feminism fights jaberwocky, jaberwocky now cuddly

since the weekend, i’ve been having a series of interminable debates on sexism in america. among which, i keep being told:

no men truly want to be with feminists. all men really want is to be with a submissive little twit.

this, i think, is like comparing eating Krispy Kreme for the rest of your life, or having only complete and healthy meals, though entirely free of refined sugar. i can understand the attraction for a weekend, but in 20 years? i doubt i’d make it a month.

if that answer seems shallow, it is because a full explanation requires a jaberwocky, several thousand years of philosophy, and a pizza. more below.

picture a jaberwocky. big. ugly. it has a bunch of heads, and each of them come with more teeth than julia roberts. only these teeth are pointy. these are your appetites. that craving for a large steak during a diet. the secret desire to see a tom clancy movie. playing world of warcraft for 40 hours on end because you really really want that cool drui… you get the point.

back in the day (ancient greece), aristotle thought about what the virtuous individual was like. his thought, regarding appetites, was simple. the virtuous person has rechanneled their appetites. the virtuous individual desires an organic wheat germ granola bar. or see some indy film about starvation in africa. probably doesn’t know what world of warcraft is, but is all about study/gynmastics. all that stuff you should do, but don’t want to – the virtous individual, the ‘just’ one, they actually want to. with vigor.

so, imagine our jaberwocky eating wheat jerm and granola, watching indy movies, and with no inappropriate violent impulses whatsoever. this is really quite neat. most of us never run into this kind of jaberwocky, and the poem would have been rather different with this character involved.

the thing is, by ‘neat’ i mean a pile of steaming bunk. somewhere along the line, most of us decided that this person doesn’t exist. it is, in a word, a lie. meet someone THAT nice, and you are likely to assume they’re a phoney (or approximately as real as dolly parton‘s breasts). as with most things, philosophy students like to blame this change on Kant. religion majors tend to choose christianity. my roommate in college blamed everyone, grabbed a protest billboard, and went off denouncing the west. pick your poison. i choose freud.

point is, nowadays we think of the virtuous individual as having beaten back their appetites. wounded – but never fully slain – threatening temptation at every turn. it is something akin to putting the jaberwocky in a cardboard box and sitting on the lid. the word used to describe this precarious state – temptation – is a neverending mess. the difference between the good and the bad, is that the good individual loses to the jaberwocky less often and less embarassingly. everybody sins, some just have less fun sin. we all sin. babies sin. heck, i was told the other day that all those unborn blastocysts have original sin and are wandering around in purgatory.

so what is sexism?

by now, the connection should be obvious. aristotle’s virtuous individual isn’t sexist / racist in the slightest. the modern one is always fighting it back. the commenter, asserting what men ‘really’ want, is advancing the modern vision. for whatever reason (‘deep’ social constructivism, ‘natural’ impulses, ‘being from mars’,…) men are always sexist. it is our original sin.

as for me, i buy the aristotelian version. if nurtured properly, an individual can develop without twisted impulses. it follows from my life experience. but, i tend to assume my personal demons have yet to be rechanneled. i can offer no convincing proof that they ever will be, or what this says about others. then again, it seems the other side has as little to offer. i suppose, since all other ideas of human nature have been faulty, its safe to assume the modern one will fall away, but… this is one of those profound ‘what do i really believe’ moments of soul-searching. unsatisfying, i know…

ps: an astute reader will notice that this required no pizza. i, however, was hungry, and ate the pizza.

[update:  perfect summary of self-control view]

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