July 26, 2012

I'm up here, sir!

From the "I just knew you were staring at my boobs," file, Our Brains See Men as Whole and Women As Parts.

Seriously, this is what we women are often "on about" and what the feminist era tried so heroically to extirpate or at least point out. But of course we women also do it to ourselves: carve ourselves and others into pieces for comparison and competition, leaving men whole.

So questions come to mind: if this is true then is it more or less so in traditional and more egalitarian societies? Is if affected by age? Is it innate, or a learned thing? Do some people do it a lot more than others?

A few years ago I wrote about how my exposure to the ED world made me hyper-aware of body shape and that I instituted Chin-up excercises to make the world a better place. In that case I was able to consciously change my way of looking at people and have a genuine effect on my well-being. So the question is: can our reflexive way of analyzing bodies be consciously changed?

And this: if we were able to reconstitute women's bodies would we treat them better? Would we treat ourselves better? Is there the possibility that there are benefits to this dissection where some of us find such joy in a selection of our parts that help us skim over less favored parts? Is this like the plumage of male birds and its absence would change our sexual chemistry?

Do people blind from birth think of women as a number of parts, and men as one hunk of humanity?

4 comments:

  1. Laura, I like your post. It reminded me, too, of a story I heard about a woman who put a little sign in between her breasts when she went to gatherings that said something like "look at my face." I like "I'm up here sir".

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  2. I just read that article a couple of days ago. I think one of my friends on FB had posted a link to it. I think the author needs to sell his/her own line of sun-glasses....

    LOL... but seriously! We've know for years that a man's attraction to a woman tends to based on visual appeal more than a woman's attraction to a man. Added to this fact, that many styles of clothes woman wear these days are a lot less formal than what they wore 50 years ago, is it any wonder that a man's eye tends to appreciate various centers a little more?

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  3. I don't buy this. Like in most psychology research (in my opinion), the experimental design and the resulting data get extrapolated to such an extent, that, well, I don't buy the conclusion.

    For example, here is one objection I have, the way our brains process images isn't equivalent to what we cognitively, rationally and thoughtful feel about what's pictured. How my brain initially processes an image of a woman's body versus a man's body will be different - that's because I'm physically and sexually attracted to women, and almost never find men physically or sexually attractive, initially, anyway. I know many women who call themselves heterosexual, who admit they think women's bodies are much more physically appealing and "sexier". So, our brains might initially focus on body parts. But that is *not* the same as what we cognitively and consciously think of women and men, which happens later, anyway.

    I am predominantly attracted to females, that's not something I feel I can or should change, anyway. I felt this way from a very early age - and whether that's influenced by the power-balance that I encountered, the way I saw that women are still the lesser sex, my desire for a more equal relationship (not necessarily, but one can dream), I don't know nor do I care at this point. The main thing I just want to stress, is that early image processing =/ higher level cognitive processing of the same image!

    Just because my brain doesn't focus on a particular body part in a man, doesn't mean I view him as a "hulk of humanity". Pfft, not at all. It is just that I barely even notice men on the street or anywhere, I don't find them interesting or appealing to look at. But believe me, even with women I find really attractive, while I may initially (and maybe every single time, initially), notice their features , I, in no way, view them as a collection of body parts. Of course not! Part of the reason I wanted a homosexual relationship was because I hated feeling like I was being objectified by the opposite sex, feeling like I was always the lesser one, the one with the lesser brain, etc.. I found someone who is perfect for me, who happens to be of the opposite-sex, just by chance. But, being attracted to a physical body =/ objectifying it. I think, anyway.

    I think you know who this is, I'm going to leave it anonymously signed because it is not relevant to what I usually rant about, and I don't want this to pop-up in google searchers of my name.

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  4. I think I know who you think I think you are, too! ;) And I agree: none of this is as obvious as a study design may try to make it or digest it for the public. Does make me think, though, and I find myself questioning some assumptions I have about "how men think" and "how women think" which is a game that has both value and easily goes too far.

    I know that on reading this I found myself re-dedicating myself NOT to break people into parts - consciously stopping myself from doing it to myself in the most casual of ways. Even the "I don't like the way my tummy looks in this dress" stuff can get consciously re-routed to "this dress feels good and this color reminds me of the sea..."

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