Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

32: Jean Baudrillard part VI:
Feminism and Femininity

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

         Feminism vs. Baudrillard
         In the broadest sense feminism is concerned with the injustices of a world dominated by men and seeks equality between genders. Feminism came in two waves: first wave feminism was concerned with political and legal equality. Second wave feminism is concerned with economic and social equality. Post-feminism is concerned with the identity of the genders and wants to get beyond the grand narrative of victimhood posited by many feminists. (See question Q1) Baudrillard has strong criticisms of all waves of feminism and post-feminism. (Q2)
         Baudrillard's notion of femininity is unique because it is not attached to sex or gender. The way that most people attach femininity to the female sex and gender is an accident of history. (Q3)
         Femininity is not biology. Linking femininity to sex sets femininity and by extension femaleness up in a system determined by biology. The end of any feminist movement that links femininity to biology is a loss of power under male dominance if they fight the system (Q4) or an androgyny of interchangeability if they join the system (Q5).
         Traditionally, and as an accident of history masculinity is associated with strength, dominance and rationality; femininity is associated with weakness, submissiveness and emotionality. The grounding of these assumptions has been based in biology: men are stronger more rational and naturally dominant. Although we can, and people do, find evidence to support biological determinism, (Q6) Baudrillard says it is not true; not even close. The fact is that we are all both sets of qualities depending on the situation and circumstances. If men appear to be more masculine than women it is an accident of history not a biologically determined fact. Therefore our current society's cultural associations with femininity are not necessary (they are the philosophical opposite of necessary: an accident) and these accidents are detrimental for all people (Q7).
         Femininity according to Baudrillard is: “the body delivered to appearances.” or “indifference to the authentic and the artificial.” or finally “a principle of uncertainty”
         Just as surely as both men and women can be strong, dominant and rational; just as surely as both men and women can be weak, submissive and emotional; men and women can be feminine. Femininity is seduction in practice. And as an accident of history women are far better at both being feminine and seductive.
         Consider appearance enhancing tools such as make-up, clothing, exercise equipment, plastic surgery, etc. We no longer care about use value we care about the image they will help us project. (For example clothing's main task is no longer to keep us warm but rather to create an image.) Everything works on the body to create an image. (Q8)
         Remember from part 1, we do not want the real thing anymore; we want the simulation. As evidence consider statistics that say tall and beautiful people get better paying jobs regardless of their qualifications and other studies that show that beauty counts. (Q9)
         Finally, recall how seduction deals with the order of ritual, symbol and appearances or in other words with uncertainty. Feminine wiles, feminine allurements, they are always uncertain, they are double entendres: the meaning is not clear and it can be easily reversed. (Q10)
         Feminists who are trying to create a new narrative with subaltern “feminine” values and categories are fighting the wrong battle. They are unwittingly contributing to the demise of the feminine and with it the fun, joy and meaning that both seduction and femininity can bring to anyone's life.
         1. Do you support any kind of feminism? First wave? Second wave? Third wave or Post-feminism? Have they made the world a better place or a worse place? Why?
         2. One of Baudrillard's criticisms of feminism is that they (and we) have been duped and brainwashed into thinking that people (not just women) really want total equality as in: political, legal, economic and social equality. Did the native Americans really want to become Christian and subjects of the Spanish crown when Columbus “converted” them? Do we really want all these forms of equality or are we being brainwashed into thinking that we do? What of our desires for majesty or magic; order and purpose; safety and security?
         3. Femininity is not linked to biology or to culture or to anything real. How does this strike you?
         4. If you believe that there is a phallic world system and you try to fight it with an alliterative Yonic system who would win? (phallic = all categories associated with masculinity such as strength, power, rationality etc. Yonic = all categories associated with femininity such as weakness, submissiveness , emotionality, etc.)
         5. If men and women are supposed to be equal then Baudrillard says that the quest for equality will not end until we are an androgynous species. Is this plausible? In some Scandinavian countries men get maternity leave; in many countries quotas are instituted to ensure equal numbers of men and women in executive positions; there are many cross dressers in the world who have changed their gender; there are many people who have had sex change operations: is this interchangeability increasing or decreasing?
         6. Are men on average stronger than women or is it easier to bring down a man if you kick him in the right place? Should women serve in the military and do anything that men do or are women taking advantage of some unjustified prejudices? Should we condemn the common refrain during a disaster: “women and children first!” or are men and women really equal when it comes to the survival of the species?
         7. Do you possess masculine and feminine characteristics. Is it possible to be only a man or only a woman? Is it worth trying?
         8. Does everything really work on the body to create an image? Does our postmodern society's concern for appearances repress us? If so, is our better and longer lasting beauty (compared to earlier times) worth the trouble?
         9. Let's reconsider an old question: Do we have a duty to look good for each other? Where will this lead in the future?
         10. How do you feel now about feminism. Is Baudrillard a male chauvinist pig or is he a savior? Is he something else?

© 2008 - 2017, James Jeff McLaren