Wednesday, October 26, 2005


What a laugh! They tear down restraints and then wonder why there are none!

Feminism set out to free women from roles imposed on them by males, but a new book accuses women of building a new, self-imposed prison by acting like sex objects and tolerating sexism. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, New York Magazine contributing editor Ariel Levy slams both celebrities who act like porn stars, and the women and girls who want to be like them. Levy says it's absurd that stars such as heiress Paris Hilton and singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera - who dress like "hos", fake orgasms in video clips and pose for men's magazines - have become role models. She says they exude a commercialised concept of sex that is about performing for men and has little to do with their own sexuality.

Levy says trends in everyday life, such as teens who wear skimpy clothes to school and female bosses who bully employees, make poor substitutes for true liberation. "If male chauvinist pigs were guys who treated women like pieces of meat," says Levy, "then female chauvinist pigs are women who make sex objects of other women, and of themselves, and think of this as empowerment. "If we use porn stars and strippers as our role models, if they're going to teach us about sexual liberation, I think that's misguided, because these are women whose jobs it is to fake lust. "So if we imitate them, then we're imitating an imitation of real sexual pleasure and power, and that's just too far removed from authentic personal pleasure."

Speaking by phone from her Manhattan home before this week's Australian promotional tour, Levy, 30, told The Age she wrote the book in response to seeing raunch "everywhere I looked". "As I say in the book, it was as if Britney Spears' body, the sight of her half-dressed and undulating, became so familiar to me, it was as if she and I had dated. It was becoming ridiculous. "And the Playboy bunny was suddenly everywhere. Girls were wearing it on T-shirts. When I was growing up, Hugh Hefner and that whole Playboy image was, like, a bad joke. It was something that was tacky. But all of a sudden, everyone was in love with it again. "One of my best friends from college, who'd been involved in women's groups and who was smart and probably considered herself a feminist, started getting interested in porn stars and reading books about them - she was engaging with what I call raunch culture. And as I started to talk to more and more women, I came to believe that women were a very important motor behind this trend."

In the book, Levy questions the values of a world in which porn star Jenna Jameson's recent memoir, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, stayed on the US bestseller list for six weeks; a world where elite female athletes interrupt training to appear in men's magazine FHM; and where "harem-themed" reality shows such as The Bachelor,Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire? and Outback Jack portray women "in competitions, many of which involved bikinis, to show who among them was the hottest and the hungriest". She writes that the number of US women undergoing breast augmentation soared from 32,607 a year in 1992 to 264,041 in 2004. And she points to the success of Aguilera, "who titled her 2003 album Stripped, mud-wrestled in a humping fashion in her video (for the song) Dirrty, and likes to wear assless chaps".

She added it was sad that Paris Hilton "the breathing embodiment of our current, prurient, collective fixations - blondeness, hotness, richness, anti-intellectualism" - had told Rolling Stone magazine: "My boyfriends always tell me I'm not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual." "I don't think that's a great thing for us to idolise," Levy says. "Again, it's performance over pleasure. This is a person who got famous when amateur sex tapes of her were published. It would be interesting to see what she could contribute, artistically or otherwise, to the culture. "But it's not like I think she's like the devil, going to hell. I'm sure she's a nice person; it's just that I don't think we need to be looking up to her as a heroine.".......

Levy says the saddest thing she experienced researching the book was a high-school girl who told her she and her friends competed to see who looked the "skankiest". "She asked me, ‘Was it that way when you at high school?'. "I told her, ‘In my day, you always wanted to be the prettiest and most popular, and you would have been embarrassed to look slutty'. And she looked at me and said, ‘Then how did you get the guys? Charm?' She couldn't see there was any other way to relate to the opposite sex."

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A psychoanalytic look at the "Rathergate" debacle

Political correctness represents hysteria, a psychological dynamic that is inconsistent with and destructive toward organization. This is shown in the case of CBS News, as illustrated by the Burkett memo debacle. News organizations can do good journalism even though they are biased, as long as they operate under the assumption that there is an external world which their reporting can get wrong. Political correctness undermines that assumption, and in fact undermines the whole idea that there is an external world. In the politically correct organization, truth refers to correspondence with a fantasy, rather than correspondence with facts in an external world. Politically correct news organizations are not in the journalism business anymore. They are in the business of political correctness, which has become an end in its own right.

