Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Returning Women to the 1st Century BC

 A slave girl in holiday attire, Chinatown, San Francisco
 Chinese slave girl, early 20th Century, in San Francisco.  Slavery was long abolished at this point, but cultural slavery is a harder thing to crack.

And no, I don't mean the recent news of the horrors being perpetrated by ISIL, although I should comment on those somewhere in this blog.

Rather, I recently posted an item on standards of dress, and when I did that, I briefly touched on this topic. While I'm sure that there are those who will vehemently disagree with me, after having observed it for some time, I'm fairly convinced of the following. The result of what started off as an effort to "liberate" standards to the benefit of women has, in the Western World, returned them to the status they were in during the 1st Century BC, chattel for men.

Sound radical, I suppose it is, but that's what's happened, to some degree. 

I think in part the reason for that is that it's become, in modern times, and by that I generally mean anything after 1900 or so, a standard accepted theses that the bounds of "liberty" are ever expanding to everyone's benefit. Well, they quit doing that for women during the last 40 years, and that's a bad thing. To add to it, however, the thesis of ever expanding beneficial liberty was flawed to start with.

That thesis essentially is grounded in a relativistic thesis that all standards are bad and are simply negative social constructs.  In the case of women, the the assault on them came from the supposed concept, or at least the stated one, that they were shackled to roles determined by males, and that by liberating them from them, they'd achieve fulfillment.

That thesis was pretty flawed in the first instance.  Men and women are more than a little "shackled" by what is now an equally unpopular idea, biology, and the history of the last 70 years has shown that.  Men and women remain, at the end of the day, men and women, and much about what we want in life is determined by that.  We were evolved in a certain fashion, and while we're rational scientist intelligent animals, we're still a product of our early nature.  We can act contrary to it, but the drive to do what we were evolved to do will always be there, and just as a tiger wants to be in the jungle, not in a cage, those drives will make us unhappy if we try to excessively suppress them.

Any social change that ignores basic evolution and biology is doomed to produce a bad result, at least in part, and likewise any such change that is ignorant of real conditions and their history is going to be dangerously based on false premises. That's what's happened here, so that's what we'll start with.

It's popular to present the theory that, in the 1970s, a Women's Liberation movement got women out of the home and (back) into work.  That's partially correct, as we'll see. But added to that is the idea that women were being kept down  by Victorian social standards that were basically designed to repress them, and everything about those standards, from a woman's role in marriage, to their role in work, to their personal conduct, was sort of a result of a conspiracy by men, probably upper class men, but men in general. That's where the theory went off the rails, and in some ways that's created the very real problems that women face today, including their return to objectification.

We've written on this history before, and as that post was quite extensive, we'll just refer to it here. Suffice it to say, we feel that the entry of women and the increasing equality of women in the workplace is an economic and technological story, and that the supposed societal element to it was merely following that, not leading it at all.  Like we said at the time, it was Maytag, not World War Two, that took women out of the home and into the workplace.

Rosie the Riveter, in popular myth she blazoned the trail out of the home and into the office.  But that trial had already been taken by her mother during World War One.

 The Women's Land Army.  Organizations like this put women in the role of the farmer in the US, UK, Canada and France during World War One.  They were also in the factories during the war, and even on the front in the form of nurses.  Among the Western Allies the roles open to them in labor were about as broad as they were during World War Two, although this was less the case with military roles, save for Imperial Russia which saw the symbolic deployment of the Women's Battalion of Death just before the imperial regime collapsed.

So lets just skip to the 1950s and on.

We know that by the 1950s, it was no longer economically necessary to have the division of labor that had existed prior to that time.  Indeed, technologically, that division wouldn't have been necessary in the 1930s, but the Great Depression retarded the inevitable and kept a lot of technologies of all kind from entering into use. So when the changes came on, they came on pretty fast, as it was basically the case that 20 years of very real technological change, accelerated by the advance of technology and its deployment during World War Two, came on all at one.  That would have been bound to be disruptive to some extent.

But the 1950s were not, in any event, the really conservative Happy Days type of society that television has popularized. Societally, after the foment of the 1920s and the extensive political and societal liberalization caused by the Great Depression and World War Two, the country was actually much more politically and societally liberal than it is now typically remembered.  A whole host of conditions therefore combined to put women into work, and into college.  This isn't to say that everything changed overnight, which is never true.  But, we can say that society has acclimated to having women in the workplace, and since about 1920 or so, advances in domestic machinery essentially necessitated a redeployment of the female demographic into a different role in labor.

