Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Sexism: Women Should Know Their Place


[Image: www.adrants.com]

“I would never hit a woman in my life…but I’d shake the shit out of her!” Chris Rock.

Since the inception of Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity I have worked hard to create a forum for readers to express their views openly and without fear of censorship. That is why I’ve decided to devote an entire post to the issue of sexism as it relates to this blog.

While I don’t think this post quite fits the “voluntary simplicity” rubric, I think there is some value in allowing readers the opportunity to express their views on this topic. The reality is that, rightly or wrongly, poor old Jack has been occasionally accused of being downright sexist, both in thoughts and deeds. As a refresher, here are some posts where this sentiment might have come up:

Picture If You Will

Last Night’s Call

A Day in the Life (Part 1)

On Marriage

Dear Mom: FUCK YOU

And let’s not forget the commentary in response to the provocative “Girls Riding Mechanical Bulls are Hot” post. I definitely dug that discussion.

So, where do I come out on this? At the risk of polluting the discussion that may follow, I will say the following:

  1. I don’t see myself as sexist in any way. I have, even through some of the darkest, most frivolous times in my life, been a dire-hard supporter of woman's rights. Being sexist is wrong. Period.
  2. I am, however, aware that I have chosen to embrace a journey that may ultimately realign most if not all of my core beliefs. I can’t discount the possibility that the person I am today won’t be derided by the Jack of tomorrow.
  3. I sincerely believe that the bulk of readers who believe I have sexist tendencies are either (a) misinterpreting my often imprecise narrative; (b) not regular readers (in which case they are reading posts in a vacuum and don’t see that I am trying to move away from certain patterns of behavior); or (c) sexually repressed and/or easily offended.
  4. I absolutely abhor political correctness. It corrupts discourse and is a short-cut to thinking.

And speaking of political correctness, here’s a little bit of wisdom to brighten up your day:

“What's the first thing a woman does when she gets back from the battered women's clinic?
The god damned dishes if she knows what's good for her.”

“A man is driving along in his car when he suddenly gets pulled over by the police. The man pokes his head out of the window and says "what seems to be the problem officer?" The cop looks bluntly at him and says "are you aware that a woman fell out of your car about 2 minutes ago?" The man let out a sigh. "Thank you for that, I thought I had gone deaf!"

And for good measure, here’s one of my favorite Family Guy segments of all time:

Stewie and Horse Sperm

Sharing similar gems about how men might be ignorant, dirty, and all-around assholes is definitely welcome.

Enjoy.

69 comments:

Jerry Critter said...

This ought to be fun, Jack!

Anonymous said...

Womanizer, cynic, jaded, bitter and guarded(in the warmest way of course) all come to mind, but sexist never crossed my mind reading prior posts.

Your honesty is awesome though.

Marie

SteveG said...

I'll take option d) None of the above.

FWIW, I don't think you are sexist. In fact I think that word is almost meaningless.

What I think is that like most Western men AND women, you (and me) have been raised in a culture which increasingly teaches us to treat each other as objects. That goes from top to bottom and encompasses almost every stage and age of life, and every political topic you can think of. We are trained from grade school on primarily to be good workers and good consumers...not good people.

The industrialized Western culture which is primarily founded on mass production and consumption requires us to objectify one another in order to flourish.

It just so happens that for men, one of the chief areas that this manifests itself is in sexuality and in how we view and treat women.

My own thought here (admittedly incomplete due to the nature of the medium for getting to 'know' you), is that up until recently, you have been utterly immersed in that culture and can't yet see how your actions and words do indeed objectify women.

I strongly suspect that if you genuinely try to unplug from the corporate/mass/industrialized/institutionalized culture we live in, you'll begin to see this more and more.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are plenty of people who exhibit sexist behavior and don't consider themselves sexist. The fact that you can't see it--and place part of the blame on the alleged sexual repression of others--doesn't mean it isn't there.

Once again, there should be room in your life for therapy. Hearing from a disinterested outside point of view can be very enlightening.

Miss Scorpio said...

Jack, you personally may not be a sexist, but as you pointed out there is occasional sexist behavior.

Meg said...

LOL, Marie might have you pegged ;)

I don't recall everything you've ever written, but I don't remember thinking "Wow, that's really sexist of Jack!" either. Well, at least not until you got to those awful jokes.

On a serious note, I've long said that the feminist revolution won't be even near done until men can stay home and take care of the kids and household chores and not be called bums or pussies. Then we can start talking about equality. Until then, women can have it all so long as they are willing to do it ALL.

Anonymous said...

I think at this point you have probably lost a lot of readers who would give you an honest opinion on this subject. I use to read your blog frequently but quit because of the sexist content. I only happened across your blog again today. Funny that this would be the post.

Really, I'm not trying to be rude, Just my opinion.

Jack said...

@Jerry,

No kidding.

@Anonymous/Marie,

Interesting. :) Though, in fairness, your analysis does pose the question: is someone who is a 'womanizer' inherently sexist in some fashion? Thanks for the insight.

@Steve,

Do me a favor Steve, promise you won't ever stop commenting on my blog. I think we all benefit from your analysis when you add your two cents.

"up until recently, you have been utterly immersed in that culture and can't yet see how your actions and words do indeed objectify women."

I'll give you this Steve: I do perceive how our culture has encouraged the kind of objectification you describe. And I will go on record in saying that I, like everyone else in this culture, been affected by it. Here are a couple of questions: Can you ever completely shake that influence? Can you become aware of it and, while still swimming in this culture be vigilant as to its effects?

I can probably buy that it is always good to deprogram (I am clearly doing that to some extent now and will be more and more as time goes on). What I don't buy is that you can never guard against the effects of such influences while still living inside it.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

"I'm sure there are plenty of people who exhibit sexist behavior and don't consider themselves sexist. The fact that you can't see it--and place part of the blame on the alleged sexual repression of others--doesn't mean it isn't there."

Not to detract from your analysis, but I've got to tall ya, this sounds pretty circular. What you are saying is that I am clearly sexist because I am sexist. To take your argument structure, just because you call someone sexist doesn't mean that person is sexist.

Maybe you should define the term before labeling a person as such.

And, as I said before, therapy is definitely not ruled out. Never a bad suggestion.

@Miss Scorpio,

I will cop to this: In the past, and to some extent even today, I have clearly engaged in behavior that would be considered sexist by an outsider looking in. No question about it. But to get into this issue is to get into the difference between thoughts and
actions, defining the term sexism, context, etc...

I am happy to get into all of that if people are game.

@Meg,

That is a good point. I read an article last year about how as more and more men become stay at home moms, there is more and more friction between the dads and the other moms. As if there was a girls only club with respect to certain responsibilities at home. Would be good to explore further.

Debbi said...

I don't think you're sexist. I think you have intimacy issues with women. You seem to be afraid of getting close to them, so you talk a lot about sleeping with as many as possible, etc. Seems like more of a defense mechanism to me.

Which is why I made the comment about the photos of those bull-riding women. If part of your journey is to deal with your intimacy issues, don't the photos and all this talk of sleeping around amount to avoiding having to deal with them? It's like a demon you seem to be unable to face. A bad habit you simply can't let go.

Women can have intimacy issues with men, too. It doesn't make them sexists either. Just fearful.

As for PC, I loathe it. And, if you were trying to offend me with those jokes, you'll have to do a helluva lot better than that. :)

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

I'm sorry.. Being PC doesn't interest me... I get bored with it...

And feminism...

I find it much more enriching and feminist to say, "yes, I stay at home with my kids, and I cook dinner, and I enjoy it!"

I don't believe I should ever be scolded or looked down upon for the choices I make in MY life... that's what being a feminist means to me... it's my choice...

And BTW, I have found some comments rude at times but I probably fall into the "easily offended group" depending on the day :-)

I think there is nothing wrong with being sexually open however and if thats the path you chose to live... there is no wrong, as long as you make others aware from the get go...

just random thoughts here I guess....

Homeless said...

Life will become simpler when you find peace within yourself.

jenn

http://hitekhomeless.net
http://freecampsites.net

dtb said...

As they say in 'Avenue Q': "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." The thing is, you probably are a little bit sexist, in very subtle ways you never even realized. Maybe not on the big things, but it's like my transgender friend says: "Why is it when a woman transitions to be a man it's cool and when a man transitions to be a woman it's a joke?" Because as much as we like to think we've come so far, when women dress as men they are considered 'strong' and 'assertive,' and when men dress as women we think of Ru Paul and Monty Python. Because as far as we've come, transitioning to be a woman is a societal demotion.

So you're not alone. Everyone's a little bit sexist.

That probably includes you.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

Thanks for the comment. If that is the case, I think its unfortunate, though I have to say that readership continues to go up exponentially. That being said, this is not the kind of blog that requires readers in the first place. Not looking for exposure. Not looking to make money off ads. Just sharing my thoughts.

@Debbi,

Quite frankly, I think you have gotten closer to the real underlying issues than anyone else in this discussion. While a version of that analysis is strewn about this blog in different places in posts and in certain comments, I don't think it has ever been
verbalized better.

@Miles,

All interesting points. I would add that not everyone is the same. If we were, life would be boring. Also, the approach I have taken with this blog is to unleash the honesty within; I have a feeling many of us sympathize and/or comprehend any number of permutations of some of the ideas (as well as the style) presented on this blog.

@Jenn,

Well put.

SteveG said...

Here are a couple of questions: Can you ever completely shake that influence?

Completely? I doubt it.

But progressively more so throughout life? I think yes to that, undoubtedly.

Can you become aware of it and, while still swimming in this culture be vigilant as to its effects?

The same answer here…absolutely yes!

It takes hard work. It takes constantly learning more and more about yourself, and about the reality of what human nature really is.

It also takes awareness that human beings are relationship ‘machines.’ We don’t really exist as anything meaningful without relationship to others. That is simply how we are built.

True fulfillment and peace are unattainable without relationship to others (in my own opinion that would also clearly include relationship to God, but that’s a discussion for a different day). The best of psychology, philosophy, and theology all tell us this same thing.

I’ll also agree with Debbie’s comments and try to connect them to mine. The issue you have with women ‘seems’ to be pretty clearly an intimacy issue, which is just another way of saying you have a problem with relationships with women (you seem to have admitted that), which is why I keep harping on objectification.

Deep intimacy is not possible until you can truly (begin) see the women in your life truly as persons and nothing less. When all the talk of wall building and protecting yourself from the enemy, and keep ‘them’ out and the like can be gotten over, then there’s a chance to begin having real intimacy and real relationship.

My thoughts...for what they are worth.

Debbi said...

Thanks, Jack. I consider that high praise. I do like to home in on the real issues and stay on point. It's the lawyer in me, I guess.

Anonymous said...

"is someone who is a 'womanizer' inherently sexist in some fashion?"

Womanizer, to me, means you sleep around a lot with many different women, something you have claimed before anyways. Sexist, to me, means you are repressing the opposite sex. Trying to keep them "in their place." While reading your blog I have never thought you inherently thought you were better than women because you were a man. I would have stopped reading immediately if that was my perception.

I do agree with Debbi and Steve that your real issue with women isn't because you are sexist, that it is b/c of initmacy issues and fear. Also as Debbi said a lot of woman have this same issue also and they have never been called sexist. What would you call a female 'womanizer'? Manizer doesn't work. . . .

Marie

Anonymous said...

"Not to detract from your analysis, but I've got to tall ya, this sounds pretty circular. What you are saying is that I am clearly sexist because I am sexist. To take your argument structure, just because you call someone sexist doesn't mean that person is sexist."

It's not circular, Jack, you're just misreading it. I'm saying that you are not always in the best position to see yourself. A disinterested outside observer can provide a different point of view.

