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Why I’m Not Against Fanservice and Sexual Objectification in the Media (And Why the Focus Should Be Different)

March 21, 2014 4 comments

In retrospect, now that I haven’t posted here in about five months, I realize that I’ve really been talking a lot about social issues on this blog. In fact, I haven’t talked much about kitties, despite the subtitle of this blog. At some point, this needs to change.

I’ve sort of addressed this before, but let’s try this more comprehensively.

In anime and manga spheres, the term most are familiar with is probably “fanservice”; in Western spheres, “sexual objectification” is probably more often seen. In either case, however, it comes down to using sex appeal to cater to audiences. Almost universally, said “audience” are straight, cisgendered males (it would be interesting to add a racial component, but it’s important to remember that this is not a phenomenon that is strictly isolated to “white spheres”, so we’ll just use those two labels for now), meaning that “fanservice” often involves using scantily-clad, attractive girls in sexually-suggestive predicaments.

A large number of feminists argue that fanservice is wrong, as it sexually objectifies women as merely objects to be desired after, that it strips them down of their humanity and only down to characteristics of sexual appeal. Media traditionalists – most of them heterosexual, cisgendered men – insist that authors and media producers are free to do what they want, that freedom of speech and expression is paramount, and usually throw in a line or two about how “women are ruining movies/comics/video games/etc.”.

The feminist argument is entirely valid, and is certainly reasonable. However, I do take a differing stance for different reasons, and I postulate that these feminists are perhaps focusing on the wrong issue. Read more…

A Primer to Political Realism

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Considering that this is the internet, most of my friends tend to lean left in terms of their politics. So, perhaps somewhat understandably but also kind of frustratingly, they react badly towards the terms “political realism” and “realpolitik”, partly because they seem to be such a relic of the Cold War, where there was a very us-or-them mentality of paranoia, but also because it gets a lot of bad press on the media. And why wouldn’t it? After all, films and television series generally prefer to have unambiguously good heroes who do the “right thing” at the very end. Of course, what the “right thing” is is something that’s a little debatable, but I digress; this is a primer to political realism. Time to set the record straight. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society

A Primer to Moral Relativism

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This is really just a writing exercise, although I suspect it will come in handy sometime in the future, when I actually have to use this explanation for someone else. In the meantime, here’s a simple primer to moral relativism~

What Is Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism is an umbrella philosophy consisting of several schools of thought relating to the moral sciences. As its name implies, moral relativism compares moral systems against each other, using the differences in moral systems to ascertain the true nature of morality itself. It is not exclusively an atheistic concept (and, indeed, moral relativism has been debated in ancient Greece and India, both of which were religious hotbeds), but as most modern religious belief systems tie morality closely to their deities, moral relativism today does not mesh very well with religious beliefs.

There are three main schools to moral relativism:

  • Descriptive: Descriptive moral relativism is the least extensive school of moral relativism, and simply states that people disagree on what constitutes as moral behavior. It is the “safest” stance to take, and is generally an accepted idea in anthropology, suggesting that different societies have developed moral systems in different ways.
  • Meta-ethical: Meta-ethical moral relativism posits the idea that morality itself is a subjective human construct based on our own collective biases, experiences, and preferences, and that as morality is simply a subjective and untestable observation of a social system, no moral system is inherently “better” or “worse” by nature than another moral system. Needless to say, all meta-ethical moral relativists are descriptive moral relativists, although not all descriptive moral relativists are meta-ethical moral relativists.
  • Normative: Normative moral relativism is the most extreme main school of moral relativism. Taking the viewpoint of meta-ethical moral relativism, it also subscribes to the belief that all moral systems are equally valid, and that it is necessary for everyone to tolerate each others’ moral systems.

As I am a meta-ethical moral relativist, we will be exploring this school of thought more extensively than the others.

What Is Meta-Ethical Relativism?

Allow me to pose a scenario, which I understand will be difficult for some to grasp, but please bear with me for a moment.

Imagine, if you will, that the atheists are right, that there is no god or gods or afterlife, and we simply cease to exist after we die. Imagine, if you will, that tomorrow, all of us – every single human to exist – dies. The “how” is irrelevant; what matters is that there are no longer any sapient lifeforms on the planet. (We are, of course, currently excluding the possibility of sapient alien life.) In other words, tomorrow, there will be a complete lack of intelligence capable of understanding morality, and therefore morality will cease to exist.

Meta-ethical relativism basically states that all morality is an anthropic subjective social concept that fails to qualify as a “universal truth”; morality only exists because we are capable of considering it, and that if we are gone, then morality itself will also not exist. The laws of reality are considered universal truths, things like the laws of gravity, mass, light. They follow very specific rules, and will not change no matter how we wish it so. However, meta-ethical relativism suggests that morality can easily change, that we basically invent morality for our own purposes, and that insinuating that one moral system is inherently better than another is no more sensible a statement than “vanilla ice cream is inherently better than chocolate ice cream”.

