Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Chauvinism and Preference

Originally posted on July 17, 2011

What if part of the problem in male “chauvinism” is that many—perhaps most–people lack a clear awareness that people have different preferences—even women!—and this category must be recognized and dealt with consciously ! Many men a century ago were devoted to their wives, loved them deeply. It just never occurred to them that their dear wives might have different preferences. They themselves didn’t have preferences—their preferences were experienced as “the right way to do things.” When you’re expected to lead, and expected as the “head of your household” to guide the family, the amplifying unconscious easily provides a generous supply of rationalizations so that it seems quite reasonable to choose what you know is best for everyone. Your preferences become attached to justifications and it never occurs to you that these opinions and convictions might also just be biases.

Truth is what seems reasonable, and you have been in training as a man to think things through. At times you have doubts, but the song the King of Siam (played by Yul Brinner) sings in the mid-1950s Broadway Musical, The King and I, rings true: “Is a Puzzlement.” You are expected by others to “know your own mind,” and you come to expect it of yourself. Do we still grade kids on the quality of “leadership” on their report cards? Is the behavior assessed in kids as leadership  truly constructive leadership or a mixture of arrogance and sociopathy? What are the criteria for assessment here?

Back to the man in the early 20th century or in many patriarchal cultures today. Consider not that he loves his life less, but it is quite clear that in his mind that she would have no opinion on politics or choice of home, car, school, neighborhood, how to rear children, what rules to make, how strictly to enforce them, what temperature should the home be heated to in the winter, where to go for vacation, etc. It’s inconceivable that women would even participate in deciding such things. That such things were not matters of right and wrong but preference was a non-category.

There’s a whole category of consciousness within which many thoughts, attitudes, and expectations are just questioned—and it seems they’ve never been questioned—or at least not seriously. These are not so much repressed as taken for granted. (This is discussed in a paper on my website as category 5 in the “unconscious” realm.) And yet many items in this category are nowadays quite controversial.

The dynamic that is key in many people’s mind is that there are standards, beliefs, and other situations about which there seems to be no question. They are settled. It’s hard to know what to make of those who don’t agree: “Are they ignorant or slightly mad?" Objecting to a perfectly satisfactory status quo makes no sense to them.

Consciousness raising thus is a many-step process. This essay only delves into the tip. The point is that if a category doesn’t exist as such, part of change involves bringing it into explicit awareness as paired with another notion: It need not be this way. Gradually, mixed in are some visions of how it might be otherwise. The mind accommodates to these adjustments rather slowly. There are many steps in which the person growing towards a change of heart may work out adjustments. There may well be some fighting the new idea, and then grudging acceptance. It’s an interesting cultural element of change.

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