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February 25, 2005

Comments

SorchaRei

But though I briefly acknowledged that women are also visual creatures, I didn't address the flip side, largely because it doesn't immediately seem to be as consequential a problem.

Wow. This sentence stopped me cold. In what way could it possibly not be as consequential? Because women are presumed to be less likely to be visually stimulated? Because women are presumed to be less affected by visual stimulation? Because women's distraction is less important than men's distraction? Because women are sexual objects and men are sexual actors?

None of this makes sense to me with respect to who I imagine you to be, based on what I read. But Roman Catholic monastic rules often include "custody of the eyes" for a reason. What we see affects us. And I am left thinking that you either don't think that women are affected as much, or you don't think it matters as much when women are affected, or think that women are just "better" at dealing with distraction.

I don't understand why the issue is not "Who owns the distraction and whose problem is it to modify the circumstances to reduce the distraction?" without reference to maleness or femaleness.

Hugo Schwyzer

SorchaRei, note my adverb. I said it doesn't "immediately" seem as consequential. Why? Because, like everyone else, I too am often blind to the reality of the female gaze. Like many men in particular, despite my years of feminist training, I don't instantly acknowledge women's "visualness", simply because it isn't talked about as much. The whole bleepin' post, however, was a recognition that that initial, immediate response was incomplete.

La Lubu

Oh yeah, Hugo...we look too! Most definitely! We tend to be more discreet about it than men, but that's a learned behavior...this society gives more cultural room to men to express appreciation of the female body (in both polite and obnoxious ways), but trust me---we are checking men out!

There is a difference in the way the male body and the female body is perceived---by either men or women. The female body is automatically sexualized in a way that the male body is not. And folks feel free to make sexual judgements on women's bodies to a far greater extent...and I'm not just talking about attractiveness.

Your experience of having your sexuality questioned because of your dress isn't really a common male experience, and IMHO didn't have as much to do with your dress as with your bachelor/no kids status combined with your age, combined with your fashionable dress. You could have worn the same clothes and not had a single question had you been married.

I'd say another way in which the situation for men and women is different is that women are given more cultural room for clothing and other appearance choices; with the flip side being that we are 'required' to make those choices---proper dress, hairstyle, and grooming options for women practically must vary by age, by season, by situation (work? school? home? church?). And we are alternately 'required' to show skin/not show skin, in a way that men aren't. I put the 'required' in quotes, because of course no one has a gun to our heads, but that yes, we do have repercussions for not making, or not knowing the "right" choice to make.

There's a similar conversation at Amp's on hairstyles; I observed that it was easy for a man to work within the cultural boundaries--that a man had to exert some effort to go outside those boundaries. For us, the boundaries themselves change by time, place, age, situation. A man can have the same hairstyle, and pretty much the same dress clothes from the age of five to the age of eighty-five and make it work (size changes allowed, of course!) in most situations. A woman cannot.

I think that impacts how men and women are viewed.

La Lubu

"Because, like everyone else, I too am often blind to the reality of the female gaze".

Another reason for this may be that we in the U.S. are inundated with advertising at every turn, and most advertising is directed toward the male gaze....paradoxically, even when directed at female customers! We're all taught to observe from the male POV.

MetaMetaX

Hugo - "But what I really care about is not using my body to make others uncomfortable. I don't want my clothes and my flesh to arouse others, I don't want them to scare others, I don't want them to inspire economic envy, and I don't want them to distract others."

That'll only happen when you're dead, my friend. But before that, human bodies will always be sexual.

I teach high school biology and chemistry. It's a sad place, mostly because those two courses which I relished taking as a high school student not 15 years ago have been replaced by shells of themselves. Regents Biology is about one-third of its former self. Regents Chemistry is about one-half of itself. And the saddest thing is that percent passing in both courses is the same as it was 15 years ago.

I started out as a nice teacher...but that didn't work out so well. Now I believe that teaching at the high school level is a lot like putting a four-foot square peg in to a three-foot round hole. Does anyone have a sledgehammer?

The "sledgehammer" is one of three expensive suits I wear. My persona is, "Relax people and let's leave all decision making to the expert." It works, because it has to work. If it didn't, I'd be out of a job.

I get flirted with on a regular basis. It's probably the clothes. It's also likely that many of the girls have no father figures, and are drawn to my tough exterior. (Case in point, it's usually the goth / loner girls who are drawn to me.)