I didn't say that "[you] clearly are sexist because [you] are sexist." I said that you--and this is true of everyone--don't always recognize your behavior for what it is. That's where getting someone else's opinion comes in. Instead, I just see you fortifying your position. That's not progress, it's World War I.

Anonymous said...

But if you're not sexist where are the jokes that make fun of abused men or children?

Oh, I see - you don't think abused kids and guys are funny the same way abused women are!
MJ

Anonymous said...

It's funny because the word I would have used was misogynist.

I'm not sure if you'd demonstrate your belief in racial equality by putting a cartoon lynching on your page, but if so then I guess the picture of a woman being spanked and those extra jokes at the end are appropriate. Way to make an enlightened point!

You claim vaguely to be a supporter of women's rights but don't elaborate, posting a joke about women getting hit and using that popular self-effacing chortle about how "all men are assholes."

That has nothing to do with feminism. Feminism isn't the belief all men are assholes. I guess you can wikipedia that for some simplistic verification.

What it does reflect is your education. Your response is identical to an unfortunate percent of the men I went to law school with, the others sat in silence. Yet another joke murder and her time of the month or torts and how women can't drive. Maybe better is how acceptable sexual harrassment is - I bet you think you're a feminist because you never tried to sleep with a secretary or told a junior associate how you'd like to sodomize her and she'd like it, unlike your golf buddies at the firm.

You're not an asshole. You're a stereotype.

I have to say, I'm not in Category C, so perhaps it's A and I've got you wrong. Doubtful. From now on count me as a member of your obviously uninformed category B.

I'm also operating under the assumption you're potentially aware of how ridiculous this post is and are more about the argument than the solution (or any kind of evolution). Missing your day job a little?

Moderate away.

Jack said...

@dtb,

Words of wisdom. Also, can’t quite discount the subtle sexism informed by societal influences as Steve has pointed out.

@SteveG,

I tend to think that the benefits of shaking off those societal influences are self-evident. But what, precisely do you think will happen to a person that attempts to approximate meaningful cultural independence? (I guess learning about “the reality of what human nature really is” might be a benefit on to itself.

One point of clarification: are you suggesting that a person with so-called intimacy issues (wall-building, self-protection) necessarily objectifies a person?

@Debbi,

Whatever the reason, don’t stop.

Jack said...

@Marie,

Agreed. I guess what I am learning here is that while I might not be sexist, I definitely have a problem with intimacy when it comes to women. Even as I am aware of that, I would agree: this does not mean I intend to “put them in their place.”

Maybe I need to find me a Manizer just see if it would work…

@Anonymous,

“I'm saying that you are not always in the best position to see yourself. A disinterested outside observer can provide a different point of view.” Point well taken.

Maybe this is just a case of linguistic miscommunication. Here’s your original comment:

“I'm sure there are plenty of people who exhibit sexist behavior and don't consider themselves sexist. The fact that you can't see it--and place part of the blame on the alleged sexual repression of others--doesn't mean it isn't there.”

Seems to me that you are already assuming I am sexist without defining what the term means and justifying your conclusion. It’s not a case of World War I. If you feel I am sexist by all means explain how and why, that’s all.

@Anonymous/MJ

I’m not sure how I should respond to your comment. Did you read through the whole post?

1. This post is focused on the issue of sexism as it relates to this blog. Ergo, the topic at hand is my feelings and actions towards WOMEN. Abused men and children have nothing to do with this discussion.

2. Did you not see the Stewie Family Guy clip? I’m sorry, but where I come from, allowing a baby to drink horse sperm is pretty abusive. Or is it different where you are from?

Anonymous said...

"Seems to me that you are already assuming I am sexist "

Nope, you're still misreading it and making assumptions. I'm assuming you don't have an entirely accurate view of yourself and your actions and how they affect others, because you're only looking at them from one position. That doesn't make you inherently anything but human. What you do about that says more about you.

And as another Anonymous said, the word I'd use would be misogynist. I've used it before in comments on your posts; I only stuck with sexist because it was the term already in play. If I have to define it, then so should a lot of other people!

Tara said...

Right, you're not sexist, you just think woman beating is funny.

I get it, all the mean women hurt poor widdle Jack and now you've got walls! How exciting! And women are supposed to throw themselves at your walls and prove how they would never hurt poor widdle Jack and if they don't do it good enough they're man eating bitches or annoying nags. But dude, its not that exciting. Get the fuck over yourself.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

“I'm not sure if you'd demonstrate your belief in racial equality by putting a cartoon lynching on your page, but if so then I guess the picture of a woman being spanked and those extra jokes at the end are appropriate. Way to make an enlightened point!”

You clearly have no concept of irony and exhibit quite a limited sense of humor. So, yes, you appear to be a perfect fit for Category C. You sound like the kind of person that would ban someone like Chris Rock from doing stand up or would boycott the Whitney on principle. Good for you.

I’m not sure if it would really make a difference but I encourage you to do a couple of google searches with the terms “wife,”/ “woman”; “beating,” and “funny”/ “comedy.” If you would like me to send you specific links feel free to email me (it’s hard to share links using the comment function on blogger). Maybe a little bit of context would settle you down.

“…using that popular self-effacing chortle about how "all men are assholes." That has nothing to do with feminism. Feminism isn't the belief all men are assholes. I guess you can wikipedia that for some simplistic verification.”

This post is not focused on feminism. My reference to men being assholes has nothing to do with feminism nor did I reference the term. I have no idea why you are demanding that I look up a concept you yourself have inserted into the conversation.

I’m afraid the rest of your comment rambles on a bit. I’m not sure what to say except that if you are unhappy with this post feel free to refrain from reading this blog any further. That is clearly your prerogative and I definitely wish you well.

@Anonymous,

I fear we are talking past each other so let me back up a bit. When you said the following:

“I'm sure there are plenty of people who exhibit sexist behavior and don't consider themselves sexist. The fact that YOU CAN’T SEE IT--and place part of the blame on the alleged sexual repression of others--doesn't mean it isn't there.”

and followed it up with a comment about how I need therapy made me think that you were automatically assuming that I am sexist. I don’t think that is such a far-fetched conclusion given your narrative.

However, if I misread your initial comment then I most certainly apologize and, as I said above, your follow-up point re: the difficulty in seeing yourself is a very good point. Consequently, if you are not automatically assuming that I am sexist then there is no need to define the term in the first place.

@Tara,

[note that this comment barely fit the definition of “constructive;” while it was accepted it was pretty close]

Please see my response to the first Anonymous in this comment. Ordinarily I would say that a great deal of my response there would apply to your comment (i.e., no concept of irony; no sense of humor; would ban Chris Rock, etc…). But I am mystified how someone who works in the sex industry and has written some of the coolest, most hilarious, AND most ironic stuff on the internet would be offended by (1) a photo I found on someone else’s blog; (2) a title that is tame by your own standards; and (3) jokes I cut and pasted off Comedy Central. Please do repost because I would really like to know how it came to this.

On a separate note, I find it rather sad that you take such pleasure in belittling my emotional life and seem to have no empathy for the underlying message in some of the blog posts you have so eagerly parodied. I was a regular reader of your blog (started in June 2008) before your hibernation and I just never imagined that YOU, of all people, would take such a dark tone with someone who is merely trying to bare his soul as best as he can. I will never be as great a writer as you Tara, but I can say, without reservation, that I would have never written a similar comment on your blog.

SteveG said...

I tend to think that the benefits of shaking off those societal influences are self-evident.

Self-evident if you have a certain set of assumptions you are working from. Not self-evident if you have another set.

How does one define success? What is one’s fundamental base for moral reasoning? How does one define what a person is (intelligence, DNA, other)?

Depending on how one answers these, and a host of other questions, what one finds to be beneficial will differ. If one’s definition of success is accumulation of stuff, well then you are self-evidently stark raving mad in what you’ve done so far, and on what grounds can you rebut that?

But that’s the point I think…you’ve begun to question your prior fundamental assumptions about life, but I don’t think you know yet what your new beliefs are. You are still discovering them. Not a criticism, just an observation.


But what, precisely do you think will happen to a person that attempts to approximate meaningful cultural independence? (I guess learning about “the reality of what human nature really is” might be a benefit on to itself.

I don’t think such a thing exists. The most we can do is exchange one set of cultural influences for another. If we join the ‘simply living’ movement, we become at least in part, influenced by that culture, or whatever other subculture(s) we become part of.

So the answer regarding what will happen depends on which set of beliefs and cultures you ultimately end up coming to.

What is your moral reasoning based on? What is your definition of success? Do you believe in God? Which God? Etc., etc., etc.

The neat thing about all of this is that unlike the culture you are disengaging from, at least you are getting to have some say in building this set of influences.


One point of clarification: are you suggesting that a person with so-called intimacy issues (wall-building, self-protection) necessarily objectifies a person?

That’s a great question.

No, I think it’s the other way around. I think objectification leads to intimacy issues.

I mean that in a much broader sense then we’ve discussed so far. I would suggest that it’s maybe your mother’s objectification of you (her failure to see you as an independent person) that plays a role. I’d suggest that casual sex in which a woman objectifies you, and vice versa, plays a role. I’d suggest that society’s objectification in how it pushed you (and me, and everyone else) through a dehumanizing school system, then into a dehumanizing corporate environment plays a role.

It’s all tied together. When you have a society that has based it’s success on materialism, consumption, efficiency and the like (instead of what’s good for relationships-in particular families), you have a society that by necessity objectifies all its members in a myriad of ways in order to achieve that.

When the expectations we place on one another (think again of your relationship with your mother) inevitably harm our relationships, we have damage done to us, we are harmed in our personhood because it is violated…we are looked at as objects…measured by our results (grades, degrees, etc), instead of loved simply for being a person.

When we are hurt in that way over and over at every turn, we begin to shield ourselves, to wall ourselves of from such harm. When our vulnerability becomes too great to bear, we naturally will pull back and try to protect ourselves from that which harms us.

That’s what any intimacy issue is really about. It’s our unwillingness (understandable in most cases) to expose ourselves to being hurt. It comes about because we have in fact been hurt.

You are the one who has been objectified (along with everyone else), and that’s why you have intimacy issues, and that’s why you objectify in response.

The question is if there is a way out of this mess. Is there healing from the hurts we’ve suffered and inflicted?

The answer I think is a resounding yes, and it’s fullness can be found in a place that I’ll continue to refrain from delving to deeply into until you bring it up. But even without the ‘full’ answer, we can make practical strides.

Beginning by attempting to our utmost to refrain from objectifying another human being in any way shape or form.

I’ve been attempting that for a long while now, and I think I am still awful at it. A

mazingly, even my awful attempts have led me to a place where I can honestly say I have an exceptional marriage, exceptional relationships with my children and a level of intimacy with all of them, that I simply wouldn’t have believed possible given my past and upbringing.

We should begin by forming the habit of asking if what we are doing is in keeping with the dignity of the person involved.

Apologies for rambling on…I am an admitted windbag.

LAS said...

What Tara said was not about you, it was about her. There's a difference between directed at you and about you.

One thing that hasn't been said but that I think is a thread underlying the whole voluntary simplicity movement is the concept of paring down to what's really important. We all tend to build over the parts of our lives that are uncomfortable or painful to us and when, inevitably, it doesn't work, we "simplify", "find ourselves", whatever. Rip off the bandaids and start over from scratch. The second I read your post about your mom I started to feel (right or wrong)that this was an important issue underlying your relationships with women and, more diffusely, the world. I think it's great that you're trying to get to the heart of the matter, and I think that ultimately you will be successful. I'm glad you are facing your feelings about women, which I don't think are wrong or sexist, in such an open way.

Anonymous said...

