For those just tuning in, this is Part 2 of my series on a small blurb that Joseph Lisner wrote for Wizard’s “How to Draw” series (found here [JPG]).
In Part 1 I discussed how Lisner relies on stereotypes of masculinity to create a “boy’s club” environment meant to set his presumably male readership at ease. In Part 2 I will be focusing on the ways that he constructs femininity and in the process Others and objectifies women.
I. Women: The Othering
This “femaleness” is a mysterious thing, and everyone defines it in their own terms. Anyone attracted to the female must ask themselves, “What turns me on? What about the opposite sex hits me like lightning and instantly shatters my self control?”
This is, basically, how the blurb begins. We have an immediate setting up as men as “default” (“everyone”, “anyone attracted to women” meaning any men attacted to women because of the use of “opposite sex”) and the women as “Other” (“the femaleness”, setting up women/femininity as “a mysterious thing”, “the female”).
Late to the party, Lisner says that, “I am–of course–writing this from the point of view of a heterosexual male.” No shit! I thought you were a lesbian woman by the way that you used inclusive language to refer only to men, and how you used language to turn women into nothing but objects. Wow, glad you cleared the air on that one.
He then goes on to address us “female artists” (an acknowledgement of our existence, how gracious of him) only to tell us that he can’t explain himself (“Please don’t ask me about the masculine/feminine mystery.”). He then goes back to addressing his target audience (male artists) and talking about what American men
must find attractive. The only other time in the article that he acknowledges women is when he says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am a guy, a red-blooded American guy.”
II. American Femininity
If Lisner wanted to win the award for most masculine stereotypes in a short blurb, he also wanted to firmly establish some of the more pervasive female stereotypes as well. Most notably he addresses (or, rather, fails to address) the Beauty Myth, adds a “catfight’ story for some titilation, and finishes with the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” line.
Ignoring The Beauty Myth
There are certain cliches of beauty–basic elements that no one really argues about.
Oh really? It doesn’t even make sense as an argument, seeing as directly preceding the quote, Lisner says this: “Don’t ask me why ‘tall and skinny’ is sexy to some folks and grotesque to others.” Maybe if Lisner spent less time thinking about these issues, he wouldn’t write such obviously contradictory crap.
It may be a shock, but beauty is not an absolute. It’s a mixture of personal preference and societal standards. Standards, I should point out, that are reinforced as innate by the blurb that Lisner has written.
Many is the time I have been out with a girlfriend and some female would walk by and totally blow my mind. My girlfriend would notice my reaction and say, “God, what a face–she’s so ugly!”
No discussion of femininity would be complete without showing women blaming other women for men’s bad behaviour. In this hypothetical situation, Lisner’s girlfriend was feeling insecure because of his behaviour and so, of course, the only appropriate reaction is to insult the other woman who has comitted no crime except to have crossed the path of a misogynist creep.
Does Lisner react with, “Gee, I’m sorry honey, we’re out on a date and it was rude of me to leer at other women”? Hah, yeah, right. He pulls the “boys will be boys” excuse and says that his typical reaction is to say, “Yeah, but did you see her [tits/ass/legs]!” So, not only does he agree with his hypothetical girlfriend that the girl he checked out was ugly, but he further dehumanizes the poor woman by reducing her to a nice pair of T or A.
The truly horrible part of this scenario, however, is that many women would react that way. We’re trained — partly through growing up with stories such as Lisner gives — to see that as the appropriate reaction. After all, we’re told, all men are pigs anyway, so why should we be surprised when they show it? The other woman is the easy target — the whore, the hussy, she’s not as pretty as us anyway! But what’s the result? The man who created the problem gets off scott free, our self esteem hasn’t been pulled up, and the woman has not only been objectified by Mr. Misogynist, but also verbally torn down by us because it’s easier to attack her than to question our own relationship.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
All I can say is that men and women see the world differently.
Yeah, it’s a thing called privilege, something that you seem to have in spades, Mr. Lisner. Although, to be fair, it’s not really men and women who see the world differently, but rather those with unchecked privilege and those without it.
Men stereotyping men, men stereotyping women… the only thing left is to see how his language serves to reinforce this “Men as people”/”Women as Other” dichotomy that he has set up. That’s the subject of my next post, and, believe me, it ain’t pretty.