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January 18, 2010

Your Daily Dose of Gender Bigotry and Man Hatred

Thought for the day, apropos of women single handedly ruining Western Civilization:

The early Playboy sought the eyes and minds of what Fraterrigo calls “the young, affluent, urban bachelor,” and the first issue was pitched by Hefner as “a little diversion from the anxieties of the Atomic Age.” These anxieties were not only about being barbequed by Soviet nukes; for the American male, they included having to marry the first woman you had sex with, living with your parents (thanks to a dire postwar housing shortage), and feeling emasculated by the new nature of American work, no longer artisanal or rugged or self-determining but managerial and inchoate and soul-stranglingly indoor. This was, in fact, the young Hefner’s life, and he loathed it. In 1953, he was a struggling cartoonist with a wife and child; the Chicago Daily News profiled him in a lifestyles piece as a model of suburban bonhomie. A year later, Playboy was launched. Soon enough Hefner was a millionaire bachelor with an estranged daughter, Christie. (They would not reconnect until after she graduated from college, and she would eventually run the Playboy empire.)

In terminating a certain kind of life for himself, Hefner also terminated it for a generation of American men--if not in fact then at least as the ideal. While his current existence--with its carousel of Viagra, twentysomething blonds, and fresh pajama bottoms--seems a rather nightmarish gauntlet for an eighty-year-old to run, Hefner has avoided the fate suffered by so many American public figures: he is utterly free of phoniness. Unfortunately, this has come at the cost of seeming utterly ridiculous, though he does not seem to mind.

More than anything else, Fraterrigo reminds us that those who grew up in a pre-Playboy world had a psychic Grand Canyon separating them from the dwellers of the post-Playboy landscape. In the pre-Playboy world, naked women were the purlieu of pale loners and rain coated perverts. Post-Playboy, naked women were merely adult entertainment, so calm down already. Pre-Playboy, a young woman who undressed for money before a camera was essentially infecting herself with social measles. Post-Playboy, that same young woman could be the embodiment of pillowy American goodness. (Today, of course, we would call it entrepreneurial nudity.)

Wow. What if history actually consisted of complex interactions between different groups with competing agendas rather than a simplistic narrative in which every bad thing was attributable to a single convenient villain? Of course the problem with not being a helpless victim is that you might discover you were part of the so-called "problem".

Disturbing thought, that.

Posted by Cassandra at January 18, 2010 02:23 PM

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Interesting quote. This part is noteworthy: "those who grew up in a pre-Playboy world had a psychic Grand Canyon separating them from the dwellers of the post-Playboy landscape. In the pre-Playboy world, naked women were the purlieu of pale loners and rain coated perverts. Post-Playboy, naked women were merely adult entertainment, so calm down already. Pre-Playboy, a young woman who undressed for money before a camera was essentially infecting herself with social measles. Post-Playboy, that same young woman could be the embodiment of pillowy American goodness."

This is one of the issues you have mentioned over the years; our willingness to show too much and not have anything in reserve. A moral slippery slope, as it were.

Hugh Hefne: He can't bear to grow up or grow old. I detest him and other pR0n purveyors.

Posted by: Cricket at January 18, 2010 05:21 PM

I early on perceived that Playboy generated a false ideal of women for young guys like me and inspired girls to aspire to that false ideal, and that was probably a bad thing. In my opinion, Playboy was not conducive to having a good relationship with a woman. All the air brushing of defects, etc. distracts from the real thing.

The final tip-off was when I realized that all the camera angles for the Playmates were waist level or below so that they look taller or more imposing. A man's view is from above or at least higher--unless they are in an SM relationship, I guess!

I do not think Playboy was that revolutionary. WWII, which accelerated the industrialization and urbanization of the nation and the employment of women, was the real cause of things like the modern strip club. Playboy was a product of that, not the cause.

Posted by: philip at January 18, 2010 05:48 PM

"What if history actually consisted of complex interactions between different groups with competing agendas rather than a simplistic narrative in which every bad thing was attributable to a single convenient villain?"