Unlike you, Hugo, I don't have those desires that you have regarding your body and its effects on others. Bodies will always be sexual, so trying to stem the tide is something like trying to walk to the moon. Nice idea - but don't take it too seriously.

Thomas

Hugo, your becomming very big-headed.

Percy

I think that as a professor your appearance is important. Personally, I think that although you obviously look terrific in jeans and a t-shirt, you should refrain from doing so if they are tight fitting. You are in front of the classroom and wearing tight jeans is distracting to your students.

MetaMetaX

Percy - If you willfully put as a major goal to not become distracting to your students, you've put way too much power in the students' hands and not enough in your own. You are there to teach, no more no less. Hell, I even *tell* my students this - that my two jobs are to teach them a subject and to make sure the grades are fair.

After that...not my problemo.

Percy

MetaMataX,
Professor Schwyzer asked for our opinion. I gave him mine. Thats all, I'm not passing judgement on peoples's dress codes. But I think that when you are in front of a classroom you are more visible than sitting in a desk. I think that professors need to be accountable too.

Redneck Feminist (aka drumgurl)

Ooops... I have put "the teacher is hot" on my evaluation forms for male teachers! For my Sports Economics professor (who is 27), I put "he needs to wear tighter shirts" in the space for suggestions! I also find myself checking out the boys in my class and having nasty thoughts. I'm an economics major, so my classes are about 75% male. I'm not complaining...

However, I'm engaged and haven't cheated on my fiancee. I don't even want to. It's just fantasy, that's all. Plus, my fiancee is hotter than the boys in my classes.

Burrito Girl

Embarassing story time (even related to the previous post's church theme!):

The pastor at my church is hot. Every straight woman and gay man in the place is very aware of it (I'm one of the former). We mention it sheepishly to each other on occasion; make jokes about a fan club. The first couple of months I attended this church, I was quite distracted by it. Sermons were spent thinking about how the blue in his pastoral stole brought out his eyes. It was bad.

The thing about this pastor, though, is that he is also won of the most intellectually and theologically provocative people I've ever had the honor to know. When I finally got over the physical distraction, I found a wealth of wisdom there that my day dreaming had caused me to miss in the past. The fact that I found him attractive was impeding my spiritual growth.

I got over it, of course, as everyone at my church eventually does. (Seriously, it's one of the first things new people mention at coffee hour: "oh, I just love this place, and Pastor X is just amazing, his sermons are incredible and...well...he's kinda hot...) I've been going for a year and a half now, and it rarely crosses my mind. But I can assure you that women are also distracted by attractive men, even in situations where we clearly shouldn't be. Maybe we hide it better...I don't know. But it's far from a rare occurance.

Tyler

Hugo~

I love your dialogue and interest in this issue. I attend a church in Kansas City called Jacob's Well which is Similar to Solomon's Porch. I wanted to comment on a few things you had to say. First off about women (now I'm young and open to inexperience and incorrect observations). At one point I was engaged and will openly admit that you are right - women struggle with lust and physical temptation. Maybe in a different way then men but they still struggle. This may increase as our culture becomes a more sexual one. We shouldn't ignore this - i believe if women are emotionally attracted it can become even worse. Another area they struggle with I believe is comparable to our 'male' version is in comparisons - to other women and comparing men to men. We as men, need to be aware of these thought processes. I am in agreement with you that we have to control ourselves as men...it's time to step up to the plate as leaders. I commented again on Janelle's (sp) blog. Like you said though, we all have the burden of not using our rights to hinder others. That's basic. I always feel like there is an underlying question we aren't facing with these kinds of things- are we answering that question? are we willing to face it? do we even know what it is? I'm not sure - any ideas? let me know i'm interested. I always feel like Christ could pick up these underlying questions in our hearts...where we were only interested in the 'nipples' or outward appearance. IS this issue creating a heart change in us...or only a change in our dress? I think God is very concerned with our hearts, not our penis, breasts, vagina, hips, etc, etc, etc.

