The Sexist

The Morning After: The Gender Binary of Hotness Edition

PostSecret

* Racialicious on the "flip side of racial profiling," as evidenced by this PostSecret submission: "those who do not carry the stigmatized features aren’t simply treated fairly, they’re given a benefit of the doubt that allows them to get away with the very thing that others are suspected of doing."

* Fannie's Room on "manly products with secret lady features. Namely, the 2010 Chevy Equinox's "woman-friendly modifications" that Time describes as "so subtle that men may not even notice them." Writes Fannie:

Here, the implication is that a company should not modify its products unless the changes are so subtle as to go unnoticeable by its regular (that is, male) customers. Reading between the lines, there is also an assumption that if men knew that a product had lady features, they would not buy that product, hence the need for "subtle" modifications.

Many products are designed for men and/or those who do not wear the costume of femininity like, say, high heels, thus posing a functional problem for many. Yet, when products are designed with the male consumer (or non-high-heeled lady, but really, the male consumer) in mind, there is no need for subtlety. It is, after all, the default. Invisible in plain sight.

Also, if the modifications are so subtle as to go unnoticed, how much an improvement will they really be for women drivers?

* At Bitch, Andrea Plaid on sex-and-age-isms in  the Twitter response to the Al and Tipper Gore split:

Some of the tweetizenry also argued back and forth about the break-up, with some folks on my timeline rubbing their figurative hands (and thighs) in lust  . . . after the former vice-president. Hell, I even rubbed my thighs in horny glee that the man is on the market again. (Yeah, I felt sort of bad about it—it’s too soon to lust, it’s tacky to get all fast in the panties when the man’s mourning the ending of his life-partnership. But, I’d be lying if I said that those reasons didn’t curb my hotness for the Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize winner.)

Then I started pinpointing where my discomfort rested: though people—including me—sexualized Al Gore (on Twitter, at least) either as object of lust or of sexual derision, rarely did I hear anyone say the same either way about Tipper. At most, someone said the “hottest thing about Al was Tipper.” (Sincere praise or backhanded compliment?) The worst was that someone wanted to put a parent advisory sticker on her. (No explanation beyond that was given.)

Also, ew.

* Clarisse Thorn worries that deconstructing gender may destroy "what’s beautiful, surprising, and hot" about the binary:

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think it would be awesome if gender stereotypes stopped negatively influencing the way we hire people, make friends, treat lovers, and so on. But it’s also kind of awesome when, for example, drag queens dress way more femininely than I do. I love that kind of display; I love almost all subversive, or sexual, or just plain playful deliberate usage of gender ideas. I would be kind of sad if all gendered associations disappeared from the universe. I would be kind of sad if we so thoroughly encouraged gender-bending and gender evolution that gender distinctions blurred out of existence.I’m not saying that my sadness is an argument against the destruction of gender. I understand and acknowledge that, sometimes, nostalgia is the enemy of necessary progress. I recognize that saying, “Well, drag queens are awesome and so maybe we shouldn’t try to destroy gender distinctions” could be as blind and flawed an argument as, say, the women who argued against women’s right to vote because “I like to convince my husband to vote the way I want him to.” I recognize that I could be making an argument similar to one that I’ve deconstructed about BDSM — an argument I hate that goes, “Let’s not destigmatize BDSM sexuality because I think it’s hot for S&M to be transgressive.” The fact that we can work within — and even enjoy — The System does not mean that The System is not fucked up.

Still …. I’d like to believe that we can hold on to what’s beautiful, surprising, and hot about The System. Can we keep the stereotypes and have justice too?

  • drsnacks

    I couldn't locate her case at all for holding onto gender. What's appealing about gender distinctions besides sexual attractiveness (oh!)? I guess the youth of these writers causes the importance of sex to be taken for granted, but no, finding people hot does not need to be a major consideration in deciding what's socially just.

  • http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com Clarisse Thorn

    It's kind of weird to me that of all my posts, this is the one that seems to be getting the most attention in a while. It's definitely not my most interesting work! But I appreciate the linkback, for sure.

    @drsnacks -- Did you just completely ignore the long paragraph in which I talked about the drawbacks to the "gender is hot" argument? I mean, Amanda even quoted that paragraph above.

  • drsnacks

    I didn't ignore it, but I understood the drawbacks already. I couldn't see any benefits though.

  • Anya

    Is it safe to say that if products had overt lady features there would be some "rankled" men?

  • http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com Clarisse Thorn

    @drsnacks -- Do you think that the very question "Can we keep the stereotypes and have justice too?" is illegitimate?

    Yes, I do think that the importance of sexuality ought to be taken for granted; I consider any perspective that simply dismisses sexuality to be both limited and short-sighted. Stereotypes and tropes play important roles in personal sexuality; if you don't see a benefit to those things, then that's fine, but lots of people do, and that's probably part of the reason we have difficulty letting go of restrictive gender roles.

    As I said in the piece (I even bolded it), I don't think that hotness "overrules" social justice. But if we could keep the hotness and have social justice too, then that would be really cool. The BDSM community does it for all our sexualized power relations -- I'm not convinced that the world couldn't do it for gender too.

    Finally: What gives about the comment, "I guess the youth of these writers causes the importance of sex to be taken for granted"? Do you think that older people don't think sex is important? Or do you just think that us young writers are so sex-crazed that we're incapable of seeing nuance in discussions of sexuality?

...