What if there were no hypothetical questions? ;-)

But I digress; Seriously though, it is natural for males to enjoy looking at nubile females...we're wired that way. To the extent that they are shown in pornography though is unhealthy. A little modesty, a little mystery, these are good things. IMO...

Posted by: camojack at January 19, 2010 12:43 AM

:)

The point I intended to make was that dumb articles like that Futurist thing willfully overlook other cultural phenomena that had a fairly major impact on relations between men and women. Although I'm sure they'll argue that somehow feminists/women (even though we're all buzz killing harpies who live to control men) were somehow behind the rise of Hugh Hefner, Guccione, et al. Now that I think of it, Andrea Dworkin is almost certainly to blame :p

I'm not big on the idea that there was any one thing that we can definitively point to and say, "AHA!!!" Ignoring the actions of one half of mankind seems... gosh, what's the word... one sided?

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2010 07:37 AM

Nup. Gloria Steinem. If she hadn't done undercover work as a Playboy Bunny, we wouldn't have all these naughty exposes of the fiddly bits of teh patriarchy in the form of Ms. Magazine.

*shudders*

Posted by: Cricket at January 19, 2010 09:30 AM

I will never think so little of men as to believe them utterly helpless in the face of those big, brutish feminists :p

Just as I never really did buy the "men are such big, brutish bullies!!!!" nonsense.

Part of being an adult is being willing to fight for what you believe in and being able to stand up for yourself (however you choose to do that). I don't like male bashing from women b/c it's a broad brush technique that reeks of knee jerk reactionism.

For the same reason, I don't like to hear so many men these days using the same, lame arguments feminists used. I've always believed that both men and women have natural tendencies that can be very destructive if not channeled properly.

I look at the adjustments my spouse had to make when I finished raising the boys and began my own career. It wasn't easy but he now enjoys the fact that I earn a good salary. It makes it possible for us to do things we enjoy.

I've had to adjust too. Listening to all the 'woe is me' stuff, I have to wonder: what is their solution? Go back to the way things were when I was a girl - to a time when women didn't have very many choices?

Freedom involves the very real possibility that people will misuse it or use it unwisely but are we really arguing that women don't deserve choices? I don't think this is right. I just want to see them take responsibility for the choices they make, and I want to see society do a better job of holding their feet to the fire. The problem here is that it's not PC to hold anyone's feet to the fire anymore. Reeks of being "judgmental".

*rolling eyes*

Society is evolving but human nature isn't really keeping pace with it. The good news is that we can adapt and adjust. The bad news is that so many of us don't seem to want to. It's easier to blame someone else.

*sigh*

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2010 09:51 AM

"Hefner has avoided the fate suffered by so many American public figures: he is utterly free of phoniness."

I have to take issue with this. "Phony" isn't quite the word I'd use, but it's close. The best analogy I can come up with is this quote from a music critic (a Playboy music critic, no less!) who once wrote of '70s funkster Bootsy Collins: "From sensation to self-parody in two albums?" The really ironic thing, lost now in the carefully manicured Playboy legend, is that in the mag's early days Hef was that very thing he now is being credited with rebelling against: he was a big-time workaholic, practically chained to his desk, and only leaving the office to call on advertising clients. In the early days, he worked really hard to create that facade of leisure. It's only now, that the money is in the bank and the enterprise is more or less on autopilot, that Hef can actually live the image that he always presented. Unfortunately for him, that image was rooted in a time that is now almost a half century past, and in 2010, it isn't sexy or attractive... it just looks ridiculous.

Gotta run now; more on this later. Great topic.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at January 19, 2010 02:35 PM

I find the whole Playboy thing a bit of a conversational minefield :p

Being female, anything I say is going to be not only wrong, but wrong/bad/evil. It's kind of annoying but I suppose this is revenge for the whole "does this make my butt look big" thing. That seems a bit unfair since I don't do that, but then (as you observe) that's not the way the world works!

Hef and the Playboy/Penthouse empire have always creeped me out, the original Playboy far less than Penthouse. I find the older photos of the women beautiful (and ironically, the older ones are more likely to make me think, "Wow. I could never look like that in a million years."). And yet they don't bother me the way the newer ones do.