So far, so good, right? Well, basically yes.  In economic terms, the domestic machinery revolution that occurred in the first half of the 20th Century meant that women didn't have to occupy a domestic role if they didn't want to, and coincidentally made it easier for men and women to live singly, something that had heretofore been pretty difficult.

So, given that, we can imagine a progression from 1950 forward with women entering the workplace relatively seamlessly.  And, that's been part of the story.  Indeed, a bigger part of that story would tend to be that the liberal movements of the late 60s and 1970s may very well have had little to do with what was an economically driven process in any event  And it would appear clear that, for the most part, most women never fully accepted the thesis that the Women's Liberation movement advanced on a truly genderless society (a thesis which was interestingly very close to Marxist social thought from the teens forward, in theory but not practice).  So, what's my point.

Well, as this occurred, and wrapped up in it to an extent, an anti female social movement based upon economic gain and a pharmaceutical revolution came at the same time, decaying what had been a social and economic evolution, and confusing people on all of it.

Here too, we'll jump back and go forward through these things.

I"m going to be a bit vague on some of these details, intentionally, from here on out, as I don't want to popularize what I'm condemning.   If that makes it a bit confusing, and I don't think it will, well oh well.

The first element of this was the introduction of a publication that was slickly marketed.

Magazines featuring photographs of women are about as old as magazines. But starting in the very early 1950s, a clever fellow working for one of the older magazines conceived of a new marketing strategy for them.

Prior to this period, there had been such rags, but they were sort of gutter marketed. That is, they knew what they were, and the market to which they were pitching. Vice was part of their appeal. During World War Two, however, that altered a bit as one of the magazines that existed at that period improved its production values, and another came out marketed directly to soldiers.  Those elevated the standards of the magazines a bit. At the same time, the removal of millions of young men from their homes and the influence of their communities operated to lower moral standards anyhow, and that found its expression, among other things, in the exaggerated illustrations of women on one thing or another, principally aircraft (you don't go around painting bright images on combat vehicles, as a rule, as you don't want to draw attention to them if at all possible).  Coincident with that, that illustration style became popular in the above mentioned media, making the next step that was taken perhaps not as revolutionary as some have suggested.

Indeed, it definitely wasn't as revolutionary, as the common claim is that this fellow invented the medium, which simply isn't true at all.  Rather, the medium existed and had changed, but he perceived that and put out a new publican which was very slickly marketed.

The really slick part of the marketing aspect of it, more than anything else, is that it presented an image which suggested that a man didn't need to hide the magazine, and that this represented the life of the affluent male.  Very clearly part of that, the affluent male could have as many (top heavy) women as he wanted, without committing to them at all, and without fearing that they'd get pregnant or have demands.

This is, we'd note, completely contrary to the later myth about the publication, because the gist of it was massively anti woman.  In later years, following the 1960s really, the publication would claim that it was in the forefront of the liberation of women because, it claimed, it had liberated them to act up their desires.  Complete bull.  The entire publication was (and remains) entirely male-centric and male self centered. Women don't count in the calculation at all, are only toys.  The women in the earlier rags weren't really toys, but rather were fallen, something else entirely.

The publication became a huge hit, but it didn't really create a real revolution in and of itself, and it never would, contrary to what has otherwise been claimed by it. Rather, it's one piece in the overall puzzle.  It was corrosive, but not sufficiently corrosive to corrode things completely on its own.

What assisted that was the introduction of pharmaceuticals that operated to allow the conduct urged by the publication in the manner in which the publication portrayed it, without potential immediate biological consequence.  That came on and really did change the calculations, and it brought women over, to an increasing degree, to the conduct that men like the now ossified freaky publisher urged.

Now, I know that this sounds like a moral text, and it doesn't really intend to be.  A person could take this from there, but that's now what we'll do, rather, we play this story's history out in another direction.

As the conduct became more and more common, what also became more and more common is the portrayal of women in this fashion. Now its epidemic.  We've seen piles of advances for women in society, but we now also see young women who advertise themselves as nothing other than object. They've effectively reduced themselves, in some instances, to a class which hasn't existed in our society ever, the object.

This is an indescribably bad development.  No human being should be an object.  Most of us have to sell our labor, but nobody should have to sell themselves.  But some young women effectively act as if they believe they have to, and the massive societal message is that they do.  And as long as some are, they all will be to some extent.  Nobody should be an object, and nobody should want to be one.

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