[Normally I wouldn't post anonymously, not in this thread though.]

From one womanizer to another... I think Jack's attitude comes from the fact that at the end of the day most (though not all, but it certainly seems like most) women want to get pinned to the floor and treated to some rough and raunchy love-making. When enough girls respond like this, it kind of gets to your head.

caroline said...

"While I don’t think this post quite fits the “voluntary simplicity” rubric"

Exactly. Before I delete your blog from my Delicious account, just wanted to suggest that you change the name of your blog so as not to mislead people.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see the problem. It wasn't the word "sexist" that needed defining. It was the word "you." I meant it in the generic sense and you read it in the specific sense. There's no reason you should have read it any other way; my usage wasn't clear.

But I do think you're placing blame on others (Sexual repression? And someone's distaste at a crass joke means they have a limited sense of humor? Really? Your words are so inherently without reproach that it's got to be the other person, I guess) without looking at your own behavior. You certainly are looking at it in other ways, but your focus appears to still be on belongings and things, not on people.

When you change how you perceive and interact with half of the world's population--that will be a real change.

Kymber said...

Okay...because I have you in my Google Blog Reader - I saw this post when it was first posted and only Jerry Critter had commented. Well, enough said about that!

Jack - you have always given me permission to freely express myself and I thank you for that and would never abuse such a gift...

but I must say...I would like nothing more than to sit down with you, implore you with my hand gestures and tears that this post and the way it was laid out was so very unnecessary! Are you trying to cause controversy now to bring readers to your blog?

I cannot understand why you chose this route...I cannot understand why you chose such a demeaning picture...I cannot understand why if what you wanted was free and clear discussion that you would do so in such a manner?

Did you really think that the pic was appropriate? Did you really think that it wouldn't offend? Did you really think that it was funny?

Jack...I have so much to say and I don't even know where to begin?!?! I have followed the comments since the post went up and am absolutely amazed that you haven't received more antagonizing comments??? But I am glad that you didn't as antagonizing comments will not help you in your journey.

I am so sorry...but if this is the future of your posts...I cannot follow your journey any longer. I am a person of action...not a talker. I don't talk about change and/or bettering or simlplifying my life. I just do. And so appreciate others who can do the same. I cannot listen to a woman who is mistreated and abused by her boyfriend/husband and watch her go back to that man time and time again. I would rather end the friendship with her in order to stop my own pain. Call it selfish if you will.

I expected so much more from you. I kept waiting for that vulnerable post. I never in a million years expected this or the girls riding the bulls post. You hoodwinked me...yes...you did.

I wish all the best for you as I have always done. I will still check in on you...but differently now. I used to look forward to finding out where you were in your journey...now, right before I click on your link in my saved bookmarks...I cringe. I don't like that feeling. I don't want to remove you.

But this is no longer enlightening for me.

Anonymous said...

ITA with Kymber. Her post is right on.

Anonymous said...

A fairly new reader here and wasn't sure whether to comment or not, but here goes. I would agree with some of the other people here, especially Steve, who by the way writes wonderfully. Steve's thoughts on objectification rang a bell, particularly as he wrote about objectification in corporate America. It can be a really dehumanizing experience, to work in the conservative legal-financial fields; it can be especially dehumanizing for someone who doesn't have a strong outside support system that would balance out the lack of support and humanity at work. I'm frankly not surprised that it (your work) was the first thing you chose to leave behind.

I also agree with someone who suggested that it seems you are trying to stir up trouble with this post, consciously or unconsciously. That's okay though. Just wondering... Knowing your readership and their "politics", why would you choose to write about this? Of course you're free to write what you will, but assuming that you are aware that some people would harshly reject your blog or you based on this piece, why would you choose to write it?

Please just try to remember that words are not actions, (although words do matter, as you see here re: your post and people's comments!) IMHO, as long as one has not turned his (or her) insights -however profound those insights may appear- into new actions, he has not yet changed. Sobering thought. Everyone's heard that age old adage "actions speak louder than words", and the reason it continues to resonate is because it's simply true. Recall also how some of the best dads teach their daughters to "not listen to a word he says, just observe what he does." Best dating advice ever. So if you were to observe yourself, how differently are you doing now?

Anyway, insight is a great start. I would just be careful that something like this blog doesn't become something other than a simple journal where you record
some significant life events and your day to day musings. Obviously the topics (change, simplicity, etc.) are what the readers are interested in (we don't even know who you are so I would argue you as a person are not really the thing your readers are interested in), and you provide a wonderful forum for people to explore these interests being as you're in the process of change yourself. Aren't we all.

Please just don't move forward hoping on any level that you can eventually get to a point where you will write about how "you've improved the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged families" (like a friend of a friend did on a corporate blog - pretty tacky.) And no more of the kind of objectification and semi narcissism (!) that might subconsciously amount to something like "quit job, write blog, watch said blog become exponentially more popular, be contacted by an editor, be "thankful" for six-figure book deal, go on book tour, attend Today Show and Oprah to talk about how Harvard lawyer leaves behind law and becomes XYZ so he can teach others how to do it."

You know, of course, that there are a bunch of people out there who "do it" (make a difference, live their values) every day. For example, I know a few nurses and surgeons and social workers, and none of them, contrary to what some TV shows would have us believe, go around writing or talking about saving lives or hitting on people in bars by sharing what they do for a living. It's hard work, but they do it and they do it without any fanfares. When you're writing your blog, they're probably working or catching up on sleep, so they can do some more of what they do. Another sobering thought. When they're done chopping the wood and carrying the water, they chop and carry some more.

So from my personal point of view, you just need to get going and DO something - something that challenges you, moves you, shocks you, teaches you, humbles or even minorly humiliates you once or twice. I'm sure many would love to read about you giving a class in a community college or working as a legal aide for some organization. Anything. That would be inspiring. Like someone wrote on Twitter, "anytime you want to be different you know you can just start, right?"

The point is transformation through new relationships and new actions. The point is to try to build new habits in both thought and action, to try to experience change and to enjoy it. Get your hands dirty. Do not start to think about how you'd like to present yourself to the world or what "mark" you'd like to leave in public records other than Harvard lawyer working for big law etc. Try to get to a point where you are doing something valuable and enjoyable, come hell or high water, without regard for what others think of it.

Your soul obviously craves change, so pick your poison and get going. Trust me. You've got to do it, even if you end up cleaning vomit or a few toilets along the way or something like that. Rest assured it will begin to change you, and hopefully for the better -- but not so you can write about it for us. Have courage.

Jack said...

@SteveG

“you’ve begun to question your prior fundamental assumptions about life, but I don’t think you know yet what your new beliefs are. You are still discovering them. Not a criticism, just an observation.”

Absolutely. As a regular reader you must know that this is a central focus of most of my posts.

“The neat thing about all of this is that unlike the culture you are disengaging from, at least you are getting to have some say in building this set of influences.”

I think that is a good point and it goes to heart of what I was trying to get at in my last comment to you. By definition, I am voluntarily disengaging from a set of cultural beliefs that I find harmful and antithetical to the core of my being. This is an opportunity to learn about who I am, why I am why I am and where I want to be as a person. So you see Steve, I’m totally with you on this point, though it still doesn’t get us closer to this issue of objectification.

“I think it’s the other way around. I think objectification leads to intimacy issues… Beginning by attempting to our utmost to refrain from objectifying another human being in any way shape or form.”

Interesting perspective. And I totally see the harmony in the analysis. Without not delving too deeply into this issue (and at the risk of extending our fascinating back-and-forth further) I have to know the following: how do you explain people who have great marriages, great relationships, and are otherwise healthy individuals who have bought into this culture and presumably have embraced and/or have not rejected the type of objectification you describe? The real question is can you be a good, decent person without unplugging and/or working hard to unplug as you describe?

Finally (and this goes to the focus of this particular post), are you suggesting that a person reject all cultural connections that presumably perpetuate this type of objectification? In other words, stop listening and enjoying the likes of Chris Rock, the Onion, and Lisa Lampanelli because they are “a bad influence?” In my opinion, knowing full well the effects of objectification and respecting the process of simplification is enough to get you are suggesting.

Jack said...

@LAS

I would probably agree with that. Having never met Tara, it certain seems that there are some issues there. And thanks for the kind comment. The idea is to explore all aspects of my psyche and see what comes out.

@Anonymous,

Dude, I totally get where you are trying to go with your comment, but I think it’s a bit more complex than that. I think I have always been able to separate out the essential power differences inherent in sexual desire and play from my feelings towards women in the first place. Just because some women want to be treated like "whores" in the bedroom doesn’t mean that women are “whores” in a general sense. Men and women have very different sexual brains and it is when we confuse the carnal scene with our public and private lives that things can degenerate quickly.

@Caroline,

I think it’s a little strange that you want to delete the blog because one post does not fit the Vol Sim category. Or are you just upset by the post itself? Regardless, that is your prerogative and I respect it.

For the record putting together this post was suggested in a prior post (“Girls Riding Mechanical Bulls Are Hot”) to great reader support. The content of this blog is often reader-initiated and I won’t apologize for exploring a topic that holds interest for some of its readers.

Jack said...

@Anonymous, EVERYONE ELSE READING THIS BLOG POST

What words/images/actions, in particular, are the focus of your comment? Is it the image introducing this post? Is it the jokes on the site? Do repost because I am genuinely curious.

I might be able to solve 80% of my confusion if you could tell me whether you find the following funny: Family Guy, Chris Rock, Lisa Lamponeli. If the answer is no (and at least part of the reason is because you find them sexist/ misogynist etc…) then I don’t think we could ever find common ground here. But that’s ok…you don’t have to like, appreciate, or “get” things I like, just as I don’t necessarily have to like, appreciate, or “get” things you like.

The bottom line is that I do find that kind of entertainment funny. Hilarious in fact. And just because some people’s sensibilities are offended by this type of humor I am NOT about to censor myself on this blog. This isn’t a big part of who I am, but it is a part of who I am. SteveG’s analysis (and my own stated interest in continuing down this path of internal transformation) aside, I AM NOT going to deny who I am at the moment. Otherwise, what’s the point in writing this blog?

So you and any other reader who shares your perspective has a choice: Continue following this journey, warts and all, and see where it all takes me OR stop reading. It’s a simple as that. You might not agree with everything you read and see here. But I guarantee you this: it will always be REAL, HONEST, and from the HEART.


@Kymber,

[I am gratified that you are always so apologetic when you comment on the blog. Seriously, don’t feel bad about expressing your opinion, both positive and negative. Free expression should be PARAMOUNT and I encourage that both in my personal life as well as in this blog. So express away :)]

“Are you trying to cause controversy now to bring readers to your blog?. .I cannot understand why you chose this route...I cannot understand why you chose such a demeaning picture...I cannot understand why if what you wanted was free and clear discussion that you would do so in such a manner?”

Absolutely not. Readership to me is inconsequential; the real focus of the blog is to bring out issues that relate to my internal workings as a person.

And I am sorry if you are disappointed. Do read my response to Anon right above for added perspective.

All I can say is that I am a real person. I have flaws just like everyone else. Many of these are strewn all over this blog for the world to see. I also have a personality. And while that personality is definitely in flux, it is what it is. I am entitled to personal preferences and to enjoy the kind of humor that you apparently do not enjoy. Just know that I have always separated the humor from the hurtful feelings and actions that you (and I) so legitimately abhor.

@Anonymous,

See my response to Anon and Kymber above.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who wrote the really long comment. Just wanted to explain that it was not specifically related to your sense of humor, it was more of a general reaction to your situation from someone who's done something similar to what you're doing. The intention was to highlight that your situation seems to call for some meaningful action as opposed to more analysis.

