FEMALE PRIVILEGE – What #Yesallwomen tells us about white female privilege, and the privilege discourse in general

In an open thread over at Feminist Critics*, Commenter AndreaK quotes with disapproval a question she saw somewhere

“The #YesAllWomen thread raises an important question: Why do so many men behave so poorly?”

That question is itself a sly inversion. Quite a lot of the “poor behavior” is exactly the kind of sexual aggression young men report at the hands of women. They report women running their hands along their shoulders – absolute strangers – they report women grabbing their crotches, making lewd comments, report that they are expected t be grateful for all this, that they get all kinds of gay-shaming and accusations of misogyny if they demur – and absolutely none of this is called harassment. They report that they get no hearing at all, they get laughed at and told they should feel lucky.

So the question is, what does #Yesallwomen tell us about [white] female privilege.

Sexist Double Standards: What does it tell us about sexist double standards as to what constitutes harassment, what does it tell us about women’s sense of sexual entitlement to men’s bodies, what does it tell us about women’s claim on sympathy and protection that men do not have?

Empathy Apartheid: What does it tells us about the superior position of women in this society that women feel safe talking publicly about their victimization, where men will be shouted down, gay-shamed, privilege-silenced and have their gender identity called into question if they even try to speak up?

When you are in actual fear of someone, do you go around broadcasting that fear? No, because you know the person you fear will use that information against you, that information will tell that enemy how effective her efforts are so far, and she can ramp them up. So you hide that fear, if it is real, unless you expect help and protection from some other quarter. And if you can expect no help and protection, you hide that fear.

I wonder how much a black woman can expect in the way of sympathy when she gets harassed on the street, how likely she is to go public with that information. I wonder how recently the police and prosecutors in this country started investigating rapes of black women and actually prosecuting them, and how these women’s experiences with that differ from those of white women.

You don’t breathe a word to anybody, and everybody goes around saying that if there really is a problem, why are they not hearing anything about it? And at that point you are in the world of sexual violence statistics and research and cultural conventional wisdom about who the victims of sexual harassment and violence are and are not.

Misandry and objectification of men: The standard deflection is that this is just the workings of the Patriarchy, so it’s self-inflicted pain. So there’s the objectification of men right there, the borgification of men into a single entity inflicting patriarchal oppression on itself. The patriarchy hurts men too. And when a feminist deploys this line of rebuttal, she shows she is complicit in the patriarchy. I have yet to see it used as a rallying call for women to start defending men against women’s sexual violence.

White Lady Tears: There is another question that hashtag brings up. It would be interesting to look at the demographics of the women posting there. Are they really “all women” or are they the usual over-privileged young white women who see oppression everywhere and bewail their victimization to support their privilege? Is this just yet another effusion of “white lady tears”? It this yet another instance of white feminism’s recurring problem of racist erasure of non-white women, or of young white women presuming to speak for all women? I wonder how this trust that an appeal to the pity of society would look to anyone who is not a white women of a certain income level, or someone whose whole gender identity revolves around cherishing and defending white women’s well-being?

 

The privilege discourse: Does anyone really think any of these so-called privileges these women enjoy are really privileges? Aren’t they really rights? Isn’t this how members of a community are supposed to be treated when they are harmed or even just feel harmed, that they can get a sympathetic hearing and some help? What these are is male “disprivileges” if you insist on the p-word, rights that are denied males.

This is the problem with the whole SJ version of “privilege”. It conflates simple advantages, inherited advantages (Yes, I am going to care about my kids more than you and pass what I have to them, not yours – get over it. No, I am not going to treat all children equally.), basic civil rights, such as the right to what you earn, that all citizens should have but some are denied, and finally what can fairly be called privileges. i.e advantages granted by some external power. “Privilege” conflates all of these and is so sloppy a concept that the sloppiness look almost intentional.

 

*http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2014/04/11/an-open-thread-full-of-huskies-and-hoops-noh/

A Useful Phrase: The Instrumentalization-Infantilization Dichotomy

In “Summa Genderratica,” I argued that our gender system can ultimately be understood as two overlaid dichotomies; the subject-object dichotomy and the disposable-cherishable dichotomy. Men are understood as disposable subjects, valued only for the results of their actions, whilst women are understood as cherishable objects, inherently useful due to their biology yet fragile and thus both deserving of and in need of protection.

The only problem with this formulation is that it is rather unwieldy, and as such I have been working on a way to express it in a more simple manner.

The Instrumentalization-Infantilization Dichotomy is my ultimate answer.

“Instrumentalization” is a form of objectification (see Nussbaum’s “Objectification” for more, where she refers to this as “Instrumentality”) whereby an individual’s value is determined entirely by their usefulness/service to others. This encompasses both agency (one must be able to act in order to serve) and innate disposability and thus is the perfect encapsulator of the male condition.

“Infantilization” is also a form of objectification, specifically the denial of agency, yet it also implies the second element of the feminine condition; being considered innately special and precious. Our society’s package-dealing of women and children says it all – they are the future (or incubators thereof) and thus inherently special in and of themselves.

Thus, the Disposable-Cherishable dichotomy is combined with the Subject-Object dichotomy, resulting in the Instrumentalization-Infantilization dichotomy, which fully encapsulates all aspects of how both men and women are treated under the traditional gender system.

For more on the Infantilization of women, I recommend Ginkgo’s post on “Neoteny as a Feminine Gender Norm” (link: http://www.genderratic.com/p/2775/female-privilege-neoteny-as-a-feminine-gender-norm/) (in this post he also refers to the “maturity” aspect of the gender system and how it applies to males – a point I have stressed repeatedly as critical to understanding the male condition).

Apologies for my short post. I promise my next article will be much more substantial (and controversial!).

FEMALE DISPOSABILITY – Yes, it is a thing

There won’t be many posts on female disposability because after all it’s not really a feature of our gender system, but there is such a thing as female disposability and it is worth looking at. Commenter Rebecca mentioned it in passing in reference to my passing mention of it on the most recent post on male disposability and it occurred to me it was time to put all this disposability into context. Discussing female disposability in the context of male disposability may have the effect of bringing some around to the problem of male disposability by way of putting the shoe onto the other foot.

What is female disposability? It is simply the female equivalent of male disposability – the cultural norm that says that females and their interests can be sacrificed for the common good and that females should regard this as part of their gender role, that it is unfeminine to balk at being sacrificed. As you can see, female disposability is clearly not part of our gender system in ay way whatever, but it definitely is part of other gender systems. And by the way, it can exist right alongside male disposability. Disposability is not set on a toggle switch.

Female disposability seems to fall into two broad categories. One of these is effects that arise out of a society’s dependence on patrilineal groups as the basis of social and economic organization and the other is as an accommodation to simple necessity, the reality that childbirth unassisted by modern medicine wears women out, either killing them outright or just breaking down their health over a series of childbirths.

Patrilineal social organization

Patrilineal social organization, otherwise known as “families”, is the dominant form of social organization in pre-modern societies across the world. There are some matrilineal societies, such as the Mosuo, but for the most part they are marginal and restricted to marginal corners of the world, like the Mosuo. Matrilineality is apparently not as strong a form of social organization as patrilineality. We can ask the question how that came to be, but we are not going to examine it at this point. Huge, intricate historical question. For our purposes it’s sufficient to point out that the arrangement is very old. Male groups control and protect territory and access to resources, often at the cost other men’s lives – this is what war almost always boils down to – and this requires fairly tight and more to the point, continuing, groups. Men turn to have tighter emotional bonds with their blood kin – their brothers, fathers, cousins – than with the husbands of their wives’ relatives. No big surprise there.

This kind of social organization is going to make sons more valuable than daughters, because sons and not daughters continue the family. Daughters marry out and help continue someone else’s family. It is also going to make sons more valuable than daughters-in-law because, rare eggs or not, you have a finite number of sons but a much wider field of potential daughters in law. And in any case, DILs are never going to have the same loyalty or utility to the patrilineage. I don’t particularly like this model, but hard conditions make for hard choices.

So what forms of female disposability do we expect to see under these conditions?

- Female infanticide and sex-selective abortions – this kind of thing is well-documented in China and India.

- I would add forced marriage in here, except that that is a form of male disposability as well; after all it takes to marry and the chances are good that he’s no happier than she is at being told who to marry. But, no, I will include it, because female disposability does not preclude male disposability.

All of this is summed up in the Chinese proverb: “A daughter is someone’s else’s happiness.”

Necessity

Relative essentiality - As I said above, it’s a lot easier to replace daughters-in-law than sons. But even where that is not really the case, in general men’s work tended to be more essential to the family’s survival than the women’s. That doesn’t mean women’s work was important; in settings where the lion’s share of food processing, almost all clothing, almost all household containers, most furnishings, were the product of women’s work, women’s work was irreplaceable. It’s just that men brought the overwhelming majority of protein into the diet and protected the territory that furnished all the rest of that diet.

There is a piece of evidence that suggest that for thousands of generations the care and feeding of men was prioritized over that of the women in the family. That evidence is the difference between men’s and women’s nutritional needs. Women tend to get by on less than men do, although this may simply be a function of the greater body size men needed because they did all the heaviest most dangerous work. Nevertheless, the fact that women adapted,over the generations, a physical genetic adaptation, may be a response to getting less to eat.

Childbirth – As I said above childbirth wears women out if they don’t have access to modern medicine. For a number of reasons childbirth is abnormally difficult in humans. One of these is evolutionary: humans have really big-headed babies with big brains, that have to pass through the relatively narrow pelvises we need for bipedalism. They other I suspect is also evolutionary: our social arrangements have afforded women the kind of physical security necessary to making prolonged, difficult and often quite loud labor anything other than a chow call to every large predator in the area.

