Thursday, February 24, 2011

Moral Philosophy Is Feminist

This thing by Molly Lambert was fun to read even though I know nothing about Mad Men where all the illustrations are from. I was thinking about this:
"Masculinity" is as damaging to men as "Femininity" is to women. Neither is something to aspire to. Women who understand this are called feminists. Men who understand this aren't called anything yet, but maybe they can just be called feminists too.
This is where having a big philosophical theory that tells you what to value and how to live (in my case, utilitarianism) is really helpful. It gives you a reasoned-out alternative to ideals of masculinity or femininity or whatever else you're absorbing from the cultural environment.

It also gives you a sense of identity that can compete against your gender identity for all the stuff identity is supposed to do. I feel like I'm really being myself when I'm figuring out some mildly unorthodox but effective way to make the world a better place. Just because of the situations I usually find myself in, this typically doesn't run up against my gender identity as a straight man. But if I were in an environment where people were pushing restrictive gender roles upon me, I like to think I'd do a good job of figuring my way out of the worst parts of them.

Of course, if your identity is built on your philosophy you end up being only as good as your philosophy. But we're a pretty smart species, and I think we'll do better at trying to figure out what's worthwhile by thinking about it than by passively absorbing norms that track historical power relations.


chris said...

In my experience, feminists know that men are holders of privilege. And that we need places for women's voices.

I don't really like non-dainty chivalry much more than the original kind. so i am an egalitarian on gender, not a 'feminist.'

chris said...

I didn't read that column though. I am waiting for the next season of mad men on netflix, and don't want any spoilers.

Anonymous said...

"This is where having a big philosophical theory that tells you what to value and how to live (in my case, utilitarianism) is really helpful."

Does utilitarianism really tell you how to live? I'm not so sure.

bigbadwolf said...

i don't watch mad men, though, to be fair, i don't watch much and haven't for the thirty years since i was in high school. still, the buzz around mad men made me suspicious---it sort of seemed, well trendy and half an inch deep. i know, i'm a prick. nonetheless i was glad to see that daniel mendelsohn, who is both much smarter and much more understanding than i, thought mad man mostly trendy.