You would think…
That in our society of great sexual proliferation, both commercially and culturally, that we’d be more open to sex positivity. Whether it be with regards to appreciating multiple body types rather than what is considered “the norm”, our society compared to many decades ago is leagues forward in terms of moral standards. Yet, it appears that our reactions to outliers is just the same as before. Why would that be?
Well, I have a theory on that.
It is a pesky and annoying thing. At any point in time, anyone, including myself, will have a rigid worldview within which, any outliers become oddities that we try to single out as mere glitches in the system. This does not change from divine morality to secular morality. As no system or social structure is without its failings, there is always something in this world that threatens our worldview and thus our very existence. At least, that is how our brain reacts. When faced with “facts” or “claims” that would defy what we think we know of the world, our reaction will be defensive, accusatory and perhaps even “skeptical”.
Now why is that? Because we are animals, deep down and because despite all our technological supremacy over other living things in this world, we still fail, as they do, when met with challenges that once were physical, and now are merely conceptual. In relative morality debates, there always comes a moment where we will compare the most reprehensible of actions to that which our opponent is suggesting. That can either be in the shape of Godwin’s law or baby mutilation. Most of us agree that the Nazis were horrible people and that baby mutilation is unimaginably awful.
Yet, that has not kept some people from doing both and to still praise one or the other. Bertrand Russell, in one of his most worthwhile works on ethics and society, demanded of his readers to entertain a chancy position: That in order for me to be as rigid as I am about a concept or an act, I must understand that someone is equally rigid about its opposite. It serves me nothing to at once disregard a position because it is alien to all I know. On some occasions of course, I can disregard a position because I know it to be objectively false.
Does that make me right? Is it even necessary to be right, in such instances?
On that, is it possible that someone who entertains the same worldview as I have, by and large, might hold certain views that contradict mine? If so, does that make them less of an ally? Some, it would appear, nod their heads in unison at this notion. As a feminist, you must be 100% behind the emancipation of women (and men) with regards to the patriarchal society.
Some ask: “Well, what if I am but I also think I should be allowed to be a housewife?”
At that point, the concept of emancipation becomes a lot more complex than simply not being bound to a home, but rather having the opportunity and the capacity to choose. There is no surprise when you then hear some of the more rigid members of the feminist movement consider being a housewife as a cardinal sin against feminism. Not all of them, of course, but what sociology can tell all of us is that nothing is ever perfect and whatever you do, there will always be assholes in any group.
My theory? There is radicalism in everything. From music, to visual arts, to economic practices, to working habits, to masturbation and even to stamp collecting. Not one sphere of human life is safe from “the radicals”. Even Buddhists have their own violent uprisings every now and then, so why shouldn’t feminists? Now, I am not saying that this is a good thing, but that it is silly not to expect such radical reactions to things as apparently harmless as the following:
The following is just social commentary. I’m not trying to paint an entire movement or an entire group of people with a strawman’s brush, but rather give an example of what I am saying here: That radicalism exists in any and all spheres of human activity.
Above is a picture of a man with his wife, which he used in a post where he praised not only his wife’s body, but that of other women who like herself, have physical attributes that fall off of the prescribed norm in society. This, with sprinkles of feminist cheers. The picture above seems rather harmless on its own and the status is simply put, a love letter to curvy women with a shout-out to feminist ideals, who taught this man to see beyond prescribed norms.
What was the reaction of the web? #NeverReadTheCommentSection
“strong contender for least fave type of male feminist is “man who thinks liking a curvy woman is revolutionary” – Julia Pugachevsky
“I would dump a guy so quickly for patting himself on the back for having the audacity to date me.” – Kat Blaque <— Was quite surprised to see Blaque take the bait, here.
And then amazingly enough, when I went digging deeper, I’ve found people who purposely scoped his profile for previous posts of his wife, where he praises her beauty and emphasizes the fact that she’s curvy, while apparently suggesting size does not matter. If that is what he had said, then that would be true, but he quite clearly says in his post that he LOVES women with her body type and felt ashamed of such for most of his adolescent life.
More than anything, it feels like a coming out to men in his entourage who feel like women like his wife are out of the norm. To those who live way out of the norm, this seems like childish nonsense, and for good reason: They preach this diversity of body types constantly, so why is a cishet white man’s praise of their body types somehow more important than the many times they’ve called for this type of tolerance?