What I found interesting about the article was an idea I'd seen expressed before in other articles about Playboy/Hefner: that he was trying to "liberate" America. It's hard for me to see much difference between the fantasy he promotes and the fantasy radical feminists promote - that you can be free as a bird and somehow have the "right" not to face the consequences of your choices.

Are we really supposed to be believe this is all the fault of women's lib? From everything I can see, entrepreneurs like Hef had their own agenda, and there's no doubt the man was a huge success and a huge cultural influence. Seems a tad patronizing to cast him as a Tool of the Matriarchy, but then my black helicopter detector has never been all that sensitive :p

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2010 02:56 PM

Hef and the Playboy/Penthouse empire have always creeped me out, the original Playboy far less than Penthouse. I find the older photos of the women beautiful (and ironically, the older ones are more likely to make me think, "Wow. I could never look like that in a million years."). And yet they don't bother me the way the newer ones do.

You're describing the "artful nude" vs "nekkid" argument. The old time Playboy might have had the photos touched up (I don't actually know, but I'd imagine so), but you could pretty much guarantee that what you saw Marilyn Monroe put on display was original manufacturer's parts. Now? Between Photoshop and plastic surgery, I wonder if you'd recognize the girl if you'd dated her in high school. Plus, "nekkid" is being unclothed for illicit purposes; "nude" is merely unclothed.

Posted by: MikeD at January 19, 2010 04:06 PM

"Plus, "nekkid" is being unclothed for illicit purposes; "nude" is merely unclothed."

I'm gonna use that line sometime in the future, I just know....hopefully it won't be in a vain attempt to avoid jailtime.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at January 19, 2010 04:21 PM

The line around our house is: "Nekkid is when you're naked... and you're up to something" :)

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2010 04:25 PM

I didn't know what *naked* was until I learned to read....my folks being proud Mountain Williams and all.

Posted by: DL Sly at January 19, 2010 04:38 PM

"Wow. What if history actually consisted of complex interactions between different groups with competing agendas rather than a simplistic narrative in which every bad thing was attributable to a single convenient villain? Of course the problem with not being a helpless victim is that you might discover you were part of the so-called "problem".

Disturbing thought, that."

Now theah you go again... All rational and what have you...
"Nekkid is when you're naked... and you're up to something" :)"
Further proves you to be a fine lady. In the strict Sahthurn sense ah course. And I'm sirtain that the right, honorable Mr. Grizzard would ahgree.

*Once again consults the Protocol Handbook for Community Organizers and 33rd Degree Peter Principle Grand Masters -- then Bows deeply towards Metro D.C. and a little to the left*

Posted by: bthun at January 19, 2010 05:12 PM

The way I figure it, if Western Civilization could be destroyed by something so feeble as a geezer in silk pajamas, it deserves to die.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 19, 2010 06:47 PM

I agree; but I think we have short-changed girls in the process. My daughter wants to be a veteranrian. I hope that if she decides to marry, that her husband will be willing to make some sacrifices for her, just as she might have to give up something for him.

Some men think that if women want to have it all, the housework and child-rearing go with the career. I said 'some.' Not all men think that, but if women can earn more than men, the give and take will have to change.

It will not be pretty.

Posted by: Cricket at January 19, 2010 08:18 PM

Some men think that if women want to have it all, the housework and child-rearing go with the career. I said 'some.' Not all men think that, but if women can earn more than men, the give and take will have to change.

It all depends on the man, of course. As I said in the other sex and relationships thread, when we were dating and married, my wife was making more than twice what I was as an E-5 in the Army. I was not the slightest bit threatened, emasculated, or put out by that. I have always split the household chores. She has cooked for us perhaps 3-5 times in the over thirteen years we've been married. I can cook rather well, and she... she's a lovely woman. So I cook. It just makes sense.

