids. She's understandably confused by their duplicity and says:

How do I know that you actually give a crap about me? Because you sure as hell don't seem to give a crap about all the women that are being exploited and abused in the industry that you are supporting.
And it was those words "actually give a crap about..." that made everything crystal clear to me. As far as men (generic) are concerned, women are the 'other' and, actually, they couldn't give a crap about any of us. Until, of course, we become 'human' in their eyes through some kind of connection/ownership thing....one of us happens to be their mother/sister/lover/friend/cousin/aunt/significant other/baby-mother etc. etc. - they have some vested interest in our being alive... You get the picture...

Men (generic) are unable to see women as people in their own right, separate from them. Men (generic) are only able to see women as human beings in relation to their own existence - and selectively, at that.

I have no doubt that those male friends of Laura's love her to bits but their privilege and entitlement enables them to somehow make her humanity distinct from the humanity of the women they dehumanise. Laura doesn't see it that way but then she doesn't practice selective humanisation.

That men (generic) have the power and privilege to practise selective humanisation - and that they actually access that privilege - is evidence of patriarchy in action. We must all - each and every one of us - call the men in our lives on it whenever they exhibit it for the sake of our sisters (generic) because, quite frankly, if we don't, we're all selectively unhumanised - one way or another.

18 Comments:

  • At 5:35 AM, Blogger alyx said…

    "Men (generic) are unable to see women as people in their own right, separate from them. Men (generic) are only able to see women as human beings in relation to their own existence - and selectively, at that."

    Kinda like how my grandma hates all Muslims, except for the one her granddaughter (my cousin) is married to. Because he's "a good Muslim."

    Same principle.

     
  • At 6:28 AM, Blogger Z said…

    "As far as men (generic) are concerned, women are the 'other' and, actually, they couldn't give a crap about any of us. Until, of course, we become 'human' in their eyes through some kind of connection/ownership thing...."

    WOW. That is so very insightful. Sorry I cannot think to write any more at the moment as I feel really sick. Just wanted to say that I think your post is great. I look forward to reading all the responses too.

    Take care,

     
  • At 6:41 PM, Blogger spotted elephant said…

    Wow, w-w, great post!

    You're dead on, we become selectively human, and I think, an honorary male. It's the reason I hate when people say "What if she was your wife/mother/sister/daughter?" You're not generalizing empathy, you're just invoking a temporary burst of it for a select few. Like Alyx said, making the person the rare "good" example of a bad class of people.

     
  • At 7:41 PM, Blogger asdgasdfaserwe said…

    I think the statement that men are unable to see women as human still stands in the face of the seemingly 'good' relationships some of them have with women.

    Men simply widen their circle of self-interest to include some women as appendages: they do not relate to these women as human beings in their own right.

    As soon as a man is capable of degrading one woman he is unable to see any of us as equals. Only those men that actively reject the subordination of women are able to see us as human and therefore equal.

     
  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger simply wondered said…

    Except, of course, that rather than women (generic) being the other, anyone else is (unsurprisingly) other until an individual dignifies them with a connection to the individual's own life Not sure where that gets us. And I know I have been critical of Feminist First's postings (nothing personal - note to self: well how would it be, you have no idea who FF is.) but please please please,spare me 'those men that actively reject the subordination of women'; they don't sound like a barrel of laughs and I bet they go off and oppress someone at weekends and bank holidays.

     
  • At 11:12 PM, Blogger moonlitetwine said…

    Well, I've been around for awhile. I was perhaps your age when Roe v Wade gave all Americans relief, relief in knowing that finally our courts couldn't arrest people for providing, having, assisting those who saught abortion.

    Now? Look at us. Where are we?

    I like the feminist thought that states how much men dislike certain traits, like hope, cherishing, pampering those you love, waiting til the time is right or rushing in unafraid of what their fellows might say. Yeah.

    Sure, there are theoretical terms for these traits, but that's the down-dirty version.

    Unless women can figure out how to physically place man's genital organ inside the male body, we'll have a problem with those guys.

    Just a thought.

