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In her essay, “The Uses of Disaster”, Rebecca Solnit extensively outlines the degree to which people respond positively and admirably to disasters. She asserts that catastrophic events have the capacity to unify the populace, inspire civility, and bring about “good sense”. While she points to multiple examples and quotes credible sources, I believe that she presents too narrow a view of disasters and expresses too much faith in people.

However, I do not mean to say that Solnit ignored the truth. In fact, the major example that serves to disprove her thesis had not even happened at the time that her essay was published. So it is through a more-informed lens that I consider and reject her findings. Surely one can point to disasters such as earthquakes and terrorist attacks and find instances of “solidarity” eclipsing suffering. But while this result is evident in these less significant events, it is virtually non-existent in the greatest disaster of modern times, the Bush administration.

You can say what you want about how ‘compassionate’ his conservatism was, but you simply cannot deny that the indisputable peace and prosperity that he inherited slowly but surely evaporated over the past eight years. As a matter of fact, ‘slowly but surely’ is an inaccurate characterization of two terms that undid decades worth of American good. The dishonesty, corruption, profiteering, negligence, greed, irresponsibility, hubris, and ignorance so prevalent under Bush and Cheney was of catastrophic proportions and led to the political, economic, and social disaster we are currently living through.

Between the global financial crisis, the multiple unwinnable wars in which we are engaged, our tarnished international reputation, and a plethora of other fiascos, this is undeniably a disaster. Yet while the problem “is clearly identifiable”, why isn’t the “necessary response”? Why doesn’t America seem “peculiarly hopeful”?

The fact is, disasters of this extent transcend the relatively temporary glitches in every day life that are earthquakes and hijackers. Perhaps if the problem could be solved overnight, people would put on a happy face and pretend to feel selfless for twenty-four hours. But that would only be an act. Look around today and see the panic in peoples’ eyes. Look at “tea parties” and then decide if, in disasters, people rarely “stampede”, as Solnit claimed.

Try to claim that, in disasters, people do not “engage in…acts of opportunism” as Glenn Beck makes millions off of books and rhetorical diatribes that do nothing more than arouse the most spiteful sentiment in citizens in their most volatile, fearful, and impressionable state. Or try to claim that, in disasters, “citizens begin to demand justice, accountability, and respect” when the body politic is too disorganized, discouraged, and debilitated to pursue the prosecution of senior members of an administration that ordered the violation of both domestic and international laws forbidding torture. Consider the findings of sociologist, Charles Fritz, who asserts that “large scale disasters produce…mentally healthy conditions” [1] along side the opposing findings that correlate rising suicide rates with the economic crisis which Bush ushered in, unregulated [2].

As much as it might hurt us to admit it, the “Hobbesian true human nature” in which “people trample one another to flee, or loot and pillage, or they haplessly await rescue” referred to by Solnit is the reality we face today. Rather than disaster disrupting “self-absorption”, our politics have become increasingly partisan. If disaster “speeds the process of decision making” then why are we still without a plan to repair our broken healthcare system? And if disaster “facilitates the acceptance of change” [3] then why does a bigot like Rush Limbaugh, who hopes our first African-American president fails, have more than twenty-million listeners a week [4]?

The political landscape is more divided than ever. Fear and anger appear to play a role in the formation of every opinion, the expression of every idea, and the consideration of every course of action. We are perhaps less united than we have ever been and there is no sign that either side is prepared to change this. Unlike the examples discussed by Solnit, it seems that this disaster did not bring out the best in us. In a New York City electrical blackout, one might offer a stranger a helping hand. But in our current disaster driven by hate, dissent, and irrationality, we’re probably more likely to deny strangers of our charity, or to frown upon them for being too gay, or too uppity, or too Muslim-looking, or to send them off to the middle east to die in a war that was never worth fighting.

Of course, George W. Bush is not entirely to blame for the hostile environment that America has become. While he caused the disaster, the cause for our collective response must be attributed to the “Hobbesian true human nature” mentioned by Solnit. Human beings react selfishly and out of fear. Perhaps this disaster is America’s state of nature. Witness the war of all against all. 

Works Cited

[1] Charles Fritz, as quoted by Rebecca Solnit

[2] “Economic crisis pushing more people to the brink – Health – SignOnSanDiego.com.” SignOnSanDiego.com | The San Diego Union-Tribune | San Diego news, California and national news. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. <http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/mar/02/1n2mental214548-economic-crisis-pushing-more-peopl/&gt;.