From its beginnings in the university, political correctness has metastasized into every area of social relations. Even within the corporation, it has risen to unquestioned dominance over communication in the matters to which it applies. If this control were just in the area of speech, it would be a matter of little concern to organizations. However, the merest reflection indicates that it cannot control speech alone, since organizational decisions involve positions that are proposed and defended through speech. Hence control over speech through political correctness must imply control over organizational decision-making, and hence over every aspect of the organization. The implication of this is that the psychological dynamics that underlie political correctness come to be the underlying dynamics of the organization as a whole.

I have written extensively about the psychological roots of political correctness (2002, 2003, 2004) and will repeat only the rudiments here. In psychoanalytic terms, the key to the understanding of political correctness is the psychology of sex roles, which are based on primitive images of the mother and the father. In those terms, the father is seen as an obstacle to perfect fusion with the mother, which we all had, or imagine we had, in infancy, when that love was sufficient to make our lives perfect.

Now the father is not really the obstacle to that fusion, he is only the form in which it first appears. The obstacle is reality itself, which determines that we are all separate creatures, and not one with mother. Nonetheless, the father has a special relationship with external reality, precisely because he is not part of the early fusion with the mother.

In the traditional Western psychology of sex roles, his life gains its meaning by his engagement with that world. He deals with the external world as a way of gaining the love of the mother through his achievement, by transforming it so that she can simply be her loving self. In order to do this, the father must learn to deal with external reality on its own terms. He must be able to see himself as an actor among other actors, as others see him who are not emotionally connected to him, as an object rather than as a subject. This requires learning a way of seeing himself and the world that I call objective self-consciousness. Through objective self-consciousness we come to appropriate the pattern of shared terms and meanings that Lacan calls the symbolic.

By introjecting him, the children come to acquire objective self-consciousness. This enables him to pass on to the children what he has learned about the world through this process of transformation. In this way they come to acquire the idea of an external world, which is to say a world that is indifferent to them and operates according to its own terms.

Political correctness means the repudiation of the role of the father and his works. Its unconscious premise is that we could all have fusion with the mother if we could only get him out of the picture. Directly and indirectly, this outlook involves the rejection of objective self-consciousness and, along with that, the idea of objective external reality, which is rooted in it, and the symbolic, though which it is represented.

This is so for a number of reasons. For one thing, as we have seen, the cause of our separation is not really the father, but reality itself. The father only represents reality. So it is really reality that is under attack when the father is repudiated in political correctness. Second, to the extent that the father is the object of attack, as we shall see further on, the repudiation of reality is strategically invaluable. The father needs external reality so that he can engage it and transform it and in that way gain standing with the mother. Get rid of the idea of external reality and the symbolic and you deprive the father of any possibility of gaining standing.

However, students of organization will understand that the structural elements of organization are the legacy of the father. The formalized division and coordination of labor, standards of performance, and so on, require the idea that there is something outside oneself to which one must adapt. In other words they require the idea of an objective reality and the shared meaning of the symbolic, along with the attendant definitions of truth and knowledge. Undermining them would make organization impossible.

This will be a problem that may be most visible in organizations whose primary purpose is itself truth and knowledge, such as the university and the news business. I have written about its effect on the university ( 2003). The purpose of this presentation will be to explore its effect on journalism through the analysis of a recent debacle at CBS News.

In this matter, a program designed to present damaging information about President Bush's career in the Air National Guard was quickly determined to be based on memos that were obvious forgeries, and would have been known to be forgeries if proper journalistic practices had been employed. Evidently, CBS' journalistic standards had broken down and its processes had become corrupted.

Of singular importance is the fact that CBS officials, specifically anchorman and managing editor Dan Rather, clearly believed that the story was true, even though the usual journalistic bases upon which truth is established were missing. The question is, what could he have meant by truth? My contention will be that the idea of truth he was using was rooted in hysteria. It thus had a different basis than empirical verification. It was rooted in a subjective feeling of truth. But this feeling has intrapsychic roots, and is not anchored in empirical reality. Truth conceived in this way subordinates objective symbolic interaction to fantasy. I will work from this to show how this idea of truth changes the nature of knowledge in organizations and must corrode every aspect of organizational behavior and functioning.

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