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Thread: The Passive Female

  1. #79
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    Sidtharth, you don't have to accuse me of being ideological. I am ideological. I am calling anyone who thinks he isn't a liar.

    I didn't pose the argument that there are no physiological differences and no evolutionary basis for gender roles. Quite frankly, I'm indifferent towards nature vs nurture within this debate because there doesn't seem to exist a definite answer and I doubt, since this has been an ongoing debate since the 19th century, it ever will.
    Besides that, when dealing with information in general it tends to be scattered, vague, incomplete and not clear at all. Most historians are very aware of that fact because they have to deal with either to little information (we can't really say anything about cavemen) or to much (ever tried to read everything that has been written about WWII?).
    Even if by some miracle we would somehow manage to read up on everything we would have to translate that information into language that has this wonderful capacity to give a subjective quantity to anything. Any text you will ever write or read about anything will be mistranslated, misinterpreted, used out of context, appropriated to fit a certain agenda, etc... Things will be added or removed until it becomes one big mess. Especially with big questions like the ones about gender roles within society.

    Why are women throughout art history portrayed as docile? It is an unanswerable question really because it isn't specific enough. You'd have to look at who commissioned those paintings and with what purpose. Which means you would have to re-frame the question towards a specific painter, a specific time or a specific location. The room biology currently takes in within the question posed within the debate is an unnecessary one once you start asking good historically sound questions. Why did painter X who was commissioned by person X during period X paint the subject he painted the way he did? If there is an answer to that question it will be found within historical evidence. And even that answer would be not definite but subject to debate.
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    Nomansland, my post was about a very specific point- the evolutionary origin of gender roles. I haven't said that people in parts of history didn't think women were inferior, nor did I excuse that line of thinking. No, our biology is no different now- however, the environment we inhabit, thanks to the tools that technology has given us, has changed. Thus, the conditions that selected for traditional gender roles, have changed. This is an extremely important point to consider when thinking about where these roles came from, because those conditions changed a very long time ago- around the time that we developed settled agricultural societies, I'd say. But in the context of human evolution, that's a blink of an eye ago, long after such programming had set in. And that's my entire thought about what gender roles mean today- there's no reason for them to be as rigid as they are, but I reject the idea that they are ONLY a cultural force.

    D, I was trying to clarify what Kev was saying in his line about looking at biological facts without the lens of political ideology. Not trying to put words in your mouth.
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    Ideology is a set of conscious and unconscious ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all the people within that society. A fancy way to say that biologists make up what constitutes as biology.
    There is a reality which we share in, which is not built of words, ideas, or concepts. From this reality, we extract information in order to survive. If the information we extract is true, and we act upon it, our actions should have instrumental effectiveness in the real world. Such information is thereby proven to be non-ideological. If our understandings garnered from reality are spurious, untrue, or only partially-true, our instrumental effectiveness will be compromised, and our lack of success will check our sense of reality. And hopefully we will become wiser. The only realm where this is not so is in the realm of ideas, where instrumental check is often impossible or would require the entire society to be uprooted or revolutionized, at the risk of societal catastrophe, in order to test the given intellectualization. And this is just why ideologies survive and lead certain kinds of logic-oriented minds to believe and advocate nonsense in the public sphere.

    For instance, that "Biologists make up what constitutes as biology..." as anti-intellectual a thing as has ever been said on these boards.

    The question of the thread is, why do passive females appear in so much art.

    Sufficient historical and biological explanation has been given. Providing these explanations to the conversation in no way endorses them as current belief.

    I can't believe I have to say these kinds of things to a thread of adults.
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  7. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    LL,

    Huh? What? You have to be aware of all the bio structures which have stayed constant, and look at them in context of what was different. Out of that, conclusions may be inferred.