You asked for more focus... Family Guy, Chris Rock, Lisa Lamponeli - I don't have a television, so I don't know who they are, but I looked at the FG clip you posted, and no, it doesn't make me laugh, so I guess that answers your question. Having thought about this for a moment, what these jokes and images seem to have in common is actually exactly what other people already pointed out - most contain some degree of violence or shaming even though it's humorized (slapping someone, throwing a person out of a moving vehicle, kids having sperm for breakfast. Sounds worse when framed like this.) The jokes or the picture or the provocative title do not "offend" as such, but they also do not make me laugh. I'm basically indifferent, but of course after a while if I had to continue to read stuff like this (or heaven forbid listen to it at work again), I would get annoyed, whereas people who think it's funny would probably think of me as haughty and humorless. Oh well. Having said that though, as long as a person can be caught in hearty, genuine laughter, s/he by definition does have a sense of humor, even if s/he's not laughing at the same things some other person laughs at. Correct?

Not sure about the rest of your readers, but one of my favorite qualities in people is gentleness. What seems to be missing from the stuff you posted in this particular post is that gentleness. That's all. The tone is off, and it's also out of sync with most of the rest of your blog.

Can't explain it better than that. Honestly Steve's writing skills would be needed to verbalize these feelings, but hope this helps.

A television fast is by the way one of the best things I ever did. Started a few years ago, and it's been great. Because of work-related issues too much time has to be spent in front of the computer, but hopefully that will change, too, going forward.

Off topic, sorry about the conflicts with your mom. I wonder what happened to your dad and if he's around.

Anonymous said...

PS. Okay, I checked out Lampanelli on YouTube, and you're right, you and I would not see eye to eye on this. Got about 30 seconds into it when she pointed out an older man in the audience and referred to him as needing a diaper change and calling him an old piece of shit. Very funny. And that's where I quit watching.

Unlike many Americans, the woman obviously does not have demented parents or grandparents or para or quadriplegic friends or family members. Or if she does, then I don't know what to say. Extremely distasteful, and it would take more guts for this woman to take a LPN course and change a few of those diapers than stand on that stage mocking strangers. Can anyone say "lowest common denominator"?

Why would you ever want to be associated with something like this?

John said...

A great big round of applause for the last 2 anonymous comments...they both nailed it on the head as did several others (Steve, Tara, Kymber, etc.)

SteveG said...

…how do you explain people who have great marriages, great relationships, and are otherwise healthy individuals who have bought into this culture and presumably have embraced and/or have not rejected the type of objectification you describe?

It’s difficult to answer because it’s so hypothetical. I intuitively believe it to be impossible that someone could have a good relationship with another person while objectifying them (and the psychology of attachment/relationships bears this out).

Objectification (the use of another for one’s own purposes) is the antithesis of love (working for the good of the other for their own sake), and no truly great relationship can be built on it.

People with great marriages and great relationships may have accepted much of the wider culture, but with respect to those specific great relationships, it simply is not possible to objectify another and have a lasting and meaningful relationship.

Such people might look like every other member of society, may be rich, may be poor, may live in the city, or in the burbs, or be wanderers. From the outside they may be unremarkable in every way. But if they have any great relationship, it is almost certainly because in those particular relationship, they do not objectify the other person(s).

The real question is can you be a good, decent person without unplugging and/or working hard to unplug as you describe?

Absolutely. Unplugging isn’t even the point, at least not in the sense that I think you mean.

I am not particularly unplugged myself. I am almost certainly not part of the simple living culture in any way that would be accepted by those who identify themselves as such.

I am more of the modest living mindset (no cell phone, no debt, no cable, buying only what I can pay for, trying to keep the materialism to a minimum (that more for spiritual reasons)…that kind of thing.

At the same time, I have a wife, three children, and while we live in a modest house and well below our means, it is nice by almost any standard of history or the most of the world. We have a car, I watch TV (not much, but some), I like football, a good beer, to shoot hoops, and do many normal things everyone else does.

The unplugging I speak of is mostly from the ethos of the overall culture. Some of that will by nature entail unplugging from parts of the ‘material’ culture as well, but not all.

Finally (and this goes to the focus of this particular post), are you suggesting that a person reject all cultural connections that presumably perpetuate this type of objectification? In other words, stop listening and enjoying the likes of Chris Rock, the Onion, and Lisa Lampanelli because they are “a bad influence?” In my opinion, knowing full well the effects of objectification and respecting the process of simplification is enough to get you are suggesting.

Good questions…and hard to answer.

I would say that the person who wants to reject the objectification ethos will naturally begin to unplug from the bad influences over time. Not that they have to, but the more one adopts the opposite ethos, it becomes difficult to feel comfortable with some of those influences and you’ll find yourself shying away from them.

A good example…once, many years ago, I was a HUGE Howard Stern fan. But the more I came to understand this topic of objectification, the more I saw it played out in his humor. I just became increasingly unable to hold onto that fandom because the abuse he poured out on people was something I couldn’t bear any longer.

And the excuse that they are adults choosing to participate doesn’t wash. The fact that he (or anyone) can use and abuse someone doesn’t mean they should.

One of the problems is that I don’t think it’s always very clear cut. I watch and read the Onion and usually find it hilarious. I don’t really see it as objectifying anyone.

In fact I think that satire of that nature usually serves the opposite purpose by showing how ridiculous some of our objectification is.

The overarching question for me again is…'Is what is being done in keeping with the dignity of the person it is being done to?'

Chris Rock using dirty words isn’t truly turning anyone into an object and using them. From the description above, Lisa Lampanelli abusing an old person in the audience is…even if that person bought a ticket and asked for it.

The first time you ponder that one of the drunk ‘girls’ on the bull might be there, and doing those things because she’s trying to hide from a past where she’s been valued for her T&A from her earliest days, and is out getting wasted because she’s trying to dull the pain of an abusive relationship...you’ll have a hard time looking at any other woman in that same scenario quite the same way again.

At that point it will be hard to enjoy it in the same way you have in the past. At that point you may need to unplug from such situations.

That ‘deep’ sort of reason for why she’s drunk and exposing herself certainly isn’t always what’s at work. But something like it is at least some of the time, and probably more often than we’d care to consider.

Jill M. said...

A little attention-hungry, are we, Jack? I write this before reading the other 40 already-posted comments. And, I am a regular reader, not known for being overly-sensitive. I cannot comment on whether this post reveals any "imprecision" on your part, that is yet to be determined.

What I see is a deep-seeded desire on your part to be part of a community. Since you are giving up the materialistic community, you seek a replacement community - the simplistic community.

This is problematic because simplistic living is more about accepting that you will not always be accepted; and accepting that, and accepting yourself without judgment.

Keep working toward that acceptance of yourself without judgment, Jack. It is incredibly difficult to maintain, but attempting to accept yourself, and limited success in doing so, is ultimately very rewarding.

now, I'll indulge in the comments on your antagonistic post...

Jill M. said...

okay Jack,

after reading through the comments, I stick pretty closely to my first comment.

I suspect you are reaching a sort of crossroads within yourself. Your responses to the comments come across as very defensive to me. Against whom are you defending? None of the comments attacked you as a person - rather, they commented on the content/substance of your post. In fact, most of the comments to which you responded defensively were constructive.

When we reach that internal crossroads, we reach out to our community to find touchstones...and you are swimming between communities right now. I hope you take the next steps slowly, in order to process your own feelings gently, without judgment. As you noted, you are on a journey and you do not want to lose who You are during that journey. Instead, you want to transform yourself. Right?

Keep pushing and keep your chin up. That's what I say.

donna said...

jack i don't think you're sexist- maybe i've missed something?
interested why you chose to include the so called jokes though, i'm not offended by them (i can see why some would be) i just think they're not funny.each to their own i guess? my instinct is that you were just trying to be provocative- i hope thats the case any how- it's certainly got people commenting, and i think that's a sign of a good blog post, so keep it coming.

Kymber said...

Steve G...that is the most poignant, truly-heartfelt and soul-understood, and beautiful thing that I have ever read. You wrote:

"The first time you ponder that one of the drunk ‘girls’ on the bull might be there, and doing those things because she’s trying to hide from a past where she’s been valued for her T&A from her earliest days, and is out getting wasted because she’s trying to dull the pain of an abusive relationship...you’ll have a hard time looking at any other woman in that same scenario quite the same way again.

At that point it will be hard to enjoy it in the same way you have in the past. At that point you may need to unplug from such situations.

That ‘deep’ sort of reason for why she’s drunk and exposing herself certainly isn’t always what’s at work. But something like it is at least some of the time, and probably more often than we’d care to consider."

Steve G - why don't you have a blog? I know that I always so enjoy your comments and your ideas and the ways that you express yourself - many others have mentioned your beautiful writing-style as well. You should really get a blog.


Jack - you need to re-read Steve G.'s words and really think about all of this!

SteveG said...

Kymber,

Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean so much to me. To know that what I write sometimes touches others is a great joy.

As for the blog, the reason is very simple...time.

I am absolutely dedicated to my wife and children (8, 5 & 3), and I've found that when I have had a blog in the past, being intemperate by nature, it ends up stealing too much of my time from them.

Also, I've learned over time that I write much more passionately when responding to others, rather than trying to come up with original content of my own.

Honestly, I am not very creative in that way, but usually find I have something to say when someone else gets the ball rolling.

So...commenting sparingly on a blog or two of interest, when time permits, has been the compromise I've worked out.

Hope that makes sense.

Gotta go read stories and put the munckins to bed now. :-D

Anonymous said...

The first time you ponder that one of the drunk ‘girls’ on the bull might be there, and doing those things because she’s trying to hide from a past where she’s been valued for her T&A from her earliest days, and is out getting wasted because she’s trying to dull the pain of an abusive relationship...you’ll have a hard time looking at any other woman in that same scenario quite the same way again.

Very well put, Steve. This, by the way, is why my husband has no interest in going to strip clubs. He says that whenever he even sees one of the "documentaries" on HBO, the first thing he thinks about in regard to the women portrayed is "What did your dad do to you?"

Connecting to a person isn't just seeing them in a moment. It's trying to understand what brought both of you to that moment. Ignoring them as a person, though, and considering only what you take from the moment, is objectifying them.

Michelle said...

I'm new to your blog so I'm not sure if you are sexist or not but what I know so far is you are honest and honesty is rare... so I'll keep reading.

Jessica! said...

Meh,
I used to throw some leg back in my single days so I'm certainly not one to judge.

BTW the pic you used is really hot.


I think I have some daddy issues.

MP said...

anon 12:49, et. al--

"kids having sperm for breakfast"

It's actually kids having horse sperm for breakfast, which makes it exponentially more hilarious.

But in all seriousness, I wouldn't be so quick to write off humor that cuts deep at the mores of any given society just because you find it "distasteful" or offensive or just plain not funny. For instance, Andy Rooney leaves a bad taste in my mouth (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID! -- sorry.), but I still see the value in his often incoherent rants if not only because it's amusing to splice his first and last sentences and play "The Andy Rooney Game."

But I digress, just because someone's idea of comedy doesn't sit right with you, doesn't mean it has no social value or goes against the grain of the "Voluntary Simplicity" community, which some commenters have made sound like one of the most judgmental and hypocritical groups around. (On a sidenote, isn't true simplicity at its core really about rejecting societal pressure from all sides and instead looking within to find what makes you the individual happy? Not that Jack wants a book deal (in fact, I suspect he does not) but if you do, does that mean suddenly you're a Vol Sim societal outcast? That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. But, whatever, this question is for another time, and, arguably, I have no concrete understanding of the rules of the "voluntary simplicity" movement, if it even is a movement, so perhaps said question should just be ignored altogether.)