I will say, however, that I always thought I'd be 100% ok with being a househusband... until I was unemployed for nine months. I was bored out of my MIND. Plus it doesn't help that I (like most men) am clinically cleaning impaired. I can see that vacuum cleaners make lines on the carpet, but other than that, if the dirt's not in a visible pile, I just don't see it. Bathrooms are fine to clean. Dirt shows up on tile. But carpets? Can't see it.

Posted by: MikeD at January 20, 2010 09:20 AM

I will say, however, that I always thought I'd be 100% ok with being a househusband... until I was unemployed for nine months. I was bored out of my MIND.

Heh :)

I think having to see life through the other person's lens is a valuable exercise. I didn't fully appreciate the full burden of working full time until I experienced it for myself. I am more aware of how my husband feels now than I was when I stayed at home all day.

Once, years ago, he decided he could do a better job than I at a task neither of us has ever liked. As I recall, he lasted only a few months before gladly handing it back to me (thanks a LOT!!! :)

I have a theory about men and the salary thing.

I think both men and women want to have their contributions appreciated and honored. IOW, it's more the general way we're treated that matters than specifics like pay. In a good marriage, both parties find a way to contribute roughly equal value.

That should be something they work out for themselves rather than being imposed from the outside. My brother does a better job cleaning the house than his wife, but she is a WONDERFUL cook. They both work, and they have both done a very good job of figuring out who does what best.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2010 09:30 AM

Cass, my DW and I both work full time, and we have the same sort of deal. Chores are split according to who does it better, or enjoys it more (hates it less), or who has the highest standards. I do vacuuming because I'm Big He-Man and I can put the beater brush on "extra low" and really plow the carpet, which helps both of us from the allergies perspective. We split the kitchen work, but she does the cooking more often (I can do some stuff, but I lack confidence in my cooking abilities), and I tend to do more of the cleaning (well, she did the cooking, but also I absolutely can't stand a dirty kitchen). She does most of the laundry because she has some extraordinarily complicated sorting and laundering procedures which I don't understand and tend to regard as overly fussy. Bathrooms, yuck, we both hate that job, so we just split it out of fairness.

Now, let's see... where were we... Playboy. First thing to note: the photos were sure as hell retouched back in the day, almost from the start. Hef was a big fan of the SoCal beach-girl-with-perfect-skin look. But there's another reason... if you'll notice, in most of the old issues, the pubic hair was airbrushed so as to make the actual lady parts disappear. This was done because they were flirting with the edge of the law of the day as it was. But it had a side effect: A generation of boys grew up thinking there was nothing much except for a blank hole there, and when confronted with the real thing for the first time, they probably thought, "What the hell is that?" So yeah, it was an unrealistic image of women... in ways that were probably not intended.

So does porn give men unrealistic images of women? Two points: (1) Yeah, for some men, it does. But if we make everything that gives anyone an unrealistic image of the opposite sex illegal, then Danielle Steele's going to be getting a life sentence along with Hef and Guccione. (2) Most men are actually sick of unrealistic images of women in porn. The platinum-blonde, Valley Girl Stepford Porn Stars thing jumped the shark a while back -- by far the hottest thing, for years now, has been "amateurs". Most of them aren't really, but they *look* like real women, and the photos aren't Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives. Hefner's concept has pretty much been repudiated. It's ironic because, as I said before, Playboy has carefully sanitized its life story in much the same way that Disney has. And in both cases, the real, down-in-the-dirt, nitty-gritty story is a lot more interesting -- and a lot more human, in a good way.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at January 21, 2010 12:43 AM

...if we make everything that gives anyone an unrealistic image of the opposite sex illegal, then Danielle Steele's going to be getting a life sentence along with Hef and Guccione.

Dave, this is why I don't like bringing this sort of thing up. Nowhere in this post do I advocate making anything illegal. I wasn't even the one who brought up unrealistic images of women. In fact, it was a man who brought up that point.

What I attempted to point out was that Hefner's entire goal (according to him, not other people) was to "liberate" America from what he viewed as outdated traditional moral values.

