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ballgame

!

For example, if I have sex appeal, I may HOPE that a man will do what I want. But if have money, I have the POWER to buy things.

Uh, so you're saying you'd rather pay someone to have sex with you, than for them to want to have sex with because they love you or find you appealing?

The Happy Feminist

Noooooo. I don't want to pay for sex. I HOPE that the person I want to have sex with will want to have sex with me -- just like a man does. My hope may have a greater chance of coming true than a man's hope of having sex with someone, but it's still just a hope.

But if I want to buy a large wardrobe or a mansion or a company, money gives me POWER to do that. Money, unlike sex, allows me to do more than just HOPE for things but to actually make things happen -- just like political power (i.e. the power of the judge) and other kinds of social power.

Mandolin

And also, of course, the assumption of a woman's "sexual power," requires a semantic condensation of "woman who is sexually attractive" to "woman."

What we really mean here are young, conventionally beautiful women, a category that some women fit into during some portion of their lives, and that other women won't fit at all. This condensation is itself patriarchal, because the women who are worth note in the patriarchy are those women who are sexually attractive to ...(wait for it)... men.

A male friend of mine wrote a (very good) story a couple years ago about a man who had taken a treatment so that he could stop seeing women, so that he could focus better on his thesis work, without being distracted by thoughts of sex. The treatment worked (through some scientific hand-waving) to detect those objects that would cause sexual arousal and eliminate his ability to see them. When he took it, *all* women disappeared.

"Really?" I asked him. "He's attracted to *every* woman?"

And after I made that comment, my friend went back and populated his fictional universe with women older than his character, women unattractive to his character, and etc. He's one of the most feminist men I know, in terms of knowing and understanding theory, but when it came to constructing a world out of his subconscious, he needed to be reminded that women who are not patriarchally attractive even exist.

mythago

I think the average woman has more sexual power than the average man

What do you mean by "sexual power"?

Erin

But if I want to buy a large wardrobe or a mansion or a company, money gives me POWER to do that. Money, unlike sex, allows me to do more than just HOPE for things but to actually make things happen -- just like political power (i.e. the power of the judge) and other kinds of social power.

So then would you discourage women away from all career choices that don't involve much money or social/political prestige? Knowing that there is only room for so many judges and CEOs--and that millions of women won't be able to achieve these positions simply because of their necessarily limited number--what do you suggest for the majority population? For instance, what do you say to women seeking teaching positions?

As to the idea of "sexual power", I agree that it is at best a limited power with much potential to be misused.

Ismone

Erin,

I think no matter what, it is better to have power directly (i.e., earning money) then to use indirect (sexual or persuasive) power over others who earn money themselves. I don't think this means that we should all run out and earn as much money as possible, just that we should recognize the difference between being sexually attractive or having "influence" or having money/power ourselves that we use to effect change.

Izzy

MissPrism

Mandolin, thanks for that last comment - very interesting, and telling.

The Happy Feminist

So then would you discourage women away from all career choices that don't involve much money or social/political prestige?

What Izzy said.

Digression: I admit that at this moment in history, I would like to see more women in positions of money and social power -- mainly to make it easier for women in future to rise to those positions. That doesn't mean I think ALL women need to pursue those positions, just that I wish more women do so. But that's not really my point in this post.

This post has more to do with not confusing influence and/or sexual attractiveness with real power.

West Coast Arwen

Doing all the work != having all the power.

Well, lawdy lawdy, I don't know. Ballgame may have a point. Awftah all, my waitstaff and maids and nannies keep quitting and it throws my whole life into positive CHAOS, I tell you. They say I treat them poorly, and yet they don't understand that they have all the power!
It is they who force me to suffer the humiliation of defecating in an unclean toilet! It is they that have the power to cause me to itch, when their laundry soap choices harrass my Delicate Skin! It is they that make ME look like an idiot at my party, when the goat cheese on the frizze is American and not Scottish! Oh! Oh! THE VAPOURS!

Racists are made uncomfortable by the presence of People of Colour. Do the people of colour now have all the power? Because if they were just considerate enough to be White, they wouldn't offend anybody?

Actually, let's flip our particular gender-bullshit scenario, here, using all the same bullshit gender-stereotypes.
Bullshit argument 1: On average, men want to sleep with women VERY MUCH; on average, women don't care as much; therefore, women get to be choosy in sex. This means women have power.
Identical bullshit argument 2: On average, women want to marry men VERY MUCH; on average, men don't care as much; therefore, men get to be choosy in marriage. This means, men get to have the power.

We've cancelled arguments. Have a nice gender stereotyped day! Good luck with that!

Liz

Mandolin,

I'm fascinated by your comment.

In your example of your male feminist friend, you mention that when we talk about women having power because of their sexual attractiveness we are only talking about "young, conventionally beautiful women." You and your feminist male friend seem to have thought this through far enough to mention that there is a conventional standard of what makes a woman attractive sexually. But I would like to continue this idea. Your friend indicated that certain women didn't fit his idea of sexual attractiveness. But ... if there were no conventionally beautiful women, don't you think that patriarchy would require that some other look be identified as beautiful? In fact, isn't the conventional idea of a beautiful woman based on how her looks/features/attitudes best serve a male? Isn't much of male sexual attitude based on systems of hierarchy and power--and more specifically based on keeping the man as far from the bottom of that hierarchy as possible?

If sexually attractive women didn't exist, wouldn't patriarchy have to invent them?


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