    -ann klein

    keep up the power, sister!

     
  • At 2:15 AM, Blogger asdgasdfaserwe said…

    Waddayaknow, a man (sw) telling women what they should or shouldn't say. I've never seen that happen before...

     
  • At 3:52 PM, Anonymous hypnorainbow said…

    Great post. And I agree with you SE, it irks me when people say 'what if it was your mother?' as if that's the only way a man can feel empathy for a woman.... Certainly from remarks I've heard in my life, it would appear to be the case quite a bit of the time. It's very easy for men to 'other' us, with the patriarchy being in place and all. It's a simple superiority complex brought about by a patriarchal upbringing.

     
  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger Spc. Freeman said…

    I think, to a certain degree, human beings tend to afford the "humanity" label on a conditional basis. It's how we form relationships.

    Most people aren't going to be attached to a group or individual unless they share some deeper connection. And in this case, that connection which might neutralize the objectification of these women is repackaged and marketed. It sends the message that such objectification is acceptable. And of course, it's not.

     
  • At 10:41 AM, Blogger Laura said…

    Great theory, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. Thank you.

     
  • At 3:54 PM, Blogger simply wondered said…

    call me an old pedant, ff (or not as you prefer) I was asking that I be spared the company of such men rather than trying to impinge on your freedom to mention them or otherwise. telling the posters (male and female) on this blog what to say and think would be a waste of time as they all seem more than capable of using joined up writing and whatever the thinking equivalent is. just disagreeing with you rather than telling you to shut up. but if I do appear to be getting prescriptive in my comments I'm sure I'll hear all about it.

     
  • At 4:33 PM, Blogger Dot said…

    great post! it's the "force of ambivalence" (as Bhabha would term) that is at the heart of men's power to degrade women.

     
  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger simply wondered said…

    dot, I'm fascinated but in the dark. Can you explain a little or give a reference to this 'force of ambivalence', please.

     
  • At 2:51 PM, Blogger Dot said…

    i've never studied feminism, but i have done a bit of postcolonial theory at uni which is where i'm familiar with 'the Other'. basically Bhabha argues 'the Other' is a colonial tool used for consuming and perverting (and thereby controlling!) colonised cultures. however, there is a perversion between self and Other which acts as a disavowal, as power is asserted through defining a 'norm' and then ambivalently viewing the colonised subject as a divergence from this norm.
    so Witchy's post got me thinking of similarities of 'male self' and ‘Others’, and if you can maybe fit the ‘patriarchy's’ control of gender definitions into this model.
    i dunno. i must admit i'm way out of my depth... but i do think there are similarities.

     
  • At 10:59 PM, Blogger charliegrrl said…

    '...women are the 'other' and, actually, they couldn't give a crap about any of us. Until, of course, we become 'human' in their eyes...'

    Great comment. I suppose it's creating a difference between women as humans and 'woman' as a sex object. However, how does this theory explain rape within relationships and incest..? Surely in such cases the man/boy knows the women/girl as a human but still rapes/sexually assaults them...(?)

     
  • At 12:04 AM, Blogger witchy-woo said…

    Surely in such cases the man/boy knows the women/girl as a human but still rapes/sexually assaults them...(?)

    Not necessarily.

    I believe men have the privilege to be able to choose who they view as human and an awful lot of men see neither women nor children as human - even if they're related to them. This enables all kinds of violence and abuse to occur in the home where, lets face it, most violence and abuse happens to women and children.

     
  • At 8:49 PM, Anonymous hypnorainbow said…

    That makes sense witchy...which is probably why some men can abuse little boys as well. They're not human until they're adult males, whilst we as women never get that privilege.

    "I think, to a certain degree, human beings tend to afford the "humanity" label on a conditional basis."

    I think this is a form of denial. People will forego the humanity of the 'other' in order to avoid the guilt they would feel at knowing that they are treading all over other humans. So it's easier to tell yourself that they are not in fact worthy of such consideration.

     
  • At 9:44 PM, Blogger witchy-woo said…

    I think you're spot on with that, hypnorainbow :)

     

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