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Salon post of the week re: feminism

March 25, 2005

I spent a couple of semesters at Dartmouth taking women’s studies classes. I’m not sure anyone’s ever quite hit on this before. On Salon, from one very perspicacious Mary Schumacher:

After 58 years of being a thinking, observing, participating woman in America, I’ve come to the conclusion that in our culture sexism is in many ways a secondary problem shaped and intensified by a much more primary problem — our hypercompetitive culture’s concept of masculinity is almost entirely bound to the concept of winning.

The upshot of that is, inevitably, that our culture is highly emasculating. Because winner-take-all competitiveness must naturally produce many, many more losers than winners.

Hypermasculinity (masculinism) is used both as a competitive tool (winners are more masculine, so the more masculine I act the more likely I am to win) and a face-saving device (the more masculine I act the less likely I will be seen as a loser).

Underneath all the acting, of course, are a lot of men who are and feel like losers. Especially as middle age approaches (when the hypermasculine browbeating of people deemed even weaker than oneself — women, minorities, liberals — administered by loudmouths like Limbaugh and O’Reilly — offers some psychic compensation for the low rung you’ve settled on in the pecking order.)

In this dynamic women are seen not so much as inferior as outside the game. This is a competition between men. What women are suppose to be is reward and compensation, what they are suppose to provide is consolation.

When women enter the game, when they do compete, there is a double whammy — more competition, and, even more important, less consolation. This creates incredible resentment.

This resentment and fear of losing the compensation and consolation women are expected to provide is, I think, a much more important component of sexism in our culture than actual feelings and ideas about women’s inferiority.

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