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May 12, 2011

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I must admit that the idea of fundamentalist homophobic wiccans is slightly mindboggling, although, given the wide variety of Stupid existing within the human race, I have no doubt that such creatures do exist.

Respect: you're doin' it wrong.

On the larger issue, I think you're missing two points. One is that it shouldn't be surprising that conservative/orthodox/fundamentalist religious groups are selling patriarchy. That's actually only one little bit of their overlap. They're all selling one version or another of authoritarianism, which in a culturally conservative context is going to mean patriarchy. If you look, I'll bet you find that they're also all in favor of deference to religious and political authority, strong parental control over children, harsh punishment for crime, and the rest of the authoritarian package.

The second, and more important, point is that Sharlet wasn't limiting the homophobia to conservative religious groups. His point is that it's common across the spectrum, including many groups who we tend to think of as socially liberal, like New Agers and Wicca. Homosexuality seems to be at the very edge of what religious groups are willing to accept. To give a concrete example, you can bet that any religious group that acknowledges gay marriage will also allow women to serve as clergy, but many groups that allow women as clergy won't acknowledge gay marriage. Allowing women into positions of authority is apparently easier than acknowledging that gays deserve equal rights.

Don't apologise, Dr S, that was *righteous.

The second photo(shop job) looks quite natural apart from the young lady that looks like a cutout pinned to the door ;-)

Hey Doc,
I agree with the general sentiment you are expressing, but I've got some quibbles. These are rather inchoate, but I'll put them down as a first pass.

The first is that you seem to be suggesting that there is a natural alliance between gay rights and women's rights. I'm not so sure about that. I think there should be, but there are so many examples of where they did not find a natural alliance that it makes me wonder. This could simply be the power of the patriarchy, but in fact, while one would hope that there would be a natural alliance between any two groups working towards minority rights, but time after time, that notion seems to be rather rare. This suggests that there is some sort of systemic asymmetry that leads.

The second is that time frame we are talking about is rather remarkable in historical terms. While I agree that it ideally should be faster, there has to be some limit to the rate of societal change. I can't recall who said it, but someone noted that some of the greatest tragedies of our historical era has been the attempts towards utopia. Groups that express the sort of prejudices as above are having to deal with pressure and ostracism and they end up being fringe minorities. Do we somehow want _more_ than that? I'm not really sure if we do.

Again, this is rather unorganized, so I hope it doesn't come off as too dismissive of the points you are making.

Doctor S--you take what you concede is the most extreme margin of a religion that is otherwise remarkably open to women and homosexuals and make a broad brush point that many whose lives are not filtered through a particular narrative, or whose narratives have changed precisely because the "old ways" weren't either fair or logical or smart, simply no longer see as valid. As an historical and, compared to the sweep of time, rapidly eroding artifact, sure you have a point up to a point. Even history cuts against your paradigm to a degree, although it remains generally valid. But, in today's terms, the patriarchy is damned difficult for me to make out, particularly in the US mainstream.

Radlein:

I, too, have a lot of trouble imagining homophobic fundie Wiccans. I wonder how much of what Sharlet & Manseau observed was a generational effect.

Support for e.g. gay marriage has grown at a breakneck pace, but there was a definite uptick in opposition around the 2004 elections.

I wonder how much of what Sharlet & Manseau observed was a generational effect.

On a related note, I'd be curious how much was affected by immigrant dynamics. A lot of non-mainstream religions in the US are either largely frequented by recent immigrants or spiritually directed by them. And (in my experience), most recent immigrants to the US are less favorably disposed to homosexuality than the average American. For example, I've had to defend American disinterest in prosecuting homosexuals to angry atheist eastern Europeans.

Can someone add Sad Keanu to that pic?

Dr. Science, thank you for removing all those titillating men from the photo.

Wait, is that blurry object in the lower left-hand corner the back of a man's head? Or a chair? Inquiring libidos want to know.

But, in today's terms, the patriarchy is damned difficult for me to make out, particularly in the US mainstream.

According to WP, there are 17 women in the US Senate, 70 in the House.

According to this Forbes article from April 2010, only 3% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women.

I don't have a cite for this, but go to a Vault-100 firm's website and count the number of female partners.

Do you have data that supports your point?

I think perhaps that what we have here is a confusion of which is the cause and which the effect. (Starting from correlations can do that to you.)

Might it not be that some people start out with a socially conservative bent, and that moves them to one of the fundamentalist religions? Rather than that people start out in a fundamentalist religion, and then develop social conservatism.

How would we test that? Look at people who have changed religion -- which IIRC is not that uncommon in America. It doesn't even have to be between amjor religions; just changing sects or even just which church they attend could do it. And then see whether their position on social issues corresponded to, and predated, their choice of religious belief.

But, in today's terms, the patriarchy is damned difficult for me to make out, particularly in the US mainstream.

How many women and how many men were in the situation room in the original picture?

"As of 2011, 17 of the 100 U.S. Senators are women." (From Wikipedia.)

"Currently, 15 FORTUNE 500 companies are run by women, the same number as last year, although some of the names have changed." From here.

Also:

A total of 5,554 distinct speaking characters appeared across the sample, with 29.2% female and 70.8% male. Put differently, 2.42 males are depicted to every 1 female. MPAA rating is statistically but trivially (less than 5%) associated with gender. Of all speaking characters, 32.4% are female in G-rated films, 30% are female in PG-rated films, and 27.7% are female in PG13-rated films. These percentages suggest that females are still under represented in motion pictures, despite comprising over 50% of the U.S. population. Besides on screen, females also are infrequent behind-the-camera. We noted the gender of every director, writer, and producer across the 122 films. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates into 4.88 males working behind-the-scenes (b-t-s) to every one female. Clearly, our on screen and behind-thecamera results show females are infrequent in film.
-- from http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/downloads/KeyFindings_GenderDisparityFamilyFilms.pdf>here.

That latter is from http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/>the Geena Davis Institute website. Geena Davis was given an honorary degree at my daughter’s graduation a couple of years ago, and she spoke about her work on gender and why she got into it. When her daughter was a young child, they started noticing that there were ‘way more male that female characters in children’s movies and cartoons. This rang totally true for me: my daughter was p!ssed off almost from the day she was born at the fact that there were so many more boys than girls in the stuff she watched onscreen.

As for New Agers and gender/homophobia: I hung around for some years in workshops that I suppose come under the “New Age” heading -- conflict resolution, gender relations, etc. I encountered almost no homophobia, but some of the people I knew in that world were as obtuse as anyone I’ve ever met about whether gender is a simple binary distinction...or something more nuanced. All kinds of stuff that as a gay person I have experienced in relationships -- just like everyone else -- they ascribed to gender. The notion that pairs of people just tend to polarize...and that people are mercurial in this regard (I have been in relationships where I was constantly accused of being too emotional, and in others where I was the “too rational” one) just did not compute for them.

Finally, I don’t have time to tease apart everything I’d like to say about lj’s response to the post, but one thing about gender / homophobia that I don’t see mentioned very often is that gay people violate one of the most fundamental, unexamined, taken-for-granted gender stereotypes there is. And I don’t mean the one about how you’re supposed to act to “fit” with your “gender” -- I mean the the one about the gender you’re supposed to fall in love with.

But, in today's terms, the patriarchy is damned difficult for me to make out, particularly in the US mainstream.

Oh, brother. Any of the umpteen-million debates in state and federal legislative bodies over the past nine months, which consisted largely of white men deciding exactly which hoops those silly women should have to jump through before getting abortions, should have disabused you of the notion that the patriarchy is hard to discern. If you're not convinced, you're not in a position to be convinced.

Great summary of #'s of women in elective office in the US. I can't copy and paste from it but suffice to say, the percentage is under 25 overall.

Or, shorter, can you even imagine, for a single second, any state legislature in the US, or the House or Senate, taking up a law requiring a man to wait at least 72 hours, to get a lecture on fertility, and to view his sperm under a microscope before getting a vasectomy?