Childbirth was a deadly enough risk that the pre-conquest Mexica considered it the female equivalent of going to war. The dangers of childbirth were universally recognized. The Book of Common Prayer had a special service for women after childbirth, and the wording in the 1559 version – spare, blunt, and graceful – is pretty touching:

THE THANKESGEVINGE OF WOMEN  AFTER CHILDE BYRTHE,

COMMUNELYE CALLED

 

THE CHURCHYNGE OF WOMEN.

 


    The woman shall come into the churche, and there shall knele downe in some convenient place, nyghe unto the place where the table standeth, and the priest standing by her, shal saie these wordes, or suche lyke, as the case that require.

  FORASMUCHE as it hath pleased almyghtye God of hys goodnes to geve you safe delyveraunce, and hath preserved you in the great daunger of childbyrth: ye shal therfore geve heartye thankes unto God and praye….

This is followed by a section of one of the Psalms that is traditionally said in moments of mortal danger and the service concludes:

Let us praie.

O ALMIGHTYGod, which hast delivered this woman thy servaunte from the great paine and peril of childe birthe: Graunt we beseche the most mercifull Father, that she through thy help may bothe faithfully live, and walke in her vocation, accordyng to thy wil, in this lyfe present, and also may be partaker of everlastyng glory in the lyfe to come, throughe Jesus Christ our Lorde. Amen.

    The woman that commeth to gine her thanckes, muste offer accustomed offerynges, aud if there be a Communion, it is convenient that she receive the holy Communion.

This type of female disposability was not a cultural choice or the result of cultural evolution, it was simply an acknowledgement of a grim medical reality. The fact that very few even know about this little service tucked away in the Book of Common Prayer says a great deal about the progress society has made in protecting women.

 

As I said, there isn’t much left to talk about these days when it comes to female disposability, at least not in a society where women are human beings valued simply for existing, while men are human doings, valued for their utility. But it is worth discussing as a matter of historical fact.

 

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MALE DISPOSABILITY – What is male disposability? And what keeps it going?

What is male disposability and what is behind it? Short answer: 1) Male disposability is the belief that males are disposable for the good of their families and societies, and for  women, in a way that females are not and 2) it makes a culture more successful in war and at grabbing resources.

Male disposability is a cultural value that says that men and only men should sacrifice thier lives and health and emotional well-being for the good of the family or community, and should be happy doing this, and should be ridiculed, condemned and even jailed if they refuse in some way. Male disposability is part of the male gender role in some but not all cultures, and I have yet to see and adequate explanation for that.

So that’s male disposability. What gives rise to it? Why does it exist and what good if any comes of it?

The standard explanation is the rare egg theory. Girl Writes What describes male disposability as a cultural response to the biological fact that eggs are scarce while sperm are not, that males are disposable because there is an infinite supply of sperm but a finite supply of eggs, which have to be husbanded carefully. There are two problems with this explanation.

First – egg scarcity is a matter of biology, so male disposability should be standard across all cultures, and it’s not. People recognize this in the form of rather unflattering stereotypes. “Hey, want to buy some Italian Army rifles – only been dropped once.” This variation has to be explained, and a biological reality common to all human societies won’t do it.

Second – the egg scarcity explanation relies on the fast that a woman has a finite supply of eggs, but ignores that there is an almost infinite supply of women. The fact is that throughout history men of one group have gone out and killed men of another group, to take their land perhaps or whatever other reason, and the women of that second group have been taken into the first group as secondary wives or some other kind of dependent. Because men are the primary victims of war, war has always meant an over-abundance of women among the survivors. Look at this chart for the population structure in Germany. Note that at the very upper end of the chart, 80 years and older, there is a conspicuous imbalance between the percentages of men and women. That’s the generation that came through WWII. I am sure the same chart for Afghanistan, if it were possible to anything like complete data, would look pretty similar for the male cohort 15-30 years old. So perhaps eggs are not quite so scarce, relative to the population of available men, as we assume they are,

The scarce egg explanation presupposes lifelong monogamy. Lifelong monogamy, for time out of mind, was not really an option even when it was desired – women died young, and all the time, and they had to be replaced, because until very recently, a woman’s labor was irreplaceable unless you had servants. There’s a reason for the Wicked Stepmother trope in folktales – everyone had a stepmother sooner or later.

Of course there were always more women, since daughters either married and moved out or stayed home unmarried for their brothers to support along with their wives, while unmarried brothers either stayed and added their labor to running the farm or moved on down the road for lives as day laborers.

Back to male disposability and how some cultures manifest it so much more than others. What’s going on, why the variety across cultures? Does male disposability have some adaptive value that applies for some cultures and not so much in others? It’s hard to see what benefit it would offer in stable farming cultures, but it has it has obvious adaptive value where the males have to be disposable, as in economies based on long-rage fishing or trade or on raiding and other firms of warfare. And there’s the real engine of male disposability – it is not just adaptive to certain specific challenges certain cultures face, but it is quite advantageous to any culture in conflict with another over resources or territory.

The real payoff with male disposability is success in war – and in the colonialism and imperialism that war enables. Anyone who promotes any aspect of the psychological edifice that is male disposability is enabling warfare, colonial domination and imperialism. Any aspect.

MALE DISPOSABILITY – SPC Ivan Lopez – pay me now or pay me later

Late in the day yesterday I started getting texts from my brother. My nephew was locked down in his barracks at Ft. Hood. By now we all know the rest of the story, of how a soldier named Specialist Ivan Lopez, who had been exhibiting problematic behavior, certainly symptomatic, probably that community especially should have picked up on….went off.

No one in his chain of command picked up on this enough to do anything in time – and by the way, the way the Army works is quite different from civilian employers and this is one example; intervening and dealing with this kind of thing is very much a leader responsibility. It was his leaders’ job all up the line to make sure this problem got identified and resolved, and unfortunately his leaders’ failure to do that is not anomalous.

We can either identify these guys, and take the trouble and shoulder the expense to help these people when it would make a difference, or we can bumble on and then get blindsided when the bill comes due, like we have this time. Pay me now or pay me later. Just remember, if you pay later, you may not like how the interest has piled up.

The inital speculation was that there was some kind of jihadi connection, because there had been warnings and indicators leading up to it. But it is probably going to turn out that this was unconnected, that it was something much more mundane and familiar, soemthing we have seen over and over. In fact this incident follows the “suicide by cop” pattern we are seeing in these shootings.

And here we should mention the professionalism and strength that cop showed in stopping SPC Lopez. He shot himself in the head right in front of her when she confronted him. To quote the post commander:

“It was clearly heroic what she did in that moment in time,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the post’s commander. “She did her job, and she did exactly what we’d expect of a United States Army military police.”

This is the kind of thing that makes me get impatient with most of the discussion around women in the military, so much of it from people whose understanding of war and what is involved in building and maintaining a military effort seems to come only from television or gaming. This soldier did the job assigned to her and her womanhood got in the way not at all. In war and in garrison that is all that matters. Now she can deal with the nightmares and hyper-vigilance she is likely to experience, like everyone else.

SPC Lopez seemed mellow and friendly to everyone, it looked like everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The issue now is why he was able to hide all this so well, and more than that, why he hid it at all. Why did he think he had to? I think we all know the answer to that, and it is the Army’s challenge to undo all the conditioning and enculturation that fed this.

We go along deploying people multiple times, on basically pointless, vague, high-sounding missions, a small, disposable segment of our society; and then when they crack the answer seems to be to reach for some way to blame them or “military culture” instead of the impossible situations the people we elect put them into and then wash their hands of.

DOUBLE STANDARDS – Feminism’s sorry record on the subject of rape

It’s not unusual in the gender discussion to hear someone claim that feminism is horribly understood, that it isn’t man-hating or gender-biased at all; it’s really all about equality – see, it even says so right here in the dictionary. How valid an objection is this?

Let’s take one example, rape. Let’s look at feminism’s on the subject of rape. It turns out that the feminist handling of the subject of rape is one example of feminism’s opposition to an egalitarian discussion of gender. Domestic violence has been another, but that a discussion for another day

First, back in the 90s the standard feminist line of rape was that it was patriarchal violence to maintain the power system that governs gender. This developed put of Susan Brownmiller’s thesis which she enunciated in 1975 in Against Our Will. A logical extension of her position males, by definition, could not be rape victims. (The extension was logical but of course the proposition is not, being based on an illogical premise.)This was operationalized in rape victims services, where male child rape victims were often treated and lectured as if they themselves were rapists, to the point of being told they were the rapists, that they had really raped the woman who raped them. Toy Soldier experienced this and has written about the phenomenon in general.

Then later as consent became settled as the standard for defining rape – a very sane definition and a very good development – a new theoretical problem reared its head. What about men who didn’t consent to sex? Weren’t they rape victims too?

There were several responses to this challenge:

Agreement
One was acknowledgement of this and a refinement in the theory – basically there were feminists who said damn straight that’s rape and those men are rape victims. But they became an embattled minority….

Doubling Down with Rape Culture of Their Own
They were even called misogynist – apparently a woman has an absolute right to sex, however she likes it, from a man for these people and it’s misogynist of him to refuse. It’s like insulting her or something. When people talk about “feminist rape culture, this is the kind of thing they are referring to. Feminsts themselves have identified this problem.

Denial
By far the most common response was denial – “Well maybe women do rape men, but it’s a vanishingly small percentage of rapes.” This was a widespread response; there was advocacy research to back this up that did what it could to erase male victims. Mary Koss stands out particularly in this connection, both because of her insititutioanl influence over the discussiion and the voluminous discussion of her and her position. Google it if you care to see how voluminous it is. Or sometimes the feint was that if women did rape men, then somehow those men pressured their own rapists into raping them. The “erection as consent” canard got thrown in quite a lot.

Deflection
Another form this took was to deny that raped men suffer from the rape as much as women do, based on who knows what information or analysis. Another was a retread of the Patriarchy narrative above, where when a man was raped, or even a boy, it wasn’t the same, it wasn’t really rape, because of the power differential (You have to be a real believer to believe some boy has a power differential over a grown woman.) Hugo Schwyzer had a post several years ago to this effect, though he may have taken it down by now.

