The House Husband

househusband250

I really recommend you watch this video, but if you don’t want to, I’ll summarize for your convenience. The location is France, the protagonist is a house husband who, in the course of his day, gets crudely hit upon by a hobo chick, sorta-raped by a gang of feral women and diminished by his sexist wife.

This video is a fountain of interesting things to consider. Take for example the anti-Islamic stuff, coming from the French, land of the burqa ban. Perhaps this inherent antagonism with women who value (usually unequal) traditional gender roles  is why feminism tends to be so bourgeois, so white.

The cat calls, woman to man, are interesting. One of the major assumptions of most western societies is that women should always control access to sex. Pornography, prostitution, arranged marriages, concubines – what do they have in common, aside from stigma and aside from the fact they are (or more accurately can be) controlled by the male? This causes problems with video. Because it’s the woman (crudely) making the advance it is also, in a strange way, free of the stigma a dirty old man would carry.

Were I in the house husband’s shoes while the crude hobo hit on me, I’d probably laugh.  I can’t say a hobo chick talking about my ass would have anywhere near as much impact as me doing that to a woman – entirely because sexual discourse initiated on female terms doesn’t have much (any) stigma.

This leads me to the first uncomfortable question I feel we’re afraid to ask. How much of the demeaning part of aggressive cat calls, of objectifying women – how much of the shame comes from the remnants of the virtuous maiden ideal of the 17th century? Answer one is it’s all socially constructed from the virtuous maiden archetype and females aggressively cat called should start reacting the way I would. Answer two is none of it’s from the virtuous maiden ideal and men and women are fundamentally different – and as such should not be treated the same in a potentially huge number of ways. Answer three is a combination of one and two, which wraps up all the dilemmas into one neat package.

The violence against the house husband is also fraught. How much worse does the virtuous maiden idea make an assault? If we look at the trauma male victims of statutory rape experience (often very little) and compare it to the trauma female victims of statutory rape experience (usually much more), I think it either makes the virtuous maiden idea that much more deplorable or it raises very uncomfortable questions about the biological basis of gender roles – questions for which I don’t have an answer. 

How much of a difference between men and women must we assume if we’re going to call male on female violence worse – and on a practical level it certainly is worse – than male on male violence, or, rare though it is, female on male violence? For the record, I’m perfectly fine with a double standard here. Men hitting women should be a more serious crime than men hitting men or women hitting men. The obvious reason is that men are generally larger and stronger. The harder, nastier reason is that men are much more disposable. I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.

The sex object thing in the police station, once again, wouldn’t bother me because, as a man, there’s no stigma. However, it is similar to something men DO experience which does bother me. That is how status (particularly with the opposite sex) gets computed. I recently wrote an article about how not being able to afford nice clothes meant I was stupid, corrupt and unattractive but, shockingly, the instant I had enough money for Ralph Lauren, those “character flaws” disappeared. In this sense, I think I can understand how it feels to be judged as an object for somebody else’s use. I also don’t know if I can reasonably expect people to ever stop judging me based on how much money I’m wearing.

Status is different for women in that it’s less money and more looks, but no less arbitrary.

Lastly, there’s the disposable gender trope.  I had a hard time empathizing with the male protagonist in that video because it simply isn’t as big of a deal for a man to suffer and die as it is for a woman to do so. Men ARE disposable relative to women. If half a society’s women die, that society is probably doomed. If half a society’s men die, life will get harder for a while but they’ll probably be fine. Had that been a woman victim in the film, I would have cared a lot more and, the more I think of it, the more I suspect that’s the right attitude to have.

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