I think there is something to the idea that it is less about patriarchy as the root cause but about authoritarianism, i.e. hierarchy. Modern fundamentalists are often quite vocally opposed to a marriage of equal partners* and insist that one has to be the boss in the relationship. In mixed-gender relationships it is easy to construct such a hierarchy, usually a patriarchal one. But who is the 'natural' leader in a same-gender relationship?

*just one rather recent example: Palin had (according to her church leaders) first to ask her husband, if he would allow her to run for office. Had he denied it, she would have had to decline McCain's offer (or earlier not run for mayor or governor).

I think there is something to the idea that it is less about patriarchy as the root cause but about authoritarianism, i.e. hierarchy.

In his (free! on the internet!) book on authoritarians, Robert Altemeyer notes that clinging to traditional gender roles is one of the defining features for authoritarianism.

just one rather recent example: Palin had (according to her church leaders) first to ask her husband, if he would allow her to run for office. Had he denied it, she would have had to decline McCain's offer (or earlier not run for mayor or governor).

Eh, I'm not sure this works as an example. Running for elected office and becoming a public figure isn't something that one partner should decide to do on their own. I can't imagine deciding to subject my wife to the rigors of a national election campaign without first securing her enthusiastic support. Maybe the patriarchy comes about because Palin's church would not have expected her to get her spouse's approval if she was male?

But, in today's terms, the patriarchy is damned difficult for me to make out, particularly in the US mainstream.

McTex, have you ever been to a semiformal event? Ever noticed that standard dress code for women at those events is clothing that shows off lots of skin and hugs curves? And that standard dress code for men is a boxy shapeless suit that conceals the difference between young athletic men and 60-year old dudes with massive beer bellies as much as possible? Surely you've noticed these differences...do you think that they're just random? Or that women in modern America have no interest in admiring the male physique?

I mean, there's a whole set of social events for which women are expected to wear "a little black dress". It is little so that everyone can see their body because as a society, we've decided that women's bodies should be constantly visible and judged in ways that mens bodies shouldn't be.

I can't help but imagine what the reaction would've been if the newspaper in question had been published by/for Muslims. Heh.

Fundies suck, no matter what the religion. That's my opinion, and perhaps it's obnoxious, but there it is.

"I mean, there's a whole set of social events for which women are expected to wear "a little black dress". It is little so that everyone can see their body because as a society, we've decided that women's bodies should be constantly visible and judged in ways that mens bodies shouldn't be."

Woah. I was all on board with this right up until this. This has almost nothing to do with patriarchy or male preference. This is a norm firmly established and supported and continued by women.

I challenge you to NOT take the average woman to some event where she gets to wear a little black dress for an extended period of time and see if she doesn't ask for a night out where she gets to get dressed up and go some place nice.

Then try to wear something besides your tux. Try a tight fitting shirt and linen jacket with linen pants. Based on your body type she will let you know if that is close to acceptable.

Surely this is a symptom of the patriarchy?

Yes, her church leaders were explicitly asked about it. Had Todd run instead of her, he would in their view not haved needed her consent but she needed it because of Eph.5.
Btw, they would have preferred Sarah to be male. Iirc at least one was also of the opinion that she could only be VP not P because in the latter case there would be no man above her. So, in this man's opinion she would have had to resign rather than succeed in case that somethig happened to McCain.

I must admit that the idea of fundamentalist homophobic wiccans is slightly mindboggling

Wicca, as a modern religion, was founded in the UK in the late 1940s by Gerald Gardner (1884 - 1964). A Wiccan coven in the Gardnerian tradition is headed by the high priest and priestess, who are supposed to be a married couple.

There is of course no means by which one coven can enforce its will on another. But I find it absolutely unsurprising that Wiccan covens in the strict Gardnerian tradition would express homophobic / heterosexist views about a coven headed by a same-sex couple or even one headed by a lesbian and a gay man who were not married.

FWIW & FYI, etc.

Sort of off topic, but did anyone catch Chaz Bono on Letterman last night? There was a bit of teasing out gender from sexual orientation in the interview. I thought Letterman played the fool just enough to keep the audience along for the ride.

"I challenge you to NOT take the average woman to some event where she gets to wear a little black dress for an extended period of time and see if she doesn't ask for a night out where she gets to get dressed up and go some place nice."

I'm not really arguing with you on this particular point, Marty, but this "challenge" = my marriage. We're happy. Sometimes my wife wants to do stuff. It never, ever involves wearing a little black dress (or dressing up much at all). It's usually hiking or hanging out by the pool/beach (in which case she is wearing less than a little black dress, it's true, but that's not the purpose).

But she's No True Average Woman, Rob.

CCDG's thought experiment model can be used to support a variety of conclusions:

I challenge you to take the average asian and NOT have him do well on a math test

I challenge you to take the average black man and ask him that and NOT have him say "she gotta pack much back"

etc.

Stereotypes are easy when you assume what you need to prove.

If that fails, you can always assume that correlation = causation.

Turbulence,

It may be that what you describe is due to the patriarchy. Or maybe not. After all, the conservative religious folks that were the jumping-off point for this discussion won't even print a picture of a woman. Their ideological fellow travelers elsewhere in the world demand that women dress such that they are covered head-to-toe. This is pretty much the opposite of revealing little black dresses (or bikinis).

Are both driven by the patriarchy? The patriarchy doesn't seem to know what it wants.

FWIW & FYI, etc.

That's good to know!

I hope you are well, Jesurgislac.

Are both driven by the patriarchy? The patriarchy doesn't seem to know what it wants.

Yes. Yes, they are.

The role of women in a patriarchal/authoritarian society is to have her sexuality controlled (among other jobs). In some societies, that means she is required to put her sexuality on display, and if she refuses to do so (like a teenage American girl who wears baggy clothes), she is told she isn't behaving like a girl, and is punished socially.

In some societies, that control means that only immediate family members are allowed to see her elbows or belly-button, because even seeing her skin is somehow a sexual act. The implication here is that access to her body is an ownership right belonging solely to her husband. Note that the woman herself doesn't own her sexuality: her father/brothers/husband does, and those "honor killings" are punishment for infringing on his exclusively right of ownership--that's why so often the woman herself is killed, even if she was an unconsenting victim of sexual force. Either she rejected his ownership rights in choosing to sleep with someone unapproved, or she was tainted by a sexual assault: and in either event, her value is severely reduced and her male family member has lost face because he couldn't protect his property.

And yes, it's possible to do both at once--in America, we punish girls who don't "dress like girls" (although less than we used to: I'm grateful it's socially acceptable for me to wear slacks in the workplace, though many judges still forbid pantsuits in the courtroom), while simultaneously punishing girls who perform their sexuality too openly by calling them "sluts", even though they only do what they've been taught to do by our media.

Cultures are infinite in their variety, but almost every single one is vitally interested in controlling women's sexuality. Which takes us back to gender roles: strict gender roles are a way of controlling women, and that's (as noted above) one of the big issues tangled up in homophobia.

Because gays and lesbians are not complying by the rules: their relationships violate the traditionally-accepted gender roles, and as Judge Walker noted in his Prop 8 decision, that's one of the core issues for the "traditional marriage" folks. If two men can marry and have a happy and equal relationship, that throws into question all the conservative assumptions about traditional gender roles in an opposite-sex marriage. Maybe a woman can be a primary bread-winner; maybe a man can stay home with the kids, and bake cookies.

And that concept is such a threat to the authoritarian worldview, where everyone knows their job and everyone has their place, that they have to reject it out of hand.

Are both driven by the patriarchy? The patriarchy doesn't seem to know what it wants.

It wants control. The fact that the details differ from one cultural context to another doesn't invalidate that pattern.

Or, what JanieM said. Much shorter.