Deflection by accusation of deflection
A common attempt at deflection was to claim that talk of female rapists was intended only to deflect attention from the real problem, male rapists. No real evidence was ever offered to back up this mind-reading. The same accusation is often made of attempts to discuss false rape accusations.

Rape denial and rape apology
Everyone one of these responses were forms of rape denial, and one thing feminists have taught us is that rape denial is a part of rape culture. When people talk about “feminist rape culture, this is the kind of thing they are referring to.

Double standards
The sexist double standards – there literally two standards for what constitutes a rape victim, two standards for the degree of harm rape inflicts and two standards for when rape apology gets called rape apology, and a bitterly entrenched anti-egalitarianism in all these responses.

The feminist handling of the subject of rape is one example of feminism’s opposition to an egalitarian discussion of gender.

I doubt this is an exhaustive list. Please help expand it.

SUMMA GENDERRATICA: The Anatomy of the Gender System

Author’s Note: This is a summary of my entire theory of how our society’s gender system operates and how it originated. It is intended to be a ‘road map’ of society’s norms about masculinity and femininity. I believe that it can explain all gender norms in our society. The MHRM requires an integrated, consistent theory about gender in order to successfully compete with Radical Second Wave and Third Wave Feminism – this theory is an attempt at providing one.

The following does not mention every single aspect of our society’s gender system, but I believe that any unmentioned aspects of the gender norms can be successfully explained by this theory (feel free to propose “Explain This Norm As A Product Of The Gender System” challenges in the comments).

Note that whilst I called this post “Summa Genderratica” I do not wish to imply that the theory below is accepted (in its entirety) by anyone other than myself. I am only illustrating my theory here, and it isn’t meant to be taken as the “official philosophy” of GendErratic as a whole. The reason for the title is because I am a pretentious douche and as such I enjoy the self-important connotation/reference towards the works of Aquinas.

Onto the theory!

PART 1
The First Premise: The Purpose of Social Norms
Why do social norms arise?

This theory will take it as axiomatic that social norms arise for survivability and practicality reasons. Social norms arise as responses to the challenges of physical existence.

The Challenge
The gender system arose in the early days of our species. During these days, food and resources were scarce, accumulating them was a difficult and failure-prone task, and it was manual labor which performed these tasks; physical labor was the primary source of improvements to survivability and the standard of living (unlike today, where technological capital and knowledge work provide this (it is telling that the first challenges to the gender system only arose with the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution… periods during which the economy became less labor-dependent and more capital-dependent owing to technological advances. It is also telling that challenges to the gender system arose first amongst materially well-off groups in society)).

Because physical labor was the primary means of production, importance was placed on the means of producing physical labor, i.e. reproducing and growing the population. However, only a minority of children survived to reach adulthood, and as such much higher birth rates were required to grow the overall population size.

But only one half of the population could bear children.

The Response
Biology combined with the necessity of aggressive breeding essentially forced women to “specialize” and devote large amounts of their time to being knocked up and producing children (and when pregnant they are less mobile and thus more vulnerable).

Since males could not perform this important task, they provided protection and resource-provision (in essence, all the ‘rest’).

Social norms arose to push people towards their sex-mandated tasks. The “good female” and the “good male” were the female and male who contributed to their society by fulfilling their assigned role; the “good female” was the fertile mother, the “good male” was the strong warrior and productive hunter. These social norms were reflected in all of society’s institutions, including religion (see the warrior gods and the mother goddesses for more).

Summary 1
1. Social Norms arise as responses to the challenges of living and thriving
2. Low technology societies are dependent on physical labor to survive
3. Very high birth rates were required to increase the supply of labor
4. Only one half of the human population could give birth
5. Gender Roles emerged to encourage specialization on the basis of sex

PART 2
Maturity and Gender
As stated before, the “good female” and the “good male” were understood in terms of those who contributed to society by fulfilling their sex-assigned tasks. However, children of either sex are physically unable to do this.

A woman needs to be post-pubertal in order to bear a child. Young males are on average significantly less physically developed and thus generally lack the necessary strength to even have a chance at successfully performing their sex-assigned task.

As such, there is an association between maturity and gender-compliance. A female needs to undergo a process of biological maturation in order to perform the feminine contribution to society, however this process is essentially automatic and is basically assumed to occur over time, with mensturation serving as a clear biological indicator of fitness to perform the task.

With males, things are more tenuous. Proficiency or even ability to perform the male function, let alone perform it well, is not biologically guaranteed. Additionally, there is no single clear “he’s ready” indicator delivered by male biology.

Whilst females “grow into” being women, males do not automatically grow into being “real men.”

Aristotelian Femininity, Platonic Masculinity, and the Subject-Object Dichotomy
A young female just becomes a woman automatically, due to the innate properties of her biology. Her mensturation evidences her maturation. Her womanhood simply is. She is assumed to be gender-compliant and thus socially contributive by default.

A young male has to demonstrate, through action, the ability to perform masculine tasks successfully. A young male must prove he has “grown up” and become a “real man.” Males are not assumed to be gender-compliant (and thus socially contributive) by default; by himself he is just another mouth to be fed by the work of “real men.” A man must validate his manhood by action, otherwise he is not a real man but rather a “boy” (i.e. immature, not-an-adult male).

As such, one can correctly understand traditional gender roles as premised on epistemological essentialism, however different kinds of epistemological essentialism underpin each role. Femininity is mostly understood as innate to female biology, as an immanent essence, whilst masculinity is mostly understood as an ideal to aspire to, a “form” which one “participates in” in order to gain an identity.

It is a particular quirk of human psychology that we tend to perceive moral agency (the capacity to do things) and moral patiency (the capacity to have stuff done to you) dichotomously, even though human beings are in fact both. As such, the association of agency with manhood combined with the innatist understanding of womanhood (as well as, perhaps, the fact that pregnancy does render a woman less mobile and more resource-dependent) led to the association of womanhood with moral patiency. Men are seen as actors, and women are seen as acted upon. This is the traditional subject-object dichotomy.

The Disposable-Cherishable Dichotomy
A gender-compliant person of either sex is seen as valuable to society (since they are acting in ways which conform to survivability-oriented norms). However, females are assumed to either be (or will be) gender-compliant; naturally infertile women are the exception rather than the rule and thus the assumption is that any given female is (or will be) capable of bearing children due to their biology.

As such, females are ascribed an innate value simply for being female. Females are seen as inherently cherishable because they are the incubators of the future.

Males lack this. Their gender-compliance is not seen as an inevitable feature of their biological maturation but rather an ideal to live up to. Males neither are nor will become “real men” by default. As such, they have no innate value. The value of a man is exclusively contingent on the consequences of his agency and by himself, he is ultimately disposable.

Because men are valued not for properties of their biology but the outcomes of their actions, the death of one man is ceteris paribus a smaller tragedy to society than the death of one woman. After all, when tragedies happen, the death counts typically specify the toll taken by women and children (i.e. the future).

Our society may lionize its male heroes who go and die so that others may live, but as stated before, social norms arise to push individuals to perform socially beneficial tasks; the worship of heroic male self-sacrifice is a way to encourage men to see their deaths for noble causes as a worthy contribution to society, and thus to make men more willing to die for others.

The Gender Norms In A Nutshell
As a consequence of all of the above, males are innately disposable subjects, females are innately cherishable objects.

All gender norms ultimately are reducible to this.

Summary 2
1. Maturity, for each sex, is conceptualized as gender-compliance
2. Female maturity is seen as a natural result of biological development
3. Male maturity is not seen as guaranteed, but rather something proven/earned
4. Men do, women are, because manhood is about doing and womanhood just “is”
5. Because gender-compliance is seen as valuable and women are seen as innately gender-compliant, women are seen as innately valuable
6. Because men are NOT seen as innately gender-compliant, men are seen as innately expendable
7. Ergo, the subject-object dichotomy is overlaid by the disposable-cherishable dichotomy, casting males as innately disposable subjects and females as innately cherishable objects

PART 3 – Some Advanced Implications
Agency and Feminine Power
Everyone derives a sense of power – used here to mean efficacy or competence – when they successfully perform a task which has the end result of providing for their needs. This makes evolutionary sense – if survival-enhancing things did not give pleasure and survival-diminishing things did not cause pain, an organism would be significantly less likely to survive.

But the performance of tasks was typically assigned to males; femininity was not associated with agency and due to the innate reproductive utility of women, women were kept safe and away from potential danger where possible (which in turn generated a self-reinforcing (and perhaps somewhat self-fulfilling) presumption of diminished female competence – a presumption which was somewhat true during pregnancy (and may be somewhat true on average with tasks that require very high upper body strength) but clearly got exaggerated and overgeneralized).

However, every human being has material needs for survival, and these material needs must be satisfied through action (food must be acquired, shelter must be found). So how would a woman, someone culturally perceived as and encouraged towards remaining deficient in agency, acquire these needs?

The answer is that women are encouraged to rely upon men, and not merely in the passive sense, but to actively enlist the agency of males to provide for their survival. Masculine power is thus equated with anything which enhances successful/competent agency (e.g. big muscles), and feminine power is equated with anything that enhances enlisting successful/competent agents. Masculine power is that which augments agency, feminine power is that which augments the acquisition and preservation of agency by proxy.

The gender system, therefore, always contained a form of feminine power – i.e. ways in which women could act to service their material needs. Whilst it reserved direct acquisition through agency to men, the system also reserved agency by proxy for women.

Male Hierarchy
Society’s understanding of manhood as a Platonic ideal to aspire towards explains the fact how there can be “better men” and “worse men” (as men), as well as how biological males can be “not real men” – the use of “real” to mean “ideal” is telling.