[3] See [1]

[4] “Rush Limbaugh Signs $400 Million Radio Deal – washingtonpost.com.”

Washingtonpost.com – nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines. Web. 15 Dec. 2009.

<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/02/AR2008070202063.html&gt;.

[5] All other quoted phrases: Solnit, Rebecca. “The Uses of Disaster”

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[NOTE: The following essay contains plot spoilers for the movie and book versions of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. It is highly recommended that you experience  one or both before continuing. You have been so warned.]

In making her case for the usefulness of disaster, Rebecca Solnit argues that catastrophe holds a certain cooperative potential that exists outside governance and law; in creating the conditions for a ”state of nature’, natural disasters expose human behavior uninhibited by the concerns (and external limits) of the everyday and provide a ‘profound satisfaction’ that ‘transcends even disaster’s devastation.’ In using comparative language, Solnit claims that disasters are on the whole a positive, transformative development in their ‘rupture of the ordinary’ – that is, a world with catastrophe, particularly effective and destructive if possible, is preferable to an existence in a perfect state of control.

On face, it seems a callous and repugnant moral calculus to make; people die for the sake of, say, connecting with old friends and holding an impromptu village meeting. From another perspective, however, a disaster of large enough scale can broaden the global consciousness and expose injustices, as Solnit cites in the sympathetic response to 9/11 or the feelings of solidarity after the Mexico City earthquakes.

Solnit’s philosophy exists on a similar wavelength to Adrian Veidt’s in Watchmen. In unleashing deadly staged attacks throughout the major cities of the world to look like an externally controlled disaster (in the graphic novel, aliens; in the film, a Dr. Manhattan atomic explosion), Ozymandias intends to bring world peace. America and the USSR, great powers on the brink of nuclear annihilation, would mutually disarm and work outside their ideological differences in the face of destruction beyond their immediate control. As long as the secret – that their strings had been pulled by a rogue hero-turned-super-vigilante – was kept, peace was possible; the twenty million or more innocent victims  that Veidt’s schemes killed ‘would not die in vain.’

Ozymandias’ argument seems persuasive if we accept Solnit’s premise (namely, that the long-term results of disaster relief outweigh the short-term deaths of thousands or more) and a utilitarian ethic. As Veidt responds to his colleagues’ angry objections, he has killed millions – but to save the billions who would be destroyed by an all-out war.

To put the ball back in Solnit’s court, what gives us – or Ozymandias – the moral authority to claim what level of disaster is justifiable against murder? The most salient response would probably come along the lines of Walzer’s ‘dirty hands’ – Ozymandias accepted the moral culpability for his mass murder, at least claiming to have seen and experienced the pain of every one of his victims, and has to live with the consequences of keeping the truth to himself.

Though the series’ end is somewhat ambiguous, Alan Moore himself would probably disagree with both Solnit and Walzer. To the unabashedly anarchistic Moore, the decision to exterminate all or a portion of humanity – regardless of whose hands the ‘big red button’ is in, be it a comic book villain or the President – cannot fall to a single person or any hierarchical system of policy making. Annihilation, by the will of a ‘majority’ or an intellectual (here, Veidt and the complicit Solnit) leaves the door open for twisted interpretations of who deserves to live and die.

Perhaps the most explosive response is also the shortest. When asked by Veidt whether his ostensibly fateful and final decision was, in the end, the right one, Doctor Manhattan replies:

“Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”

Sources:

Moore, Alan. Watchmen, 1986. DC Comics.

Solnit, Rebecca. “The Uses of Disaster”.

White, Mark. “The Virtues of Night Owl’s Potbelly”, 2007.

–kd

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As many may already know, on July 1, 2011, the University of Michigan will institute a campus wide smoking ban. Hoping to provide a greater amount of transparency, the University recently held two informational sessions on the policy. Audience members at both sessions spent much of the time harshly criticizing the ban. After reading John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, I cannot help but think that Mill would have disapproved of the ban as well.

In Chapter IV of On Liberty, Mill discusses what he believes are the limits society has in its authority over the individual. In cases where a person’s conduct clearly damages or interferes with another person’s well being, it is completely acceptable for society to intervene. However, when a person’s actions affect only him or herself, Mill writes, “there should be perfect freedom… to do the action and stand the consequences” (Wootton 630). In such cases, any interference on the part of society is wholly unjustified. For Mill, the University smoking ban would most certainly qualify as an instance where society has overstepped the boundaries of its authority. Since the ban was not put into effect due to secondhand smoke issues, it cannot be considered a case of society protecting its citizens from the harmful conduct of others. At the informational sessions, University officials admitted that when it comes to smoking outdoors, the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke are negligible. Outdoor smoking incurs no “definite damage,” as Mill would say, upon anyone other than the smokers themselves (Wootton 633).

Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways for society to claim that an individual’s actions have indirectly interfered with the public’s welfare. According to Ken Warner, Dean of the School of Public Health, the reason for the UM smoking ban is that the University is trying to promote a “culture of health” for the betterment of the entire campus community. Smoking has been proven to be unhealthy. This classifies it as an activity that lowers the overall health of the community. It would seem then, that if people were allowed to continue smoking, the University’s process of creating a culture of health would be hindered. Mill believes this sort of argument is weak, writing, “With regard to the merely contingent, or, as it may be called, constructive injury which a person causes to society… the inconvenience is one which society can afford to bear, for the sake of the greater good of human freedom” (Wootton 634). In such cases, the benefits society obtains from preserving an overall sense of liberty outweigh those which it might obtain by restricting the actions of its citizens. Mill would say it is more important for the UM community to feel free than for there to be a perfect culture of healthy living on campus.

However, Mill believes that the best argument against societal interference in personal affairs “is that when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong place” (Wootton 634). Mill argues that although society sometimes knows what is best for itself, it rarely knows what is best for a specific individual. This is because society considers only its own preferences when passing judgment on a certain person’s actions. (Wootton 635). Although the vast majority of people would probably rather abstain from smoking and avoid the risks involved, it cannot be said that this is the case for all people. At the smoking ban informational sessions, University officials hastened to the conclusion that essentially all smokers want to quit anyway. However, I personally know several students here at the University who smoke and have no desire to stop.

Based on his writings in Chapter IV of On Liberty, it is quite clear where John Stuart Mill would stand when it comes to the University of Michigan’s ban on smoking. Outdoor smoking harms no one but the smokers themselves, and saying that it causes indirect harm is, in Mill’s opinion, utterly frivolous. Furthermore, the individual ought to have the final say in any matter that involves purely personal conduct. For these reasons, there is no doubt that Mill would have disapproved of the University’s decision to ban smoking across the entire campus.

Works Cited

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2008. Print.

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The undeniable fact is that poverty is worshipped in America. While class mobility is held as the highest regard in American ideals, it is hardly a reality for the vast majority of those that fall below the poverty line. Ignoring the rich who worship the separation between the masses and themselves, the fact of the matter is that mobility is more of the American myth than the American dream for so many in this country.

This is of course, not to say that any one person likes being poor. However, it is clear that is a wide culture in America that discourages success for minorities and lower socioeconomic classes. So while it is not the man or the American institutions that love poverty, there is a culture in place that discourages the single most important factor in escaping poverty: education.

In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx writes that, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”[1]. In his view societies have always been pitting the oppressor against the oppressed in a never-ending battle of class against class. While some have suggested that class struggle is really no longer present in modern day America, there is still a sharp divide between the wealthy and the poor. While we may not live in the 1850’s era of unregulated capitalism, brutal factory conditions and societies that did not allow many to vote or take part in the government, the gradient that separates the classes is still quite sharp.

But why is this? All children in America are told they can be whatever they want to be. Everyone loves a ‘rags to riches’ story. A grocery store worker becomes an NFL M.V.P. quarterback (Kurt Warner)*, a Harvard dropout becomes an extremely successful businessman (Bill Gates)* and a single parent raises a child to become the US president (Barack Obama). But for every person who achieves this American dream there are countless thousands that do not**. This should spark outrage and discontent. The United States of America should not allow there to be millions without food and shelter. However those falling into poverty do not organize and revolt but instead complacently fall deeper and deeper into debt and poverty. The reason so many are able to just accept their stagnant role in the proletariat class is that in America many have been taught to love and worship their poverty.

I had a somewhat unique perspective as my high school draws students from across the Greater Hartford area. For every middle-to-upper class suburbanite in my school, there was another student from inner city Hartford. On the very first day we all had to introduce ourselves to the entire incoming freshman class. One student’s introduction shocked me at the time and has stayed with me for all of these years. He ended his introduction by saying, “Oh, and I wear glasses because I am blind, not because I’m smart.” I later learned that he was, in fact, very smart but he had been taught all of his life that appearing smart or liking school was a bad thing. Even at this intensive college prep high school, he still believed that it would be bad to make a first impression as someone who liked school and education.