Therein lies the crux of the issue.
Social commentary lends itself to a univocal interpretation of what has been said, and more often than not, those who perform such commentary will then utilize their own lens to analyze the person making the comment. So, if a comment seems to threaten the fabric of reality for one person, then that person will use their own reality to explain away the individual’s outlier reaction. As above: Two women who do not appear to appreciate a man praising a specific body type, because they are used to men objectifying women for their own benefit. What is the goal here, ultimately?
Academic vs popular
It is extremely tempting, when you get into academic studies, to invest your time in educating everyone around you on the things they get wrong. I do it all the time, but what I have learned over the last few months is that you should only dispense your teachings to people who will listen. When you dispense the teaching on those who feel they have no benefit to extract from it, you waste that teaching and therefore your efforts. You may have heard of the phrase “choosing your battles”.
This is a situation where someone who is probably not as radical a feminist as others might be, decided to give appraisal to a specific body type in women and therefore his wife’s, lining it with some feminist social commentary on how our society expects certain things both of men and women: Women should be careful with how they look and men should choose their women carefully, with the physical attributes holding chief priority over all else.
Tripp’s intent here, from what I have gathered, was solely to raise awareness, in his own fashion, that liking curvy women is not a bad thing. Those who are deeply within the social disputes regarding this react sarcastically, because of course they know. My problem with this attitude, however, is that you have a rather inoffensive man making a rather accessible post on tolerating various body types, and on the other side, you have certain people deciding that his appraisal is not only unnecessary, but it is objectifying toward his woman and that she should be offended by his appraisal of her body, because they are.
A divide must be drawn between academic analysis of social interactions between men and women and people just writing things on the web because they feel good about themselves. That is why I titled my blog post “Sex Positivity on Social Media”, because what this looks to me, more than anything, is people being uncomfortable with a man’s physical preferences in women, particularly one that they consider “otherness”. At once, we have the same people demanding to be respected despite their curves, and when someone not only does that, but claims that their curves make them that much hotter in his mind, then it is wrong.
Gender studies are good for telling you how genders function in society, but it is not up to you to educate every single soul on this earth on how their behavior is wrong. Teaching does not work like that. On the contrary, what we’re seeing here is basically punishment-based behaviorism. It might work if every person on the web was your student and you their teachers, but on social media, everyone is a teacher and no one wants to be a student (mostly).
If this man takes what is being said to him to heart, what he’ll have learned is that not only was he shamed by his peers for liking curvy women, he is shamed now by the “progressives” for openly talking about his preference for curvy women. There is no win-lose situation here. In an atmosphere of SJW shenanigans where everything the “left” does is reminiscent of SJWs to some people, this is definitely not helping.
And come on…
Of course he does not think it is revolutionary that he likes curvy women. He just wanted to say it. Are we going to shame people for stating their preferences in body types?
In Conclusion: Otherness
My conclusion is that as a person who LOVES academic debates, I absolutely understand the perspective of those in the social justice community who reacted negatively to this outburst from Tripp. They have a point, but only causally. What they don’t want people to get away from his post is that curvy women should be the norm. That isn’t what he said, but it could easily be construed as such. In my post here, I didn’t pretend to say they were completely wrong, but that the reaction to this post is really overkill.
Vitriolic retweets abound from the original tweet this man sent out, and most of them seem to paint sexual preferences in a negative light. As if it is wrong de facto to enjoy women who have curves and specify this preference. It is quite likely that this preference of his is steeped in some kind of sexist bias, but I think some people are stepping way out of bounds to suggest that this man should not be talking about the body types he likes in women. He suffered social stigma and psychological stress due to it, so it feels only normal that he would like to expel all this negativity with a worshipping tweet about his “Curvy Goddess”.
Deciding to name “otherness” whatever does not happen to be normal has the unfortunate side-effect of creating yet another “normal”. The hypocrisy here ends up being about how we want people to be accepted for their otherness, but also we want that otherness not to be highlighted or praised in the fashion Tripp did here. The radicals lost a point here, simply due to their erroneous interpretation of the original post.
Not only that, they have probably revealed a lot more about themselves than they have about the man they criticized: They want to become the new normal, and in so doing, do not wish to be praised for who they are, but respected as normality. Isn’t that the goal of most of Feminism and LGBTQ identity politics? To challenge norms?
I leave the answer to those who have one.