As an example, let us take a look at natural rights, otherwise known as “inalienable rights”. Wikipedia defines them as “not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable”. But, of course, natural rights are not actually universal. After all, for thousands of years in human history, slavery and the oppression of women existed globally, violating the natural right of equality. (If anything, legal equality is a relatively recent phenomenon in the mainstream, seeing how the United States did not actually outlaw slavery until 1865, ten thousand years after the first prehistoric evidence of slavery.) Inalienable rights are only applicable if society considers them inalienable and wishes to enforce them; when society fails to achieve either of these conditions, or if society itself does not exist, then natural rights are only so many meaningless words.

Therefore, it is generally understood amongst meta-ethical moral relativists that morality is an ever-changing barometer of mankind’s current ethical biases and considerations. It is not a universal truth, simply a reflection of what society considers proper right at any given time. As William Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” As the very idea of “right” or “wrong” is subjective and varies from person-to-person with no objective standard by which to measure them by, different systems of morality are not inherently better or worse than another, but simply in the eye of the beholder.

What Are Some Misconceptions About Meta-Ethical Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism – like most ideologies – is an umbrella ideology, meaning it consists of many belief systems loosely related to each other. Meta-ethical moral relativism agrees with its sister ideologies that people disagree on what constitutes as moral behavior, but that is largely where similarities end.

Moral relativists are not immoral (as immorality would imply moral absolutism) or even amoral. The vast majority of moral relativists have their own moral systems that they follow, their own belief of right or wrong. However, meta-ethical moral relativists are very aware that their moral beliefs are subjective, based upon their own biases and experiences, and that their moral systems are not moral truths, merely items that they have accepted as valid for them. The concept is not dissimilar to preferences for flavors of ice cream; there is no objective standard that says vanilla ice cream is inherently better than chocolate ice cream, but I prefer the former over the latter.

Moral relativists are as different as they come. Their beliefs range from utilitarian ethics to deontological ethics, and they occupy the entirety of the political spectrum (although in recent history, moral relativists have generally tended to be more left-wing than right-wing, especially due to the right-wings close association with religious fundamentalism, which is generally a moral absolutist institute).

Meta-ethical moral relativists are also not normative moral relativists, in that the former does not prescribe that all behavior must be tolerated. That all moral systems fail to qualify as moral truths does not mean everyone – including moral relativists themselves – have their individual moral systems, and may act in a way in which they believe they are “righting wrongs”. Although Shakespeare notes that only the capacity to think gives any credence to the idea of “right” or “wrong”, it does not change that intelligent life believes in the “rightness” or “wrongness” of certain things, and they may act in accordance to their moral systems. For example, I am a meta-ethical moral relativist, but although I recognize that equality is not a universal truth and not inherently “right”, I personally believe that it is desirable and moral, and will therefore oppose inequality.

Meta-ethical moral relativists do not inherently belittle morality, they simply do not subscribe to moral absolutism. They do not insinuate that morality is useless to them; rather, most meta-ethical moral relativists see morality as a useful tool to advance civilization and society. They simply recognize that everyone has a different opinion on what is right or wrong, and that an objective standard by which to measure them against each other does not exist.

Conclusion

Moral relativism is a particularly useful mindset in understanding differing moral systems across different civilizations and cultures. It is, in its way, a humbling experience, a recognition that what you consider to be right may not be a universal truth, but simply a biased perception of how you believe humans ought to behave. It counters the belief that your belief system has the exclusive monopoly on truth, and allows for people to be open-minded in the acceptance of new ideas. It doesn’t mean moral relativists are incapable of being “moral” (of course, this insinuates there is any one definition for “moral”), it simply means we do not automatically assume everyone else is inherently “wrong”.

On Video Games, Sexism, and Damsels in Distress

March 11, 2013 1 comment

A forum I go to has recently been discussing sexism and video games, and the topic has been heating up a little bit. The latest round has been Feminist Frequency’s YouTube video on Damsels in Distress. A friend took a bit of time to poke me for an opinion, which I think neatly sums up my perspective on certain issues on the topic.