But returning to the subject at hand, I believe the comedy espoused by the likes of Family Guy, Lisa Lampanelli, Chris Rock and even Betty White (!), serves several purposes, which I will try to explain with as much brevity as possible (a task thus far I have failed at) after once again quoting the same aforementioned anonymous commenter and his views on Lampanelli:

"Unlike many Americans, the woman obviously does not have demented parents or grandparents or para or quadriplegic friends or family members. Or if she does, then I don't know what to say."

The commenter goes on to call her "extremely distasteful." Fair enough. But as someone who's been in some pretty extremely distasteful situations in the past as well as had family members and friends go through or die from diseases for which I wish so badly there was a cure, I personally find humor that touches on such subjects (i.e. cancer, rape (OH HOW COULD I?!) and, yes, the homosexual tendencies of Family Guy's Stewie, the baby enjoying the horse sperm) not only funny, but quite healing. It's about being able to take the taboo or downright scary and punch it in its proverbial face. It's being able to look at an often horrible uncontrollable experience and being able to tame it, make it less scary. At times, it's even empowering. Cancer is a bitch, why not treat it as such? So is racism, sexism, age-ism (sp?) and all the other -isms this society has tried so hard to pretend don't exist through propagating political correctness and denial. We need to acknowledge these things to grow as people and humor is a perfectly natural and healthful way to do so.

Perhaps more importantly, some of us personally wish to acknowledge these things to heal. Laughter, indeed, is the best medicine. And while you think it simply serves to hurt (and, true, if out of context or, perhaps simply due to personal taste, it certainly can), to many others, including myself, it can also serve to relieve tension and alleviate pain.

Here's to hoping we all end up on the paths we find most suitable for ourselves,

MP

Kymber said...

MP - you sound like you think that you might be clever - you're not! How dare you raise rape as a funny topic! How Dare You!

And Cancer is a bitch and we should treat it that way?!?!?
I think that cancer can be better summed up as a controlling husband who beats his wife so badly that she ends up with so many broken bones she eventually dies! That's what cancer is in my mind!

And none of that is even remotely close to funny!

I can't even be bothered to comment any further...you are so out of line!

Jack...this has gotten way out of hand...

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

“I would agree with some of the other people here, especially Steve, who by the way writes wonderfully.”

I agree. Steve’s analysis is thought-provoking.

“I also agree with someone who suggested that it seems you are trying to stir up trouble with this post, consciously or unconsciously. That's okay though. Just wondering... Knowing your readership and their "politics", why would you choose to write about this? Of course you're free to write what you will, but assuming that you are aware that some people would harshly reject your blog or you based on this piece, why would you choose to write it?”

Definitely not trying to “stir up trouble.” The post is as I wanted it to be and I would not change a word of it.

Going back to my prior comment (the one that is directed at all readers generally), if someone is legitimately offended by the cover image and/or the jokes included at the end then I’m not sure we are ever going to find common ground. Again, people have different tastes and not everyone needs to “get” or appreciate my particular brand of comedy. And to answer your question, the post was written after some readers voiced support for a post on this specific issue.

“So if you were to observe yourself, how differently are you doing now?”

That’s a good question. The honest answer is that I just don’t know. I’ve gone through a great deal of change over the past year and I still need to process everything before I would be in a position to think about an answer. Not to mention how hard it is to do an honest self-evaluation, particularly in the middle of so much transformation. The only thing I am sure about is that I am heading away from a place that I no longer value.

“Please just don't move forward hoping on any level that you can eventually get to a point where you will write about how "you've improved the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged families" “….Today Show and Oprah to talk about how Harvard lawyer leaves behind law and becomes XYZ so he can teach others how to do it."

I promise. I don’t know if this comes through enough on this blog but I have no real desire for publicity. I have no side agenda, no need to put up google ads or in any way market the blog in a certain way. If I did I wouldn’t have published this post in the first place. All I care about is exploring who I am and where I am going in the most honest way I can.

“So from my personal point of view, you just need to get going and DO something…”

The last couple of paragraphs of your comment are right on. I have come to a place in my life where a meaningful existence requires some sacrifice in the name of others. Plans are afoot. Wheels are turning. It just requires that I take one step at a time.

@Anonymous,
“I'm the one who wrote the really long comment.”

[Apologies in advance if I get this wrong, but given the great number of anon comments I will just have to assume you wrote the comment immediately following the one I just responded to]

“The intention was to highlight that your situation seems to call for some meaningful action as opposed to more analysis.”

You are absolutely right. I think that all the material entanglements I have been trying to disengage from (my house, my furniture, the job, etc…) have diverted attention from a proper “call to action” you so eloquently described in your previous comment. But that is ok. It’s sort of by design. A person can’t possibly focus on every single aspect of their lives all at once. The way it has turned out, I am almost to the point where this process of simplification has almost run its course with respect to the physical/material. Very soon, I will be able to turn my attention to an internal/emotional transformation that I hope will lead to a genuine “call to action.” But I have to complete the process in the way and on a timetable that makes sense to me.

"Having said that though, as long as a person can be caught in hearty, genuine laughter, s/he by definition does have a sense of humor, even if s/he's not laughing at the same things some other person laughs at. Correct?”

Absolutely correct. And just to clarify, identifying certain readers as being “sexually repressed and/or easily offended” as I do in this posts does not mean that I think any less of people who find this stuff not to their liking. As for whether the tone is off, I don’t believe so. Some of the other posts referenced in this post are pretty harsh but understandable in context. Nothing gentle about some of the issues explored there.

“A television fast is by the way one of the best things I ever did.”

You are talking to a person that admittedly watches too much TV. Not only do I suspect you are absolutely right, but I think I might be joining you sooner than you think.

@Anonymous,

Lisa does take some getting used to. No question about that. But I will note that she is currently one of the most popular comics on the circuit and her last HBO special had the highest ratings for that network in a year. Also, prepare yourself…looks like she is getting her own show as well.

But hey, whoever said that this was high-class comedy I’m more on the Garrison Keillor side of comedy, but hey, once in a while a Lisa Lampanelli bit is hilarious!

Kymber said...

(Jack - hogging your comments section again - i should really get a life eh? and sorry if this post is not in keeping to the original spirit of the post...i just had to respond to Steve G)

Steve G - I think that I speak for a lot of others when I say that those are not kind words. Just the frank truth, my friend. Your words are incredibly inspiring and we could all learn so much from your words - thank you for always sharing such lovely and beautiful truths. Thank you for always bringing us back to gentleness and thoughtfulness!

And when you say that you are "absolutely dedicated to your wife and children"...oh Steve...how much more could we all learn? Please always keep commenting here on Jack's blog. We have so much to learn from your gentle ways.

It has been so long since I encountered a true hero...you are like balm for the soul!

I completely understand why you do not have time for a blog...maybe later in life when your children have grown - you will find time. And you will have even more experience to share with us then! Woohoo!

As for now...please don't sell yourself short. You ooze creativity with every sentence...you are just being humble...as would be expected from such a man!

Steve - I was baptized Salvation Army, attended catechism classes from Grades primary to Grade 2 in a Catholic School (was not allowed to take my first Communion due to the fact that I ...umm...was not Catholic!), have a Mother who is a Jehovah's Witness and an atheist father...and have studied the World's 7 major religions in-depth...and have come out of all of that as a non-denominational believer in GOD - but I say to you - you embody every beautiful tenant of the Catholic Faith. You are everything beautiful that the Catholic Church supports.

Please keep commenting here!

Jack said...

@John,

I though the last three comments were rather insightful and brought a lot to the table.

@SteveG

“People with great marriages and great relationships may have accepted much of the wider culture, but with respect to those specific great relationships, it simply is not possible to objectify another and have a lasting and meaningful relationship.”

I think this is what I was trying to get at. That not everything in popular culture reflects a mindset of objectification. I would actually extend it further by saying that some of what you would term objectification (i.e., watching a girl riding a mechanical bull in a sexual manner as per my prior post) need not be something to bemoan in the first place. Even if it’s not possible to objectify another and have a lasting and meaningful relationship, so what? What if you don’t want a meaningful relationship in the first place.

There is a place for sexual freedom, a place where meaningful relationships might be fleeting or nonexistent, a place where a guy can observe an attractive woman purposely show off her sexuality without any scruples and/or moral judgment. Not every woman riding that mechanical bull that night had emotional insecurities. Not every guy staring at those women was a sexual pervert. Not every person has to be a gentle lover. Not every couple needs and/or wants to “make love” all the time. Sometimes, all a person wants is to be objectified by others willing to objectify. And, as it often happens, it is in the mists of this rough and tumble world of sexual conquest that that we feel the most human.

“The overarching question for me again is…'Is what is being done in keeping with the dignity of the person it is being done to?'”

Chris Rock using dirty words isn’t truly turning anyone into an object and using them. From the description above, Lisa Lampanelli abusing an old person in the audience is…even if that person bought a ticket and asked for it.”

I don’t see the distinction between Lisa and Chris. And even if there was, Lisa is an insult comic. Insult comics have a long tradition in American culture (Ron Rickles, Jackie Mason, etc…). People who buy those tickets do so with the intention of being insulted. I just don’t buy that it is immaterial whether a person WANTS to be objectified in the first place. By your own standards it would be immoral to attend, participate and/or enjoy a Friars Club roast. I’m sorry but I just don’t agree with that.

“The first time you ponder that one of the drunk ‘girls’ on the bull might be there, and doing those things because she’s trying to hide from a past where she’s been valued for her T&A from her earliest days, and is out getting wasted because she’s trying to dull the pain of an abusive relationship...you’ll have a hard time looking at any other woman in that same scenario quite the same way again.”

But Steve, how do you KNOW that that’s the reason those girls were on that mechanical bull in the first place. Is there no place for sexual play in your ideal world? On the other hand, maybe you are suggesting that just because SOME girls might be hiding from their past in the way you are describing a person should be ashamed of seeing these particular girls as sexual beings. While I can appreciate this argument a whole lot more, I just don’t agree with that view. It’s like saying a couple should have some reservations about engaging in rough sex because there is such a thing as rape in this world. There is NOTHING wrong with looking at an attractive woman and being sexually aroused by her.

@Jill M.,

“A little attention-hungry, are we, Jack?”

I don’t see it that way Jill. Treated this issue a bit above so welcome follow-up comments if you like.

“Keep working toward that acceptance of yourself without judgment, Jack. It is incredibly difficult to maintain, but attempting to accept yourself, and limited success in doing so, is ultimately very rewarding.”

Jill, do repost. It would be great if you could unpack this paragraph a bit. I would say that I have not been able to accept myself at all recently. Quite the opposite. Still very much angry with myself for all the stupid things I have been doing over the past several years. Maybe once I deal with the disappointment and displaced anger I will be able to accept the rest of me.

Jack said...

@Jill M,

“I suspect you are reaching a sort of crossroads within yourself. Your responses to the comments come across as very defensive to me. Against whom are you defending? None of the comments attacked you as a person - rather, they commented on the content/substance of your post. In fact, most of the comments to which you responded defensively were constructive.”

I don’t think I’ve been overly defensive at all. I’ve tried to be as dispassionate and objective as I could be. But that is just an opinion. As for whom I was “defending” myself from…well, here are some of the comments I received to this post. Now, as you read this, tell me whether I was even-handed and objective in my responses:

“But if you're not sexist where are the jokes that make fun of abused men or children? Oh, I see - you don't think abused kids and guys are funny the same way abused women are!
MJ”
----
“I'm not sure if you'd demonstrate your belief in racial equality by putting a cartoon lynching on your page, but if so then I guess the picture of a woman being spanked and those extra jokes at the end are appropriate. Way to make an enlightened point!...You're not an asshole. You're a stereotype…I'm also operating under the assumption you're potentially aware of how ridiculous this post is and are more about the argument than the solution (or any kind of evolution). Missing your day job a little?
---
“I get it, all the mean women hurt poor widdle Jack and now you've got walls! How exciting! And women are supposed to throw themselves at your walls and prove how they would never hurt poor widdle Jack and if they don't do it good enough they're man eating bitches or annoying nags. But dude, its not that exciting. Get the fuck over yourself.”