Because manhood is demonstrated by performing certain tasks, men are ranked in accordance with how well they perform these tasks. Men are ranked by other men and by women – their gender identity is heavily subject to social validation and revocation. This means “real manhood” is an earned social status which is collective-dependent, hierarchical and competitive, and men can be socially emasculated at any time. Male identity is made contingent on competing with each other to prove oneself a “better man.”

As stated above, maturity is linked with “real manhood” but male maturity is again socially validated due to the fact that masculine task-performance isn’t biologically guaranteed – this means male elders (particularly fathers) are placed in a position of evaluator where they judge prospective males to separate the “boys” from the “men.”

The male hierarchy can be effectively divided into three basic categories (from lowest social status to highest social status)

1) Males who are “not real men.” The socially emasculated. “Boys.” Omega males.
2) Males who are “real men” but who aren’t able to revoke another male’s “real man” status. Beta males.
3) Males who are “real men” with the ability to revoke another male’s “real man” status. Alpha males.

The division between statuses 2 and 3 is contextual and often dependent on other institutional arrangements as well as the surrounding males – someone can in fact be Alpha in one hierarchy and Omega relative to another.

This setup ironically enough compels that a Beta be submissive to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. In other words the male gender role isn’t entirely about dominance but rather demands submission to “better” men.

Social Genders
Typically, “gender” is taken as a binary – as a reference to masculinity or femininity. However, this is hard to reconcile with the above situation – males who aren’t “real men” aren’t regarded as possessing manhood (i.e. they do not contribute masculine value). They are “boys” rather than men, according to the gender system.

They do not receive many aspects of ‘male privilege’ because much ‘male privilege’ is in fact ‘real-man’ privilege. And whilst they are socially emasculated they receive no female privilege either, because due to their biology they cannot perform the essential feminine task of bearing children.

In short, socially emasculated men are not seen as masculine or feminine but rather they are perceived, treated and categorized as a third gender. They are neither a man nor a woman (socially speaking rather than biologically speaking).

PART 4: Challenges
There are several classic problems in gender studies which any prospective examination of the gender system needs to explain. Below, I take several of these phenomena and reconcile them with the theory proposed above.

The Promiscuity Double Standard
The Promiscuity Double Standard (henceforth PDS) of our culture is well-known; a man is seen as a worthy and virile stud for sleeping around, but a woman is seen as a degraded and self-cheapening slut for doing the same thing.

Typically, the PDS is treated as a unitary construct – as if the PDS’s gendered imperatives arose from the same source. This is counter-intuitive because the imperatives of the PDS are in conflict – men are encouraged to sleep around and women are discouraged from doing so, thus meaning men cannot comply with the system without women failing to comply with it (and vice-versa). The PDS certainly isn’t in the interests of men, since it encourages women to prevent men from being studs (through the withholding of sexual access).

Typical feminist analysis sees the PDS as a male construct invented to control female sexuality. The fact that men’s interests are not served by encouraging female chastity complicates this explanation, but it is further complicated by the empirical fact that most slut-shaming is perpetrated by women against each other. If men created and enforced the PDS, one would expect men to be the primary shamers of sluts.

As such, it may be more accurate to see the Promiscuity Double Standard not as a single construct, but two different constructs, proposed and enforced by different parties for different purposes.

An interesting thing about the concept of “slut” is that women who are sluts are seen as “cheapening themselves” or “debasing themselves” – they are seen as giving sexual access far too easily (i.e. giving away a good without getting enough in return). Let’s look at the transactional framing here: a market exists, women are the suppliers of sexual access and men are the demand side of the equation. Women are encouraged to not give away sex “too easily,” i.e. they are encouraged to receive something in return for sex. It is mostly women who shame other women for giving sex away.

From an economic perspective, we are seeing cartel behavior; sellers colluding amongst themselves to raise the price of sex by restricting the quantity of sexual access that is immediately avaliable.

So what is the ‘price’ of sex? As explained above, women are encouraged to enlist male agency in their service, since the gender system discourages them from developing their own. Thus, the ‘price’ of sex is male agency, typically framed as a committed relationship. When women are sluts and thus ‘put out too easy,’ competitive pressure lowers the price of sex and thus damages (traditionally-understood) female interests.

The implications here are quite depressing; because women are encouraged to experience power through enlisting male agency, “sluthood” is opposed to traditional feminine power by eroding women’s bargaining position. Women are encouraged by the traditional gender system to experience their sexuality as being defeated and being conquered, rather than getting something they desire (i.e. sexual satisfaction). Women are also encouraged to see men as adversaries, and to see male advocacy of female sexual liberation as threats to their material security (i.e. “they just want cheaper sex, the cads!”).

In conclusion, the PDS wasn’t invented “by men” – at least half of the PDS is a mostly female-maintained standard intended to sustain traditional feminine power through preserving the value of sex and thus maximizing the agency women can enlist in return for granting sexual access. The imperatives of the PDS conflict with each other, and the PDS’s implicit sexual transactionalism sets up an adversarial situation that sabotages sexual fulfillment for both sexes.

The Childhood Gender Conformity Double Standard
A common double standard in our society is one relating to gender conformity amongst children. Look at the ease with which our society accepts female children going through a “tomboy phase.” Compare this against the worry and concern that accompanies any male child that may want to play with dolls. It is “normal, she’ll grow out of it in a few years” for a young girl to want to play with the boys, but if a boy confesses liking pink he’s immediately suspected of being homosexual or a gender failure.

This is an obvious consequence of the fact that female biological maturation (and thus gender compliance) is seen as an automatic process which “simply happens.” Because womanhood is seen as biologically innate, a woman’s actions are not seen as the primary source of the value she can contribute to society.

Male biological maturation, on the other hand, is not a guarantee of being able to perform the socially-mandated male tasks. Being a “real man” (i.e. able to contribute masculine value to society) is not biologically guaranteed. Since a male’s gender compliance is evaluated not on what he is but rather what he does, a male’s actions place his entire social value at risk.

Many gender theorists argue that society worries more about males because our society allegedly values masculine traits above feminine traits; this conflicts with the fact that feminine traits are praised when they are exhibited by women (it also conflicts with the fact that historically, societies have sacrificed men to protect women; societies don’t sacrifice higher-valued members for lower-valued members). Biology means that a man who acts feminine cannot perform the socially-mandated “core” feminine task (bearing children), and thus for him to be feminine represents wasted potential (but when a woman acts feminine it isn’t a threat). Thus, a man who acts feminine isn’t perceived as a social woman, but rather a social neuter (an Omega Male).

However, since both men and women are (in fact) agents and masculine value is dependent not on what someone is but rather what someone does, females can in fact contribute masculine value to at least some degree (and the feminist movement has influenced people to accept the reality of female agency, and even to celebrate when women transgress gender roles). As such, women can “value-add” through gender nonconformity, whilst men cannot; females can be socially androgynous whilst men (due to their inability to perform the core feminine task under the gender system) can only be social neuters.

Thus, it is the Subject-Object Dichotomy (and not any alleged valuation of masculinity as superior to femininity) which forms the basis for the Childhood Gender Conformity Double Standard.

The Madonna-Whore Complex and Gendered Evaluations of Moral Character
Our gender system has influenced the ethical standards which are placed on both sexes. In the case of this problem, whilst men are subject to normal ethical standards, women are not; questions about a woman’s character are entirely centered around whether or not she is chaste.

This is an obvious product of the subject-object dichotomy, which casts women as moral patients. As women are not seen as moral agents, they are not treated as subject to moral standards or as possessing capacity for great moral virtue (or vice).

Slut-shaming under the gender system is explained above, however it is obvious that religious norms have influenced the Madonna-Whore Complex (look at the name!). Religion is a separate system to the gender system (although the two clearly interact), and Abrahamic monotheistic religions condemn promiscuity in both sexes (not just women). Women, however, are slut-shamed under both traditional gender norms and religious norms, whereas men are shamed for sleeping around under one set of norms but praised for doing so under the other.

This confluence of gender norms and religious norms, coupled with the objectification of women under the gender system, explains why chastity/sluthood is so heavily emphasized in discussions of women’s character: women are typically left off the hook with standards relating to other issues (minimizing both their virtue and vice), so the Madonna-Whore standard fills the vaccum.

PART 5: Conclusion
The above is a summary of my entire theory of gender as expressed in all my previous articles. I believe it to be a superior explanation of the gender system, for both sexes, than the status quo theories accepted in most gender studies departments. Feedback, commentary, suggestions and critiques are encouraged.

Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny

And now for my first piece of original content exclusively for GendErratic! Again I wish to extend my gratitude to Ms. Tieman for inviting me to contribute to this blog, and I can promise there is plenty of theoretical analysis and discussion of cultural issues to come in the future. Now, for the article.

Proposition: Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny
Feminism’s engagement with “nerd” culture has, for the most part, come entirely from a critical and contemptuous angle; one of these criticisms is that “nerd” culture is allegedly a “boy’s club” which excludes women. To prove this, feminists point out the fact that females claiming a geek identity will be interrogated to see if they are “real” geeks or fakers.

This is not misogyny. Demanding “geek girls” prove themselves would only be misogyny if the treatment were motivated by an animus towards or prejudice against women as a class. Nerd culture would be equally suspicious of “fake geek guys.”

Wait… fake geek guys?

The fact that there is no such thing as the fake geek guy is in fact an important piece of the puzzle. Some feminists would argue that the lack of fake geek guys is evidence yet again of discrimination against women, but in reality it is because the status of “geek” has never been desirable for men to claim.

No ladies, we are not discriminating against you because you didn’t dance with us at the prom. We have no problem with you being girls. Our problem is due to the fact that fake geek girls (not to be confused with real geek girls, who do in fact exist and have been part of geek culture ever since the beginning) are subcultural poseurs claiming an identity which they in fact lack.

The Essential Characteristic Of “Nerd”
There’s a reason why Spider-Man got ruthlessly beaten up in high school. There’s a reason why Loki grows up as the undervalued intellectual in a society of macho warrior brutes. There’s a reason Steve Rogers was originally skinny and frail and got beaten up regularly. There’s a reason for the “Revenge of the Nerds” films.