[5:11:45 PM] Double A: 1. if you took a male and “objectified” him in the exact same way that a female is typically “objectified”, then the reaction to it would be different (it would, perhaps, be lauded to some degree?), because of how differently each sex is viewed in society
2. there is a problem related to female objectification that doesn’t exist in male objectification, at least not in the same form
3. therefore, the problem isn’t directly related to the act of portraying a person in a certain way, but to how the two sexes are viewed differently in society
[5:13:29 PM] Double A: due to my shitty attention span, i don’t actually know if you were saying this (you probably weren’t). but it’s the idea that formed in my head after reading your post
[5:13:41 PM] Double A: any thoughts?
[5:15:04 PM] Ysionris: Yes to 1, a tentative yes to 2, and my argument has nothing to do with 3. At the moment, I’m not trying to suggest what the problem IS, at least not yet. ^_^;
[5:15:40 PM] Ysionris: Depending, of course, what you mean by “problem”. ^_^;
[5:16:24 PM] Ysionris: Rather, I am describing the lens by which two different groups of people view an issue, but I make no claim as to whether any of the lenses are skewed, problematic, or…well, anything. I’m just saying the lenses exist, and they view things differently. ^_^;
[5:17:00 PM] Double A: yeah i figured you weren’t saying #3. still, what do you think of it? the idea that portraying women in a particular way is linked to negative perceptions of women
[5:19:23 PM] Ysionris: I think, as with many problems nowadays, we need to view them from a reference of context, and the contention between deontological and utilitarian moralities. It simplifies the issue too much when we say there’s a simple, elegant solution to the entire thing, when – in fact – the issues are complex and not subject to a single convenient theory. ^_^;
[5:22:17 PM] Ysionris: I’m a bit of an oddity amongst people who try for gender equality, honestly, in that I’m honestly not opposed to sexual objectification per se, much in the same way I’m not opposed to pornography. We all have our guilty pleasures, so to speak, many of which revolve around sexual desires and the fantasy that sex is somehow easily available. So in as much as I’d like to roll my eyes at some portrayals of women as targets of desire, this single phenomenon is not something I’m opposed to. This being said, however, I am highly apprehensive of how PREVALENT this is. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society

Benjamin Franklin: The True Hero of the American Revolution

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed III lately, and while I have fairly complicated feelings about choosing colonial/Revolutionary America as a setting, it’s been a fairly wonderful game so far, with my happy hours devoted to wandering an absolutely beautiful recreation of colonial Boston. Hunting on the American frontier is also a very delightful experience, save the part where you can be mauled by a bear eight times in a row and live, but a wolf jumping on your back takes away a third of your health.

But the entire thing has put a bit of my attention on the American Revolution again, something that I really kind of left behind me since studying about in middle school (save the points where I have to deal with this conservative American idol-worship of their Founding Fathers). And since this is still fresh on my mind, let’s talk about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers for a bit. Now, the issue I kind of want to address specifically (although wary readers will wonder when I’ve even only specifically addressed a single issue) is in the form of a question: “If there was a true American hero amongst the Founding Fathers, who would it be?”

Popular picks are George Washington, the leader of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States; Thomas Jefferson, polymath and the author of the Declaration of Independence (incidentally, I do like Jefferson very much); and James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution.

I, however, disagree (and it pains me to do so, as I honestly would’ve liked to say that Jefferson was the greatest of the Founding Fathers). I believe that this title goes to someone else entirely.

I believe Benjamin Franklin is the greatest American Founding Father.

And I believe he did it by sleeping with lots of women in France. Read more…

Sarcasm and Social Justice

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

This entry is probably going to be a little divisive, and I’m not sure whether or not I’m going to regret writing this, but the feeling’s still recent and strong, and – if nothing else – it’ll provide me with a retrospective analysis on yesteryear’s logic.

Over the past two or three days, a friend and I had a fairly protracted and somewhat heated discussion concerning social justice (which honestly could’ve been handled a lot better, but we’re fine now because we’re cuddly like that). In the middle of our discussion, my friend linked a blog post called Intent! It’s F__king Magic! from “Genderbitch“. My lack of fondness for the blog’s name aside, I noticed that the article starts off with a warning in bold text about it being highly sarcastic, a tone which – frankly – isn’t precisely alien or uncommon to the social justice community. I told my friend that I honestly had very little patience for people who feel they cannot make a serious point without having to resort to sarcasm or being a sanctimonious jerk. This then led to another topic in our discussion, one of “tone argument”, which I’ll get more into further into this post.

Yes, disclaimer: I was raised in a culture and upbringing where tranquility, courtesy, and respect were expected. I am horrible at humor and have a rough time at discerning when people are being sarcastic, which undoubtedly factors into why I don’t like sarcasm very much (at least, in terms of when trying to make a serious point). These undoubtedly influence why I’m trying to say. But in spite of these influences, I also feel that my point has a degree of objective merit, and I believe this also reflects upon a broader issue that the mainstream social justice community needs to look at. So here we go.

Reader’s discretion advisory: This post is not going to make many people happy, by virtue of not completely agreeing with any particular group. So please read at your discretion, and please refrain from lynching me. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society

A Tragic Realization About Rush Limbaugh

August 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Static has some uncomfortable realizations after being told about Rush Limbaugh saying Obama was responsible for Hurricane Issac.

 Static 8:22 am
Things be crazy
I honestly hope Rush wasn’t being serious with that comment
It’s way too silly to be serious about that
… I hope

Ysionris 8:27 am
Static, in case you have forgotten, I will remind you that you live in America. ^_^;

Static 8:28 am
I know ;-;