@Donna,

Thanks for the comment. Nope, not EXACTLY trying to be provocative. The post was in response to this question of whether some of the blog posts have had sexist undertones. I sort of feel as if part of the reason that feeling may be out there is because I just don’t pull punches and I hate being PC on this blog. The jokes made the latter point on my behalf.

@Kymber,

“Jack - you need to re-read Steve G.'s words and really think about all of this!”

I have. My response to Steve is right up above.

Jack said...

@Steve

It sounds like you have a ton of fans out there. If you feel comfortable, post your email here and or send me an email. I will then share it with anyone who requests it.

@Anonymous,

“Connecting to a person isn't just seeing them in a moment. It's trying to understand what brought both of you to that moment. Ignoring them as a person, though, and considering only what you take from the moment, is objectifying them.”

Do check out my response to Steve to this very issue above. I agree with you, to an extent. There should be room for certain human activities/endeavors where objectification, as Steve defines the term, to take place.

@Michelle,

Thanks for the comment. Glad to see you’ve joined us.

SteveG said...

I would actually extend it further by saying that some of what you would term objectification need not be something to bemoan in the first place. Even if it’s not possible to objectify another and have a lasting and meaningful relationship, so what? What if you don’t want a meaningful relationship in the first place.

But these things do not happen in a vacuum. What we do in such situation has an effect on both the other person and ourselves whether we realize it or not. Such behavior forms habits in the way we think and in turn the way we act.

In order to participate in it, you must by necessity dehumanize the other person and turn them into a sexual object for you viewing. We can not do that on a regular basis without side effects. Likewise, allowing that to be done to oneself will also not go without consequences.

These influences/consequences we suffer from such behavior (whether we are on the giving or the receiving end) will have a huge impact on all other relationships we try to build. They will work against us when it comes to building other meaningful relationships that we might want to build.

If you are saying that you want no meaningful relationships at all, I would say that is clearly your choice, but it is also inhuman.

We are built for relationship in body, mind and spirit, and the inability to form meaningful connections is not a thing to be sought after. But I don’t think that’s necessarily what you are saying.

There is a place for sexual freedom, a place where meaningful relationships might be fleeting or nonexistent

There is really no such thing as sexual freedom as you describe it. Even the science of relationships bears this out.

The moment you engage in physical touch the hormones that form real connections begin to be released in our brains.

This happens all during sexual intercourse, and in particular when orgasm occurs.

All during these actions, the most powerful of bonding hormones, Oxytocin, is released and has been shown to immediately promote pair bonding.

Our bodies are made so that even a fleeting sexual encounter impacts us deeply, and connects us to the other party in very powerful ways, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not.

We can pretend that is not the case, but it won’t make it so, and again…it won’t be without consequence.

In addition, I think the term sexual freedom can be viewed in many ways. It need not mean sexual license.

Sexual freedom to me is to be in a deeply connected relationship to such an extent that I can utterly trust my spouse, and be naked (in both body and soul) and unashamed before her. To be so utterly trusting that I can expose my deepest self to her without fear of being used, and vice versa.

THAT is sexual freedom. It need not be prudish, but it must be deeply personal.

Not every woman riding that mechanical bull that night had emotional insecurities.

I admitted as much, but do you know how to tell the difference? If not, then your participation may be wounding others unnecessarily.

Sometimes, all a person wants is to be objectified by others willing to objectify.

People may indeed act that way, but I would suggest that what everyone is really looking for is acceptance and to be loved for their own sake.

Sometimes people are so desperate for that acceptance that they will buy into even a counterfeit to get at least a fake version of it.

But to be truly objectified is to be used, and I wouldn’t be able to accept that a person who is healthy in mind and spirit would really prefer to be used over being loved for their own sake.

I want to be clear here, this does not mean that sex must be some sterile act with harps playing in the background, or with a clinical approach.

Sex can and should be gentle, but at times it can be hot, spontaneous, and well…sexy. But it should still always take place within the context of giving to the other person rather than taking from or using the other person…in my opinion.

And, as it often happens, it is in the mists of this rough and tumble world of sexual conquest that that we feel the most human.

To be truly human is to participate in that part of ourselves that is different from all other creatures on the planet. It is to be able to freely make a gift of ourselves to the other, and to receive them as gift in return. It is to be totally self donative, rather than to conquer the other.

We are made to love and serve one another, and it is only in that capacity that we can be most human.

The sexual act can be part of that, but I’d argue that conquering someone else (sexually or otherwise) is not at all when we are most human, but when we are at our most animal.

MP said...

kymber--

Well, I had no intention of this getting nasty, and I do believe I was respectful in my original posting, which, um, wasn’t even addressed to you, but since you specifically threw the first proverbial stone by disqualifying my “cleverness,” which admittedly suffers in the category of math (I am a woman, after all –- *rimshot!*), I must retaliate. Although, unlike you, I will keep it respectful considering I DON'T KNOW YOU and, ergo, do not know your degree of cleverness. Magically, however, you seem to know mine. Even more miraculously, apparently you're the arbiter of what's funny and what's not. And here I thought, like ALL OTHER SUBJECTIVE IDEAS, it was up to each individual beholder. Silly me.

What I’m getting at here is that while you may find the comic strip Cathy to be to your liking (just guessing), I happen to prefer Sarah Silverman, a comedian who's had successful bits dealing with such “out of line” topics as cancer, rape and (gasp!) even AIDS. She also tells a damn fine fart joke. And judging from the fact that she's made a good living on her jokes, I don't believe I'm alone in finding her and her material, which I can safely deduce you would find “not even remotely close to funny,” wickedly hilarious.

But the popularity of any given comic isn't even what's important here. What I’m trying to get at, and perhaps didn’t do the best job at the first time around, is that humor is different for everyone. Now, I understand this concept may be difficult for someone so seemingly judgmental (at least when it comes to my thoughts) to understand, but humor is subjective. To that end, while I may think Carrot Top is ridiculous, I can at least respect the fact that some people somehow enjoy him. Well, sorta. He’s pretty objectively annoying. (It’s a joke, Carrot Top lovers. Chillax.)

But I digress. The bottom line is that none of us are the same. And I truly pity you if you can’t recognize that. Even more so, I feel sorry for you if you apply this same kind of stringent viewpoint you seem to have on humor to wider aspects of your life. Closed-mindedness and a willing inability to at least want to try to understand why others may view things differently than you is what causes so much of the strife we see in the world today. Rarely are things so black and white, especially when dealing with people.

Lastly, and I know this is getting ludicrously long (and for that, Jack, I do apologize), I want to give you a personal perspective about how it might be possible for someone to find what you believe is “no joke” territory to be funny. Maybe this will help us find some common ground. You asked, “How dare I” laugh at a joke pertaining to rape? Not that this gives me a greater right to laugh more than anyone else, but I’m a woman in my twenties who’s had an unfortunate experience. While I certainly didn’t find my experience funny, nor that of any of my friends who’ve unfortunately gone through similar situations funny, humor that deals with the subject has helped me (and, I suspect many others) deal with those situations and move on. Furthermore, you wonder how can a person joke about cancer? Well, when my dad died of melanoma, humor helped get my family and I through those terrible months. Again, I suspect I’m not alone here. But like I said, even if a person hasn’t gone through personal stuff like that, humor that preys on the macabre sides of life can still be funny, even if you personally don’t get it, appreciate it or understand it.

Finding humor even in the darkest corners of humanity isn't a crime, in my opinion, but a gift. But like I said a gazillion times, we’re all different so I don’t expect everyone to agree. I just wish those who disagree wouldn’t be so short-sighted, judgmental and dismissive to retort with a simple attack on my intelligence. That’s just kind of pathetic.

Regardless, I still wish you all the best,

MP

Anonymous said...

I think the problem, Jack, is that you really haven't shown us more than perhaps fleeting moments in which you don't objectify women. Maybe there are lots of times when you deal with women on personal levels that reflect your deep understanding of them as individuals.

But that's not what you choose to share here. What you choose to share here, in regard to the women you encounter, is pretty uniform. And pretty sad. Why sad? Because it doesn't reflect any understanding that the women you encounter are people, or that the way in which you treat them has an effect. You may have no way of knowing what that effect is--but I don't see any awareness that you're just looking at what you can get from an encounter, regardless of the other person.

Your actions do affect others, and they do send a message. I don't see that you understand that, beyond lip service.

Get past the things. Look at how you treat and interact with people. That's a much bigger deal, ultimately, than how much your furniture cost.

Maitreya said...

Wow, Jack.
Have you ever known a woman who was just a FRIEND? Not a sex partner, not an associate, not a mom. A friend? Have you ever bothered to speak to an unattractive woman?
I think you treat women the way you do because it is the only way you know how to interact with them.
And very often, the women you seem to interact with don't know any other way to interact with a man.
They EXPECT to be objectified because it is all they have ever known. They think that is how things are supposed to be, and so do you.
That is very sad.
Steve G said what I wanted to say better than I can.
I just recommend you take the time to get to know an unattractive woman as a friend and a person.
Interesting discussion.

Jack said...

@Jessica!

Sweet! Nothing better than to turn my readers with daddy issues on.

@MP,

“It's actually kids having horse sperm for breakfast, which makes it exponentially more hilarious.”

Ummm…yeah!

“just because someone's idea of comedy doesn't sit right with you, doesn't mean it has no social value or goes against the grain of the "Voluntary Simplicity" community, which some commenters have made sound like one of the most judgmental and hypocritical groups around.”

I would agree with that, though would add that we should probably emphasize the word “some.” I firmly believe that, on the whole, adherents of vol simplicity are anything but judgmental. After all, the inherent value of the movement is that it allows a person to simplify their lives in the ways that make sense for them. And I suspect that no two people will follow identical paths towards simplicity.

“I personally find humor that touches on such subjects (i.e. cancer, rape (OH HOW COULD I?!) and, yes, the homosexual tendencies of Family Guy's Stewie, the baby enjoying the horse sperm) not only funny, but quite healing. It's about being able to take the taboo or downright scary and punch it in its proverbial face. It's being able to look at an often horrible uncontrollable experience and being able to tame it, make it less scary. At times, it's even empowering.”

I absolutely agree with you here, though, to be perfectly honest, my affinity for this type of humor also has a great deal to do with my hatred for the PC movement. I firmly believe that comedy that pushes the envelope reinforces the importance of free speech in our society.

@Kymber,

I don’t think MP is saying that rape is funny. I think her point is that humor often goes a long way towards conquering our fears of some of the most horrendous experiences. It might not be for everyone (and I think MP acknowledges this), but taboo humor (for lack of a better phrase) has a part to play in our culture. Maybe the issue is why it is so popular in the first place (Steve’s argument might fit in here), but for better or worse, this type of comedy is, in fact, immensely popular.

Jack said...

@Kymber,

No worries. I actually received Steve’s email today. If you would like to communicate with Steve in the future send me a quick email and I will share his email with you.

@Steve,

“What we do in such situation has an effect on both the other person and ourselves whether we realize it or not. Such behavior forms habits in the way we think and in turn the way we act. In order to participate in it, you must by necessity dehumanize the other person and turn them into a sexual object for you viewing. We can not do that on a regular basis without side effects. Likewise, allowing that to be done to oneself will also not go without consequences.”