Being a “nerd” isn’t about just liking certain things. It is about having culturally atypical interests and experiencing social persecution as a result.

It is a subculture which embraces esoteric and often intellectual interests that go against what is expected of “real men.” This is why there are “sports fans” and “automotive enthusiasts” and “petrolheads” and “aviation buffs” (all acceptably masculine interests) but to be into comics or video games or analog synthesizers makes one a “nerd” or a “geek.”

Nerdiness is about being set outside the mainstream, often with violence. It isn’t merely about a specific set of interests, but about the social consequences of these interests.

Nerdiness is a culture primarily composed of socially emasculated males – a culture of “not real men” – a culture which has paid the price for failing to measure up to our society’s standards of masculinity.

Female nerds are also outside the mainstream – but their experiences rarely include being beaten up for this. Being intelligent and possessing a rational temperment is also gender-deviant because traditional gender roles see women as fundamentally emotional. But even if they don’t necessarily face the same violent retribution for gender-nonconformity that male nerds do, they share the experience of being socially alienated (to at least some degree) from one’s same-sex peers, of being gender-atypical, and of not having “normal” interests.

Nevertheless, we need to recognize that the gender system is far more willing to be suspicious of gender-deviance amongst males; as I have argued before, the gender system treats femininity as an innate characteristic and masculinity as an earned status that needs to be guarded, demonstrated and socially validated – hence why the Tomboy is just “going through a phase” (and is also perhaps worthy of some encouragement for proving she can compete with the boys) whereas the boy who plays with dolls is instantly suspected of being defective/damaged/gay/etc.

As such, it isn’t surprising that the experience of being socially de-gendered due to atypical interests is more common amongst males than it is amongst females (although perhaps potential on-average tempermental differences between the sexes may play some role too, but that’s another discussion). The primary narrative of nerd culture is the narrative of the “Omega Male” (the “not-real-man”) – this is a narrative of being bullied, brutalized and victimized for not being “one of the guys.”

The Case Of Video Gaming
The “fake geek girl” issue is often discussed in relation to video gaming – a pasttime which (in its super-hardcore manifestations), in the pre-PS2 era, was an extremely effective method of social suicide performed by spending exhorbitant amounts of money on 3d-capable bleeding-edge graphics hardware.

Console gaming at the time was primarily seen as a children’s toy – Sony’s Playstation platform was the first to deliver 3d gaming with mature themes alongside the low cost and relative convenience of a console. But the Playstation was relatively easy and inexpensive to develop for, meaning a wide variety of different kinds of game could be created.

The Playstation 2 was not, but it achieved phenomenal market success and essentially turned 3d gaming into a pasttime the general population (many of whom bought it for the DVD playback) could partake in.

But the generation following the Playstation 2 was even more difficult for programmers and developers; the jump to HD gaming as well as the increased difficulty to program both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 (relative to their predecessor consoles as well as the PC) further increased the costs of developing games, particularly multiplatform ones. Publishers, having to fork out larger amounts to make competitive and cutting-edge games, were becoming more cautious with their money. The used game market on consoles as well as piracy on the PC substantially cut into developer/publisher margins. At the same time, however, the market was potentially extremely lucrative and becoming even moreso due to the attraction of mainstream audiences.

This essentially led to the “blockbusterization” of video gaming as a hobby; instead of the niche markets of the past, gaming targeted the mass market. In order to attract mass market, games began to pander to this market; even games from traditionally “hardcore” genres began to emulate (to varying degrees) mass-market games in the hope of winning the money of “the CoD crowd.”

At the same time, Nintendo’s success with the Wii console as well as the success of small online games (via platforms such as Facebook) led to the proliferation of lower-cost and sometimes free-to-play casual gaming. This genre ended up migrating mostly to smartphones and other portable devices.

The ultimate result of this series of technological and economic pressures was that gaming ended up subdividing itself into three “markets” -

First, the original “hobbyist gaming” market segment, the nerdy gaming culture which we all know.

Second, the casual gaming market, which was mostly situated on Wii, Facebook and smartphones.

Third, the AAA “Blockbuster” gaming market, focused on best-selling (and sometimes annualized) sports and action titles like Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Gears of War.

The focus which once lay on Hobbyist gaming took a backseat to the newly-ascendent Blockbuster and Casual sectors of the market. Economic pressures forced a formerly niche-market hobby to conform to mass-market tastes.

The Absense Of Fake Geek Guys
In light of the above, we can address the absense of fake geek guys. For men, geekiness has always been a ticket to social emasculation, but with the arrival of Blockbuster gaming, one did not have to be even remotely geeky to game. Blockbuster games were aimed squarely at mass market gender-typical male tastes (and were rewarded with billions of dollars for doing so). A subset of games were essentially de-nerdified.

Thus, the cultural link between gaming and nerdness was cut, at least with respect to certain franchises and genres and subject-matter. The target audience – an audience which genuine nerds describe (and often still describe) disdainfully as “the dudebros” – did not claim a nerd identity. They didn’t want to do so due to gender pressure, and with the mainstreaming of certain video game franchises the identity would not be forced upon them from the outside.

This is why “fake geek guys” don’t exist; of course there are males who play games without belonging to geek culture! This has even been acknowledged by Mark Rubin – executive producer of the latest iteration of Call of Duty (see http://ign.com/articles/2013/10/21/call-of-duty-players-arent-hardcore-gamers-says-infinity-ward), as Rubin was clearly using “hardcore gamers” and “gamers” to refer to “Hobbyist gamers” (i.e. the nerdy subset). But because guys have no incentive to identify as nerds or geeks, they don’t claim to be such unless they genuinely are (and even then, sometimes they’ll dodge it because it is a persecuted subculture).

In the early days of geek culture, women faced some disincentives to identify as geeks or to at least keep their geekiness secret (and these days they still face some – certainly there are many women who probably would face some degree of ridicule or derision if they confessed to reading and/or writing slash fanfiction.. although in some cases that may be due to the quality of the writing rather than the subject matter). These days, however, the disincentive to be a female nerd is significantly lower, and indeed it is arguably the case that women face incentives to identify as nerds.

Princess Poindexter (This Phrase Is A Keeper!)
The idea that women may benefit from entering nerd culture is hardly new; Rebecca Watson, an internet atheist who has made absolutely no contribution to atheist philosophy or theory or rhetoric and has built her entire career off the relative rarity of her sex in the atheist community, said it best:

“In the land of the nerds, the double “x” chromosome is queen. The lack of women getting actively involved in skepticism has led to a peculiar deification of any female brave enough to dive into debates, engage in philosophical arguments, or just withstand the flirtatious banter that permeates online forums. The skepchick is held up as an ideal in an intellectual community – a woman who is smart, interesting, and most of all, approachable.
Despite what I saw as a distinct willingness for men to accept and embrace (sometimes literally) skeptical women, there were just not that many around. Somehow, the word was not getting out.”
(Watson, R (2005), Skepchicks International, eSkeptic, http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-11-03/).

Did she talk about how oppressed she was? Does she sound like she is complaining about being held up as an ideal or being deified or being embraced? Does she claim atheism was a ‘boy’s club’ aiming to keep her out? No, she shounds like a shrewd businesswoman spotting a market niche full of attention which was ripe for the harvesting!

Note that she described the atheist community as “the land of the nerds.” She clearly didn’t have a problem with their attention (assuming, presumably, it didn’t get expressed in a small confined space like an elevator).

This enjoyment of men’s attention is another facet of traditional gender roles; traditional gender norms treat men as subjects and women as objects, men as innately disposable instruments and women as innately precious and fragile. Men are thus encouraged to gain feelings of self-fulfillment through exercising agency, whereas women are encouraged to gain these feelings through enlisting male agency with innate feminine preciousness and specialness; being the center of attention, being considered extremely special and precious and worthy due to one’s innate value as a woman (and thus worthy of men doing things for you) is the essence of the female power fantasy under the traditional gender system.

Combine this with a culture which, historically, has very few women and thus very few competitors.

No matter what one may think about Ms. Watson, it is clear she acted with incredible business acumen. It should also be noted that at the time she wrote this article, the atheist community was gaining significant energy as an opposition to the Third Great Awakening and the growing influence of the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. She, in a sterling display of economically rational attention whoring, demonstrated that “the land of the nerds” is in fact a goldmine for women looking to benefit from traditional feminine norms.

Just as Rebecca Watson managed to be part of New Atheism during its time in the sun, the feminist engagement with geek culture seems rather conveniently timed to have occured only after Blockbuster games started making more money than Hollywood.

This mode of behavior – coming into a space and refocusing it on oneself – is extremely gender-traditional. It is also extremely unlike the actions of genuine female nerds; after all, like male nerds, female nerds are gender-atypical. Female nerds, like male nerds, typically possess what Myers-Briggs Temperments would classify as a rational temperment (xNTx) – NT’s are statistically rare in the overall population, rarer amongst women than men but still a small minority within both sexes (after all, male nerds are gender-atypical too). Thus, this mode of behavior or things resembling it come off as a “red flag” – an indication of being into the culture not due to sharing its interests but for other motivations.

In all fairness, it is quite plausible that many women who are genuinely interested in video games have been unfairly suspected of faking it – we couldn’t have all been born early enough (or had enough money) to be part of the golden age of PC gaming. But when a significant uptick in feminine interest in nerd culture (something which was significantly more atypical than male interest in nerd culture) seems to happen in ways which make sense as products of traditional feminine behavior patterns, there are grounds for skepticism… particularly in light of the extreme stigma nerdiness used to carry merely one-and-a-half console generations ago.

It certainly doesn’t help that there is footage on Youtube (courtesy of thunderf00t) of Anita Sarkeesian openly admitting she hates video games because she finds them too gory.

