With reference to this post, and this one (for those who don’t feel like checking out the links, Luke at Common Sense Atheism put up a list with pics of “sexy scientists” and “sexy atheists”, and one of the women who recently started writing at scienceblogs/Discover took offence, although to a different instance, of being appreciated for her looks as opposed to her scientific accomplishments ).
I think one of the reasons I have for tending to side with Luke (although in this specific case I don’t think he’s doing a very good job of defending himself) is that I always interpret the condemnation of objectification as perhaps stronger than people intend it to be. I’m hearing “people who call attention to a woman’s attractiveness or “sexiness” are sexist” and I’m thinking, hey. That’s harsh. It doesn’t make any sense. It specifically rubs me the wrong way that this basically amounts to people telling me what I can and cannot post on my blog. On the other hand, I am coming around to thinking that what they are actually saying is that this sentiment is not a “good thing” to express on my blog, seeing as it doesn’t do any good to anyone and runs the risk of trivializing all the other achievements of the woman or women in question, because of the fact that attractiveness, especially in women, is one of the key things that people define other people by.
If one treats the “sexist” allegation as a grave personal insult, which I think is what Luke is doing, then things are much more problematic. There is no way for him to frame his post as something positive. On the other hand, there’s harm, and then there’s harm, and this has to count as a fairly benign offence.So I am treating this issue as, essentially, “bad manners” on Luke’s part.
On the general issue of objectifying women-my views are well expressed by this post (to a first approximation- I might have phrased some things differently, but unless someone calls me out on some particular issue I’m not going to bother right now), which I found linked to somewhere in this discussion. I wonder why more people did not respond to it.
Curiously enough, the more I read feminist blogs, the less I am coming to think of “sexist” as a particularly strong insult… if only because there seems to be no way out of it, if one accepts their definition. You can of course disapprove of me or my actions because of perceived sexism, and if your approval is important to me I will take that into account, but I am becoming far less inclined to view this as a moral issue with the accompanying assumption of normativity. (I don’t think that’s a word. What’s the word I’m thinking of?)