photo by SG

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Root of All Evil

I recently ran across a piece of CrimethInc propaganda which discussed patriarchy. It placed the blame of things like "domestic violence, oppressive gender roles, low self esteem" and other effects of patriarchy on "an object that doesn't even exist," namely, the pursuit of female body perfection.

This isn't the first time I've run into this argument (otherwise I wouldn't bother discussing another inane CrimethInc propaganda poster.) Lots of feminist-minded people have told me the same thing.

For me, this account of patriarchy confuses the ends with the means. I'm pretty sure that preferred body images change quite frequently, if viewed from within a historical perspective. The "large chest, skinny waist" woman that this poster apparently refers to has only been an object of cultural adoration very recently, and only then due to the fact that the mass culture industry was developed first in the United States. Does that mean that patriarchal violence doesn't predate 1900? I don't think so.

The obsession with the perfect female body and all its attendant evils comes from a patriarchal system that institutionalizes differences in all social and personal situations between men and women, not the other way around. Putting the blame of all sexist violence narrowly on culture is a profoundly non-materialist misunderstanding of power and systems.


William said...

You're right of course, crimethinc is being hella ahistorical. Values for beauty have changed dramatically and today vary just as much. But

1. Beauty judgments are less a product of culture than the feminists would even argue and more a product of material realities (hell, the primmies could tell crimethinc that!). In societies of want fat is idealized, in societies of plenty...

2. What the hell is patriarchy if not ultimately a matter of culture?

3. Objectification (judged towards ANY standard) is a crucial component of patriarchy. And I appreciate the case that it stands at the root of the psychological development behind patriarchy.

4. There's no such thing as a materialist understanding of power and systems. Nya.

Setanta said...

As to #4:

Marx, anyone?

William said...

I said "understanding."

Anonymous said...

This post is dead on. Is the Crimethinc thing available online?