Now unless Hefner and Guccione were helpless victims or secretly in the pay of evil, man hating feminists, we would seem to have *men* who were unsatisfied with traditional gender roles and sought to change them long before feminists came along to destroy a way of life these men openly admit they didn't like either

Which makes the notion that feminists or women are solely to blame for the erosion of traditional roles rather problematic, doesn't it?

I realize that many men truly believe that any time a woman speculates that mainstreaming porn/erotica might produce precisely the effect Hefner openly said he was trying to bring about, her secret conspiratorial agenda is to pass draconian censorship laws so her fragile self-esteem won't be injured by the horrible knowledge that some man, somewhere is looking at women who have bigger boobs than she does.

Even if it were possible to refute such a firmly entrenched view, it's a waste of time because it's not based on anything rational.

Hef's concept that America needed "liberation" has not been repudiated. The very things you cite (the mainstreaming of porn and it's extension to regular America in the form of amateurs) just prove my point: Hef, et al succeeded in changing societal norms and removing legal barriers aimed at preserving "traditional morality" to the extent that now, everyone's doing it. Even our kids.

My point was that the notion that women are solely to blame for the erosion of traditional morals is not only a gross oversimplification but demonstrably wrong on its face.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 21, 2010 07:14 AM

Which makes the notion that feminists or women are solely to blame for the erosion of traditional roles rather problematic, doesn't it?

I think that was rather Dave's point as well: Both genders are offenders. Both have contributed to the decline of social expectations. He's adding to your body of evidence, not trying to refute it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 21, 2010 10:12 AM

Actually I think I get Cass's point in a way that I didn't quite get before. But as I was writing my last post, I had a related though: the biggest period of Playboy's growth coincided with the biggest growth period of second-wave feminism, from about 1960 to 1975. Where I disagree with Cass's take on the social liberalism of America is that I don't really think Hefner was a driver of it -- mostly, he just rode the wave that was already coming.

However, I concur with her concept on who the people that set off the decline of social mores were. In fact, I'd like to expand on it. Point: The word "feminist" does not imply that the person so described is female. Men can be feminists, and in the 1960s, a lot of them were. They were, to various extents, in support of the original stated goals of second-wave feminism. Feminists of that era recognized that they were breaking the traditional social contract between men and women; they knew that if the role of the female in society was going to be redefined, the male role would have to be too.

[I'll post more in a bit -- my laptop battery's going down.]

Posted by: Cousin Dave at January 21, 2010 08:46 PM

Thanks for not taking offense, Dave :)

I agree about the men can be feminists thing too. There are examples right in my own extended family of men who are far more addent women's libbers than the women are.

Maybe "driver" is the wrong word for Hef. Didn't mean he was the sole driver, but I do see him as a big influence. Perhaps "accelarant" is a better word?

I also agree about disagreement (and even some unpleasantness) being necessary and useful at times.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 21, 2010 09:57 PM

So where was I... there were a couple of ugly undercurrents to the whole '60s thing. Remember "free love"? Know what it actually was? If you picture the way sex would work if stereotypical young men invented it, you've got the idea... women were pretty much expected to put out for any guy who asked. Well, a lot of this crowd overlapped with the feminist crowd in the '60s, and I think this whole idea caused a lot of cognitive dissonance with them. I think this is where the misandrists in the feminist movement started to get a leg up. You can pretty much see The Feminine Mystique as being a backlash against the way free love worked out.

Something else was happening too. The part of the feminist movement that was trying to come up with the new role of men in society was having a lot of difficultly. To put it bluntly, most of the ideas they came up with were hated by the people who tried to actually implement them. Remember The Sensitive Man? Most guys hated that, and a lot of women weren't fond of it either, although they really couldn't say so in public at the time, lest they be deemed reactionary. There were a bunch of other concepts -- men who tried makeup, men who took on the housewife role, men who went off in the woods and put on loincloths and beat on drums. None of it really worked all that well for most men or women.

Well, by about 1980, second-wave feminism had pretty much accomplished all of its major goals, in terms of opening up opportunities and equalizing legal status for women. At that point, many of the leaders who had gotten them to that point went off and found new mountains to climb. And that left positions of power open to the misandrists, among others. Men and women were still pretty confused about how they were supposed to relate to each other, but it looked like they were on their way to solving the problem organically, one couple at a time.