    Simple, obvious points; Most human beings probably died from infection quite early in life for most of human pre-history when hygiene was unknown. It was a harsh, short life, and women are simply less physically equipped to deal with harshness and a lack of hygiene. They are physically smaller, less able to defend themselves or kill hand to hand or throw a rock at 90 mph at the head of a bear, have weaker muscles and bones, and more apt to be emotionally affected by what goes on around them, more prone to depression and various anxieties and phobias, are more prone to infection, get more affected by flu, go through PMS symptoms for anywhere between a four days and a half the month, which makes them unsuitable for certain kinds of activities for whole periods at a time. And lets not forget that the odds of there being decent birth control in prehistoric times is pretty low, which means, who knows, maybe a fifth of the adult women in a tribe at any one time were either having morning sickness or already had a growing baby in their bellies. And let's not forget death in childbirth, postpardum depression, and the suckling period. And this is not even considering the fact that most women clearly have a nurturing instinct predicated on hormones, boobs that flap around when they run without a bra (invention of the bra happens way late in our history), and hips that are made for child-rearing rather than running, (which causes tons of knee injuries in female atheletes.)

    Its all so obvious if we just look at the reality without it being filtered by ideology.
    Very little of that precludes women from working, though. You can see that by looking at third-world societies today, where birth control, hygiene and medical advancement are only now starting to spread. Women do much of the farming, carrying of water, gathering firewood, preserving food and raising children. You don't have to look very hard to see photos of African women with children tied to their backs carrying large jars of water or sacks of grain or bundles of firewood on their heads. I agree that few women would be hunters in a hunter-gatherer society but they did just about everything that wasn't hunting or war.
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    Very little of that precludes women from working, though. You can see that by looking at third-world societies today, where birth control, hygiene and medical advancement are only now starting to spread. Women do much of the farming, carrying of water, gathering firewood, preserving food and raising children. You don't have to look very hard to see photos of African women with children tied to their backs carrying large jars of water or sacks of grain or bundles of firewood on their heads. I agree that few women would be hunters in a hunter-gatherer society but they did just about everything that wasn't hunting or war.
    Well, yes, that's mostly true. But women also generally weren't a big part of building things and mass transport of goods in bulk. Generally, building is back-breaking work and men seem to have done most of that... carrying massive stones, building sailing vessels, chopping down trees, digging trenches, erecting windmills and dams, mining ores, building bridges, lumber mills, barns, and the list goes on and on. And aside from hunting, angling and fishing from boats seems to be mostly a male thing. People also don't seem to realize that traders were mostly men, because not only would they need to be able to carry heavy goods long distances, and be alone for long periods of time, they also would need to be able to defend for themselves physically. Thus most exploration and trading would have been male dominated, and all accounts seem to confirm that.

    All this goes to confirm, really, that in the context of history men did stuff at a much larger scale, over broader terrain, and with greater physical risk and effort than females.

    I guess so much has been done for us already by males of the past, that we don't think about where everything comes from and how it gets built. We don't think about just how active "real" men are and have been. (There has been so much anti-male propaganda too, that it has distorted everything. Its really sad.)

    And we haven't even talked about how testosterone plays into all this. No simpler explanation of why men are not passive could be had than simply examining the, uh, nuts and bolts of the male biology.

    It is interesting to note that so-called third world cultures generally don't produce paintings. Most paintings you see of women farming, carrying water and the like are done by 1st world types looking for "authentic" subjects either in rural parts of their own country (Lepage, Andrew Wyeth, Fechin) or in "third world" countries (The orientalists, Brangwyn).

    An interesting time machine regarding these issues would be Amish communities that rigidly stick to their traditional ways.
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  9. #84
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    Wait what is that sound I hear in the background? Its Black Spot chuckling to herself, satisfied the seed she planted has grown and born fruit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Well, yes, that's mostly true. But women also generally weren't a big part of building things and mass transport of goods in bulk. Generally, building is back-breaking work and men seem to have done most of that... carrying massive stones, building sailing vessels, chopping down trees, digging trenches, erecting windmills and dams, mining ores, building bridges, lumber mills, barns, and the list goes on and on. And aside from hunting, angling and fishing from boats seems to be mostly a male thing. People also don't seem to realize that traders were mostly men, because not only would they need to be able to carry heavy goods long distances, and be alone for long periods of time, they also would need to be able to defend for themselves physically. Thus most exploration and trading would have been male dominated, and all accounts seem to confirm that.
    Okay, but nothing that men did changes the fact that women also did things. We are not arguing for the passivity of men but for the activity of women. And the fact that a lot of the activity that women did was transitory and within the confines of a camp or a household or a farm or a business does not invalidate it.

