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Casimir Fornalski
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I don't see why pointing out that men are held to unrealistic ideals has to be accompanied by attacks on those who choose to do exceptional things. Whose definition of "exceptional" are we going by? I'm sure there's something about everybody that's quantitatively "exceptional", but I'm not about to ascribe some level of superiority to them based on that. I can respect that having chiseled pecs and a washboard stomach may be important to the person who works to achieve that. What I can't respect is when that person (and others) say it should be equally important to me.
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@Greta, You're right. I just call into question the value of any profession that forces its participants to be miserable for the sake of meeting an ideal, as well as a profession and a field that, quite often, is used as a wedge to create divisions between people. I think it's a symptom of industrializing and standardizing things that should be individual human interests. Fashion and fitness as a personal pursuit can be great things. The fashion and fitness industry, however, is a much different—and in my opinion—much darker dynamic that tries to say there is one way and one way only to do things and people who meet that standard should be held in higher regard than those who don't.
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I would say learning a foreign language can be seen as an effort to help others since it opens a person up to communicating with more people, and that's always a valid pursuit. The type of "sacrifice" that bodybuilders, fitness and fashion models endure, however, really can't be explained as anything more than narcissistic preening. It's one thing to exercise and keep fit because you like it and it improves your health, it's quite another to live in agony just to achieve a look that's already rooted in human neuroses.
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I often wonder why, exactly, we're expected to admire the 'sacrifice' people put themselves through to adhere to a cultural standard of beauty. Reading about all of the pain and patently absurd efforts some of these fitness models endure, I'm just left with the overall question: "Why?" What has really been accomplished through all of this? The amount of effort and mental anguish some people go through to be walking versions of Renaissance sculptures all seems so dubious after a certain point. It certainly doesn't hold up to the same ideal of "sacrifice" I see through other people who genuinely forego comfort, personal freedom and financial stability in an effort to make things better not just for themselves, but others as well.
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Thanks again for another incisive, wonderful article, Greta. @ EasilyEnthused: Feminism—as I've come to understand it—is about the strive for gender parity through social equalization of both sexes. However, this can only be accomplished by recognizing that women are at the low end of a current power dynamic and men are at the top. Therefore, the issues and the struggle have to be defined by raising the status and the opportunity of women while simultaneously downplaying and dismantling those things men lord over them, and part of this means putting more emphasis on the experience and interests of women. Most, if not all, feminists I know do have a genuine concern for and awareness of the gender constructs that negatively affect men, and this is entirely consistent with a belief in true gender equality; no one should have to feel marginalized simply on the basis of the sex they were born with or identify with. But the fact is that men are the ones in power, and nearly every mainstream conversation about social issues inevitably comes from a male perspective and is weighted toward serving the interests of men. Feminism has to push back against that. We need to take the focus away from men and mens' experience as the only experience and this can only be done by placing more of an emphasis on the experience of women and acknowledging their marginalization at the hands of men. Also, it should not be the job of just women to illustrate and speak out against the unfair cultural mores that are harmful to men. Men have to stand up and assert their resistance to these attitudes as well as the attitudes that reinforce male privilege. Too often mens' response to these issues are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, overtly admiring of male stereotypes, so I don't blame feminists for being mistrustful when men try to bring the attention back to themselves in a serious conversation about gender. This is why I think Greta is great. She illustrates that the true goal of feminism is not women vs. men, but women and men on equal footing.
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Sorry, that wasn't directed at you, Greta. That's for commenters (here and elsewhere) who like to take up the "sexism is bad… except sometimes it's not" argument.
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How to talk about the existence of sexism: "Here's some sexism" (show examples) "Now what can we do about it?" How not to talk about the existence of sexism: "Here's some sexism… …but only 'cuz these girlz are such hotties."
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May 23, 2011