::facepalm::

though many judges still forbid pantsuits in the courtroom

Maybe McKinney ("the patriarchy is damned difficult for me to make out, particularly in the US mainstream") -- a lawyer, mind you -- needs new glasses.

cofax, I was just going to write the converse. I hadn't seen your post when I finally noticed that I hadn't responded to the capcha.....

This is a norm firmly established and supported and continued by women.

Women work to enforce many patriarchal norms. That doesn't make the patriarchy any less real, or powerful, or harmful.

I mean, there were certainly blacks who disparaged interracial marriage in the 60s. They were just as wrong as whites who disparaged interracial marriage.

I challenge you to NOT take the average woman to some event where she gets to wear a little black dress for an extended period of time and see if she doesn't ask for a night out where she gets to get dressed up and go some place nice.

Err, I don't see your point. Lots of people like getting dressed up and going to fancy functions occasionally. That seems like a separate question from the different ways our society expects the sexes to dress at those functions though....

Then try to wear something besides your tux. Try a tight fitting shirt and linen jacket with linen pants. Based on your body type she will let you know if that is close to acceptable.

My wife would very much like to see me wearing more, um, revealing clothing in the abstract, but at the same time she doesn't want to because we would both face social sanction. That's my point: there are different social expectations for women and they involve a level of public exposure and display that our society does not demand from men.

It may be that what you describe is due to the patriarchy. Or maybe not. After all, the conservative religious folks that were the jumping-off point for this discussion won't even print a picture of a woman.

Those particular conservative religious folk are statistically insignificant. The great mass of conservative religious people in the US have no problem with social conventions that require women to bare lots of skin and show off their curves to all and sundry in the right context. At least that's been my experience based on attending weddings in the bible belt.

Are both driven by the patriarchy? The patriarchy doesn't seem to know what it wants.

The patriarchy wants all women to be either virgins or whores. Often both. Or what JanieM and cofax said.

many judges still forbid pantsuits in the courtroom

cofax, can you provide a cite for that? Or a location where you excperienced it first hand? Thanks

Just for further discussion:

The harshest critics of what a given woman wears is:

A) Men
B) Other women

Choose one, and discuss. Just wondering what other people's thoughts on this are.

See, I think it's B). But I'm sufficiently lazy and unable to multi-task that I'd just as soon have the women do the organizing and such, and just tell me when some heavy lifting needs to be done. Because I'm the Shoveler. It's what I do. I shovel well.

See just when I say something like that, what comes up on my iPod? A song from the Glee soundtrack. I know I didn't put that there.

I've got a deep-seated aversion to dead-obvious autotune.

I don't see why "the harshest critic" of what a woman wears is more important than who has the most power to punish her, unless perhaps that is what you meant.

"It wants control."

Short & Sweet. Having thought about it some more (I fired off my comment and then went an did some work for once!), that totally makes sense.

Point conceded.

Can we dupe the patriachy into fighting itself (fundies vs. ""tits of GTFO"), while the rest of us do what we want?

That would be cool. Until one side won, I suppose.

or, not of. Damnit. I can't even get a mysognistic internet meme right today. I blame the Patriarchy. Or maybe Hillary. ;)

I don't see why "the harshest critic" of what a woman wears is more important than who has the most power to punish her, unless perhaps that is what you meant.

It's not clear what you mean by "punish".

I'm saying that in a broad sense, those people who most influence what a woman may and may not wear are other women.

I don't require anyone to agree with me. But I've seen women cut other women, rhetorically or socially or in some similar sense, far more cruelly their male counterparts do.

Like Julian, I'm not seeing the relevance of who the harshest critics of women's sartorial choices are....Patriarchal norms are enforced by many many people in our society. Many of those people are women. So what?

in America, we punish girls who don't "dress like girls" (although less than we used to: I'm grateful it's socially acceptable for me to wear slacks in the workplace, though many judges still forbid pantsuits in the courtroom), while simultaneously punishing girls who perform their sexuality too openly by calling them "sluts", even though they only do what they've been taught to do by our media.

But we are fine with boys who don't dress like boys? Or is it that boys decide what girls get to wear? Many judges are women, and I can't pass beyond the bar without a coat and tie. And boys who openly perform their sexuality are admired and respected? Who admires and respects that?

As for elected members of congress, the senate or any other position: women have the same right to run for office and the same right to vote as men. Women are at least half of eligible voters, yet they often vote for men. And vice verse. How does this prove anything?

As for Fortune 500 Companies, what kind of metric is that? Is this a static number, or do we reasonably expect it to increase over time? Could there be reasons other than the Patriarchy? For example, the number of qualified females currently available to fulfill those roles--a shortage that will almost certainly decline over time.


It's interesting, Doc started, I thought, with a post about religious conservatism (or perhaps religion itself, which was what I was kinda worried about), but it has evolved into a Patriarchy thread. I don't disagree that there is a Patriarchy, for some values of Patriarchy, but the problem is that if you aren't careful, you end up with a construct similar to Horowitz's notion of liberalism, or, closer to home, GOB's notion of Communism. Because, just like those two, you have something that never meets, has no organized structure, yet is all powerful. Which means that someone who is skeptical must feel like you've opened a bottle of 100 proof crazy when you start talking about it.

wj: see here; and here and here for a lot of anecdotal discussion about skirts vs. pants in the courtroom (and elsewhere). Generally it's norm-enforced rather than rule-enforced, but it's clear that some judges, at any rate, will take against a woman they perceive as disrespectful to the court.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine why exposing one's lower legs for view is considered to be more respectful.

But we are fine with boys who don't dress like boys?

No, we are not. When's the last time you saw a man in a skirt? Gender boundaries are enforced even more against men in our culture, at least when it comes to clothing.

Or is it that boys decide what girls get to wear? Many judges are women, and I can't pass beyond the bar without a coat and tie.

I don't follow. People don't enforce the rules based on whether they benefit from them. Most people aren't even aware that the rules of gender are a social construct, after all--they think it's all hard-wired. Of course women and girls wear skirts, and men wear pants, they think, even though there are plenty of societies through history that would have boggled at the very idea.

And boys who openly perform their sexuality are admired and respected?

Men aren't expected to perform their sexuality nearly as much in American culture--but they are expected to perform their gender.

Look at firemen. And football players. And sports stars of most types--male gender performativity in American culture these days tends to displays of fitness and aggression. Men who find an interest in landscape architecture and opera, however, are generally considered to be lacking in manliness (unless their perceived femininity is made up for by being cops or veterans or something else equally masculine).

Who admires and respects that?
I don't follow. Who admires and respects the performance of male sexuality? Like I said above, it's less of a requirement for (straight) American men, which is also a marker of the difference between men & women in this society.

Women are often expected to express their gender in ways that mark or exhibit their sexuality, or sexual availability--tight clothing, skirts, makeup (which emphasizes the lips and eyes), etc. Whereas men, not so much. They must express their gender, but not their sexuality--men's clothing has much less to do with sexuality, and more to do with marking status and identity. (In certain contexts, of course, there is a lot of performative male sexuality, but it's nowhere near as pervasive or required as it is for women.)

You wear your tie and coat to court because that is the uniform of the male lawyer, because it shows you are following the rules for your position in society. It's also a marker of class: few men not working in highly-paid professional jobs wear suits anymore, do they?

Those requirements (marking identity, class, etc) also apply to women's clothing, as well. We are allowed to wear suits, now (once it was against the law!), but social constraints require that they be tailored to show that we're still women.

The point I'm arguing, in sum, is that what is seen as appropriate for a member of a particular gender is at least in part culturally-determined, not biological. And a lot of cultures (maybe even most) have hang-ups about women's sexuality, which plays out in how women are expected/allowed to express that as part of their gender.

I'm saying that in a broad sense, those people who most influence what a woman may and may not wear are other women.

If we want to get real nit-picky, based on their prevalence in the fashion industry, as designers critics and label owners, the people who most influence what a woman may and may not wear are gay men. Make of that what you will.

As for Fortune 500 Companies, what kind of metric is that?