    Also I don't know who these "people" are who don't realize that traders would have been mostly men. Nearly EVERY profession historically has been mostly men, as women were considered property in most societies and were not able to own property or businesses or hold what we would call a job. Although many cottage industries were family-run and everyone contributed to the work because that would obviously get them more money than if the man worked alone.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    I guess so much has been done for us already by males of the past, that we don't think about where everything comes from and how it gets built. We don't think about just how active "real" men are and have been. (There has been so much anti-male propaganda too, that it has distorted everything. Its really sad.)
    I can't say that I am an enormous history nut myself but really, when I look at some Roman aqueducts or whatever I don't imagine gangs of women hauling stones. I don't imagine the Catholic church being all full of women. In fact, I don't think you really need more back-patting than you've already gotten for the last couple thousand years. I think your man egos are doing just fine. If they aren't, quit the drum circle and get a job in construction.

    In fact this whole paragraph is mystifying. Maybe it's because I come from the science and engineering end of campus and we're all rather practical. No one feels that men don't accomplish things because the journals are full of men accomplishing things. The golden age of building shit is not over. Stuff is being built all the time! Now we're just getting around to elbowing out a little more room for the women, who are also accomplishing things.

    If you came from the arts and humanities end of campus, well, the people there are kinda weird.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    It is interesting to note that so-called third world cultures generally don't produce paintings. Most paintings you see of women farming, carrying water and the like are done by 1st world types looking for "authentic" subjects either in rural parts of their own country (Lepage, Andrew Wyeth, Fechin) or in "third world" countries (The orientalists, Brangwyn).
    I don't think people who have to work hard to survive tend to romanticize hard work, and they also tend to not have so much time for decoration.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    An interesting time machine regarding these issues would be Amish communities that rigidly stick to their traditional ways.
    I guess it's getting slightly less rigid. From what I've heard in the past, some technology is permitted but it largely goes towards easing men's labour. Women primarily take care of children and do household work and gardening, but once the children are older or if the women are unmarried they may own businesses to bring in additional money for the family.
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  13. #86
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    Okay, but nothing that men did changes the fact that women also did things. We are not arguing for the passivity of men but for the activity of women. And the fact that a lot of the activity that women did was transitory and within the confines of a camp or a household or a farm or a business does not invalidate it.
    Agreed, of course. But other factors, already mentioned, play into it (the question of the thread). Namely, that most businesses and trades are male-dominated, therefore men will have disposable income, men like pictures of women, particularly in some erotic scenario (lying languorously in bed, nude, for instance), and pictures of women lying around are easier for most painters to paint than anything else.

    Plus, most painters, (again most are male, historically), tend to think of the nude woman as the most beautiful thing there is, and painting as an enjoyable way to spend one's time and a great way to make money, (if you can get the work). So rarely will there by a protest by the artist against painting a passive female.

    Another related factor, is given the historically observed limited roles for women in business, one of the ways they could make money was lying on a bed in front of painter for 12 hours.

    Given all the above, a host of contributing factors, you will get a lot of art with passive females.

    I don't think you really need more back-patting than you've already gotten for the last couple thousand years. I think your man egos are doing just fine.
    I don't need the back patting. But there is quite a bit of (I think legitimate) discussion in education circles that in the current era young boys are being taught to be more ashamed of maleness and the male legacy than proud of it. But this is a whole other matter, of course.
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  14. #87
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    It is interesting to note that so-called third world cultures generally don't produce paintings. Most paintings you see of women farming, carrying water and the like are done by 1st world types looking for "authentic" subjects either in rural parts of their own country (Lepage, Andrew Wyeth, Fechin) or in "third world" countries (The orientalists, Brangwyn).

    An interesting time machine regarding these issues would be Amish communities that rigidly stick to their traditional ways.
    Kev, I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at with this bit? We're on the same page with the rest, but if you meant that pictures of women doing the kinds of work you mentioned were probably a little romanticized, that's not the impression I got at all, growing up in India. The women (and children) who live in rural areas, or in crushing poverty, aren't working construction but they're very commonly seen in the fields, carrying water, etc.

