If Feminism Isn’t a Moral Position, Why Can’t I Tell You How Butt-Ugly You Are?

BritGirlSF asks:

On another note, I’m constantly tempted to write something about the general unf@#$ability of sexist asshats like our friend Wintermute. I’ve yet to see an attractive MRA, for example. The question is whether my doing so would do more harm than good. I’m not sure, honestly, but I remain tempted. Thoughts?

I have to admit to being really torn and I wonder what other folks think.

I don’t believe feminism is a moral position, as I’ve discussed many times.  It’s about insisting that women be recognized as wholly human, for better or worse.  So, I don’t think I have a moral obligation as a feminist to refrain from pointing out that some dudes who believe they deserve a pretty girl might be well-served by an honest encounter with a mirror.

But as a feminist, I don’t believe that anyone “deserves” any other type of human.  You can say, “Well, I am really aesthetically drawn to tall skinny women,” but that doesn’t oblige the universe to give you one.  And if you want to run around acting like an asshat who thinks that women (or men, for that matter) are just accessories for men to pick and choose from in order to complete their look–no matter if you’re the man or the woman in that equation–I’ll feel free to call you on your sexist bullshit.

And so, as much as I’m tempted to say, “Have you looked in a mirror, dude?  Good god, look at yourself.” I think that feeds into the notion that, if he were better looking, it’d be reasonable for him to decide the world owes him aesthetically awesome women to fuck.

Do you see what I’m getting at?  It’s a problem that he doesn’t understand that women also make their choices about who to fuck based on aesthetic notions and it’s a problem that he’s then misjudged his own value.  But his attitude would still be a problem even if he understood that women also choose and if he had a clear understanding of how highly his looks are judged by others.

In addressing the problem, then, we have to make a choice between paradigms.  If we want to operate with a world-view similar to his, I think it’s completely fair and justified to point out to him that he ought not to throw stones, what, with his glass house and all.

But if we’re really looking to make change, we’ve got to, I think, commit to our world-view.  It makes sense to understand his, but it doesn’t make any sense to take it as our own.  So, in that case, I think we’ve got to refrain from wholesale, “God, are you ugly!” talk.

That being said, I apologize to all my conservative readers for assuming that Wintermute is a conservative.  Even though I should know better–great swaths of liberal men willing to prove this over and over again–I still tend to associate such blatant sexist asshattery with y’all and to assume that, when I see it, it must be coming from you guys.  That’s wrong on my part.  Again, sorry.

ALL that being said, I do wonder sometimes if it would do some good to say “Hey, if you weren’t such a scary jerk and if you gave women other than the women who meet your aesthetic ideals a chance, you might find that we all don’t suck.  But right now?  You’re sending off signals that say ‘Run for the hills, girls.'”  I don’t know.

On a side note, I wanted to mention this entry over at the Freakonomics blog, about how incoming NFL players are counselled to watch out for gold-digging women.  I feel like it fits into this conversation somehow, but I can’t quite figure out how (and if you’re going over there, be prepared for the bizarre comments).  Because again, it’s true that there are all kinds of con artists that surround professional athletes looking to get their money.

And it’s true that beautiful female con artists can use their beauty and their femaleness as tools in their con.  I don’t think the problem comes so much from talking about how specific con artists work or even from talking about how a lot of women, who aren’t con artists, buy into the notion that their beauty is their greatest asset and therefore one they should trade on in order to get ahead in the world; the problem comes from assuming that that’s how all women, even all women who ever encounter male athletes, behave.

So, it’s true that, not only are there a great many men who think they deserve beautiful girls to fuck; there are a great many women who believe that certain men deserve beautiful girls to fuck and, if those women can prove that they are among those beautiful girls, that they deserve the perks that come with being the arm candy of a man who deserves to fuck beautiful women (usually, a man who has power of some sort).

I think the trick is to realize that we disagree with that whole worldview and to refuse to play into it at any end.  Not because it’s more moral, but because we really do want the world to be different than that, and, in some way, the only way to have a different world is to do the difficult work of already living as if that world were here now.