Given how closely the membership of the C-suite at Fortune 500 companies probably tracks with both wealth and political control in this country, that you would ask this question is remarkable.

Is this a static number, or do we reasonably expect it to increase over time?

Say, now that's a great question! And, as it happens, if we expand the question from "CEOs of Fortune 500 companies" to "boards of directors of Fortune 500 companies" the number of women on them actually fell between 2004-2010.

Men hold 82% of Fortune 100 corporate board seats in America, and white men hold 72.9%. (An increase from 2004! Hooray!)

But, hey, if you don't find it problematic that women, half the population, control an insignificant portion of the wealth tied up in the Fortune list, and don't think there are partiarchal or political implications there, I can't help you.

For example, the number of qualified females currently available to fulfill those roles--a shortage that will almost certainly decline over time.

Yes, I'm sure there are very few women who could do whatever the hell it is Lloyd Blankfein thinks he accomplished over the last several years.

Cofax--I think a lot of cultures have hang ups about all kinds of things, and gender roles of some kind or another are pervasive and universal and are among the hang ups, but the role issue applies to men as well as women. Good luck changing that. My take: men do what they think will make women like them and women do the same. If women want X, men will try to deliver it. Ditto what men want. Some women let men run their lives, other women feel put upon by men's shallowness, some men don't get why some women seem to be more talkative, etc. There are plenty of examples of relatively common behaviors men and women exhibit. Blame the patriarchy or blame our respective hormonal imperatives. But, don't tell me the patriarchy, today in America, conspires to limit or marginalize women. And don't tell me that many women, given the choice between work and staying at home, won't pick staying home with the kids as their first choice--assuming they have a choice financially, that is. There is nothing wrong with a more or less traditional division of labor, for lack of a better term, if it is freely agreed upon and mutually respected. Nor is there anything wrong with reversing the traditional roles, again with the same stipulations.

The point I'm arguing, in sum, is that what is seen as appropriate for a member of a particular gender is at least in part culturally-determined, not biological.

Along with a bazillion other culturally determined aspects of how we interact. But, I think and Dr. S are saying more. I think you are saying the Patriarchy makes the cultural determination. In this respect, I refer you to LJ's comment immediately above your last.

Cofax--I think a lot of cultures have hang ups about all kinds of things, and gender roles of some kind or another are pervasive and universal and are among the hang ups, but the role issue applies to men as well as women. Good luck changing that.

Well, I hope to. Because the Patriarchy* hurts men, too. Boys who like the color pink, and prefer playing with their sister's toys to shooting aliens on the computer, shouldn't be punished for that, or called homophobic slurs and then beaten up in middle school.

I don't want my nieces to be pressured into sex they don't want to have, and I want my nephews to be able to be gay without being tormented by their schoolmates.

My take: men do what they think will make women like them and women do the same.

I think you ascribe intentionality to reflexive behavior. Also, you presume that men are all straight, and that women don't perform for men (which they do, even as they perform for other women).

Men absolutely display masculinity for other men: what else is a boxing match, after all? (Yes, I know about the athleticism, but you can display athleticism without the aggression.)

But, don't tell me the patriarchy, today in America, conspires to limit or marginalize women.

It's not a conspiracy. It's two thousand (or so) years of cultural history, abetted by the fact that's it's easier not to think about these things when you're just struggling to get the kids off to school and keep food on the table. And I agree that women in the US are certainly better off now than we have been at any other time in history, generally.

But that it's better still doesn't make it right. Those figures viven above about the Fortune 500, or the number of women in Congress--do you think that's a reflection of complete equality in this country? Every woman in this country is naturally working up to her full potential, not held back by any external or internal forces that wither her possibilities?

Because if so, that's a pretty damning statement on women's ability.

If the numbers are okay by you, then you're saying that women are in fact lesser (or are naturally just unsuited to positions of leadership, which is nearly as damning); if they're not, then maybe we need to think about what is it that causes that inequality.

*"The Patriarchy" doesn't mean some secret cabal of men scheming to hold down women: it's just an easy way to refer to hundreds of years of assumptions and beliefs about what thoughts and behaviors are appropriate for each gender. (Leaving aside the issue that there are people who don't ascribe to a gender at all, which is often considered just as threatening as performing a gender that your society doesn't think you fit.)

But, don't tell me the patriarchy, today in America, conspires to limit or marginalize women.

Clearly not.

In this respect, I refer you to LJ's comment immediately above your last.

Ah. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail?

Point taken, although I don't think it's ridiculous to spend a while talking about gender theory in the comments on a post about gender issues.

If the original post was about historic preservation, I could have spent several hundred words talking about that; doesn't mean I think every building more than 50 years of age is worth saving.

In other words: of course not everything is about gender. But there's a lot more going on than you think. And as a friend of mine likes to say (she's a feminist historian): It's Always More Complicated.

cofax,
I don't want to undercut your points, but if I were to take this

"The Patriarchy" doesn't mean some secret cabal of men scheming to hold down women: it's just an easy way to refer to hundreds of years of assumptions and beliefs about what thoughts and behaviors are appropriate for each gender.

and substituted 'lazy' for 'easy', it might suggest the outline of the problem. Frex, you noted that courtroom dress codes are norm-enforced rather than rule-enforced. What I would suggest is that trying to change norm enforced behaviors requires a different approach and perhaps a different mind set to dealing with rule-enforced approaches, which is sort of taking your point about hammers. In fact, because It's Always More Complicated, that should be a warning against assuming that things that might work in a similar way, which, I feel like I need to add, is not ignoring them or denying their existence.

McT, to try and explain why, even though direct questioning won't elicit complaints, the problematic aspect of what we are referring to as the Patriarchy obtain, it is not simply that women (and men) actively demand to be treated in some particular way, it is that their sense of possibilities is curtailed. This gets kind of problematic when we talk about sex, cause we all have notions about what various possibilities entail, but when we think about notions of educational paths, career choices, even leisure activities, it sometimes becomes like tying one hand behind society's back. I tend to think that there are any number of problems floating around out there, and by limiting the number of people who feel like they should or even can tackle those problems impoverishes all of us. The person who may discover a way to treat cancer, or come up with a better algorithm, or build a better mousetrap is made not when they are 15 years old or 10, but when they are 1 or 2 years old. It's at that point that the gender choices in society form a neck. I believe you have written several times about women you know who were excellent at their professions and made a difference. Given that you recognize this, do you really think that those are the only women who could function at that level, or could it be that, given even a slightly more open environment, we would have more?

I get the impression that on the right (not just the religious) currently an old meme is being revived: the unemployment rates are women's fault. If they just stayed home (as is proper*) the unemployed men could easily find jobs. It might even lead to a shortage giving the workers more leverage in negotiating higher wages (making it even more unnecessary for their female family members to work). Same recipe for higher education.
From what I hear (from RW politial and media persons) women do not actually want to work outside the home and if they do their hearts are not in it, so they perform worse (justifying to pay them less). It's just (radical & [add pejorative epithets at will]) feminism that indoctrinates impressionable young girls to go against their nature and 'be like men'**.
Some women are into that rhetoric too like the Blonde Banshee*** who said that women should not have the right to vote.

*not always said but almost always implied.
**which also makes them unattractive, lowers the birthrates and results in the regrettable need to import cheap non-white labor that will inevitably and irreversably pollute our precious bodily fluids.
***Sorry Doc, I know you don't like it if pejorative nicknames are used in threads you author. In this case I prefer to be uncoultered.

It's not a conspiracy. It's two thousand (or so) years of cultural history, abetted by the fact that's it's easier not to think about these things when you're just struggling to get the kids off to school and keep food on the table.

This resembles what I've been trying to get at, after many iterations of type/backspace. If "The Patriarchy" (however you define it) is actually embedded in our culture, and not something that's being consciously foisted (forced, even) on women by men through threat and (inevitably, one might think) execution of physical force (which is, to me, what some of feminist rhetoric sounds as if it's saying), then what's needed is a cultural shift. Yes, and some laws to define what one may not do along the lines of gender preferences. But the cultural sway is not going to magically disappear with the advent of new laws. It takes time. Things are different now even than when JanieM was a teenager. If you want change NOW, you're just not going to get it. Even revolution just puts a bunch of new people with their own cultural blinders in power.

