Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Italian Prime Minister Objectifies His Vagina-Human Rival

Italian women are not at all happy about remarks Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made to a female rival, Rosy Bindi. Specifically:

"Berlusconi told the matronly, bespectacled leftist Rosy Bindi that she was 'more beautiful than intelligent' in a swipe at both her looks and brains."

Now, I am going to precede my comments below by noting that nothing is "wrong" about being unattractive or overweight. Unfortunately, those who value women primarily for their looks put us in the position of having to make it explicit that these characteristics say nothing about a person's intelligence or character. And, that they certainly aren't relevant to a political debate. I know it is some sort of "self-evident truth" among anti-feminist men that only ugly women would be feminists, but really, I think such men just don't know how not to conceive of a world in which they are not in the center. Such men are, sadly, incapable of understanding that women become feminists, not because it has to with being able or unable to snag a man, but because they value their own lives, bodies, and autonomy in the same way that men value their lives, bodies, and autonomy.

So, that being said, it should be noted that, as another Senator said, Berlusconi himself is "no George Clooney." His case of a pot calling the kettle black is relevant as, whenever a particularly not-good-looking man criticizes a woman's looks within a political conversation, it suggests that the critic has that fun male-centric worldview in which women are objects and men are subjects in the world. Whereas, in a world in which the heterosexual male is in the center, a woman is to be judged on her appeal to his gaze; meanwhile, a man is to be judged on more substantive factors like his intelligence, competence, and wit. Whereas he, a man, would not expect his own looks to be mentioned in a political debate, he nonetheless finds it relevant to bring up a woman's looks and offer his own qualitative, unsolicited opinion of them.

Indeed, he has a history of "womanizing and sex scandals," of referring "to women in aesthetic terms," and of saying that women are "God's most beautiful gift to men."

In other words (Jimmy Dugan's specifically), "Girls are what you sleep with after the game, not what you coach during the game."

Women are not to be taken seriously in the public sphere because what is most important about ladies is whether or not a man considers them attractive.

We see this attitude often, especially among the likes of, himself-no-George-Clooney, Rush Limbaugh and his mental masturbators who cite his oh so hilarious "feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream" quote. Rather than addressing the arguments of a woman who does not happen to agree with them, these men instead dismiss her based on her looks, whether she's "ugly" or not.

These jabs are an attempt to keep women in their rightful place as objects for the male gaze rather than as Important Actors in the world like how men are. It suggests a threatened sense of masculinity where if women succeed, then men necessarily fail and where if women are truly equal, then masculinity doesn't mean as much as it used to back in the good old days.

My quibble with the article I linked to above? Note the title:

"Berlusconi sparks feminist backlash in Italy"

Why is this framed as a "feminist" issue? For that matter, why is virtually every issue that pertains to the status of women framed as a "feminist" one?

Aren't some issues ones that all decent people can rally around?

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