So, in a world where video gaming is far less stigmatized than it used to be, women can enter gaming culture and gain attention, receive adulation as an innately special creature simply for being there, and apparently get a warm welcome. They can, as Watson pointed out, be treated like princesses, and doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess? They can also receive praise for confronting “the boy’s club” and be heroines fighting against oppressive sexism – the cheers of “you go, girl!” rain down upon them.

Compare this to the treatment men have historically received for being affiliated with nerd culture. Hell, compare this to the treatment which actual female nerds receive (indeed, you could argue that the feminist influx has made it worse for them – they get accused of being gender traitors now for being ‘one of the boys’).

Subcultural Poseurs
Marginalized subcultures have always hated poseurs – those who claim the identity without knowing what it truly means. The goth subculture went through a strong period of rooting out perceived “fakes” in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, particularly focusing on anyone who was considered too fond of Marilyn Manson (one of the artists most blamed in the aftermath of the massacre, even though the killers in fact did not like his work).

In the history of geek culture, almost every single geeky pasttime was the subject of a moral panic; The Seduction of the Innocent argued that comic books would turn your sons into juvenile delinquents who fantasized about being Robin while Batman sodomized them, Dungeons and Dragons was accused of promoting Satanism and suicide and occultism by the religious right during the Satanic Panic, and every single school massacre brings out a gaggle of “blame Grand Theft Auto” from several psychologists, religionists and political personalities.

Combine this with how nerds have been social outcasts pretty much since day one. In the light of this, resentment of poseurs is hardly surprising. Again, the goth example is illustrative, and goth is a relatively gender-balanced subculture in terms of its adherents; the resentment was against poseurs rather than any specific sex.

Another factor which has made nerd culture defensive of its distinctiveness is the prominence of Blockbuster gaming and how its success encouraged several gaming franchises to aim for more mainstream appeal (“dumbed down for the dudebros”). To someone who has literally been beaten up for playing video games, seeing a beloved hobby start to cater to people who may be perceived as the same kind of person as those who inflicted the beatings feels almost like a betrayal. Hobbyist gamers have already felt like “their” hobby was being taken away from them and formatted towards a different target audience – the fact that some women (particularly women who haven’t shown any interest in games until recently) seem to want to do something similar naturally comes off as a threat (of course there is nothing wrong with catering to all audience niches, but until relatively recently this seemed impossible due to the dominance of Blockbuster gaming – thankfully this situation seems to be getting remedied but that’s another story).

Indeed, the gender-flip of the fake geek girl, from the perspective of nerd culture, is the bro-who-plays-CoD-with-his-bros-on-saturday-but-isn’t-a-nerd. The salient difference between the fake geek girl and the CoD-bro-who-isn’t-a-nerd is not that one is a girl and one is a guy, but rather that one is claiming to be part of nerd culture and the other is not.

We are not seeing sexism here, we are seeing typical dynamics one would find in any marginalized subculture, even one with a far less skewed gender composition. Marginalized subcultures resent poseurs; the reason that the poseurs in this case are only from one sex is due to the way our society’s gender system creates different incentives for the sexes to affiliate with the subculture in question.

Conclusion
The culture of nerds has always been a culture of those who are gender-atypical due to cerebral temperments and specific hobbies. It is a culture born of the experience of those alienated from their peer group and persecuted for not fitting in. It is a culture of not-real-men and women-who-think-too-much-and-this-may-scare-boys-away-from-dating-her.

It is a culture of gender-nonconformists, built upon the experiences of these men and (admittedly much less frequently and influentially) women. It is a culture defined by its outcast status.

But, certainly these days, a female does not automatically commit social suicide by playing (or claiming to play) video games. Some men might even find her nerdiness cute. The incentives to be a nerd are like the incentives to identify as bisexual – the incentives are much more positive for women than for men, and in the case of nerd culture particularly so for women with relatively gender-traditional desires (which are typically not those of actual female nerds).

As such, suspicions of fake girl geeks, whilst obviously not always correct, are hardly indefensible bigotry. We are not seeing misogyny but rather a disdain for poseurs common to all marginalized subcultures – a disdain which would clearly be gender-neutral if the poseurs in question included members of both sexes.

There are real female geeks. There are also fake girl geeks. Fake girl geeks do not share the values or experiences of real female geeks or male geeks. Marginalized subcultures will expel those perceived as external invaders irrespective of the invaders’ sex – the problem with fake geek girls is not that they are girls but that they are fake.

Perhaps as the world becomes more accepting of genuine geekiness, geek culture as we know it (i.e. built in the context of persecution) will disappear. However, acceptance of genuine nerds grates against our society’s gender system; the system has no affection for not-real-men.

Irrespective of this, to claim that the only reason suspicions of “fake geek girl” are raised is sexism is false; if there is any gender issue that explains the lack of ‘fake geek guy,’ it is the fact that nerd culture is a culture built from the experiences of socially emasculated men (and to a lesser extent gender-atypical women); men lose their real manhood by being nerds, but women usually lose less and (these days) in some cases can make substantial gains from being geeky. In the light of this fact, it makes sense that many women want in (even if they are not nerds), but most men do not (sometimes even if they are).

Mens’ Rights vs Feminist Rape Culture Explained Using Puzzle Pieces

This is Jill.

jill copy

This is Jack.

jack copy

This is rape.

rape copy

This is not rape.

madetopenetrate copy

When a man physically forces Jill to have sex we consider it rape.

But when Jill physically forces Jack to have sex, we don’t consider it rape.

We think that Jack’s sexuality negatively affects Jill in a way that Jill’s does not negatively affect’s Jack’s.

Mary Koss agrees.

Mary Koss is the feminist researcher behind the factoid that one in four women will be raped in her lifetime.

In Mary Koss’s original survey only one in sixteen women said “yes” to “have you been raped?”

So how did she get her one in four number?

By asking women “have you ever been physically forced to have sex or have had sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol”

Disregarding the women’s answers to “have you been raped” Mary Koss went on to publish her findings and 1 in 4 became an oft repeated feminist talking point.

Unfortunately Mary Koss encountered an additional problem. When women and men are asked if they were raped, the number of male victims is low. But when women and men are asked if they were “physically forced to have sex”, the number of male victims skyrockets.

On her efforts to correct to correct the problem of too many men saying “yes” to “have you been physically forced to have sex” Mary Koss says:

 We worked diligently to develop item wording that captured men’s sense of pressure to have sex and draw their responses into an appropriate category of coercion instead of rape.

Based on Mary Koss’s advice the Center of Disease control decided to separate “physically forced sex” into two categories in their nation wide US study of sexual and domestic violence:

This is rape.

rape copy

This is made to penetrate.

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They then went on to publicize their findings on rape while excluding the majority of male victims of physically forced sex.

When we reclassify “made to penetrate” as rape we see the problem that Mary Koss and the CDC were facing.

They had found that men and women report equal levels of victimization in the past year.

Jack is equally likely to experience physically forced sex as Jill in the last twelve months.

However the CDC found that only 20% of the victims who reported being physically forced into sex in their lifetime were male.

Why is this?

When witnessing two criminals, one female and one male, who are both equally violent, witnesses “misremember” the violence of the female over time. The force she uses is remembered as being less relative to the male. The witnesses’ perception of her agency is whittled away.

The same process is happening with male rape victims. Over time they are bringing their memories in line with the dominant narrative shared by Mary Koss, the CDC, and likely you.

This is rape.

rape copy

This is not rape.

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So when you ask  “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in the last year” equal numbers of men and women respond yes.

When you ask “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in the last five years”, the percentage of male victims drops from 50% to 30%.

And when you ask “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in your lifetime”, the percentage of male victims drops again to 20%.

Over time male victims are “misremembering” the violence used against them by female rapists.

Feminists will often assert that 90% of rape victims are female and 99% of rapists are male.

Considering that this is universally seen as rape.

rape copy

And this is not commonly seen as rape.

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It makes sense that the majority of male victims and the majority of female sexual aggressors are excluded from statistics regarding rape… But what’s really remarkable is that as much as ten percent of male rape victims remain to be counted. And that despite being categorically excluded women count for even one percent of rapists.

Feminists are creating a false perception of female victimhood. They are creating a culture of fear targeted at women. They are maintaining the idea that men act and women are acted upon.

That this:

rape copy

is fundamentally different from this:

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Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped playing games with people’s lives and recognized that this:

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is not fundamentally different than this:

rape copy

And that all victims of sexual violence–including Jack–deserve equal compassion.

References

Female criminals seen as less violent:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525090554.htm

The Centre of Disease Control’s National Partner and Intimate Violence Survey:

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

Tables specific to sexual violence:

http://i.imgur.com/Ps9wW.jpg

My Analysis of the CDC’s NIPSVS:

http://www.genderratic.com/p/836/manufacturing-female-victimhood-and-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/

Mary Koss Promotes Rape Culture:

http://www.genderratic.com/p/836/manufacturing-female-victimhood-and-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/

http://www.genderratic.com/p/2798/male-disposability-mary-p-koss-and-influencing-a-government-entity-to-erase-male-victims-of-rape/

http://www.genderratic.com/p/2943/mary-koss-the-corruption-continues-manboobz-style/

Feminist groups block or remove men’s protections against rape by female sexual predators.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Womens-groups-Cancel-law-charging-women-with-rape

http://toysoldier.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/a-sad-day-for-male-rape-victims-in-india/

Reddit Repost: “Objectification and the ‘Male Power Fantasy’”

This is a repost of an article originally posted on /r/Masculism, here: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/1j9vy4/objectification_and_the_male_power_fantasy/

This is probably my most successful/popular article to date, probably due to its analysis of some pop culture artworks rather than simply sticking to theory. But theory plays a big part (of course).

