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May 23, 2011

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Luis Enrique

I agree with much of this ... still, if you imagine the Royal Wedding with all the genders reversed, so royal princess Willemina marries a commoner Kevin, whose brother Pip looks splendid in tight trousers, we wouldn't see quite so much slavering over Pip[*].

So, compartmentalizing or not, there is still something to be said along the lines of observing our culture treats men and women differently w.r.t sexual objectification. And even if you don't know how to go about changing this, it's not just a matter of taste. One can make observations about power and income inequality, for example, without necessarily knowing what to do about it.

[*] although we might see some, phwoar look at that beefcake etc. Which, to my taste, is the prefable outcome. More sexual objectification of men to even things up a bit.

Phil

I regard the objectification of Pippa Middleton's arse as a worrying symptom of societal decline into a widespread preference for titchy little bottoms.

But anyway. Yes, the idea of the personal being political was precisely that the conventional personal/political split was alienated and/or alienating, so in theory anyone who thinks and acts on the basis that their desires are continuous with their politics is way ahead of you. In practice, of course, the margin within which anyone can become less alienated than anyone else by acting as an individual is pretty narrow: in a revolutionary moment, leching at your comrade's arse may be seriously reactionary (or, under the right circumstances, seriously radical), but here and now it doesn't shake the walls of the city either way. People who go around taking their desires for reality this side of the revolution may just be deluded narcissists - a character type which, ironically, is well adapted to alienated production and consumption.

Richard Gadsden

I used to understand "objectification" as meaning that a woman was perceived only as an object, not that she was perceived as an object at all.

The problem that no-one is interested in Pippa Middleton for any reason other than her arse is a problem - there seems to have been no effort to identify whether she has any other positive or negative characteristics, so she is being reduced to a nice arse.

The argument that social change arises not only from governmental action but also from society - in Marxist terms that the substructure can be changed directly as well as through governmental action (whether revolutionary or otherwise) - is not just reasonable, but empirically well-founded; there are an awful lot of social changes that have arisen from people arguing that other people should behave differently and persuading them to do so.

However, I do have a concern that sometimes people are objecting not to Pippa Middleton being reduced to merely the possessor of a nice arse, but to anyone noticing that Pippa Middleton has a nice arse. These are not the same thing.

CharlieMcMenamin

"I do have a concern that sometimes people are objecting not to Pippa Middleton being reduced to merely the possessor of a nice arse, but to anyone noticing that Pippa Middleton has a nice arse.These are not the same thing."

Arguably, they *are* the same thing when publicly discussed in the British red tops.

Keith

So should all women wear a burka? That is one way to interpret the personal being political. However much progress women make as people, heterosexual men are still going to eye a good bum and other bits. And vice versa. It is not desire that is bad in itself merely social arrangements that oppress people. There is a danger of falling into a prudish attitude which is itself oppressive, next all the nude statues will get covered up to avoid offence. Do you want to go that far? And that wont help women either.

Shuggy

"Women’s body-parts are seen as ‘parts-for-male-use’ and women as possessors of these parts become nothing more than ‘objects-for-male-use’."

I really think that men who seriously seem to imagine that it doesn't work the other way around should talk to women who aren't their mothers a bit more often.

aridtrax

Of course people should be able to talk frankly about sex and sexual attraction, and there is an irritating prissiness in the way men on the left sometimes discuss sexual politics, but there's also an awful hypocrisy in the way the mainstream consensus is that equality has been achieved whilst this kind of Benny Hill prurience persists in mass media. However maybe the real question is why there is such a need for men to overtly objectify this particular arse above others - perhaps it reveals some kind of deeply supressed desire to subjugate aristocratic flesh in our supposedly classless society? Sorry for that pure speculation on my part.
On another point, what is wrong with "merely raging at the world"? It's one of the easiest criticisms to make of an argument one dislikes to say "yeah, well what's your alternative?" but why should it not suffice merely to bring up a problem in the hope of inviting solutions? In any case, if Matt LibCon had the final answer to gender inequality, I can't imagine it fitting comfortably into a single blog post.
The wider thing that made me pick my laptop up again when I ought to be getting my head down is that "non-compartmentalizing" is nothing new. Surely what makes Marx so compelling is the way he rides roughshod over conventional boundaries between politics, history, economics, sociology etc.; and back in Galileo's day, science was known as "natural philosophy". Further, although a central body of non-compartmentalizers for whom political aims override all others is necessary for totalitarianism, a much larger body of compartmentalizers is essential to their success - people who may have strong political or moral values in theory but who are able to separate them from the practical sphere in the interests of self-preservation or short-term expediency. I suppose this is what might be called a disavowal in psychoanalysis? So whilst to erect barriers between political, professional, sexual spheres in one's life may be to a certain extent liberating, I would argue against its being essentially liberal.

CharlieMcMenamin

Everyone I've ever met compartalises. It's just good manners not to mention to one's work colleagues or neighbours (or the stranger on the bus) that one fancies them unless one has some indication it might be reciprocal. Otherwise it's just foregrounding a part of their persona they have no wish to share with you - and ignoring the objective non-sexual reason they're dealing with you in the first place. It ain't being PC to complain about sexual objectification, it's just being polite.

Jimmy Hill

Can you see the irony is defending pervasive ideology in general (the inability to compartmentalise) by appealing to a particular instance of pervasive ideology (Marxism)?

Tom Addison

What do you mean by "heavy rock?"

If you mean Metallica etc, you're wrong, they're great, end of.

Their hardcore fans though? The majority are nobs. Utter nobs.

BenSix

"When we complain about things like inequality, we have in mind some kind of institutional changes that would reduce it: tax changes, worker ownership etc. But what kind of institutional change would stop men admiring Pippa’s arse? I can’t think of any - and Matt suggests none."

One of the great advantages of arguing as if the personal need be political is that it's wonderfully easy. Diagnosing structural injustices is a complicated thing to do; railing against "that programme on the tele" or "that story in the papers" is much less finickity. Much of it is just TV criticism with pretentions.

On the other hand, cultural phenomena CAN be significant. As Charlie says - there's nothing wrong with someone musing over a shapely posterior but if the whole meeja is doing crotch chops over the poor woman's backside there's something more creepy going on.

BenSix

(There's nothing wrong with TV criticism, either, just so long as the critic doesn't imagine they're being revolutionary.)

Grumpy Old Man

." And shouldn’t Marxists be resisting alienation?"
But isn't alienation the whole point of Marx? To create the, "immiserableata", (forgive spelling) and isolate the property-owning and capitalists from the masses?
The fatal failing of compartmentalisation is demonstrated by your dismissal of heavy rock, Some heavy rock is good music, just as rap, a genre I dislike intensly, nevertheless has nuggets in the spoil. An educated,as opposed to well qualified, person differentiates on merit, which may be subjective or objective. If you wish to be sane, don't compartmentalise.

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