I did want to throw in a defense to my sunday school teacher as you commented upon. Were his actions probably inappropriate? yes i would agree. But that was the type of teacher he was with us. We never wanted to ask or face the hard issues, so he stepped on the line to take some high school students out of their comfort zones to discover Christ in our midst. I mean in high school you're concerned with such an outward world - and he wanted us to go deeper. In this case the girl he did this to was like a daughter to him...I believe it was his place. We were a tight group and he said this because he wanted this girl to realize, unfortunately and especially in a secular high school world where most guys just wanted sex with her, that she needed to try and make sure her thoughts and soul weren't being valued only because she was "hot" and well endowed. This was an extreme way of showing it - but boy did it get the message across. I agree that this is typically a job for women - but as high school students none of us were really at a relationship with Christ to understand keeping each other accountable on such issues. I think the lesson he taught her was beyond a christian one...he wanted her to value herself...and be valued by others...because of who she is as a person. I liked it and would probably pull the same thing on my daughter. Espeically in a secular culture- us christian men may hold ourselves to a standard but I guarantee, and know for a fact, that non-christian guys don't hold themselves to that standard. Like you said it's not a safe world and girls need to realize that not all guys will treat them the way they deserve. It's not fair but that's the world we live in - we can't talk about a world we don't live in...this is it. Let me know what you think - I liked your blog, great thought. I'm sure you're a good teacher. I myself teach elementary and love the fact that we always have room to learn.

Mark

Once again, Hugo puts the onus on men for pretty much everything. Men are responsible for their responses to how women dress. Men are responsible for women's reactions to how men dress. This is really "patriarchy lite." You're giving men extra burdens, quite without the added "benefits" that "patriarchy" offers. Note that I reject the term "patriarchy" as it is commonly used (or, more appropriately, misused) by feminists, but I'm using it here to present terminology that even your ideologically-brainwashed mind might understand.

Perhaps in the comments section below, a few women will volunteer some reflections on how women's "visual sexuality" is similar to anddifferent from men's.

You won't dare to presume things about women's "visual" responses. On the other hand, you'll ask women to make a comparison that requires them to presume things about men's "visual" responses. More of the self-loathing, "women are superior to men" crap!

It's difficult to write this without first overcoming the fear of appearing narcissistic!

Do you fear reality? You're a classic narcissist.

But what I really care about is not using my body to make others uncomfortable. I don't want my clothes and my flesh to arouse others, I don't want them to scare others, I don't want them to inspire economic envy, and I don't want them to distract others.

Can you say "grossly exaggerated sense of self-importance"? I hope so because it applies to you, dude. And here you go again, demanding that you, as a man, take a great responsibility for how others respond to your choice of clothing. Yet, when women dress like sluts, they aren't really responsible for their behavior, at least not to the same level that you demand responsibility from men.

Just my thoughts, man.

Mark

Tyler

Mark~

good thoughts - I mean there is some truth and almost self - fulfilling prophecy that what I exude will set a definition on how others perceive, think, react, and respond towards me. Basically put, if I dress like a clown...red nose, balloons, big shoes, etc. odds are people that don't know me will assume I am a clown. If I dress like a mail man the same will happen. And so on and so on. As women and men we must realize that certain actions (in this case outfits) carry certain representations, maybe stereotypical maybe not, with them. I agree that if a woman or man dresses in a certain light then they need to be prepared to possibly be treated in that light. Like your example - if you dress like a prostitue then you need to be open to the fact you may be treated as one. Hopefully, men will hold them to a higher standard - but again, not always. Each one of us can only be in control of our own thoughts and actions - not other peoples. And, we must be prepared to realize that our actions will elict certain thoughts and feelings from others...if we dress like a 'slut' we need to acknowledge or at least come to grips with the fact that certain people may treat us in accordance with our style of dress. I can challenge men and women to rise to a higher standard in terms of their actions and their reactions to others' actions - but in the end only we can control the thoughts and actions of ourselves. But I agree - act a certain way...then be ready to face the consequences, reactions, and cultural norms that go alone with those actions, whatever they may be.

Tyler

And you know...as we sit here and argue this petty detail to death, has anyone considered the woman on the street outside your house that can't even afford a bra? let alone a decent pair of warm clothes? or a meal? or just someone kind to talk with? I hope petty problems aren't overshadowing the bigger picture of the purpose of our lives...

they usually do mine, and I know God's disappointed in me because really - i'm focusing in more on my own pride, and being right in an argument, than Him walking past me to help that woman who I was blind to and did not see

Anne

"Judging from my evaluations and "rate my professor" reviews and other remarks, I acknowledge that for whatever reason, I am often regarded as a "hot" professor. I'm not suggesting that I am magnificently handsome, just that I tend to get more such responses than many of my colleagues."

