Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Male privilege and false consciousness

One of the postings from The Last Triangle was “Waxing the Boys” easily found under the ‘men’ tag. I knew there was going to be a post about defensive men in response to the subject matter.  
Men are also feeling social pressures to remove their body hair. Weightlifters and body builders, particularly those who participate in men’s physique competitions remove their body hair because it makes muscles more visible and it’s more aesthetically pleasing. This seems ironic to me since weightlifting and bodybuilding are usually seen at the height of masculinity. Nevertheless, I know that my coach does it and I will have to as well when I compete in the coming year. However, I agree with Meredith Dault in that it isn't fair to compare the reasons for men and women hair removal.  Most of us don’t feel unsanitary or self-conscious if we don’t trim frequently. Like Dault mentioned, we’re also not targeted by corporations the same way that women are. Today I learned a lot about women’s razors (it may have just been me), but what was surprising to me was that all the women in the classroom seemed to know a lot about razors targeted to both men and women. They’re very aware of the dichotomy that exists between both genders.
            This is probably the main reason that men get defensive—we don’t want to recognize our unearned privilege. And we don’t want to recognize it particularly because it’s unearned. It’s hard to acknowledge our political, economic, and social advantages that are made solely on the basis of our sex. Dault’s reference to Toerien and Wilkinson in the “Youth and Power” post was incredibly insightful—“given that body hair may be understood both as a signal of sexual maturity, and as a symbol of masculine strength, the requirement for women to remove their hair may thus reflect the socio-cultural equation of femininity with a child-like status, passivity and a dependence on men.”
            One last thing that I wanted to address was the idea of false consciousness. Derived from a Marxist theory of social class, false consciousness is the idea that refers to capitalist society with institutional and systematic misrepresentation of interpersonal relations in the consciousness among different classes. In Dault’s “My First Guest Blogger” post, Tocxica talks about how she used to be an avid shaver and makes clear that a lot of reasons given in favor of shaving are unnecessary and wrong (i.e. being on one’s period, because of exercise). Tocxica would probably agree and say that these women are subject to false consciousness. One of her friends even said that while she didn’t mind some hair “down there” she didn’t want it looking like Chubacca. The question here is: what if some women do prefer little to no hair? For the sake of the argument we will concede. Still, Tocxica might argue that they are still subject to false consciousness, however by doing so could still be considered a form of oppression. Doing so implies that these women that say they prefer to shave are incapable of true conscious choice, giving consent, or free will. What we have then is a form of a double bind. If she chooses not to shave, then she may be seen as ‘unruly’ and if she does, she will be conforming to patriarchal standards. 


  1. I'm glad you brought up the issue of being double bind. There is no best of both worlds here. No matter what we do, shaving or not, there will always be someone who is criticizing. I believe that all this really comes down to how much attention we pay to those people. As individuals, we should be able to chose what we would like to do with our body in terms of all body modifications including tattooing, piercing, and now shaving.

  2. Thank you for bringing up the issues surrounding body hair that we leave unsaid or perhaps refuse to see. Privilege, false consciousness and patriarchal standards are all invisible systems that we need to think critically about and fight. Acknowledging these systems , especially as a male, is one step towards deconstructing them.

  3. Bonnie, You are spot on r.e. double standard. Not part of the female body escapes scrutiny. Louis, you get to the hear of the matter in discussing patriarchy and false consciousness.