Saturday, August 18, 2007

The difference between honour killing and a conservative view of family

Gracchi discusses the position of women:

"At one end of that extreme lies the emerging problem in the UK of honour killings, at the other more benign end you have a character like Dennis Prager who informed his readers in 2003 that women going to see male strippers were betraying their true nature,

"It has told them that equality means acting the same as men. That is how you have the utterly false spectacle of women acting thrilled to have anonymous men strip and rub themselves on them."

Mr Prager ought to remember that women are quite capable of working out their sexuality without his help and that furthermore their sexuality will vary."

Prager is clearly generalising to some extent but I think his claim seems at least somewhat plausible. There is good reason, in evolutionary biology terms, to expect that a woman's sexuality will function somewhat differently to that of a man. After all, in a primitive situation anonymous sex would have worked well for a man (who could have created a child without putting in the effort to bring it up) but exceptionally poorly for a woman (who would face bearing a child without support).

The argument that Prager is patronising women is plausible if you just read the section of the text Gracchi has quoted. However, the evidence Prager uses to back up his argument is the testimony, from calls to his radio show, of young women. He asked women to work out their own sexuality just as Gracchi recommends.

Finally, Prager's conclusion doesn't seem at all demeaning to women. I think that it casts them in a rather good light. As more emotionally intelligent compared to men who are too often at the mercy of their hormones.

"Mr Prager's real concern though in stating this difference is his idea that women are the basis and buttress of the family unit- and consequently can't behave in the way that he perceives them behaving- in that sense like the honour killer he sees the world as one where women are men's property, in mourning what he calls the "death of femininity" what Mr Prager mourns is the period in which a woman's sex life was a way of signifying the virtue of the community in which she lived in."

This is the part of Gracchi's post that really troubles me.

Firstly, Gracchi has entirely assumed Prager's 'real concern'. There is no mention of family values in Prager's piece.

Secondly, the view that women are a basis and buttress of the family unit does not imply the view that they are somebody's property. I think I'd see women as a basis and buttress of the family unit. I'd say the same for men and, indeed, for children. That does not imply that any member of the family is the property of any other. This is just an attempt to fit the square peg of the family relationship into the round hole of the Left's power narrative.

Finally, the idea that Prager is mourning "the period in which a woman's sex life was a way of signifying the virtue of the community in which she lived in." is entirely unsubstantiated. The difference between Prager and the honour killer would be obvious to any less hyperbolic treatment of Prager's piece as his discussion is based upon the question "what kind of relationship with men is most fulfilling, both emotionally and sexually, for women?" The honour killer would see that question as almost entirely irrelevant.

Gracchi is drawing continuities that don't exist. There is no similarity between the entirely caring, decent and respectful perspective of most social conservatives and the sick, twisted worldview of the honour killer.


James Higham said...

The problem, as I see it, Matt, is that here is me, a man, commenting on you, a man, about Tiberius' post, a man again, about a woman's personal issue. Which is what the Muslims do.

Matthew Sinclair said...

I see no problem with men discussing women's issues or women discussing men's issues. In just the same way I see no problem with white people discussing the problems of ethnic minorities or vice-versa.

The idea that you need to be a member of a particular group to have any kind of understanding of its situation is a post-modern construction that is pretty toxic to a genuine inter-group, inter-faith, inter-gender understanding.

Meg said...

So, I was initially just coming in here to respond to a couple things about your post, but then I went and actually read the linked article.
In my humble opinion, the "argument that Prager is patronising women" is WAY more plausible reading the entire thing than just what Gracchi quoted. I feel like he was patting me on the head-- there there, you only THINK you find male strippers attractive and titillating. And I'm not exactly convinced by his "evidence," which seems to take conclusions reached from the kind of women who listen to The Dennis Prager Show (hint: more conservative overall generally indicates more conservative sexually) and extrapolate to "virtually every woman on planet earth."
But I'm not really directing that at you, Matt, because while you don't seem to have a problem with what he's writing, they're not your words.
My problem with your post is this part:
"I think that it casts them in a rather good light. As more emotionally intelligent compared to men who are too often at the mercy of their hormones."
Generalizations and stereotypes don't become good just because they're about positive characteristics. You don't have to label a woman as "property" in order to demean her-- for example, claiming that women are just too "emotionally intelligent" to enjoy male strippers still (a) places them firmly in the Other category, and (b) dismisses individual personalities and urges that don't fit with What Women Are Like. (Incidentally, I find it very hard to believe that you've never met a woman who's just as crass, oversexed, and emotionally immature as her male counterparts-- I certainly have.) It diminishes women's personality, sexuality, and power by treating them like the classic "Mammy" character... nice, wise, helpful, and totally unthreatening or much of a person in her own right.
I'm not saying you believe those things to be true. I AM saying that your assertion is demeaning because of the byproducts it brings along with it, plenty of which have been used against women in the past. It's very easy to start giving someone different treatment (both legal and otherwise) once you think of them as being different. Not all of the adjectives that have kept women "in their place" have been negative-- "delicate," "gentle," "childlike," and "maternal" are usually thought of as positives, or at least neutral.
So on the whole-- sure, women aren't like men. Women also aren't like other women, and I at least would appreciate not being generalized about, no matter how complimentary you intend it to be.

Gracchi said...

I agree with Meg- I think Prager is deeply patronising- personally the only opinion on someone's sexuality that I accept is that person's. Incidentally that's why I think that I could write that article- which basically was meant to say that.

As to Prager- he has form in this regard, he has written other articles about family values and yes I think this fits into a pattern here. Like Meg I don't think he actually listened to his female listeners- remember he told one of them that she couldn't like male strippers even though she said she did. Be careful Matt about who you defend, Prager I would suggest isn't an ally anyone would want.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Like I said it's obvious that Prager is generalising. However, if we can't generalise we can't really do any kind of analytical thinking. Certainly there will be exceptions but that's true of any generalisation.

Imagine if we applied a similar standard to questions of social mobility and weren't willing to generalise and say that poorer children have worse life chances. Of course, some very bright poor children with good parents have better life chances than very dumb rich ones with useless parents. It doesn't imply dismissing exceptions at all - in fact I think it makes the exceptions more interesting.

You then needs to ask why they are exceptions. If you disagree with Prager's explanation (they're fooling themselves) and think there is a different cause (some women are born with different sexual natures) then say so but just writing off what he's said as a generalisation is lazy.

He didn't tell "one of them that she couldn't like male strippers even though she said she did". He simply pushed them a bit on the issue.

As to being careful who I defend. I haven't read any of Prager's other work so am not out to defend his general quality but I would suggest, in return, that you be rather more careful who you label as having the same mindset as an honour killer.