Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Feminism & Masculinism

Originally posted on May 5, 2013

Talking with a friend about sex roles in contemporary culture, what occurs to me is that at least in part what is at issue is the way big business in collaboration with the fashionistas in advertising continue to promote certain ideals about what is sexually desirable, in body form, cosmetics, hairdo, fashions, and so forth. The and the celebrity culture that showcase these ideals present several subliminal messages. In addition to the message of what is attractive (and therefore, what is not attractive), an additional message is that looking good is a major value.

In a television and movie dominated culture, supported by magazines at the supermarket check-out counter, looking good presses into our lives and affects our kids. As my grandkids approach the dating years, I watch them being subtly brainwashed and I worry.

From the ages that played with Barbie Dolls, unrealistic expectations are generated for both men and women. There’s a subtle matrix of images regarding what sexual appeal is about, and  that sexual appeal is the highest good, with few other  criteria being popular.

(As a slight digression, in the 1920s through the 1940s, there was still enough of a class gradient (and with it the idea of being “refined”) that in 1945 Johnny Mercer sang a song written by Sidney Lippman & Sylvia Dee  titled  My Sugar is So Refined. So desirability varies in place and time. However, in the last 40 years being more earthy has been more of a fashion. So, for example, a country-western song we square dance to is titled "I like my women a little on the trashy side.")

What is Desirable

Thus, being desirable to a wide range of others is the key, a value that is sold as a product, along with many other products. In truth, we are more reliably desirable to a narrow band of others—those with whom we are "compatible," but it often takes decades to sharpen our sensitivity.

I’ve found I  relate best to people who are psychologically minded, aesthetically sensitive (liking a well-turned phrase or interesting design, etc.), playful (that’s big), somewhat open to life, somewhat spiritual or at least a bit philosophical. Levels of education, I’ve found, do not always correlate with the above.

But these values, back to mate choice, are rarely articulated. So the advertisers, I think, determine what  is desirable, and from that generate  caricatures of what  sex appeal is. Might this then be a key element in feminism?

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