Throughout my four years at my high school it became apparent to me again and again that education was not valued in the lower socioeconomic cultures. It was clear that many otherwise intelligent and dedicated students felt a need to appear to dislike school and act dumb because to act otherwise would be social suicide. Even after these students no longer felt the need to act in such a way, many of the problems still remained. When my friends were accepted to outstanding colleges across the country, I heard many frustrated stories about how their parents did not want them leaving Connecticut and would have preferred for them to go to community college or the local universities (and while there certainly is nothing wrong with attending community college or any of the state universities in Connecticut, they certainly would not get the same opportunities that would present themselves at some of the most renowned colleges in the world).

In his manifesto, Marx paints a picture of the bourgeoisie preying on the proletariats, writing, “No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, and he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc”[2]. However, in the modern culture there is more working against the working class than there ever has been. In addition to the landlord and the shopkeeper, there is also an entire culture that stands in the way of the American Dream. It has become cool to drop out of school and not go to college. And while college may not be right for everyone, too many students that could succeed given the right opportunities, fail as they are products of their culture: a culture that worships poverty.

*Much of these two stories are myth as well. Warner only bagged groceries for a few weeks waiting for a spot on an NFL roster to open up after leaving Euro-league football and Gates was able to live off his (wealthy) parents’ money.

**See the 1.5 million homeless [3] Americans and 50 million living in “food insufficient” homes [4]

Footnotes

  1. Marx 789
  2. Marx 802
  3. National Alliance to End Homelessness
  4. McGreal 11/17/09

Works Cited

Marx, Karl, The Communist Manifesto, Wootton, David, ed. Modern Political Thought: Readings form Machiavelli to Nietzsche (Indianapolis, Hackett Publishers, 2009)

McGreal, Chris. “Record Numbers Go Hungry In The US.” The Guardian. 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2009. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/17/millions-hungry-households-us-report&gt;.

“Publication Library: Homelessness Looms as Potential Outcome of Recession.” National Alliance to End Homelessness. Web. 14 Dec. 2009. <http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/general/detail/2161&gt;.

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A specter looms over the Music Industry—threatening the present social order of proletariat artist and the bourgeoisie record executive. Like many of the products we buy, music is something that we enjoy every day, but are completely oblivious to the exploitative systems by which it is created. The glimmering facade of wealth, power, and happiness displayed in music videos is in stark contrast to the reality of the industry. This blog post will draw analogies from modern Industry to the Music Industry in order to provide you with a better understanding of Marx’s philosophies.

The history of all musical production is that of class struggles. From the ancient times of the simple African drum circle, to feudal aristocratic patronage, to modern day auto-tuned international pop, the methods of producing music, and the organizational social structures surrounding it, have been in constant flux and revolution. “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebein, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman… (Marx 798)”—record executive and artist. By definition bourgeoisie is “…the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labour.” And proletariant is “…the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live. (Marx 798)” As you can see, there are distinct similarities that can be drawn between that of the record executive and the bourgeoisie and that of the musical artist and the proletariat. The present system of oppression, maintained by the record companies and bourgeoisie executives, began to form in the late 20th century(1).

The driving force behind the modern system is that of musical recordings, which, through various methods, can be recorded, stored, and distributed—all without the artist stepping foot outside of a recording studio. In the past, the social unit of music, much like the family, was the band. Most musical interactions took place between members of the band, and their audience. The members of the band were insuperable form their natural capital of musical talent and the name they acquired for themselves through the use of that talent. This was all changed with the advent of the first phonograph in the United States in 1877(2). “Unlike modern capital which can be appraised monetarily and invested in this thing or that, this natural capital was directly tied up with the particular work of the owner, was insuperable from it…(Marx 790)” The technological advance of being able to separate the artists from their music—natural capital—was the critical step in the creation of the modern Music Industry.

This separation of the artist from their works, both intellectually and physically, lead to the immediate and rapid development of division of labor regarding the production of modern music. No longer is the artist solely responsible for imagining, creating, and playing his or her music. This responsibility is divided amongst an army of professional musical composers, lyricists, audio producers, sound engineers, recording studio staff, and marketeers all play a specialized role in the production of today’s mass-market music. “Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labor, the work of proletarians has lost all individual character, and , consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine… (Marx 802)” <queue Pink Floyd’s smash-hit…>.  Thus music no longer becomes a pleasure for those working on it, it becomes merely toil and chore.

