Some thoughts related to a recent thread on unpopular opinions
by, 11th August 2009 at 07:55 AM (1558 Views)
Some words on the sexism issue, which seems to have arisen in connection with this originally light-hearted thread:
"Reverse" racism, sexism, etc., doesn't make sense in terms of the basis of this social dialogue because the conversation is about a power dynamic within our society. Men are in a much more powerful position from which to discriminate against women than women are to discriminate against men. White folks are in a much more powerful position from which to discriminate against African American, Latino, Asian, or Native American people than the reverse. These two assertions may break down in particular situations, but as generalizations about our society, they are still true.
With regard to the specific issue about men wearing or not wearing scents associated with women or perceived as feminine:
In general, men who behave as women might behave in our society are often perceived to lose a privileged status by doing so. For this very good reason, men often prefer not to be perceived as acting as women might, even in relatively minor details. Women who imitate men, on the other hand, either gain status, or (far more often) are not taken notice of at all, because in many situations involving power dynamics, what women do still isn't taken into consideration as especially consequential.
If you don't believe me, consider this: Many labor market studies show that men who work in professions where women are the majority of the workers are paid less and have less social status than men who work in majority-male professions. On the other hand, women who work in majority-male professions have to be extraordinarily effective in their jobs to approach the salary and status of even moderately effective men in the same profession.
Finally, I would point out that some of these matters are changing to some degree in our society. Even so, because attitudes and assumptions are anchored in our cultural system, they are often unconscious (or perhaps it would be better to say opaque) to us. The reason for the opacity of cultural constructs is that the very purpose of culture is to save us the trouble of reinventing the wheel. Culture is deliberately made to be confused with and simplify, even shrink, reality. By their very nature, therefore, our cultural constructs often result in limiting options for at least some of our people. More importantly, because of the opacity of attitudes, assumptions, and expectations, cultural and social attitudes almost always lag behind real social change. Happily, however, that is why much social change comes about as a result of raising these matters to consciousness.
Finally, let me say that I regret to feel obliged to take on a controversial matter on this board; yet it seems to me it is useful for people to understand the real (if perhaps a bit complex) issues in the discussion, and above all, to be able to understand the point of view of people with whom they may be inclined to differ. I hope in some small way to shed light rather than heat on the matter.
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