    Or did you mean that this isn't a common first world sight, and painters needed to go hunting in areas that don't produce paintings to find such scenes?
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    Well, Brangywn and the orientalists were lambasted for romanticizing and/or exploiting the people and customs of countries that were colonized by the west. "Beautiful tales of exotic foreign lands" and all that, except in visual form. It was considered condescending and a method of "othering" non-whites, so that non-whites only existed as exotic fantasies or "uncivilized barbarians" in the minds of western cultural consumers, as opposed to real people. Generally, in highly politicized academic environments, Brangwyn and the orientalists are lumped in with western imperialism as evil. As part of the method of dehumanizing other cultures, so westerners wouldn't give much thought to the human consequences of global business practices that supported subjugation of indigenous peoples for financial gain.

    This "othering" is taken by some as akin to stereotypical images of Jews and Blacks, which paved the way for anti-semitism and racism.

    The way Brangwyn and The Orientalists are tied to Imperialism is akin to how Arno Breker's work is said to exemplify "Fascist Aesthetics" because of how he created heroic male imagery which was favored by the Third Reich.

    And, lastly, until Lepage and Millet and that gang/mindset, very few pictures existed that really show women toiling and sweating.

    Or did you mean that this isn't a common first world sight, and painters needed to go hunting in areas that don't produce paintings to find such scenes?
    Yes, that's the point I was making. Most training in painting took place in "first world" cities. That's where the money and clients were. It was male dominated, industrializing rapidly, etc. Also, travel was not easy and was most certainly more arduous and dangerous than now.

    This is all by way of explaining the long term trends in passive female imagery in Art.
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  17. #89
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    Interesting that showing that side of life would be considered dehumanizing at the time. Basically lumping them in with the guys throughout history who would try to dehumanize the opposing army by saying, "Look, they even have women in the front ranks." So this was thought by their critics as a way of saying, look how barbaric these people are, they make their women work in the fields?

    This might be tangential, but all this reminds me of a practice in some parts of India, including some elder parts of my family, where a woman on her period is considered unclean and isn't allowed near the kitchen, can't touch anything, can't sleep on the bed, etc. But the origin of that superstition was probably a way of sparing them from hard labor when they're physically debilitated, which backfired horribly and became a cultural relic. The stupid irony being that, in places that it's still practiced, it's enforced by the matriarch...
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    I think what this ultimately comes down to is power. One of the reasons that the new feminist movement annoys me is they take everything done by men as if its directed against them when in fact people who crave power or advantage over other people will use anything to get that advantage. That means at various times race, gender, religion, weight, height,looks, physical disabilities are all used by people to gain advantage. That is the darker side of human nature and every time someone makes it about just one of those types they are continuing the problem. As a male I see how much bad behavior certain types of people will do to get ahead. But its a psychological problem in humanity not a gender thing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Agreed, of course. But other factors, already mentioned, play into it (the question of the thread). Namely, that most businesses and trades are male-dominated, therefore men will have disposable income, men like pictures of women, particularly in some erotic scenario (lying languorously in bed, nude, for instance), and pictures of women lying around are easier for most painters to paint than anything else.

    Plus, most painters, (again most are male, historically), tend to think of the nude woman as the most beautiful thing there is, and painting as an enjoyable way to spend one's time and a great way to make money, (if you can get the work). So rarely will there by a protest by the artist against painting a passive female.

    Another related factor, is given the historically observed limited roles for women in business, one of the ways they could make money was lying on a bed in front of painter for 12 hours.

    Given all the above, a host of contributing factors, you will get a lot of art with passive females.



    I don't need the back patting. But there is quite a bit of (I think legitimate) discussion in education circles that in the current era young boys are being taught to be more ashamed of maleness and the male legacy than proud of it. But this is a whole other matter, of course.
    Oh, yes. I have no argument with why traditionally classic paintings have included a lot of naked ladies (and the occasional boy) lolling around.

    As for the education system, well, that's another issue altogether. We're in a very transitional age right now and no one really knows what the fuck is going on or what to do about it.
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