Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Inktober Part 3: Roles and Representation Conclusion

So I made it through another Inktober and now it's over except that I was writing it up here on the blog and that dropped off. But I got a bunch out of the exercise, which for a brief rehash was to draw women every day for a month in different roles without objectifying them or resorting to sex appeal or whatever. 

But given that for me at least, there are bigger fish to fry and certainly more important and interesting issues than the representation of women in the media and my mind, here in as brief as someone as unskilled with language as I can manage are my conclusions:

The Caveat Conclusion

Is actually more of a hueristic I live by, it's 'nothing means nothing' that I actually developed for myself to describe the problem of ghosting when I first started experiencing it. but engagement was low particularly on facebook with my inktober. I received very little feedback and more importantly very little push back, and I'm in Mexico alienated from the majority of my friends, so my sister is really the only person who holds me to task. And my sister is no fool, plus knows me well so I would like to believe I live in a world where her holding me to task is sufficient. But in many ways we think alike so it probably isn't enough. At any rate with no feedback, pushback or stimuli as to what people possibly make of what I do, I have to allow for everything. Which is a pain in the ass.

The Good Conclusions

By which I mean, I would expect these to be easy to stomach, particularly for women.

1. Role modelling is important for both young and adults. I went in thinking that really exposure to females in diverse roles is most important for children, and even then, I saw it as important but not necessary. (because clearly if you follow the precedents for women in any role back through history, you will find at some point someone did something unprecedented, which is also true of roles that didn't have male precedents or any precedents) I still feel that position has legs, but I came to concede that active memory and attention are important and therefore having living active role models for adults to be exposed too is beneficial and therefore desirable.

2. Recourse is important. This ties into conclusions that I don't think people will like, but basically reproduction cannot be the be-all-and-end-all of a life well lived for women or anyone. Thus if one is unfortunate in terms of what needs to align to secure a loving attached relationship into which one can bring children and thus secure some child rearing role for some indeterminate but significant time, women as well as men need to have salient the fact that meaningful rewarding lives can be lived anyway through career or military service or contemplation or whatever.

3. Women can be anything. The challenge wasn't hard. It wasn't hard for me, a man and perhaps more crucially, a pervert, to conceive of 31 roles outside the virgin-whore dichotomy. It wasn't hard in the vast majority of cases to simply use my internal powers of recall to conjure up examples of women being represented historically or contemporary in these roles in the real world and popular culture. And where it wasn't, google search could enlighten me in seconds, for example I was by and large ignorant of the history of female philosophers, but a simple google search demonstrated that they were present in Greek Antiquity and some of their works preserved. 

The Bad Conclusions

1. I don't care, and this is the real crux of the problem, which I didn't expect going in. I dubiously would dub this a Stonecutter problem. This is where my bad habit of looking at a statement 'Woman can do anything men can do' and inferring the inverse 'men can do anything women can do' and that's the basis of my not caring. On an intellectual level, allow me to be clear I am absolutely pro-equal opportunity, the John Rawls' veil of ignorance form of equal opportunity. What I mean by not caring is that it isn't exciting or even news to me that a woman can do anything. Furthermore I can subdivide the population of women on this Earth into sexual entities and sexual non-entities. Because of my orientation, all men are for arguments sake - sexual non-entities to me. It's a bit more complicated than that but not functionally. Female sexual entities have something of particular interest to me that I cannot provide for myself. Women who are sexual non-entities to me are more or less just more dudes to my world view. So I no more care that a woman can work at a steel mill, or be president, prime minister etc than some flabby, burned out white dude.  