Introduction
A common debate that takes place within the gendersphere is one which focuses on how (typically male-targeted) fiction portrays female characters. Many feminists allege that, speaking generally, the predominant portrayal of female characters constitutes objectification by portraying women as “sex objects.” Typically (although not universally), these feminists express concern that these kinds of fictional portrayals encourage men to see real-world women as not individual persons with the capacity to make their own decisions but rather as physical things that exist principally to serve the sexual demands of men.

In response to this, many advocates for men’s issues point out that male characters are also depicted with idealized body types that don’t represent real-world males.

The typical feminist rebuttal to this argument is that a false equivalence is being made – the physical idealization of female characters is intended to serve as erotic titillation, whilst the physical idealization of male characters is intended to be empowering; the women are sexual fantasies, the men are power fantasies, and in both cases the characters are created to cater to the fantasies of an assumed-to-be-male audience. Thus, the women are still portrayed as objects, whilst the men are portrayed as subjects (and the physical idealization serves to emphasize this).

This argument has, in my judgment, a degree of truth. The traditional norms of gender are ultimately predicated on the subject-object dichotomy, with manhood conceptualized as a precarious social status that is earned and validated and reinforced via actions producing specific outcomes, and womanhood conceptualized as an innate property of female individuals. Men do, women are, because a manhood is about doing and womanhood is about being. I agree that the traditional norms of gender are outdated and destructive towards individuality, and as such I believe that reinforcing these norms is something best avoided.

However, I disagree that the so-called “male power fantasy” is devoid of objectification. Indeed, I would not describe it as a fantasy of power or agency at all. Rather, I am going to argue that the “male power fantasy” is in fact objectifying of men, and that to call it a “power” fantasy is a substantial error. In reality, the “male power fantasy” is better understood as a gender conformity fantasy – a fantasy of being or becoming a “real man” – rather than a fantasy of power. And if one accepts the proposition that traditional gender norms reduce people’s power (defined as control over one’s own life), then the so-called “male power fantasy” is in fact a fantasy that glorifies powerlessness.

As examples of my point, I will be using two works of male-targeted fiction; the movie Thor (a superhero film based on an intellectual property owned by Marvel Comics) and the video game Gears Of War (which Cliff Bleszinski, in an interview with Kotaku, said used unrealistically muscular characters specifically to serve as a fantasy of empowerment).

Part 1: Objectification
The feature which separates Subjects from Objects is that a Subject possesses a mind/consciousness/free will – in brief, a Subject makes choices. Subjects, unlike Objects, can initiate action, and their actions are not the product of “causes” but rather proceed from reasons, goals and motivations. As such, Subjects can be held responsible for their actions whilst Objects cannot; a murderer is put on trial and imprisoned, but the murderer’s weapon is not.

Human beings are Subjects – indeed out of all entities which we know of, human beings demonstrate the most indisputable level of subjectivity. This has led to a situation where we often see “humanity” and “subjectivity” as essentially synonymous, and as such “objectification” (denial/marginalization of a subject’s subjectivity) is seen as dehumanizing. The possession of a mind/consciousness/free will, the ability to initiate teleological action, the capacity to choose, are the traits which separate us (as human beings) from all other known entities (there is some debate as to the cognitive capacities of higher animals, but that issue is beyond the scope of this essay). The denial or marginalization of these traits constitutes a denial/marginalization of our very humanity.

But in discussions of fictional portrayals, “objectification” goes beyond a mere acknowledgement of a character’s possession of free will/choice/etc. Let’s take, for example, the classic piece of BDSM erotica The Story of O. This piece of literature portrayed a fully consensual BDSM arrangement, with the consent of all parties repeatedly affirmed over the course of the story – and unsurprisingly, the anti-sex Radical Second Wave feminists Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin and Joan Smith attacked The Story of O as objectifying, even though all characters (particularly the submissive main character) are repeatedly acknowledged as possessing free will/choice/agency.

This leads me to make a proposition about what constitutes objectification – to use Kantian language, to portray a character (in-universe) as a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves, marginalizes their agency by reducing it down to acting as a functionary of some other will, and thus portrays them as an object (an instrumentally useful tool). In this way, being acknowledged as a subject is not protection against objectification. Sexual objectification consists of showing a character as existing principally to satisfy others’ sexual desires, however one can objectify characters across multiple dimensions depending on which ‘ends’ they exist to serve.

This is hardly a controversial proposition – the concept of objectification is Kantian in origin and radical anti-pornography feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon both appealed to the Kantian reasoning (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/). Non-radical feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum also appealed to Kantian reasoning in her famous 1995 article Objectification (published in her book Sex and Social Justice) and described treating someone as a means to another’s end as “instrumentality” – which she classed as a form of Objectification.

Part 2: Traditional Masculinity As Objectification
If to be reduced to a functionary of others – a means to others’ ends rather than an end in onself – constitutes objectification, then both traditional gender roles are objectifying. Firstly, the gender system arose primarily to incentivize reproduction and population growth in a world where most children didn’t see their tenth birthday – sexual dimorphism necessitated that women bear many children over time and men serve as protectors and providers. The resultant social norms – good woman is mother, good man is hunter-warrior – reduced women to fertility objects and men to provision-protection objects.

Females, with a few exceptions owing to natural infertility, would simply gain the biological capacity to bear children owing to their maturation process. In short, their ability to serve as a means to socially-mandated ends was assumed, and thus their womanhood was conceptualized as an inherent part of their nature.

Men lacked this particular developmental feature, since the socially-mandated end of men was to provide and protect for others across a long span of time and biological maturity was no guarantee of being either able or particularly proficient at fulfilling this end. Thus, a male’s ability to serve as a means to their socially-mandated end had to proven and demonstrated, and thus their manhood was conceptualized as an ideal to aspire towards. As is typical with Platonic idealism, the normative pressure is to aspire towards the ideal – to prove oneself a “good” man by complying with the role’s demands.

The good man was a good provider – i.e. one that provided for his tribe and family and not only for himself. The good man was a good warrior – i.e. one that defended his tribe and family from external threats and was willing to die for the ‘greater good’ of his group. The good man may have been competent and powerful, but this power was justified in terms of service to an higher will (the idea of individuals living their own lives in accordance with their own wills is historically quite recent – principally it is a product of Enlightenment Individualism, which is far newer than traditional gender roles). The good man was thus a means to an end – a disposable tool – an object (albiet objectified in a very different manner to women).

Part 3: Masculinity, Dominance, Submission and Self-Determination
This naturally clashes strongly with an understanding of masculinity as dominance. Both feminist gender theory and traditionalist gender norms often conceive of masculinity in terms of dominance and femininity in terms of submission. This contains some truth but it is an oversimplification which ignores a feature of traditional masculinity that has been long-ignored; traditional masculinity, owing to its hierarchical nature, contains a significant component of submission.

As explained in my article Separating The ‘Boys’ From The ‘Men’ (http://www.genderratic.com/p/3977/reddit-repost-separating-the-boys-from-the-men-male-hierarchy-and-the-oppression-of-men/) , the Platonic Essentialist nature of the socially-mandated male role results in a multi-tiered hierarchy of “real manhood.” Those who are not “real men” are practically treated as a third gender. Those who are “real men” compete with each other in order to attain superiority, and eventually an “Alpha” status defined by possessing the ability to revoke an inferior’s “real manhood” and socially emasculate said inferior. For the purposes of this article, let us call those “real men” who lack “Alpha” status “Betas” and let us call those males who lack “real man” status “Omegas.”

Traditional masculinity, whilst often mischaracterized as being centered on dominance, mandates that a Beta submit to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. Sure, the Beta isn’t as good a man as the Alpha (by social standards), but he is still a “real man.” The penalty for unsuccessful rebellion is a loss of status, which may reach the level of social emasculation.

As I have argued above, traditional concepts of gender are heavily grounded in notions of maturity – hence how “grow up” and “man up” are functionally synonymous. A Beta who unsuccessfully rebels against the Alpha is often called a “brat” or “punk” – two terms with immature connotations (bringing to mind discontented children/teenagers who dare question their allegedly-omniscient elders). To be a “real man” is to not act like a child male (a “boy” – a common emasculating slur), and to rebel is childish.

In short, real men acknowledge rank and obey their superiors. The military is an institution held as the height of masculine, and it is brutally hierarchical (and, in what would be a paradox to those that define masculinity purely in terms of dominance, it is the soldiers rather than the officers that are considered more macho even though the officers hold command).

As such, submission to authority is not inherently emasculating, but rather masculinity-mandated under certain conditions.

When asserting one’s own self-sovereignty (which is inherently rebellious since it denies the legitimacy of others’ dominion over oneself) is seen as transgressive of the gender norms, when surrendering one’s will is seen as properly masculine, when obedience is elevated to virtue, it becomes impossible to see traditional masculinity as being about dominance alone. When knowing one’s place and being a good soldier is a masculine duty, one can scarcely describe traditional masculinity as empowering men to live their own lives on their own terms.

And it is this self-sovereignty-sabotaging ideal of masculinity which is being aspired to.

Part 4: Case Studies
In light of the above, the discussion moves to two real-world works of fiction targeted primarily towards young males and aimed at providing a so-called “male power fantasy.” I shall argue that the object of these fantasies is in fact gender-compliance, of being a “real man” rather than possessing power (“power” being understood as self-determination).

Study A: “Thor”
The movie “Thor” provides an interesting case-study in the culturally-induced self-loathing of many nerdy young men; simply take Thor and his brother Loki and ask oneself “which of these characters is the audience surrogate?”

Clearly, it isn’t the six-foot-three, unshaven, heavily muscled, popular, father’s favorite Crown Prince. Thor embodies the normative ideal of Asgardian masculinity – a warrior who wins with as much force and as little tactics as possible.

The slightly shorter, slender, pale, dark-haired Prince Loki fights with deception, trickery, illusions, sorcery and throwing knives – all of which transgress Asgard’s concept of how a “real man” fights. His skills are seen as mere “tricks.” And Thor’s friends are arguably Thor’s friends who endure Loki’s presence out of respect for Thor rather than like of Loki.