The added artistic value created by these workers is kept by the record company as profits. Often times artists are forced by companies to adopt stage name in order for the record company to maintain legal rights over both the artist’s music and their name. Take, for example, “The artist formerly known as Prince”. In 1993, a legal battle erupted surrounding the ownership of Prince’s name and musical works. Prince states:

The first step I have taken towards the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros…”

Prince’s statements eerily mirror the feelings and goals of proletariats and communists alike. To free themselves from their enslavement by bourgeoisie, to reclaim what is naturally theirs, and to put a stop to the bourgeoisie’s exploitation of the artist.

ARTISTS OF ALL COMPANIES, UNITE!

Sources:

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Wooton, 2008.

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Wooton, 2008

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sound_recording
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonograph
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_(musician)
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music

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Throughout history there have been various views of man in terms of his social relationships and subsequent forming of political structures. Aristotle (in his Politics) observed, “man is by nature a political animal.” Man’s behavior can be studied according to psychological principles. Given this fact, the political behavior of people may be subject to Freudian analysis. Sigmund Freud described the functioning of personality as being the result of the dynamic interaction of the id, the ego, and the superego. The id, according to Freud, is a boiling cauldron of desires and drives (i.e. sexual and aggressive) and operates on the pleasure principle, demanding immediate gratification. The id is felt to be the most basic state of an infant’s psyche. The superego is the polar opposite of the id. It operates as the voice of conscience and establishes internalized principles for the controls of one’s desires, as generated by the id. The ego is the emotionally conscious portion of the personality that mediates between the unchecked desires of the id and the overly rational demands of the superego. The ego operates on the reality principle, seeking to satisfy the id’s desires in a realistic manner. (David G. Myers, Psychology. 8th edition, New York, Worth Publishers 2007, p. 598.)

In terms of political theory, Thomas Hobbes viewed the state of man as being the id incarnate. He viewed the fundamental nature of man as being a constant state of “war, where every man is enemy to every man…there is no place for industry…and which is worst of all, continual fear, and the danger of violent death; and the life of man, [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Wootton, p. 159). Where Hobbes was mistaken lies in his failure to recognize that man is not merely a political animal, but a social animal. We know that even subhuman mammals, such as dolphins, exhibit cooperative behavior and altruism. At the other extreme, Socrates believed that man was capable of being all superego. He believed that man could be completely rational, and pursued this concept by causing people to rationally reexamine their entire belief system. Socrates found, “in [his] investigation of the service of the god…that those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient, while those who were thought to be inferior were more knowledgeable” (the Apology, 26). Socrates’ fatal mistake was his failure to recognize that man is not merely a political animal, he is also an animal, and as such, is not an entirely rational being. Pointing out to an irrational person that he is, in fact, irrational doesn’t make him any more rational, but does tend to make him angry.

In the best dialectical sense, Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied the principles of the Freudian ego. Dr. King recognized that man embodies both superego and id, and that the reality principle dictates that the ego must find a way of satisfying both these forces. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” MLK stated that, “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (p. 4). King did not advocate defying the law altogether, but did think that “one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty” (p. 5). Dr. King understood the importance of rationally defying an unjust law, while making an emotional appeal to the conscience of a nation by being willing to accept even the violent and deadly consequences.

MLK succeeded where both Hobbes and Socrates failed: it was Locke’s philosophy, not that of Hobbes, that won the attention of our Founding Fathers; Socrates was executed for his efforts. Dr. King utilized the reality principle of the ego to achieve an effective balance between American society’s superego and id.

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About a week ago, a friend of mine told me that I HAD to watch “Entourage” with him because it was an amazing show that would change my life. So we sat down and watched about eight episodes (season three for those who care to know). For those of you who don’t watch the show, “Entourage” follows the life of a young man named Vince Chase, an up-and-coming movie star, and the men in his life trying to make his dream of stardom a reality. His entourage, if you will. I’ll admit that the show was pretty funny. I greatly enjoyed the over-zealous characters of Ari and Lloyd. The plot lines were entertaining, if somewhat idealized. However, for everything that “Entourage” does right, there is one blatant and overwhelming downside to the show: the portrayal of women. At first, I thought I was being critical, but soon the issue became more pronounced. For one thing, there is not one single “average looking” woman on the show. They are all beautiful and they flaunt their beauty in tight tops and short skirts. I mentioned this to my friend and his response was : “It’s a guy’s show.” Really? Well, if this is how guys think of women, or want them to be portrayed, I think this is a topic worth discussing.