2. Beautiful and hot women can do anything homely and plain women can do. There might be some qualification for say... professional gymnastics where a curvaceous figure becomes a clear disadvantage. But this (again by symmetry) is the dark side of acknowledging the irrelevance of appearances. It goes both ways, apart from where a woman might be deemed undesirable because she is built like a brick shithouse and this gives her an advantage over a bodacious babe in jobs that require strenuous manual labor. Which is to say, the world isn't just, it isn't necessarily the case that anyone is compensated for some shortcoming with a corresponding counterbalancing advantage. Beautiful people have their own unique problems, but being beautiful doesn't exclude one from being intelligent, from being courageous or risk taking etc. furthermore if a woman is valued because of the useful work she does, if that woman has the additional desirable trait of being beautiful (healthy, fertile and strong) then the presence of two valued qualities increases her desirability not linearly (1 + 1 = 2) but exponentially (10 * 10 = 100). Furthermore beautiful people are generally given more resources in terms of time, attention and material resources, I'm sure to some extent this can become a pain in the ass, but I suspect on balance it's more upside than downside.

3. Bad Faith is a concerning component of this issue. By bad faith I mean Jean-Paul Sartre's assertion that by and large people are terrified of the idea of being in control of their lives, and thus adopt a 'bad' form of faith that their lives could not be any different. And I stress, this is but a problematic component of this issue and bad faith knows no gender, sex, race or creed. It simply I suspect applies here and typically manifests in an easily invalidated assertion that little girls are conditioned by a sinister patriarchy that they cannot amount to anything more than a working reproductive system delivered by a body that functions as a lure for catching men.
I feel confident I could unpack this into a whole post on it's own, which would serve to overemphasize it's significance. I have an advantage over women in testing the patriarchy hypothesis, which is my lived experience. However, if you want a good path I walked to reach this conclusion, it is to compare the hypothesis of patriarchal conditioning/teaching of young, to how religious beliefs are propagated through generations by the inculcation of young. Both could be happening, however one phenomena is concretely observable, the other largely unconscious and informally.
However, to say that the primary reason women in a lot of roles in society are regarded as exceptional rather than normal is owed to concerted and systemic oppression is I feel, an article of bad faith.

The Ugly Conclusions

Reproduction is important. As is comparative advantage. Prepositions like that there are no differences between the sexes (that aren't social constructs) I simply cannot accept because of an article of faith that there is an external reality beyond my nervous system, my perception of which makes that premise simply untenable.
But for arguments sake, I am happy to adopt a position or premise that is thus: women are the equal if not superior of men in every way, cognitive abilities, physical abilities, spiritual capacity etc. 

Now lets say that on occasion within the population of men, you can randomly select one and they will turn out to be able to run faster than a random woman, or more rarely you can randomly select one who is smarter (in some measure) than the average woman. Which is to say, while women are generally equal to or superior to men, this is on average and it isn't reliably the case when it comes to individuals. Men occasionally outperform a woman they are matched up against. With one acception, women always outperform men in childbearing abilities, just by the sheer fact that they can lactate and have their immune system protect an infant through it's first 6 months of life. And lets say, that's it. No need to make any wild assertions about nurturing or agreeableness personality traits, temperament etc. Milk can be excreted from mammary glands.

In this scenario, where the average man scores a 1 for intelligence, 1 for physical abilities, 1 for spiritual insight and 0 for physical childbearing and the average woman scores 1 for intelligence, 2 for physical abilities, 1 for spiritual insight and 2 for childbearing. What game theory predicts I believe, is that women who choose to specialize in childbearing and enter a partnership with a man will on average outperform any other two men and women who do not specialize in this way. And over time game theory would predict that this strategy would drive the other strategies to extinction.

We may live in the ongoing iterations of this game. Human society is more complicated now though, we have the abstract concept of money for example, and the market rewards risk taking rather than hard work which it actually often punishes through real wage decline. However, I'm pretty confident that for the majority of human history, this division of labor into child rearing and risk taking, paid out best, and this is probably the main conditioning factor that drives a relentless obsession, in both sexes, to habitually reduce women to their reproductive value.

I don't think that's just, by the way, I just have concluded that it isn't likely to be arbitrary.