Just look at the equality that women achieved under the Communist Party of China, or failed to.

Slarti, I think there is both the cultural bedrock (the set of rules unconsciously followed by most people) and an activist movement, i.e. there is a degree of patriarchy in society that does not need actual enforcing but there are also influential* people that are not content/satisfied with that and would like to go much further.

*well, more influential at least than those that would like to chip away more of the bedrock.

I think you ascribe intentionality to reflexive behavior.

Hardly. The Boy/Girl thing is: drive drives intentionality. Boys who like girls and girls who like boys do what they think will get the response they desire. That's not patriarchy, that's biology coupled with cognition.

Also, you presume that men are all straight

Not in a million years. I am talking about the male/female aspect of gender interaction.

and that women don't perform for men (which they do, even as they perform for other women).

See my first statement in this comment.

Men absolutely display masculinity for other men: what else is a boxing match, after all? (Yes, I know about the athleticism, but you can display athleticism without the aggression.)

Here's the rub I see in some feminist quarters: a resentment of predominantly or exclusively male behaviors, a slice of male life that is not open to women for physical and perhaps other organic reasons. The fix: men need to change. Imagine that in reverse: men telling women, as a whole, they need to change.

Given that you recognize this, do you really think that those are the only women who could function at that level, or could it be that, given even a slightly more open environment, we would have more?

LJ, you are referring to my wife, my law partner, my daughter, my daughter-in-law and many, many young and not-so-young women I have known for years or who I routinely work/clash with or appear before. Half or more of entering med school, law school, MBA programs etc are female. Who has a problem with that? My daughter just finished her first year MBA at Rice, my daughter-in-law has a masters plus in something so esoteric I can't even recall its name, and this past Saturday we attended the wedding of a young woman I've known since she was six who starts at Wharton this fall. What point am I getting at? Women are filling the professional ranks, and have been for at least three decades, at rates roughly equal to men. Most of the women I know function just fine as professionals, i.e. some are at the top of their class, others above average, others average to below average--not unlike their male counterparts. The women I know and observe wear dresses, jewelry, etc. The men I know wear pants. My daughter hunts and fishes, I know plenty of men who don't. My wife plays golf and tennis, many men don't. The only bar I see to women in America today is lack of access to front line combat positions. That's a function of upper body strength.

From what I hear (from RW politial and media persons) women do not actually want to work outside the home and if they do their hearts are not in it, so they perform worse (justifying to pay them less).

How many young women have worked for you, had a baby, had a husband with an adequate income, and continued to work full time because that's what they wanted to do? I don't know what the studies are or whether they are reliable, but my limited experience is: 100% of the female degreed professionals who worked for me, who had a child during their tenure with me and whose husbands had adequate income either quit working altogether (3 women) or went part time (my law partner). Would I have preferred they stay on full time? Yes, but that's their call, not mine.

I have personally observed a high level of stress in new mothers who are away from their child all day long, every day. Imposed on them by the patriarchy? Seems a reach to me. I think they'd rather be with their kids, all thing being equal. But, what I think doesn't matter, because it's their call.

Slarti, I think there is both the cultural bedrock (the set of rules unconsciously followed by most people) and an activist movement

Agreed! I didn't mean to imply that there was more than one driver.

The problem with pointing to "cultural sway" is that the sway in the other direction at some point also becomes cultural.

Thanks, cofax. I had no idea that the legal profession was that far into the dark ages.

Guess I've spent too much of my career in IT. Where "dressing up" tends to mean jeans which haven't been worn to the point where they are ragged; or at least putting on a shirt/blouse rather than just a T shirt. In fact, I was at a conference this past year where one vendor got minimal traffic at their booth (and was upset about it). And the analysis from those running the conference was: the three-piece pin-stripe suits made them look like something out of a mob movie. I.e. "not one of us."

So, clothing requirements/stereotypes can go both ways. And if you don't know the sub-culture, it may seem insane.

My take: men do what they think will make women like them and women do the same....Boys who like girls and girls who like boys do what they think will get the response they desire. That's not patriarchy, that's biology coupled with cognition.

I'm reading you as somehow maintaining that gender roles, or at least the roles and behaviors surrounding sexual relations between the genders, are more or less freely constructed by some kind of "market", a trial-and-error exchange resulting in revealed preferences. E.g., girl A does X because she thinks a boy she's sweet on will like it, and doesn't do Y because the boy doesn't respond well to that, etc. Aggregate those behaviors over a whole society, and gender roles just fall out somehow, washing dishes, high heels and everything.

Maybe I'm just misreading you, but that doesn't seem right at all. To take a concrete example, why is it that, for example, a boy should expect that giving a girl flowers would convey his feelings or elicit any particular kind of response? And what makes a girl accept the gift of a bundle of dead plant parts as a symbol of affection that invites a response? Why is it that either of them feel that it's the boy who should take initiative or bring the gift?

Biology? Cognition? Obviously not. It's culture.

And to be sure, culture consists of a lot of stuff, a lot of it harmless and arbitrary. But to the extent that some of that embedded stuff prescribes gender roles that are limiting or harmful, we call that "patriarchy." (The passive element, anyway, there is an active element too. Or at least a more active side to a continuum.) So, particular kinds of flowers as a symbol of affection? Harmless and (mostly) arbitrary. The expectation that girls should wait for boys to ask them out and bring them flowers? Not so harmless - to both boys and girls. Patriarchy.

I have personally observed a high level of stress in new mothers who are away from their child all day long, every day. Imposed on them by the patriarchy? Seems a reach to me. I think they'd rather be with their kids, all thing being equal. But, what I think doesn't matter, because it's their call.

Are you unaware of the degree to which both boys and girls are acculturated to a particular view of gender roles - their own and what to expect from others - starting the day they're born?

Are you unaware of the extent to which a woman can face various kinds of assumptions or "tsk, tsk" social disapproval from nearly everyone in her life: parents, friends, employers, etc., if she doesn't make the proper motions to accept her "maternal responsibilities"?

How much of that "stress" you observe is actually any kind of innate biological response, and how much is conditioning? How much of the stress is not even about being away from the kids at all, per se, but instead various other stresses resulting from bucking a powerful gender norm?

How much easier it must be for most women to just give in to the cultural norms - after all, it's not as if they don't enjoy spending time with their children. But how many great people are we missing in their various fields because of it? And don't men enjoy spending time with their children too?

McKinney,

When you've been told since you were a girl that mothers have a hard time being away from their kids, when you've heard mothers who after divorce behave like fathers after divorce labeled sociopaths, when two dozen of your closest friends as well as powerful women in the media talk about how hard it is to leave your little baby and how taking care of it while it's little is the most important thing, when your partner is unwilling to stay home and take care of the kid... maybe your feelings of stress are entirely internal and entirely 100% natural ... but maybe not.

Here's the rub I see in some feminist quarters: a resentment of predominantly or exclusively male behaviors, a slice of male life that is not open to women for physical and perhaps other organic reasons. The fix: men need to change. Imagine that in reverse: men telling women, as a whole, they need to change.

I'm not really sure what this could be referring to. What resentment? And specifically what behaviors and "physical or...organic" reasons are you talking about here? (I mean, what, a vagina means you can't hit someone with gloves or smoke cigars? I'm assuming that's not what you mean, so help me out here.)

As to men and women needing to change, I think the clear implication of pushing against patriarchy and patriarchal norms is that everyone will need to change. I don't think feminists are generally unaware of this. (And, incidentally, there are men who are feminists.)

How much easier it must be for most women to just give in to the cultural norms

(To be clear, didn't mean to imply that this was actually easy, just, perhaps, easier.

