We have been having an interesting discussion about ‘privilege’ – and the delusion that an individual can ‘possess’ privilege as an innate, personal trait, and then use it against specific groups of people- here at QRG HQ.
In the light of our discussions I returned to Mark Simpson’s recent post, about a YouGOv (UK) survey that looked at men’s facial and body hair. Though the researchers interviewed men and women, they only asked the women if they preferred men to be hirsute or hairless. They treated the men as ‘objects’ and merely asked them to say if they had body/facial hair or not.
‘I read with interest this YouGov survey published this week which provides some confirming data on the fashionability of face fuzz and its accessorization by males today: ‘stubble’ is reportedly the most popular form of facial hair today – especially with 18-24 year olds (51% say they have facial hair and 80% of those describe it as ‘stubble’). Stubble of course being the most easily adopted and discarded form of facial hair.
But the survey – called ‘Let’s Face It’ — is much less interesting for what it reports than for what it doesn’t. What it’s not facing. At all. The assumptions behind it and the way that compulsory heterosexuality is used to deprive all men of a voice, even about their own bodies.
Here’s the first paragraph of the YouGov press release/summary:
‘Are you male and looking for a date? It might be a good idea to shave beforehand, our survey suggests, as we discover that two thirds of British women prefer the appearance of a man without a beard, compared to less than one in ten who like the more hirsute type’
The first assumption of course is that the date a male is looking for is necessarily with a woman. (And as I say, if you’re gay you have to have a Captain Haddock to get a second look.) The second, and closely-related assumption, is that men’s affinity for facial hair is naturally to be measured entirely in terms of what women want.’
Mark’s post asks that question that he, I and others ask regularly: No, seriously, what about the men?
Because in our current culture which I described in the Privilege discussion as ‘feminist orthodoxy’, it seems as if men’s voices are rarely heard.
In the context of the facial and body hair survey, Mark says that:
compulsory heterosexuality is used to deprive all men of a voice, even about their own bodies.
I agree and disagree with this statement. I agree because yes, men are denigrated and reduced to objects, on matters of the body/personal life/relationships/sexuality/feelings in our culture. They are often presented as ‘thugs’ (the recent UK riots), ‘rapists’ (DSK/Assange), ‘bad parents’ (the riots again) or reduced to penises (the recent ‘bisexual’ ‘science’ using penile plesmographs).
But I disagree because saying ‘compulsory heterosexuality is used to deprive all men of a voice’ sounds like men are not involved in ‘compulsory heterosexuality’. It sounds as if it is women who run the ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ show and just don’t listen to men’s views.
It also seems to suggest that compulsory heterosexuality is somehow ‘worse’ for men than women, because men’s voices are not heard, and their relationship to their own and other men’s bodies is not acknowledged.
I don’t think Simpson meant that. But it sounded a bit like he did.
Also it may be worth wondering if compulsory heterosexuality is used to deny all men of a voice, or if all men are denied a voice in order to reinforce compulsory heterosexuality? Which way round is it? (or is it both?)
The bald fact about gender inequality, as the bald guy pictured above might say, is it is about power. And power is everywhere.
Men and women invest in compulsory heterosexuality, because most men and women get some dividends out of it. Some of those men and women designed and conducted the yougov survey, and some of them responded to the questions without asking why they didn’t consult men about their preferences, but only asked them to describe their bodies.
Why do men invest in something that denies them a voice? What’s in it for them? I am interested in the answer to that question.
I am interested in resistance. And how we resist ‘compulsory heterosexuality’.
I know how Mark Simpson resists it. I know how Foucault did. And I know how I do.
What about the rest of you, men, women, bearded or not? I don’t care what you look like or how you identify. I care about what you have to say.
p.s. If Foucault had grown a beard, he’d have been Lenin. I am glad he didn’t.