I have neither the time nor energy to write up the remaining 17 pieces I completed for Inktober individually. But I did want to address these four again, as briefly as I can manage:


Attitudes towards risk, if they are a difference between the sexes, are one that needs to be democratized. Thus I feel this is one of the more important roles I explored, because I'm sure until the day I die I will hear the vacuous complaint 'women have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good as a man' crop up from time to time. This complaint is not vacuous because it is untrue, it is vacuous because the maths is correct. To be thought twice as good as anyone, you have to work half as hard, and vice versa. So there's two important concepts, sprezzatura a buzzword now used by business douchebags and not used by the italians, but that doesn't mean it's not an important concept. The other is understanding risk taking, and observing that ultimately the market doesn't reward hard work it rewards taking risks. In fact in recent years I have come to equivocate hard work with risk aversion, because that's generally how it works. There are for example, like practicing drawing, times when it is entirely appropriate to be risk averse, like when you want what you envision to not vary greatly from what you put on the page.
Also just after inktober, a professional female poker player gave a great Ted talk.


This is a domain, particularly reaching back beyond the 1960's in which women are grossly underrepresented and under invested. Literally the study of the good life, if you cannot take an interest in something whose author you cannot identify with because of their sex, you are at a huge disadvantage. Now intellectually, I cannot see any reason why any woman on earth cannot do exactly as I do, and pick up a copy Machiavelli's 'The Prince' or read the collected correspondence of Abraham Lincoln, or Musashi Miyamoto's 'Book of Five Rings' or Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations' and thus access histories best examples of the best practices of patriarchal power that are open secrets available to all, and make them their own. But I also don't know why athiests can't participate in community events as reliably as religious groups, or why non-smokers can't communicate horizontally and vertically through an organization the way smokers do. Philosophy is male dominated, in terms of authorship, but those authors historically were handling the big ideas of life as they affect everyone. This is a big and consequential role for women to be locked out of, and if they do enter philosophy, to minoritize themselves into writing 'philosophy for women' leaving all the low hanging fruit of common humanity to the boys. Of course, as Bertrand Russell observed, across the board most people would sooner die than think, and that many do.


This one was unpopular. Could be the artwork driving that though. To me there's a few good questions surrounding the concept of Matriarchy. Namely why were absolute monarchies better or at least more reliable at producing female leaders than democracies have been? Why don't we notice in the commonwealth that for most, if not all our lives (except the elder babyboomers and greatest gen) every scrap of money and coin has had the face of a woman embossed or printed on it?
And another point of interest to me, is the way the collective ambition manifests. Sure Hillary Clinton was preferable to fuckface for president, but is Hillary an Elizabeth I? A Boudica? A Nefertiti? A Victoria?
In the long history of leadership, women have a much better track record of being exceptionally good leaders, I believe this is one of the good arguments Ta Nehesi Coates made (perhaps unintentionally) about double standards, you should vote for a black candidate or a female candidate because they are held to exceptionally high standards white males are not, and often couldn't pass.
Curiously, good leaders for western men tend only to be permitted when the system is breaking down. For most of history if times are good, we seem to aim for the least harmful parasite to occupy top spots as the ideal.


The last one was me, but if there was something I wish a lot of outraged women could sympathise with me for, it would be the privileged perspective that the top of the mountain is a desolate and inhospitable place. It's so empty and meaningless and generally, one needs a better reason than 'because it is there' to want to climb to the top. If everyone believes you can go to the top though, you are deprived of the reason of proving something to the peanut gallery. 
I believe there is a higher ideal than being a patriarch or matriarch. It is to be free. To experience your one precious life fully and authentically. 
There are real obstacles to that that women face that I don't. Like threats to personal safety, I think long and hard about that often and as yet, have no answers.
But in Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaids Tale' I felt the best insight she captured, was that the 'ruling' powers of that dystopian future, the men, didn't believe in their own ideology and in some ways suffered under the oppression of their own state. Hence they had a clandestine underground sex club to get away from the horrible ceremonies to try and fertilize handmaidens.
I have a luxury in being able to basically bow out, and just pursue whatever path seems most promising and interesting. I would have that democratized and skip the depressing bleakness of being a sovereign. I trust Marcus when he said a rulers lot was 'Do Good & Be Damned.' I'd rather see more women free, than higher profile slaves.

You can find the rest of my run on my instagram account.