The rub is that women often get it coming and going. Just giving in to the expectation that you're supposed to care for the children isn't enough. Especially if you still HAVE to work to pay the bills. Or if you don't, maybe you'll get disapproval for NOT working. Or for something else. There's always something.)

The fix: men need to change. Imagine that in reverse: men telling women, as a whole, they need to change.

Yeah, that NEVER happens.

How much of that "stress" you observe is actually any kind of innate biological response, and how much is conditioning? How much of the stress is not even about being away from the kids at all, per se, but instead various other stresses resulting from bucking a powerful gender norm?

Women, and men, want to be with their children, raise and nourish them, play with them, feed them, etc. because they've been told that's what they are supposed to do, not because they actually prefer doing so? Seriously? Does someone have a new norm that is superior, that we should impose in place of the current one? I'd like to see that.

I'm not really sure what this could be referring to. What resentment? And specifically what behaviors and "physical or...organic" reasons are you talking about here? (I mean, what, a vagina means you can't hit someone with gloves or smoke cigars? I'm assuming that's not what you mean, so help me out here.)

I am referring the various masculine behaviors cited in this thread with the subtext that, really, they need to be revisited. "Organic" means fundamental, as in, for example, testosterone produces different levels and types of aggressiveness, estrogen produces different responses/behaviors. Men have higher testosterone levels, ergo, different behaviors, outlets, etc.

everyone will need to change

Change into what, and who gets to decide? What if, on balance, the consensus is things are either pretty much as good as they are going to get or are trending satisfactorily in that direction? For example, gay marriage is going to happen, maybe not tomorrow but in my lifetime and I'm 57. Not soon enough, I agree, but not in some distant future either.

So what major normative changes are needed? Let's have that discussion.

Hell, I'd rather be home with my daughter than here in my cube. So? I bet that lots of guys feel that way, or would if they considered it viable.

I took 4 months off unpaid last summer to take care of her. That was cool.

I believe that the primary reason I did not think what I was doing was in any way odd was that my father retired early and raised me. Dad being home (cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and of course kid-raising) was normal to me, even though I was aware that it was actually rare. It probably helped my father that he'd been a top exec for a big company before he retired. Been there, done that, with regard to the whole male gender role in business thing. He therefore had nothing to prove.

I feel like I have nothing to prove, not because I've already proven it, but rather because I feel proof is unnecessary. I see this as progress. YMMV.

Women, and men, want to be with their children, raise and nourish them, play with them, feed them, etc. because they've been told that's what they are supposed to do, not because they actually prefer doing so? Seriously?

We're not talking women AND men here. That's the point. You were (or seemed to my reading) to be referring to a stronger innate desire among the working mothers you knew to be with their children. E.g., this "stress" about not being home taking care of the kids was something you noticed in women, but not so much in men.

To the extent that those observations are accurate (and not merely, say, confirmation bias), it's my contention that at least a large part of this difference is due to gendered differences in acculturation rather than to innate biological differences. (And, while we can acknowledge that perhaps some innate differences exist, it is essentially impossible to distinguish whatever those might be under the layers of acculturation piled over them.)

I am referring the various masculine behaviors cited in this thread with the subtext that, really, they need to be revisited.

I'm still in the dark here. I just skimmed through the thread and all I noticed that might fit that description were things like wearing suits or being actors and directors.

So, again, what "masculine behaviors" are you talking about?

(And, assuming you can identify some behaviors that women are actually biologically incapable of (!), where's the evidence of resentment?)

"Organic" means fundamental, as in, for example, testosterone produces different levels and types of aggressiveness, estrogen produces different responses/behaviors. Men have higher testosterone levels, ergo, different behaviors, outlets, etc.

This is a very dangerous road to go down, but one gender essentialists are alway eager to tread.

Obviously there are certain physiological differences between genders (although even these are surprisingly malleable, being not so much "innate" as developmental). But it's very suspect to make any declarations about mentality or behavior based on that. Brain structures and even hormonal responses are incredibly plastic, and acculturation clearly plays a huge role in their formation. When so much of behavior is clearly cultural, it's useless to speculate about what amount of "innateness" might be hiding somewhere in the mist.

It's really not something you want to hang a defense of harmful gendered social norms on.

So what major normative changes are needed? Let's have that discussion.

Here's how I see it. Right now, today, we live in a world where there's an expectation that women's bodies will often be on display in a way that's not true for men. I don't really care which standard we adopt, but I'd like for our society to adopt a gender-neutral policy in that regard.

In other words, I'd like to go to formal events where the fraction of women who are baring their legs or wearing form-fitting clothing is about the same as the fraction of men doing so. I don't really care whether that number is 0% or 50% or 100%; I just want it to be roughly the same for both genders.

Change into what, and who gets to decide? What if, on balance, the consensus is things are either pretty much as good as they are going to get or are trending satisfactorily in that direction? For example, gay marriage is going to happen, maybe not tomorrow but in my lifetime and I'm 57. Not soon enough, I agree, but not in some distant future either.

I expect many things ARE trending in roughly the right direction. That's not change, then...?

So what major normative changes are needed? Let's have that discussion.

Just a couple off the top of my head, around gender and sexual issues, which do not necessarily seem to me to be fixing themselves "on their own" any time soon: under-representation of women in various professions, career paths, and positions of power and influence. Wage gaps. Persistent and pernicious expectations about women and domestic housework. Various pointless, scary or harmful dysfunctions surrounding dating, sex and marriage. Rape culture. Societal discomfort with cross-dressing, transgender, intersex - or anything else not whitebread cis-gender.

I could probably go on.

I'd like to go to formal events where the fraction of women who are baring their legs or wearing form-fitting clothing is about the same as the fraction of men doing so.

Why do you care? Why on earth could anyone possibly care whether there are different levels of ok-ness for dress code for women than for men? I mean, as long as it's just fine with women to be, en masse, dressed in a way that's either more or less covered than men, why do you want to have any say in the matter at all?

jack, I'm less interested in what needs to be changed (which is not to say uninterested) than how you propose to effect such changes. And how fast you think such changes can be effected.

Thanks, jack lecou.

As to parenting, I know many working mothers who have very much enjoyed not being with their children 24/7. Having a meaningful career and life outside the home is important to many people, even those who love their children, and love spending time with them. There is certainly stress in balancing the responsibilities of busy lives; more so, because our culture does little to support working parents.

Some people enjoy being with young children as a vocation, but many people don't. Most people (IMO) would prefer to have a taste of both worlds. That's a scenario that our society has plenty of resources to accommodate and optimalize, for everyone's benefit.

I would very much sign on to the list that jack presents. Our society's (governmental) preference for traditional marriage and the nuclear family makes some of these cultural expectations more difficult to change.

I'm very much enjoying the attention that Barack Obama's mother is getting lately because of the book by Janny Scott.

I'm very much enjoying the attention that Barack Obama's mother is getting lately because of the book by Janny Scott.

jack, I'm less interested in what needs to be changed (which is not to say uninterested) than how you propose to effect such changes. And how fast you think such changes can be effected.

Is this very mysterious? Through posts like this, to start with. Or by striving to set a good example oneself. Supporting people in our lives who may be struggling with these issues. By calling people out who think, e.g., that it's okay to pass laws about women's bodies or treat them like children. By using whatever influence we may have in whatever sphere to subvert norms or raise awareness.

We also need to support more formal approaches where needed. Like, for example, strong legal protections (employment, housing, etc.) for transgendered people. Or programs to encourage or assist women interested in entering fields such as science or engineering. Or strong public supports for child care and parental leave. Or vigorous prosecution of "date" rapists (even the "good boys" and "nice guys"). Or even, say, public funding for research into gender biases in early childhood education.

How long will it take? Longer than we'd all like. Generations more, probably. And by then perhaps there will be new injustices to deal with. (Though I'm hopeful that understanding of things like prejudice and human nature may actually be a science of a sort, so that absolute improvements may ultimately be made in social justice and happiness in the same way as we have made with fire or electricity.)