There are two types of women on “Entourage.” First of all, there is the powerful businesswoman-type. While she holds a position of authority, this power comes at a price. The businesswoman, while pretty, is also catty, vindictive, and abrasive which makes her generally unappealing. All of the male characters fear the businesswoman (and not in a good way). However, as I haven’t seen enough of the show to determine if this stereotype is ever challenged, I will let this one slide. The second type of woman (whom, I should add, makes up about 95% of women on this show) is the brainless, though sexually attractive, woman. These women are gorgeous, but they have nothing intelligent to say. There only purpose is to look pretty and provide sexual favors for the all-too-willing Hollywood men.

So where, we might ask, do these stereotypical views of women come from? In “The Subjection of Women,” John Stuart Mill asked essentially the same questions. He challenged a male-dominated society that held women in such small regard intellectually and socially. He wrote that “whatever gratification of pride there is in the possession of power, and whatever personal interest in its exercise, is in this case not confined to a limited class, but common to the whole male sex”(1). Mill suggests that power is something known much more commonly to men than it is to women. In a society that caters to the achievement of men, women are in a constant struggle to compete with their male counterparts. Mill acknowledged this social disparity between men and women. He wrote, “a woman’s mind, though it may be occupied only with small things, can hardly ever permit itself to be vacant, as a man’s so often is when not engaged in what he chooses to consider the business of his life” (2). Essentially, women have to work twice just to keep up with men and they still might not necessarily match their level of accomplishment. However, Mill’s feminist philosophy recognizes the abilities of females and their capacity to excel in society. He claimed that “no one can safely pronounce that if women’s nature were left to choose its directions freely as men’s…there would be any material difference, or perhaps any difference at all, in the character and capacities which would unfold themselves” (3). Sadly, Mill’s ideals are generally lost in the world of “Entourage.” The women featured here are an endless mass of stock characters, judged by Vince and his boys more for the size of their breasts than the originality of their thoughts. They are an unfortunate exception to Mill’s philosophy that “to understand one woman is not necessarily to understand any other woman” (4).

However, the purpose of this post is not to write off “Entourage” as sexist garbage. In order to fully address this issue, we need to recognize that women themselves are perpetuating this dismal outlook on their sex as much, if not more, than men. Mill writes that “the rule of men over women differs…in not being a rule of force: it is accepted voluntarily; women make no complaint and are consenting parties to it” (5). If women are willing to present themselves as nothing more than a pretty face, what is to stop men from thinking that they can, and should, take advantage of us? I found an interesting article online that discusses how women portray themselves on reality TV shows. The author writes: “The ‘money shot’ of reality TV is the humiliation of women…There are three things that reality TV tells viewers: women need male validation, women are stupid and women are gold-diggers” (6). I could compile a long, long list of TV shows that feature women acting promiscuously, throwing themselves on men, getting into drunken fights with other girls, etc. There’s “Rock of Love,” “The Bad Girls Club,” and “The Bachelor” to name a very few.  Or perhaps we might consider the girls who “dumb themselves down” to appear more appealing to men. Or the girls who allow themselves to be manhandled by guys at clubs. The one thing that all of these examples have in common is that no one is forcing these girls to act this way. Is it really surprising then, that shows like “Entourage” can get away with portraying females as mindless bimbos? Or that we can brush it off as a “guy’s show?” How can female objectification by men be discouraged if women are so willing to prolong the stereotypes? Proving true Mill’s argument about the capabilities of women requires understanding from both sexes. Yes, men need to respect women as their equals, but also women really need to consider how they present themselves. Otherwise, we run the risk of undoing the impact of feminist thinkers like Mill and glorifying the standards set by shows like “Entourage.” But then, who am I to judge? I am going to go find out what happens to Ari now that Vince fired him…

(1) p. 657 Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. David Wootton, editor. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1996.

(2) p. 685 Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. David Wootton, editor. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1996.

(3) p. 681 Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. David Wootton, editor. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1996.

(4) p. 664 Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. David Wootton, editor. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1996.

(5) p. 658 Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. David Wootton, editor. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1996.

(6) http://www.reclaimthemedia.org/media_justice/reality_tvs_dismal_portrayal_of_women_425


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