Here, I absolutely agree with you Steve. This, I feel, is the heart of where we share a great deal of common ground. Not only have I always understood this intuitively, I have lived the effects you describe, though not in the sexual realm. By the time I came to my senses, I had “objectified” (using your own terminology with little precision here) everyone in my life and had allowed myself to become an object. All my person-hood had been lost. I was lost. Embracing voluntary simplicity allowed me to start reclaiming my person-hood and to see people around me as human beings again.

“If you are saying that you want no meaningful relationships at all, I would say that is clearly your choice, but it is also inhuman. We are built for relationship in body, mind and spirit, and the inability to form meaningful connections is not a thing to be sought after. But I don’t think that’s necessarily what you are saying.”

Not saying I do not want any meaningful relationships. My larger point is that we aren’t always looking for one, whether by choice, time in our lives, or circumstances. I never met those girls that night. Not a one. From what you are saying is that even though (1) I had no intention of meeting them, let alone start a relationship with them; (2) did not have a chance to talk to them; and (3) did not know them, I should NOT have been sexually titillated by their sexuality. I understand your point and agree with it to an extent. But I just think that is just too extreme.

“There is really no such thing as sexual freedom as you describe it…The moment you engage in physical touch the hormones that form real connections begin to be released in our brains…Our bodies are made so that even a fleeting sexual encounter impacts us deeply, and connects us to the other party in very powerful ways, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not.”

I think we might have different definitions of “sexual freedom.” You might very well be right; I honestly never studies sexual biochemistry. My point is that a woman should have the freedom to be sexually alluring while a man should have the freedom to respond to her.

“Sexual freedom to me is to be in a deeply connected relationship to such an extent that I can utterly trust my spouse, and be naked (in both body and soul) and unashamed before her. To be so utterly trusting that I can expose my deepest self to her without fear of being used, and vice versa.”

This definitely goes outside my own definition of the term because it discounts any sexual interaction between two consenting adults who are not looking for a “deeply connected relationship,” “trust,” etc…Sometimes people want to be used while others are happy to use. And I submit this can be accomplished by emotionally healthy, consenting adults.

“Not every woman riding that mechanical bull that night had emotional insecurities.

I admitted as much, but do you know how to tell the difference? If not, then your participation may be wounding others unnecessarily.”

Even if you are right, then I submit that the freedom to enjoy sexual play (such as in being titillated by a girl across a room) is important enough that it trumps any secondary harm that might result from that sexual play. This is kind of how Mills treats freedom of speech. The benefits of allowing free speech to develop outweighs any negative effects resulting from affording ‘negative’ speech (KKK, Nazism, hate groups, etc…) a place in public discourse.

“But to be truly objectified is to be used, and I wouldn’t be able to accept that a person who is healthy in mind and spirit would really prefer to be used over being loved for their own sake…Sex can and should be gentle, but at times it can be hot, spontaneous, and well…sexy. But it should still always take place within the context of giving to the other person rather than taking from or using the other person…in my opinion.”

And here is where we differ further. Sex can, in fact, involve “taking from or using the other person.” This is not to say that gentle love making is not preferred. But I fear you might be denying something essential to human sexuality: the archetypical chase, the conquest of another, the “violence” that Sabina felt was necessary for any lovemaking to be meaningful (do read the Unbearable Lightness of Being).

@MP,

Wow, a Cathy reference. Never thought it would happen on this blog.

I think I can sum up 50% of my comments above by quoting something you wrote: “The bottom line is that none of us are the same.” How very true. Guys, let’s see if we can strive for a little civility and respect the fact that people have different points of view on all of this stuff.

SteveG said...

For the record, I really hope I am not coming across as lecturing. I deeply believe in what I am saying, but fully understand that each person is finding their way.

I am not ‘demanding’ (as if I could) agreement. I am merely trying to flesh out an understanding of these things from a deeply Catholic perspective and sharing that as best I can.

I think I’ve said most of what I can, and to go too much further would require us to be in greater agreement on some fundamentals for it to make much sense.

I’ll only offer a few more brief comments in this thread and then probably leave it at that for now.

Oh, and btw…Kymbar, I know you are saying it’s not kindness, but the truth you are saying, but I don’t think you could have written anything more touching than you did. Thank You.

I never met those girls that night.

This just isn’t true. You didn’t walk up and introduce yourself, but you most certainly met them.

You encountered them to enough of an extent that you took pictures of them. They most assuredly saw you doing so and noticed you and the others in the crowd.

It’s undeniable that even though no words were exchanged, your photographing, and their behavior caused a ‘meeting’ to occur. No matter how shallow, you exchanged and shared in an experience with them.

Not a one. From what you are saying is that even though (1) I had no intention of meeting them, let alone start a relationship with them; 2) did not have a chance to talk to them; and (3) did not know them,

I mean this in a charitable way that might be hard to convey in the written word...but I think you might be trying to fool yourself a little bit.

From your original post…

To cap off the evening, we headed down to Double Deuce to watch drunk girls ride a mechanical bull at a slow rhythmic pace.

Maybe I am misreading that, but you seemed to indicate that your intent was to go there to watch drunk girls riding mechanical bulls. You seem to say you were looking for a sexually titillating experience.

You sure seem to have gone with the express intention of doing what you say you had no intention of doing above. :-)

Maybe not to meet those particular girls, but you seemed intent on meeting girls LIKE them…any girls like them would have done. And that’s the problem...at that point they are mannequins performing for the men in the room…interchangeable…without any recognition of their person-hood.

That's what you indicate you went looking for.

(I should NOT have been sexually titillated by their sexuality.

Should not have been titillated isn’t what I’d say…that’s impossible. If I were there, it would be unavoidable for me too.

What I am suggesting is that by being in that kind of place in the first place, you were asking to be sexually aroused by anonymous women. That is an act that contributes to the objectification being discussed...it didn't just happen by accident (or so it seems).

I understand your point and agree with it to an extent. But I just think that is just too extreme.

I understand that…if I’d have written this to myself 10 years ago, I’d have said the same thing. :-D

Even if you are right, then I submit that the freedom to enjoy sexual play (such as in being titillated by a girl across a room) is important enough that it trumps any secondary harm that might result from that sexual play. This is kind of how Mills treats freedom of speech.
The benefits of allowing free speech to develop outweighs any negative effects resulting from affording ‘negative’ speech (KKK, Nazism, hate groups, etc…) a place in public discourse.


I couldn’t agree more with you about free speech. Along with freedom of religion, it’s the constitutional right I hold most dear. I am not suggesting that you or any woman must be denied the freedom to do what you describe. I am talking about the choices we make, not imposing my beliefs.

And here is where we differ further. Sex can, in fact, involve “taking from or using the other person.”

I agree…it can…I am suggesting it shouldn’t. I've participated in both ethos under discussion. I do know what you are describing, and at least from my own experience, it is truly a pale imitation of what is possible in a sexual relationship.

Ultimately, it is not good for the other person…ever. It might feel unbelievably pleasurable, empowering, and a whole host of other positive things that apply to the short term. But in the long run it will never be good emotionally for either of the parties partaking.

You get that in other areas of your life (see your description at the beginning of this comment), but I think you have yet to apply the same thought process to sexuality.

Most people never break free from what you describe above.

Likewise, most people never break free from thinking about sex in terms you’ve laid out.

I'm suggesting the same applies to both areas, and the consequences are similar in both areas.

amy said...

What, I go away for a little while and when I come back, here you are trying to stir up controversy! I have to agree with Debi. I choose to see past the "sexist" front you put up and look instead at what's behind it, and honestly, what I see behind it is a bit of fear, perhaps more than a bit (I know lots about fear). What you're afraid of is something only you can answer, but just like those girls who spend their time getting guys all hot and bothered with their bull-riding antics, I think you may be hiding (or maybe in denial about?) what's really going on inside you.

Or not. My degree is in English, not psychology. But I don't think you are sexist. At least not any more sexist than anyone. And I don't find your posts about your "love" life offensive. A bit sad maybe (c'mon, you know the sadness is there), but not offensive. If I did, that would make me sexist;-)

Glad to be reading your antics again--looking forward to the reveal of your teaser post.

peace,

amy (square peg)

Anonymous said...

Non-TV watching anon. here. Thanks for responding to my comments, this was an interesting dialogue.

Just one more point re: television. I think not watching TV is one of the better things I've done. It's like vegan food. At first a little bland, and then your senses just heighten and you go, WOW. What was I thinking earlier? Bad TV wherever you happen to watch it (friend's house, hotel rooms) becomes really bad TV, and good stuff becomes really good. You sort of begin to tell the wheat from the chaff.

I had been on a TV fast for I think two years when I saw a bunch of good films (e. g. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and a movie like that can haunt you for days when you're not constantly putting "new stuff" from the media into your working memory. You mull it over and it is really an experience. And you do want to choose what it is you watch, because you have to. It's not just something in the background. You are a more active viewer.

I'm going to the movies to watch Slumdog today, and there are also DVDs and web television obviously, if you want it. But the difference is as I said that you are in better control of what you see because you pick and choose and you have to be active about it. You also don't get exposed to as much advertising, which I can tell you is really great.

Good luck.

Abigail said...

I know we have totally different lives right now. (I'm currently a crazy Catholic stay-at-home mother who tries to cram in 3 hours of prayer a day.)

I just wanted to affirm that the Ivy College experience SUCKED in terms of male/female relations. I graduated from Smith. The whole PC feminism thing was so intense. I didn't even figure out how damaged my basic understanding of masculinity was until I found I was pregnant with my first son. Thank heavens a good marriage is healing!

So thanks for putting up with the intense feminism critique. I'm sure I would have been one of those posters five years ago!

Jack said...

[this is a rather lenghty yet quite interesting email I received from Jill M. It is being published in its entirety.]
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Hi again Jack,

First, I have to say "fair enough" with your evidence of the personal attacks. Good point. I mostly ignore the personal attacks in your comments because they seem to be more about the person writing the comment than they are about you and the issues being discussed.

You asked me to unpack my comments about acceptance. I will do my best, but this is something that I am still working on, so take that as a disclaimer when you are weighing my credibility in this area (and don't hold any typos against me, this is "fun" writing... :) ). Lastly, I sent this as an email because it is a very long description. If you would like it to be posted as part of the discussion, I feel comfortable with you editing it for that purpose. Personally, I do not appreciate such lengthy posts in the comments that are for the whole group, thus I chose this route.


I, too, have a hard time with self-acceptance. I believe most ambitious people struggle with it. I hesitate to assign this struggle specifically to any particular descriptive word, such as "ambitious" - but some people struggle with it, while others accept themselves more naturally. In my journey to accept myself, I have most often connected with others whose struggle for self-acceptance has pushed them (expressed by ambition) to achieve in ways that are measurable. Getting a law degree and fat salary...or staying the same weight you were as a high school athlete...having many/big/fancy materialistic possessions... Although I do not fall neatly into any of these categories, they are examples of where your path and mine might intersect. As such, I offer "ambitious" people as a sample group of people to represent those who, in lieu of self-acceptance, seek acceptance from others and rely on that acceptance for part or all of their self-validation.

Since you mentioned you are struggling with what sounds to me like the beginning of a practice of self-acceptance, I will focus my comments to that part of my own journey. After a sob-story-quality break-up, I felt devastated. Although I had brought my own baggage to the relationship, the terms on which it ended left me feeling incredibly insecure in all areas of my life. Surprisingly, to me, I was certain I would find love again. But, I was unsure of success in my career, insecure about my intelligence, my instincts and my charming personality. I list these qualities and characteristics because they represent that which I value most. Perhaps what you value most and/or what you feel/felt insecure about is/was different. What is valuable is to identify what is important to you.