I mean, as long as it's just fine with women to be, en masse, dressed in a way that's either more or less covered than men,

I don't understand what you're saying.

Do you think there's anything that's "fine with women...en masse"? And if "en masse" leaves out a few of us, what then? (That's the eternal problem, from my point of view.)

Are you saying that Turbulence, as a man, shouldn't be expecting to have any say in what women wear? First, I read him more as saying what kind of culture he wants to live in. Second, I don't think it's any more okay for women to enforce arbitrary norms on women than for men to do so.

I would like to see a culture where a girl in a tux and a boy in a dress can go to the prom without attracting any particular notice whatsoever. I.e., a culture where it is generally understood that the categories "girl" and "boy" aren't binary, even at the level of biology, and aren't necessarily fixed for life, either.

Just a fun memory:

In 1992 I went with my Irish girlfriend to some events in connection with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Trinity College Dublin. We both wore tuxes. We both looked great. No one paid us any particular notice (in "Catholic" Ireland). Walking away from campus at about four in the morning, we passed a young woman on the street who gazed at us for a moment and, as we passed, said, "Pure f*ckin' gorgeous." (I wish I could do the accent in print.)

"Some people enjoy being with young children as a vocation, but many people don't. Most people (IMO) would prefer to have a taste of both worlds. That's a scenario that our society has plenty of resources to accommodate and optimalize, for everyone's benefit."

Great, wonderful thought, and that women spend a lot of time worrying whether they should/can take time off to spend more time with a small child or whether they prefer working and dealing with those stresses is great. While men have a long thought process about even having the option much less frequently is ok, less good.

That seems very much un-Patriarchal to me which is where this started.

As for cooking/cleaning/laundry etc. I find that most of the people I know in my childrens age group (25-35), including my children find those tasks to be divided by other things than gender more often than not, just one persons observtaion.

I would like to see a culture where a girl in a tux and a boy in a dress can go to the prom without attracting any particular notice whatsoever. I.e., a culture where it is generally understood that the categories "girl" and "boy" aren't binary, even at the level of biology, and aren't necessarily fixed for life, either.

This.

Are you saying that Turbulence, as a man, shouldn't be expecting to have any say in what women wear?

Sure! Why should he? For that matter, why should he have any say in what other men wear?

Also, why should he have anything to say about the relative level of modesty between male and female dress?

Maybe I'm misreading him, though. It's always a possibility.

This is an interesting study regarding gender and housework.

It concludes that "married men and women appear to respond quite differently to issues of dependency or providership. Wives respond in ways consistent with the dependency model [i.e., they do more housework when more financially dependent]. The same is not true for husbands. Regardless of whether economic patterns of support between wife and husband are measured contemporaneously or over a period of years, dependent husbands do less housework the more they depend on their wives for income. This dynamic is particularly evident among (though not limited to) married men in low-income households. Men currently dependent on their wives as a consequence of prolonged joblessness are also prone to disavow household work. Quite possibly, any tendency among working-class or poor men to embrace an ethic of exaggerated masculinity (Morris 1990; Rubin 1976) might predispose these husbands to resist housework as evidence mounts of "failure" at the male provider role."

CCDG: it's hard to know the truth about household relationships from observation (unless, maybe, you're observing the household you reside in). Just saying.

As for cooking/cleaning/laundry etc. I find that most of the people I know in my childrens age group (25-35), including my children find those tasks to be divided by other things than gender more often than not, just one persons observtaion.

It's my understanding that studies and surveys still show a marked gendered disparity in this kind of work. It probably is diminishing in my age group and younger, but I'm not sure by much. The problem is that the whole nexus of habits and expectations makes the process quite insidious. I think even a very well meaning male partner who is conscious of the problem can let things slip without necessarily meaning to or realizing it. (And/or think to themselves that they're doing plenty of housework - until someone actually adds up the hours.)

Note that it's not just about the division of work in a household, but also about social expectations. I.e., what is it that visitors think if they come over to a married couple's house and the kitchen floor is dirty, or the baby is crying, and whom do they think it about?

Men currently dependent on their wives as a consequence of prolonged joblessness are also prone to disavow household work. Quite possibly, any tendency among working-class or poor men to embrace an ethic of exaggerated masculinity (Morris 1990; Rubin 1976) might predispose these husbands to resist housework as evidence mounts of "failure" at the male provider role."

sapient, I wonder if what we are seeing there is not a matter of different sub-cultures. Most of us, I suspect, are not in poor and/or (manual) working-class hosueholds -- although some of us grew up in one. As a result, what we see as reasonable and acceptable, not to mention desirable, changes to how gender roles are viewed may not be anything like how they are seen in other parts of our society.

As a side not, that difference in how the world in general, and cultural issues in aprticular, is viewed extends far beyond gender roles.

Which is, IMHO, why we so often hear lines like "How did X get elected? Nobody I know would vote for that whack job!" It's just that the people we know are part of a very limited sub-set of the whole population -- even within our local area, let alone nationwide.

We all gotta get out more. ;-)

Why do you care? Why on earth could anyone possibly care whether there are different levels of ok-ness for dress code for women than for men?

I care because I think it reflects a power imbalance (although I'd love to hear alternative theories). When the power balance goes away, the gender-difference in norms will probably abate too. It see it is a canary in the coal mine in that regard.

Also, I think there are costs to social expectations that say that all women have to expose their bodies for universal review and critique whether they want to or not. Doing so is stressful and I don't care for social conventions that distribute stress differentially for no reason. I think people should have a choice about how exposed they want to be; to the extent that we have strong gendered social norms, that undercuts such freedom in the aggregate.

I mean, as long as it's just fine with women to be, en masse, dressed in a way that's either more or less covered than men, why do you want to have any say in the matter at all?

See JanieM's comment.

Wow @slartibartfast. I can't figure out if you're deliberately misreading Turb's commentary or if you really are that oblivious to male privilege.

First of all, there is no such thing as something that "women en masse" can agree on. Women come in all kinds of flavors: sorority girls, lesbian seperatists, tomboys, sensible shoe dykes, lipstick lesbians, girlfags, plain-living wives, etc etc. There is *nothing* about how a woman "should" dress in public that all women or even most women or even a plurality of women can agree on. The thing that women have in common is that we all experience, to varying degrees, pressure to conform to the sterotype that Turb describes: skin bearing, form fitting clothing, displayed for the pleasure of heterosexual males.

And yes, straight women critique other women's clothing and dress. Some women have also historically opposed women's voting, full participation of women in politics, corporations and the military, and the equal rights amendment. That doesn't magically mean that patriarchy and sexism doesn't exist -- it means that some women are complicit in patriarchy, either because they think they will have more personal security in that system, or they were raised that way and haven't deconstructed their upbringing, or whatever other reasons they may have.

As for why Turb, or anyone else, should have something to say about relative modesty between male and female dress, that seems obvious to me. Since the difference between the amount of skin men and women are expected to show is rooted in both the heterosexual male desire to see women as sex objects and the heterosexual male anxiety about masculinity and not being seen as a pansy or a fag, it's only when *men* start having conversations with other men about differences in social expectations and why they, frankly, suck, that anything is going to change.

although I'd love to hear alternative theories

How about a preference imbalance? Or do you expect women's preferences to exactly mirror those of men?

First of all, there is no such thing as something that "women en masse" can agree on.

This doesn't address any claim of mine.

Since the difference between the amount of skin men and women are expected to show is rooted in both the heterosexual male desire to see women as sex objects and the heterosexual male anxiety about masculinity and not being seen as a pansy or a fag

That's a whole lot of baggage, there, but it doesn't address what I was getting at. What I was getting at is more like: hey, what if all of that cultural baggage could be magically erased, and it winds up that women as a population (since you seem to have taken en masse to be some kind of group consensus) tend to be more or less modest in dress than men do, as a population? Should Turbulence still have something to say about how things should be more equal, or no?

en masse - definition of en masse by the Free Online Dictionary ...In one group or body; all together:

En masse | Define En masse at Dictionary.com/ɑn ˈmæs, ɛn; Fr. ɑ̃ ˈmas/ Show Spelled[ahn mas, en; Fr. ahn mas] Show IPA. –noun. in a mass; all together; as a group

etc.etc.