But the misandrists couldn't stand that. They took advantage of the social confusion that still existed and started exploiting it. This was the beginning of gender feminism, which is basically a branch of Marxism. One of the main goals of Marxism is to break down society, so as to create the conditions where a Marxist revolution might succeed. Unlike first and second wave feminists, gender feminists didn't worry too much about really trying to create a popular movement. Their goal was to create an elite that would move into positions of power and influence. Once there, their goal was to find a way to divide the population into a privileged half and a responsible half -- perfect conditions for social breakdown. Neat trick if you can do it.

Their tactic basically was and is to privilege women to the point where women have a wide range of freedoms without accompanying responsibility, while men would be held responsible for actions that they had no say-so over. Did they do all this from a master plan? No. They didn't have to. Marxism always relies on exploiting the natural resentments and feelings of unfairness that always exist between different groups. The goal of most of Western civilization is to resolve these differences, but the goal of Marxism is to emphasize them.

Are there a lot of gender feminists? Not really, certainly not by comparison to the second-wave feminists of the '60s (of whom, relating back to our topic, a fair number were Playboy readers). There don't have to be, because Obamaism's tendency to concentrate government and social power within a small elite (itself a goal of Marxism) means that there don't have to be a lot of gender feminists, as long as the ones that exist are in the correct places. Are all gender feminists women? No. A fair number are men. Some of these men support the movement because of their own psychological issues. However, a good number of them support it because they see gender feminism as an easily exploitable movement for their own purposes -- and they're right. The thing is, these guys are stereotypical frat-boy alpha males of the sort that second-wave feminism abhorred, but gender feminism's weird little psychodrama embraces them. And young women and young men are both getting this message.

So, to summarize: Second-wave feminism, for all its successes, had a failure when it was unable to come up with a new role for men in a revised social contract. And when the second-wave feminist leaders moved on to new challenges, it left positions of power open for the movement's fringe elements, who correctly viewed the gender-relations chaos as an opportunity it could exploit. It did that by creating the twisted version of feminism that Hilary Clinton personified in the early '90s: women who could occupy positions of power, but also retained the privilege of getting back up on the pedestal whenever it suited their political purposes to do so. The sheer chutzpah was so audacious that it took society a long time to start to develop a coherent response, and that's how we got where we are now. (As Mark Twain supposedly said, "You, sir, have the drop on me. You can make up nonsense much faster than I can refute it.")

There are women trying to get feminism re-focused on first principles, e.g., Wendy McElroy. I applaud them. However, I maintain no delusions about how much good they can do in the current environment. They are very much political outsiders, with essentially no opportunity to publicize their ideas, much less implement them.

You notice I didn't mention Hefner. I just don't see him as that influential really. Yes, he did do some things to make porn a bit more socially acceptable, but for the most part he was just along for the ride. The one thing I think he did influence, and it's a negative, is that he created the image of the independently wealthy hyper-man, surrounded by dozens of beautiful women, which all the drug dealers and pimps and rock-star wannabees now try to pattern themselves after, in a rather corrupted form. But as far as the larger scope of gender relations, especially at the legal level, Andrea Dworkin was far more influential than Hef ever dreamed of being.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at January 21, 2010 10:09 PM

Oh, and no offense taken. I think it's an interesting topic, actually, and one that deserves to get a lot more serious attention than it does. One thing I do not want to get wrapped up in is the sort of fact-free name calling that gender discussions often degrade to these days. That's just falling into the Marxist trap.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at January 21, 2010 10:11 PM

Very interesting Dave.

Gender feminists? Yikes! Your recap reinforces my sense of thankfulness for being happily married and buried, in my spare time, deep within the minutiae of computer technology for these past three plus decades. Nope, make it closer to four.

Or to be more terse with respect to the broad state of gender politics/relations, I now view my ignorance on this topic as bliss in the extreme.

A man's gotta know his limitations.

Posted by: bthun at January 22, 2010 12:17 AM

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