To use language suited for the high-school target demographic, what we have is a simple contrast between the popular, gender-normative jock and the unpopular, gender-atypical nerd. Out of these two archetypes, who is more representative of the typical audience of comic books? And who exactly is the villainous one?

In a way, Loki’s relationship with Thor can be seen as having similarities to that of the target audience’s relationship with Thor: jealousy and resentment and wishing to be the golden, approved of, normal kid. Loki is in effect a representative of Jung’s Shadow – the parts of the self which are disowned on some level.

But the relationship between Thor and Loki cannot truly be understood without viewing it in the context of the Princes’ relationship with their father, King Odin – they both crave their father’s approval and endorsement. It is implied that Thor begins with this endorsement, and Loki does not. As I wrote in my article The Literal Patriarchy (http://www.genderratic.com/p/4021/reddit-repost-the-literal-patriarchy-men-and-masculinity/), this approval/endorsement is something which our gender system places a high value upon; the result is that culturally speaking, father figures have the ability to bestow or revoke “real man” status.

This is precisely what Odin does to Thor during an early part of the film. After Thor rashly causes an incident which nearly triggers a war (an incident caused by Thor reacting with outrage at another character verbally emasculating him), Odin makes Thor human and casts a spell on Thor’s hammer which results in Thor being unable to use the hammer until proven “worthy.” During a verbal admonishment, Odin verbally emasculates Thor further, calling him a “boy.”

The implications should be obvious – verbal and symbolic (the hammer being a pretty obvious phallic symbol) emasculation combined with depowering until Thor began to meet Odin’s standards.

Thor only reclaims the hammer by proving himself, i.e. complying with Odin’s will. He regains his symbolic masculinity by sacrificing his own life for the humans (both affirming male-sacrifice (and hence male disposability) as well as self-sacrifice (and hence Christian and Comtean ethical beliefs)), simultaneously complying with his father’s will and a deeply-rooted premise of the gender system. Thor regains his masculinity through acts of submission (as paradoxical as this may seem).

This is further validated when at the end of the film, Thor confesses to Odin that Odin is a better King than Thor would ever be and how he longs to make Odin proud. Odin then confesses pride in his son. Yet again, Thor acquiesces to Odin, and through that gains approval and is validated as a “proper” man.

Thor may be physically mighty, but he lives essentially as his father’s vassal, motivated entirely by the desire to prove himself and live up to his father’s standards. He desires to serve as a means to his father’s ends and be a good, dutiful son. How, with any depth or meaningful contemplation, can this be seen as a power fantasy?

Indeed, if Loki is the audience surrogate, then the film itself explicitly denies being a power fantasy; Loki clearly states that he never wanted the throne (i.e. wasn’t interested in power) and only ever wanted to be Thor’s equal (the “in father’s eyes” is implied).

At the climax of the film, after discovering his actual heritage as a frost giant foundling adopted by Odin, Loki uses a superweapon to attempt genocide on his race’s homeworld (after killing their King, who was Loki’s biological father). Loki’s motivation was to prove himself to Odin, to prove himself a good son, and to essentially out-Thor Thor, by demonstrating (though an extreme act) compliance with Asgardian standards (including gender standards (we could describe Asgardian gender standards of embodying certain elements of Toxic Masculinity)).

Loki’s plan failed, and when Odin looked at him with nothing but disappointment and regret, Loki committed suicide. As Warren Farrell pointed out, suicide is not a response to power, but to powerlessness.

If Loki is the target demographic’s representative and Thor is the escapist character, then the Thor film is no power fantasy. It is a fantasy of fitting in, of meeting popular standards of masculinity, of pleasing authority figures. It is a fantasy of being the good son that makes Daddy proud. It is a fantasy of proving oneself a “real man”. It is a gender conformity fantasy, and therefore it is the opposite of a power fantasy.

Study B: “Gears Of War”
Amongst gamers, “Gears Of War” as an IP is infamous for extreme levels of conventional masculinity. In an interview between Cliff Bleszinski (the game’s creator) and Kotaku, Bleszinski stated that the unrealistically muscular (i.e. hyper-masculine) bodies of the main characters were intended to give a sense of empowerment to the player. This statement is of course in line with the “power fantasy” narrative, but to paraphrase Warren Farrell, men have been taught to think of that which makes them powerless as power.

“Gears” takes place in a world run by a totalitarian-collectivist dictatorship called the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG). The symbolism of the acronym should be obvious – being a cog in a machine is clearly objectification, isn’t it? So, obviously, since this game is a power fantasy (i.e. a fantasy of having/attaining/increasing one’s control over one’s own life), the plot must be about a rebellion against the COG, right?

In reality, the plot focuses on a super-gruff, super-growly, steroidally-sized soldier named Marcus Fenix; a war hero who fought for the COG in multiple battles, but got stripped of his rank and thrown into prison for going against orders. The story begins with Fenix being reinstated, although Fenix’s CO Colonel Hoffman is not happy at all with this. Over the course of the story, Marcus Fenix aims to prove himself to Hoffman; at the climax of the game when Fenix is hanging on for dear life to the struts of a flying helicopter, Hoffman finally reaches down and helps him up. The music grows to a soaring, triumphant crescendo.

The story here is one of Marcus Fenix proving himself, through compliance to an authority figure, as a reliable and effective servant – a very good cog in the machine, as it were. Like Thor, Fenix is punished for a transgression against his overlords, and is given a chance to redeem himself through compliance to his ruler’s standards. Like Thor, Fenix is eventually redeemed for his transgression through servitude. Like Thor, Fenix has to please an elder male authority figure (Colonel Hoffman in this case), and just like in the movie Thor, the audience is expected to find fulfillment in the approval of said figure.

“Power” is not the object of this fantasy – being a good soldier boy is not a position of power. One might be shooting tons of enemies and kicking proverbial ass across a pixel-gore-coated screen, but one is doing so on orders. As E.S. Raymond points out in The Myth Of Man The Killer (http://catb.org/~esr/writings/killer-myth.html), military insociation is based upon breaking people’s individual will and reformatting them into collective-identifying agents of the wills of their superiors – in short, removing the sense of individual agency/responsibility – in short, objectification. It is a fantasy of instrumentality (in the sense Nussbaum used the term) that powers “Gears Of War” – a fantasy of being an effective attack dog who is rewarded by his master.

Marcus Fenix is the slave of a totalitarian regime and exists to serve his government. His career consists of following orders. He is merely a tool with a gun and even though he is unrealistically muscular and speaks in a guttral snarl, he has no control whatsoever over his own life. His motivations consist of pleasing the higher-ups. The sales figures of the “Gears” series make it clear that a disturbing number of young men indeed believe that Marcus Fenix is an empowered man.

But Fenix is a clear case of Nussbaum’s instrumentality – in slaughtering legions of enemies, Fenix proves his usefulness. In ordering his squad around, he fulfills the demands of his own superiors. In fulfilling aspects of the masculine gender role, he serves. He may not be sexually objectified, but he is clearly objectified.

A soldier fighting for a totalitarian state, striving to prove himself a useful instrument of his rulers, is hardly in a position of power. But what Marcus Fenix does display is a level of gender conformity which is borderline ludicrous – as explained above his instrumental efficacy is perfectly in line with the traditional expectations of manhood. His stoicism is practically a running joke. His size is extraordinarily unrealistic considering his nation is living at near-starvation. His voice and mannerisms and facial features speak for themselves. So what is the object of the fantasy?

An interesting case could be made that a fantasy of power over others is exhibited by Gears Of War. For one, as the game is a Third Person Shooter, one can argue that the nature of the gameplay involves exerting power (in this case, violence) over the opponents the player faces. For two, in the context of the game’s plotline, Marcus Fenix is the leader of his squad. However, with respect to the second point, the fantasy of power over others is marginal compared to the overwhelming lack of power that Fenix has in the storyline – he has superiors too, after all. And with respect to the first point, almost all action games fulfill this role, even those with female protagonists; is Bayonetta thus a transgendered or autogynephiliac power fantasy?

The power over others Marcus has is justified in terms of how he uses it to serve his own superiors, nation and family – he is merely a conduit for the power over others possessed by his superiors. He is a senior slave who sets out to win the approval of his rulers and prove himself a good soldier. He is not a fantasy of power, but rather a fantasy of appeasing traditional standards of masculinity. Compliance is hardly an assertion of power.

Part 5: Conclusion
The depiction of men in popular (and typically male-targeted) fiction is an important issue for anyone that wishes to criticize the traditional gender system. However, some feminists react to attempts to discuss the topic by arguing that it falsely equates female-characters-as-sex-objects with individuated, powerful and truly human idealized men.

But this argument errs because traditional masculinity has always been objectifying, albiet in a very different way to the manner in which traditional femininity objectifies women. The male gender standards demand that a man be an instrumentally useful, compliant servant; a male may possess agency but he is no “real man” unless he deploys that agency in an approved fashion.

As such, works of fiction typically seen as “male power fantasies” become more comprehensible as fantasies of compliance with gender norms. As demonstrated by the two case studies provided, neither central character could be described as possessing control over their own life; both central characters act as executors of an higher will than their own and follow narrative arcs where they are rewarded with approval for being good subordinates. If Thor Odinson and Marcus Fenix are embodiments of normative masculinity then to fantasize about being them is hardly a fantasy of power.

A different kind of objectification is not a power fantasy. A fantasy of measuring up to social norms is not a fantasy of power, nor are such fantasies a product of power; rather, they are a response to and manifestation of a profound powerlessness.

Those who wish to address how the gender system harms men should continue to analyze the depictions of men in popular culture, particularly in male-targeted fiction. Fiction crafted for a target audience will typically attempt to embody and flatter the beliefs, norms and values of this audience; thus, fiction can serve as a reflection of that audience’s greatest desires and aspirations. What does that imply about the so-called “male power fantasy”?

Feedback and discussion is appreciated.