What did you mean by "en masse," Slarti?

"It's my understanding that studies and surveys still show a marked gendered disparity in this kind of work."

Sorry, I wasn't specific enough, as usual. While I am involved in the households I am refering to often enough to believe I have enough information to have an opinion it is only my observation.

And yes, even in those households many gender specific expectations still rule.

Carrying out the trash is still almost exclusively the bailiwick of the male, as is shoveling snow except in emergencies, as are many outside activities, and then heavy cleaning seems to get traded off for those outside chores, although somehow mopping floors seems to break even.

I was specifically refering to more daily things like daily cleaning up, who starts/cooks dinner, throws in the laundry, loads/starts the dishwasher (or washes dishes), feeds/bathes baby etc. seem to be shared or traded off activities.

And jack, what do you think and who do you think it about? Because in my circle of friends we make it a point to discourage last minute kitchen floor mopping, we all know we live in our houses.

What I was getting at is more like: hey, what if all of that cultural baggage could be magically erased, and it winds up that women as a population (since you seem to have taken en masse to be some kind of group consensus) tend to be more or less modest in dress than men do, as a population? Should Turbulence still have something to say about how things should be more equal, or no?

I would say obviously not. But such a hypothetical world (modulo whatever personal preferences actually turn out to be) is the one we're working toward, it's got little to do with the one we live in now.

(I'll let Turbulence speak for himself, but for my part I VERY much doubt that he was implying that he ought to be able to dictate the percent of skin people wear covered. Or that dress styles ought to be legislated or something. Only that the power differences which CURRENTLY give rise to these disparities ought to be eliminated.)

How about a preference imbalance? Or do you expect women's preferences to exactly mirror those of men?

OK, what does that mean? What is the source of this imbalance?

I mean, if it just so happens that lots of women "prefer" to expose their bodies more than their male compatriots, is it because they feel they'll come under social sanction if they don't? Is it because they feel people will talk? Is it because they want people to think well of their partner/family? Any of those explanations are equivalent to my power imbalance theory.

If you put a gun to my head and demanded my money, you'd get it, because I "preferred" to give it to you, but that doesn't mean I'd do so absent the gun. There are limits to what preferences can tell us. So I think that just saying "preference imbalance" doesn't really help anything: the whole point of social norms is that they're absorbed throughout life and then often expressed as preferences.

Beyond all that, I don't see how preference imbalance can work in this case. Straight men like to look at women. But straight women also like to look at men. Given those two preferences, we should have equilibrium norms whereby both genders are showing off roughly the same amount of skin. But we don't.

I disagree with the very heart of Turbs point about the expectation that women show lots of skin at formal events. There are many perfectly socially acceptable formal dresses that show a minimum of skin and many women choose to wear them. Women, in fact, have a choice as to how much skin they want to show.

If his main complaint is that it is unacceptable for men to show skin and he feels that is unfair then I concede the point and agree he should be able to wear more provocative clothing without social sanction.

I believe that women do have a choice in the matter.

(I'll let Turbulence speak for himself, but for my part I VERY much doubt that he was implying that he ought to be able to dictate the percent of skin people wear covered. Or that dress styles ought to be legislated or something. Only that the power differences which CURRENTLY give rise to these disparities ought to be eliminated.)

You shouldn't really; you do a better job of explaining my position than I do.

Slarti, I do not wish to dictate anyone's sartorial choices.

"As for why Turb, or anyone else, should have something to say about relative modesty between male and female dress, that seems obvious to me. Since the difference between the amount of skin men and women are expected to show is rooted in both the heterosexual male desire to see women as sex objects and the heterosexual male anxiety about masculinity and not being seen as a pansy or a fag, it's only when *men* start having conversations with other men about differences in social expectations and why they, frankly, suck, that anything is going to change."

Thank goodness women don't have anything to do with it at all. This level of innate self-victimization is mind boggling.

wj: "As a result, what we see as reasonable and acceptable, not to mention desirable, changes to how gender roles are viewed may not be anything like how they are seen in other parts of our society."

I totally agree with this. Most of the people who post comments here seem enlightened and self-aware. That's one reason why it's sometimes fun to look in, but peoples' attitudes here aren't necessarily typical.

To the Turbs: I struggle with the dress code issue, partly because I know people of both genders (gay and straight) who very much enjoy fashion and enjoy presenting themselves as beautiful, sexual beings. This right is taken away in cultures where modesty is imposed. The problem is where any mode of behavior is expected. In some circumstances, it would seem more important to minimize sexuality (the office, military life, etc.) In social situations, less so.

I feel that people (both men and women) are objectified far too much, and that, in the heterosexual community, women bear the primary burden of being sexually objectified. I try not to assess the value of people based upon their appearance, but clothing and self-presentation seems a legitimate means of self-expression. Like CCDG, I believe that generally women can and do find modest clothing that's fashionable and appropriate, and aren't "forced" to wear skimpy clothing. And not every woman who wears a strapless gown is buying into objectification. The expectation that people's appearance needs to conform to a certain standard is a different issue, and one that increasingly (and disturbingly) crosses gender lines.

Sorry, I wasn't specific enough, as usual. While I am involved in the households I am refering to often enough to believe I have enough information to have an opinion it is only my observation.

I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to doubt your observations. Just pointing out that in the big picture they may not be generalizable.

(Also interesting to observe that people might come to different results depending on whether they're looking at whether tasks are divided up/alternated/whatever, and how many hours are actually spent. For example, my partner and I could agree that we'd each cook dinner 3 nights a week, but then end up spending radically different amounts of time and effort on it. That problem probably gets even worse if you're divvying up completely different tasks - e.g., 'you mow the lawn, I'll scrub the floors'.)

And jack, what do you think and who do you think it about?

I probably wouldn't even notice. But I expect many people do, and I expect many people might still unconsciously assume that's the woman's failure. (Also: that many more woman than men out there are acculturated to worry about whether people are secretly judging them based on the cleanliness of their kitchen floors.)

"But I expect many people do, and I expect many people might still unconsciously assume that's the woman's failure. (Also: that many more woman than men out there are acculturated to worry about whether people are secretly judging them based on the cleanliness of their kitchen floors.)"

Yes.

@sapient (and others who have made similar commentary)

It was never my contention that women are "forced" to do anything. Clothing choices are not, as my dear spouse analogizes, like having a gun pointed to your head.

But there's a huge range between "forced at gunpoint" and "completely free preferences." I'm not "forced" to wear a slinky cocktail dress to my husband's workplace parties, nor am I forced to style my hair in a conventional way (instead of spiked straight up like I do most of the rest of the time) but the likelihood that Turb will then have to field field comments about my weird clothing and hair the following Monday definitely influences my choices. I don't want his masculinity to be judged because I dress like a big ol' dyke instead of pretending to be a straight girl.

As for women being able to find modest and fashionable party clothes: sure. But look at the majority of women at cocktail parties, or the majority of women's dress clothes in any department store. Just because the option exists doesn't mean it's considered the norm.

I do not wish to dictate anyone's sartorial choices.

Thanks for clarifying.

The thread has drifted on by, but I wanted to note McT's reply to me and apologize if he thought I was trying to make a backhand shot at him, I'm not particularly comfortable ordering a charge on the revetment of fashion choice as a major campaign in the war against the Patriarchy, so I wasn't trying to draw some conclusions on that by talking about the various highly competent women in your life. It was more to try and explain why dealing with questions of the Patriarchy brings out a certain combativeness. After all, 150 years ago, to the question 'why is that person a slave', you might have had someone point to his or her genetic antecedents, so you might understand why folks have reservations.

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