Identifying what is important to you helps guide the practice of self-acceptance. Practice is the key word for this action, because like any useful skill, it requires practice to achieve proficiency and mastery in self-acceptance.

Once you've identified what is important to you, note that you will keep identifying these qualities. Hopefully, over your lifespan, the list with shrink and grow, in relation to the circumstances of your life. Fluidity is a key to acceptance, though for most people who are used to setting their sights on a goal and then obtaining it (ambition rears its ugly head), fluidity is enigmatic at its best and infuriating at its worst. Fluidity is accepting that you cannot muster enough emotional energy to talk to your sister for three weeks, even though your "ideal" self has a wonderful relationship with her sister. Fluidity is calling her on at three weeks and a day, and asking her to accept that, too. You know it when you've got it, but it is not always clear how to regain it.

The next step is to evaluate how you feel about yourself in relation to the qualities you've identified. Not how do think your parents/co-workers/ex-girlfriend/the Dalai Lama/your most admired mentor/etc feel about you in relation to these qualities. That kind of thinking is what has been holding you back. You have been striving to gain Mom's/Jenn's/Michael's/Rhonda's acceptance, but you don't share all of their values. (I am talking to myself now, so this might be a little bit different for you). What is important is to understand that the only standards you have to strive for are your own. Your closest friends/mentors/co-horts/family will accept you in spite of your flaws and in spite of differing values. If they do not, well, that is for you to decide what to do. But, until you know what your values are and understand how they are motivating your behaviors, you will only spin your wheels as far as self-acceptance goes.

Now, some/most "self-acceptance" guidance might/would leave out the identifying and evaluating steps - because, after all, the goal is to accept yourself Exactly How You Are - without applying standards or any other crap like that. However, I am relaying to you the process that worked best for me to reach some level of self-acceptance. These are the baby steps that got me moving in the right direction. After I was able to realize that my goals had been shaped by my desire for acceptance by others, I was able to acknowledge what I had called "self-acceptance" in the past was pure bull shit. One example of this is that my career goals had reflected more of what my aunt and ex-boyfriend valued in a career than what I valued.

So, the identifying and evaluating steps are part of deconstruction.

Another tool I use is catchy phrases that remind me that I am in control of accepting myself because I make choices about my behavior. "Be who you want to become" is one such phrase. When confronted with a choice, think about this person who you so desperately want to become (this simplistic person)...what would he do? Do that. Then accept yourself. Accept that sometimes you will choose to do something other than what your "ideal" self would choose. Accept that sometimes you will make all of the "ideal" choices and still feel shitty at the end of the day. Some days you just feel shitty. Accept that you are human, thus you are sensitive, emotional, fallible, vulnerable, delicate, hard, strong, capable, demanding, bitchy, humorous, and intelligent all at the same time. There are no limitations on who you are or who you can be, other than a lack of vision and creativity, and a sense of adventure, which you definitely have.

Do not set such strong boundaries for the behaviors you expect out of yourself. For instance, if you expect a "voluntarily simplistic" person will find ways to work out outside, don't hate yourself for opting to run on a treadmill when it is 10 degrees F with a -6F windchill (personal experience). Focus more upon the behavior that feels right, that you feel connected to. Then, you will begin to accept yourself.

My comment about trying to fit into a community ties into this practice. Many people who practice "voluntary simplicity" or have similar lifestyle philosophies have very different value systems and beliefs that they bring to their practices. However, the underlying goal of openness and acceptance seems to prevail over value clashes (in my experience). Thus, this community will be open to discussing how you feel about watching and enjoying the girls on the mechanical bull, rather than just writing you off as a jerk/asshole/etc. Likewise, we will join you in a conversation about non-PC topics, rather than repeating the "PC" mediaspeak like an autobot. (I try not to take those personal jabs at you in my comments, I apologize if anything came across that way.) However, perhaps you always felt like you were able to fit in, and you do not connect with my discussion here. I suspect on some level you felt that was a false "fitting in" if you are so anxious to take such drastic measures in your life, but I could be wrong.


The point I am making about community is this: When you care less about fitting into a particular community and focus more on accepting yourself, you will find that you fit in better. I am not sure if this is because when you are "being yourself" you tend to accept yourself more and thus you just feel like you fit in better. Perhaps you do actually fit in better. Or, because you tend to attract people who are more fluid, like you, they more fluidly accept you. That is to say, they do not demand that you wear certain clothes, eat certain foods or automatically turn away from hot girls on mechanical bulls. There are some people in these communities who demand everyone be vegan, just like they have choosen. I call those people wolves in sheeps clothing because they are as group-mentality-oriented as the materialistic jerks you are seeking to dissociate from. Feeling like you fit in better could mean that you are happier, thus you are more fun to be around and therefore, your community desires your presence, which makes you feel accepted. It could be anything.

Self-awareness is required for self-acceptance, in my experience. Striving to acquire both is recommended...why wait any longer?


Like anything else that is worth the effort, your enthusiasm for trying will wax and wane. Accept that, too.


When you make a mistake on your journey, remember that you are not an expert. When you strive out in a new way, you are like a child who is learning to walk. If a two-year old boy who just started to walk stumbled and fell, would you yell at him for being stupid? Would you say "who the hell do you think you are? You can't walk!" ? Nope. You would pick him up in your arms and hug him until he was not so scared. Then, you would set him back down and let him try again. Be that gentle with yourself as you proceed on this journey. Pick yourself up and give your soul a hug when you need to. Then, after that moment, put yourself back on the path and keep moving forward.



Keep pushing and keep your chin up.


Best,
Jill


P.S. While I wrote these comments for you, I would appreciate some response. A nod in the comments is sufficient or a direct response is okay, too.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

“I think the problem, Jack, is that you really haven't shown us more than perhaps fleeting moments in which you don't objectify women. Maybe there are lots of times when you deal with women on personal levels that reflect your deep understanding of them as individuals.

But that's not what you choose to share here. What you choose to share here, in regard to the women you encounter, is pretty uniform. And pretty sad.”

I think this a pretty good way to unpack things and the analysis is actually good. A couple of clarifications. First (and this is probably just a reflection of the limitations inherent in trying to convey an idea via comments on a blog), if there haven’t been that many instances in which I have NOT objectified women as you describe it is probably because the issue hasn’t really come up all that much and what is there on the blog IS, in fact sad. The relationship I have had with sex and sexuality in general over the past 6-8 years is definitely a topic I want to touch on but if there was ever any ‘objectification’ on this blog as you define the term, it must be seen in context (i.e., trying to evolve from certain patterns of behavior over a period of time as indicated in this post)

“Your actions do affect others, and they do send a message. I don't see that you understand that, beyond lip service.”

I agree, though as in my conversation with Steve, there is a difference between actions per se and allowing yourself to embrace your sexuality, which is natural.

“Get past the things. Look at how you treat and interact with people. That's a much bigger deal, ultimately, than how much your furniture cost.”

Right on. Trying my best to get there.

@Maitreya,

“Have you ever known a woman who was just a FRIEND? Not a sex partner, not an associate, not a mom. A friend? Have you ever bothered to speak to an unattractive woman?”

Yes, but only occasionally; ditto; and yes.

“I think you treat women the way you do because it is the only way you know how to interact with them.
And very often, the women you seem to interact with don't know any other way to interact with a man.
They EXPECT to be objectified because it is all they have ever known. They think that is how things are supposed to be, and so do you.
That is very sad.”

Great analysis. I think this gets us closer to the heart of this, though, again, I would be careful with the use of the word “objectified” for the reasons stated over and over above.

@Steve,

“For the record, I really hope I am not coming across as lecturing. I deeply believe in what I am saying, but fully understand that each person is finding their way.

I am not ‘demanding’ (as if I could) agreement. I am merely trying to flesh out an understanding of these things from a deeply Catholic perspective and sharing that as best I can.”

In no way shape or form are you coming across as lecturing, at least to me. As I have said before, do NOT stop commenting on stuff like this. Your perspective only adds to the richness of the commentary.

“No matter how shallow, you exchanged and shared in an experience with them.”

Ok, sure, that’s true, but that does not get us closer to undermining the analysis. Just because they saw me does not mean that being titillated is somehow wrong/inappropriate. I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

“You sure seem to have gone with the express intention of doing what you say you had no intention of doing above. :-) Maybe not to meet those particular girls, but you seemed intent on meeting girls LIKE them…any girls like them would have done. And that’s the problem...at that point they are mannequins performing for the men in the room…interchangeable…without any recognition of their person-hood.”

First, I don’t think what I said was inconsistent. Even if I wanted to see what was going on with that mechanical bull I still had no intention of meeting anyone or talking to anyone. Second, so what? Steve, let me be absolutely clear about this: attractive girls can be titillating to a heterosexual male. I don’t need to know who they are or even meet them to find someone attractive from afar. And it is absolutely natural for a man to find a woman to be a sexual being. Again, we are just going to have to disagree on this one as well.

“Should not have been titillated isn’t what I’d say…that’s impossible. If I were there, it would be unavoidable for me too.

What I am suggesting is that by being in that kind of place in the first place, you were asking to be sexually aroused by anonymous women. That is an act that contributes to the objectification being discussed...it didn't just happen by accident (or so it seems).”

And here is where we part ways yet again. As I mentioned in my prior comment to you, I just don’t think the kind of objectification you are describing is so fundamentally harmful to our society. To disallow it, or for a person to deny this part of their sexuality is MORE harmful than any effect it may have on society.
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“’And here is where we differ further. Sex can, in fact, involve “taking from or using the other person.”’

“I agree…it can…I am suggesting it shouldn’t. I've participated in both ethos under discussion. I do know what you are describing, and at least from my own experience, it is truly a pale imitation of what is possible in a sexual relationship.

Ultimately, it is not good for the other person…ever. It might feel unbelievably pleasurable, empowering, and a whole host of other positive things that apply to the short term. But in the long run it will never be good emotionally for either of the parties partaking.

You get that in other areas of your life (see your description at the beginning of this comment), but I think you have yet to apply the same thought process to sexuality.

Most people never break free from what you describe above.

Likewise, most people never break free from thinking about sex in terms you’ve laid out.

I'm suggesting the same applies to both areas, and the consequences are similar in both areas.”

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Steve, I absolutely love your analysis here. Again, I haven’t gotten that far in this process. Thus far, I’ve focused on the physical side of simplification. The emotional/spiritual side is definitely on my sights, so can see where you are going with this. Who knows where this will all lead me.

Jack said...

@Amy,

As I mention above, I’m now getting to a point where I can move away from the physical simplification towards a more internal process. Whether it is fear, sadness, etc…I guess I will have to find out as I start to interrogate myself.

@Anonymous,

I think you are on the right track. Getting a DVR was a good first step (no commercial watching for me) and allowed me to pick and choose programming. Now, it’s just a matter of finding good stuff to watch.

@Abigail,

Thanks for the comment. Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Having enough empathy to try and see an issue from different perspectives is something that can be very healing. The kind of feminism you describe does not appeal to me as much as it once did. Feminism, to me, is breaking down walls that prevent women from achieving their own version of happiness. It was never about branding good or bad behavior and putting people into boxes. But, hey, that’s just an opinion.

carissashanti said...

This response is a tangent to a tangent to a tangent...but the idea of a TV fast...well, I stopped regular watching while in college, never got a TV, and found that the hours spent in front of the screen were quickly filled with being outside, on my bike, walking the dog, and enjoying quality time with friends or even alone, reading, being creative, or watching a film. But I do think there are shows out there that are quality TV. And they can do something that some films cannot; they can continue to grow and develop, both through the plot and characters. If you haven't checked it out already, "Mad Men" has me hooked, largely because of the gender roles and social issues it explores.