AN ESSAY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: THE CONSPIRACY OF THE LOVELESS

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Is it bad to objectify women?

No, it is not.

Physical love is not only a rich source of pleasure, it is the way we produce children. These are not minor things.

Friendly relations between human beings has nothing to do with humanity’s survival; friendship is perhaps the most overrated thing there is.

Intent on physical love, we are not friendly; we merely act in a friendly manner to get what we want. Friendly is an act in all cases, and always will be.  For friendly is not what we are—it is a means to an end. When we are being creative, when we joy at the appearance or the sensual rush of something, or whenever we are actually doing something worthwhile, we are never in that mood which would be termed friendly.

Yet some of us, either shamed by moral guidelines, or having no creative will at all, but often a manipulative one, aspire to the friendly as if it were the only thing that matters. If only everyone were as nice as I am, as conscientious and thoughtful as I am, they think, we wouldn’t need beauty, or thought, or the heroic, or inventions, or desire! No bloodshed! No objectifying women! No comparison and competition! Everyone working together nicely! We all know them; typically, they are upper middle management types who wear nice clothes and spend their public lives alternately sneering and fawning and their private lives cursing and weeping. The nice restaurant or the nice pair of shoes is everything to them; they regard an idea with horror.

So no, we are not being friendly when we objectify women. Granted, it is not a friendly thing to do.

To objectify is not a friendly pursuit, nor is it a superficial one—it belongs to creativity, to scientific observation, to the comedic/hurtful, and to love. It does not belong to the world of nice bureaucrats who wear nice shoes and pursue nice as the most important thing in the world.

The objection to objectifying another human being carries the implication that in general it is always good to let another person pursue happiness as a free, unfettered and independent being and always bad to bond or enslave another for your pleasure.  But of course this is totally ridiculous. The ‘friendly’ use high sounding rhetoric to muddy the waters of thinking—unable to think, nice becomes the default setting, and thus the nice nicely triumphs in a kind of paralysis of smiling and obedient dumb.

To clear away the sludge of the friendly, then, and look at the whole thing in a clear light:

To objectify is to look and to judge—which is what we all do all the time, anyway.

The more we love someone, the more we objectify them, the more we are concerned with their physical appearance. Judging by appearance is a highly efficient way to judge, for the simple reason that your physical appearance contains a tremendous amount of information about you and whoever is interested in you as more than a simple means to an end will not be interested in you as a miasma or a mist, a code or a symbol, but as an object with physical properties—even friends—even a dog recognizing their master—identify and cultivate an attachment based on objectification—on purely physical recognition.

It is the partiality which the friendly object to—a photograph of a comely woman on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, for instance, presents the most superficial information, such that we know nothing of the person, only how a moment’s camera angle feeds the great public beast of shallow objectification and lust.

But it isn’t like every man who looks at a photograph of a media-attractive woman gets a boner—we are really not talking about the healthy lust of physical love and child-making; what the friendly are truly objecting to in magazine-cover gazing is the comparative faculty which is invoked—to their detriment. This is the problem. Comparison, and complex comparison, in fact, which is at the heart of all rational and creative thought, is what the friendly hate.

It shouldn’t be necessary to point out—but we will: partial information is always at work—the comely woman on the magazine cover could be smart, as much as we can define the term—like appearance, intelligence is a complex quality which always lives in context and partiality and mystery; to object to any partial bit of information for reason of its partiality (shame on you, only judging by appearance!) is fruitless and silly.

Because the partial lives in the physical, or the beauty of the physical, this is no recommendation against it; in fact, partial belief elicited by rhetoric (which always traffics in the partial) is far more insidious, since the brain always recognizes a photograph as information which is essentially lacking in completeness. But a lecture, a speech, a piece of rhetoric, can win the gullible over completely— even though, it, too, is partial information, often driven by hidden motive—by its very nature as a piece of rhetoric. By comparison to a piece of rhetoric, a photograph of a beautiful woman is innocuous, harmless, and meaningless.

Except for the fact that a photograph of a beautiful woman could be important, beneficial, and profound.

This is because the drawback of partiality is solved in one instance: in the appearance of beauty—which manifests itself as beauty precisely because we experience it not partially, but as complete, as whole, as one. 

True beauty is that which escapes partiality, and pleases (often mysteriously) for that very reason. This is how love works—the appearance/existence of the beloved is complete in itself; it is not information leading to something else; it is utterly loved for what it is. To be in love is to wish to be in the presence of the beloved for no other reason than to be in their presence.  Here is the crucial distinction: appearance/existence versus mere appearance.

How can a picture of someone else, no matter how beautiful they appear in the picture, compete with the beloved’s physical manifestation?

It cannot. Being in love, we are acutely aware of a greater manifestation of love as physical presence; the very air around our beloved becomes a physical force when they come into our sight—mere pictures seem bereft to us: we look at a beautiful woman in a photo and merely think: this is a stranger, this is not our love.

In love, one object overshadows all the others. Pictures hurt us only if we are not in love. Pictures are made by, and for, the loveless.

The evil of objectifying women, then, is no evil at all. Objectifying is a complex process involving science and love.

We have yet to mention objectifying men—and the evil that women tend to be objectified, and men, not. But again, this is a mere distraction; equality of the sexes is not hindered by so-called objectifying at all; objectifying will only lead to more equality, since science and love, which both always objectify, point the way to equality.

Love and science are standards of truth. If equality of the sexes is a truth, then objectifying—which is what love and science do—will work towards equality.

Are men objectified? Of course they are! Constantly!

The chief ill in all of this is the fear of objectifying, and that fear is the fear that partial untruth will win the day, that the superficially beautiful will get all the lovers. As we have pointed out, however, this fear is unfounded, misguided, and blocks both love and scientific inquiry; this fear is the revenge of the loveless, the revenge of the merely friendly.

If you believe you are ugly and loveless, the answer is not to suppress or resent the spirit of objectifying beauty; the spirit of objectifying will one day, if it looks cunningly enough, rescue you.  And the knife cuts both ways; if you believe you are “beautiful” and “loved” for that reason, perhaps you are wrong. The god of love is more mischievous than we assume, and makes mischief by the most superficial and physical means.

The only cure for the objectifying gaze is an objectifying gaze that is even more intense and personal and matchless in the spirit of love. Only picturing beauty can transcend beauty merely pictured.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

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