Okay Hugo... you wrote me an email on Feb 2nd that said "As for ratemyprofessor, how on earth am I responsible for my appearance?" Its very ironic that a few weeks ago, you were denying that you should have any responsibility for how students react to you based on your appearance. Why are you now even questioning it?

As for your colleagues... I can give you several reasons why they may not receive as many such comments. First, they dress more professionally than you claim to... and therefore create an image that the classroom is a formal, respectable learning environment. Secondly, many are probably married... or simply don't see the need to bring their personal life into the classroom. Thirdly, as you also admitted before... you have a certain reputation on campus (no need to go into that again).... And finally, some professors actually stick to the topic that they teach... and it just doesn't have much to do with sexuality.

If you've ever noticed... your office mate also has a "chili pepper" next to his name on ratemyprof. But if you read his comments... they are strictly academic evaluations. Why? You guys are both pretty much the same age and teach the same subject... something to think about... What is E.Z. doing right that you may be doing wrong?

Mark

But I agree - act a certain way...then be ready to face the consequences, reactions, and cultural norms that go alone with those actions, whatever they may be.

Hey Tyler,

I certainly don't think that dressing provocatively can justify abuses like rape, assault, etc. of either women or men. What bugs me is the duplicity that underlies Hugo's comments. Despite all his railing and wringing his hands over "sexism" and "patriarchy" (with their implicit "ain't men awful attitude), he holds men to a higher standard of conduct than he holds women. That's blatant sexism and misogyny. It's sexism in that it discriminates between men and women unfairly. It's misogyny because it belies a subtle form of contempt for women. That contempt is the foundation for the demand that men act at a "higher" of conduct; it essentially says that men should act better than women because they are somehow better.

I don't buy that kind of nonsense. I believe both men and women are created in God's image and likeness. (Actually, I believe all of creation reflects God to varying degrees, but that's another topic for another time.)

Tyler, what you have here in this post by Hugo is misogyny in "pro-feminist" clothing.

Mark

Tyler

Point taken - I see that...but I also see a sense where men do need to act at a higher standard, which maybe helps this point all the more. I guess I am picking up a hint of superiority in the female sense. As though men are unable to control their responses and women have all the power over men. Which, as I look at many relationships - may be the case. Perhaps Hugo is calling men to a higher standard to equalize that argument. I don't think so, but none the less I'm picking up these undertones. Basically, men rise up to a higher standard - don't you see how women are controlling you with everything they do, and all you can say in response is "I'm helpless against you. Can you not do that?" I don't agree with this argument but am picking it up a bit along with what you say.

I agree with what you said. "I certainly don't think that dressing provocatively can justify abuses like rape, assault, etc. of either women or men." I was not discussing this idea to this degree. But I do believe the way we dress will elicit certain attitudes and behaviors and we are 'playing stupid' if we don't realize or think ahead about this. And I know women think about this, as most agonize over every detail of their outfit for the day - primarily if they believe they will be being watched.

Hugo Schwyzer

Anne (or whatever pseudonymn you care to use these days) the whole point was that I DON'T dress or act provocatively; I do teach an enticing subject, and for that I make no apologies.

Sigh, it's a little dispiriting to have my comments section nearly entirely in the hands of my detractors, particularly the MRA trolls who are convinced that I am filled with a strange cocktail of self-righteousness and self-hatred. It's amazing, really, that I get anything done --considering I am struggling to balance both intense nsarcissism and self-loathing. Whew. I think I better go back to bed, and think up some more ways to bash my fellow males and patronize my sisters. Cripes, folks, get a new angle, will ya?

I don't believe men are superior to women; if you read my body of work on the subject, that ought to be clear. I DO believe that ultimately, men ought to police other men and women ought to police other women around matters of sexual propriety. But when you call men to accountability, it tends to inspire rage in those who see women and the women's movement as the real problem in contemporary American society.

Creeping Jenny

Hugo, if I'm distracted by an attractive man (as I often am), that is largely my problem. It is always my job to act morally toward the man -- to treat him as a human being rather than a sex object, and to refrain from sexually abusing him. His job, as I see it, is mostly an engineering one: to make sure that women don't behave immorally toward him. He's not really morally to blame if he dresses in a sexually arousing manner and gets hurt because of it -- the only person at fault in such a situation is the one who's doing the hurting. But as Tyler points out, it's really imprudent to dress in a manner that's likely to bring harm on your person, even if that harm is morally unjustified. In all honesty, this doesn't seem like a hugely difficult engineering problem for men; I don't hear many stories of them getting raped for dressing provocatively. So I'm not really sure what it is that's got you so worked up. I enjoy my harmless drooling over the hot clerk at the record store as much as the next person, and as long as I don't treat the clerk badly, there doesn't look to be much of a problem.

