The New York Times Opinionator section ran a blog entry--ostensibly about Lady Gaga--by academic feminist Nancy Bauer, titled "Lady Power: Are Lady Gaga and the women who identify with her confusing sexual power with self-objectification?"
My comment [#300 on the article's comment thread]:
Professor Bauer's essay was painful to read, and prolix to boot--yet with so many words expended, all the important stuff was left unsaid.
So let me say it.
Old-school feminists like Professor Bauer aren't at war with a still-sexist society that pays women less and in which men like to be pleasured by women while often not liking to reciprocate.
They're at war with nature itself, and for a good reason: nature doesn't play fair.
I got dealt a similar hand as Professor Bauer got dealt: by most measures I'm highly intelligent...and rather homely. So I can certainly put myself in the good professor's sensible shoes.
Stand me up next to Leonardo de Caprio and he'll get the girl. Put Professor Bauer next to Scarlett Johansson and she'll get the guy. Even if the girl or the guy doing the getting is an intellectual, and thus built to be more receptive to our charms, such as they are, Professor Bauer and I will probably still lose.
Or we'll get the girl/guy but, being intelligent, we'll realize that we only got them because they couldn't get deCaprio/Johansson.
"Objectification" is feminist-speak for this simple fact.
And no, it's not a cultural artifact. That's just another lame way to claim that in some other culture she and I would be regarded as the beautiful one and de Caprio and Johansson would be the ones outside, faces pressed against the glass, looking on forlornly as the Professor and I enjoy the limelight.
Or, just as delusionally, there's some society in which people have turned off their appreciation of all the skin-deep stuff and judge everyone solely on their "inner beauty."
I have a degree in sociology from UCLA and put in a lot of extra coursework in anthropology. There's no such society.
This beauty-loving thing is so hard-wired that even babies too young to crawl will look at photos of attractive people instead of homely folks if the pics are placed side by side.
Now of course we don't have to obey all our most atavistic urges. I'm now both homely and old, and my spouse of 28 years is less sleek than she used to be. But I won't ever leave her because of all those other things Professor Bauer wants me to appreciate instead of the skin-deep stuff. And I do.
But I don't base my philosophy of life on a denial of the nature of reality. I work with the hand I was dealt and acknowledge it. I'd love to have been born beautiful--not at the price of my smarts--but if all things were equal, that would have been just ducky.
And I sympathize with how females are pushed around by guys. Naomi Wolf's memoir "Promiscuities" about growing up in the Free Love era talked about the young men who preyed on high school girls like Wolf was once, and how Wolf regrets all the meaningless hookups she had as a consequence.
But again we have to confront things as they are instead of constructing an alternate mental reality, as the Tea Party types have done.
Fact: men are generally bigger, stronger and more aggressive than women, yet we're equally intelligent. Men also tend to be more optimistic. All this isn't because of a history of patriarchy--it's because all ground-dwelling primates are sexually dimorphic in this way, just as our arboreal cousins are not (because you can't mount a point defense in the trees, but you must on the ground).
Fact: women's reproductive potential degrades faster than mens' does. Again, not fair.
So women and men are different. Anyone who worked in, say, their church's nursery (toddlers from 18 months to 3 years) as I did know how different boys and girls are, long before they've been socialized.
That doesn't make men better. Actually, the differences are designed to make us willing and eager to die defending the women and children--so it actually makes us more expendable.
But these fundamental differences are NOT cultural.
There are societies that grotesquely exaggerate these differences--Islamofascist societies like Pashtun in Afghanistan, for example, or those of East Africa that practice FGM--just as there are societies that try to pretend these differences don't exist--such as American academic feminism, centered on college "Women's Studies" departments.
In both cases they're in denial of biology, which creates a constant frisson in everyone exposed to such belief systems, since we can intuit that they don't map to reality, however much we might want them to.
As for Lady Gaga--she's a case in point, in fact. Professor Bauer mischaracterized her. Men do not find her all that attractive compared to people like Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Victoria's Secret Models, and the ultimate for most men, Ms. Johansson. Gaga's slim and reasonably well-proportioned, but her face is not beautiful.
Hence the artifice. It conceals her shortcomings--note how often they involve masks--and accentuate her other attributes. The artifice also attracts her core fanbase: homosexual men, which the professor failed to acknowledge. Perhaps this fact muddied her thesis, along with the other things I've debunked here.