Tara

This whole concept of getting treated as a mailman, getting treated as a clown, getting treated as a slut, doesn't anybody else think that this is a problem? If I'm having a professional transaction with a mailman, like getting my mail, I treat him as a mailman, or if I'm hiring a clown to do a party, or being entertained by a clown and laughing, I'm treating him as a clown. But I hope that the rest of the time (and also in that time as well) I'm first treating him like a human being.

The idea that it's appropriate to speak differently to different people, to put on different personas for different people, is disturbing. I worked with a guy in a camp and we had breaks at the same time and were often using the phones at the same time and I could always tell (even without the words, just the tone of voice) when he was talking to his girlfriend and when he was talking to his family. It was like he was two completely different people. I don't see anything to respect in that.

Yes, it's a matter of real world pragmatism that a lot of people think they can treat another person badly, rudely, abusively, disdainfully, etc, if that person visually appears to be a certain way (slutty, whorish, stupid, disabled, ugly, fat, hispanic, elderly, etc). Yes, for a woman who is wondering how she can be treated more like a human being, it might be helpful to consider dressing/dieting/making-up/walking a certain way. But that is a SHAME. And honestly I think people who think it's fine to decide which persona to put on based on superficial aspects of another person have nothing to be proud of.

All of this doesn't have much to do with attraction and looking, I think. Because I am talking about how you treat people, and in that sense the question of whether or not they perceive you as "looking" (leering? objectifying? talking to the chest?) is most important. If you are a great actor, you could probably pull off being an asshole inside and a decent guy outside - which is definitely preferable to being an asshole on both sides, but hey, you're still an asshole!

cmc

The problem is that all sorts of women's clothing choices are likely to be seen as sexual whereas I can't even think of anything that would constitute overtly sexy clothing for a man (maybe a plunging neckline with gold chains, but who would wear that?)

For example, I may think a man in a business suit is sexy (and trust me, I often do) but a man's business suit will never be seen as inherently sexual; it will be seen as a mark of professionalism and power first. The sexiness is incidental. As a woman though, I have to think about whether my business suit is too short, too fitted, the wrong color, too low cut, blah, blah, blah. And what about my make-up, my hair, my shoes, my jewelry? There seem to be a lot more pitfalls for women, then men. There is a post at feministing. com about a suit Condoleeza Rice wore recently-- severe dark jacket, knee length skirt,knee high boots with heels, and a long dark coat. The outfit was certainly modest and covered up but some columnist still read a primarily sexual message-- that of a dominatrix!!

The other problem is men can be both credible professionally and sexy at the same time whereas women are perceived as either/or. My efforts to tone down my sexuality at work often result (I fear) in a frumpy or matronly look, completely unsexual. Whereas a man in a Brooks Brothers suit can be completely professionally credible and sexy at the same time (yum).

Toots

You won't dare to presume things about women's "visual" responses. On the other hand, you'll ask women to make a comparison that requires them to presume things about men's "visual" responses. More of the self-loathing, "women are superior to men" crap!

The difference is that men feel freer than women to actually verbalize what their response is to visual stimulation. You don't have to presume if they're actually telling you what they're thinking.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Actually, I tend to look more at other women than men, but that may be because I'm not all that straight. I'm certainly more likely to find an attractive woman distracting than an attractive man, in a purely visual sense - though either way I consider it my business to manage the distraction and keep my mind on work when I need to.

craichead

"Ooops... I have put "the teacher is hot" on my evaluation forms for male teachers! For my Sports Economics professor (who is 27), I put "he needs to wear tighter shirts" in the space for suggestions! I also find myself checking out the boys in my class and having nasty thoughts. I'm an economics major, so my classes are about 75% male. I'm not complaining...

However, I'm engaged and haven't cheated on my fiancee. I don't even want to. It's just fantasy, that's all. Plus, my fiancee is hotter than the boys in my classes."

Red-

There's an old saying: It don't matter where you get hungry as long as you eat at home.

Cheers!

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