Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"When you interrupt a girl's school day to force her" Meme Analysis

Regarding http://viralwomen.com/post/make_this_go_viral_pass_it_on:

Sexism isn't the issue here. The real issue is the "Law": even in the hypothetical world of unlimited liberty, "Law" would still dominate because the hypothetical world is not real, hence symbolic, and hence dictated and circumscribed by the dynamics of language, of limit. Limit means the condition for desire, but it simultaneously is the barring of desire. I can't have it—so I desire it—but I can't have it, so I am not free.

But, after knowing this dynamic of the Law and liberty, one has only two choices remaining: to submit or to defy. To submit would mean accepting our condition and moving forward. To defy would mean deliberately remaining in a fantasy world in which unlimited liberty is attempted.

To bring this matter into concrete terms: in life, we must submit to rules, even if these rules are without reason, because if we don't, there will be consequences. Sometimes who happens to actually get punished is not as justice dictates—sometimes a woman gets punished more than a man or vice versa. But regardless, the rules exist, and to move forward in normal society, one must submit to the rules. There is nothing wrong with this, nor does it suggest that rules cannot be questioned or changed, but rules must exist in one form or another, and they ought to exist to preserve some sort of freedom.

Either school is about education or it is not. If it is about education, then the rules ought to protect this value, no matter how people feel or think about the specific content of the rules themselves; the specific content is immaterial, but the form or actual structure provided by the rules is essential. The true, passionate pursuit of education, then, means that one will go to any lengths to obtain education, and submission to the rules becomes a nothing rather than the over-exaggerated focus of an impossible fantasy function seeking unlimited freedom. It doesn't matter if boys can or cannot control themselves. If the boy really wants to be educated, put a naked woman in the class—it won't matter to him because he is not there for the woman but for the education. But if the boy doesn't really desire education, then you could put a nun in the class, and he will still indulge in sexual fantasies even regarding the nun. Likewise, if a woman is pursuing education, then what she wears is immaterial. She will submit to the Law, just as the boy submits. Both submit.

This meme is about freedom, not the freedom to chose, but the freedom to pursue education, and the freedom to pursue education limits pure individuality, or the ego, which seeks infinity. It desires infinity, but the pursuit of the object of desire necessarily is a finite and defining project.


But what about the meme's internal construction? For one thing, it actually is a very manifestation of the sexism that it attacks, for it seeks to place the onus on men for limiting the freedom to choose to dress as a woman pleases. It implicates men as weak, selfish creatures for being unable to control their impulses. Finally, it locates the strength that upholds rules in men. (Some might also argue that the meme is a manifestation of so-called "heterosexism" because its dichotomy is between women and men who desire women—and even if the men didn't desire women, the meme is still man vs. woman). Women are complete, helpless victims; men are always scot-free. These are all sexist assumptions and disrespectful to the data. Actually treating men and women as equal means an equal submission to the law and equal punishment for its violation. Equality here is therefore defined with respect to submission and commitment to the law (and by implication, consequences for following or violating the law).

If someone wants to create a meme about how men and women are in fact punished unequally, then by all means, but that is a significantly different content than what we have here.


Further thoughts:

The psychological analysis avoids discussing whether the rules are in any way useful or "fair" ("fair" being such a vague concept that its discussion is relatively useless). The reason being that whereas the actual value of this or that rule regarding dress code is always up for scrutiny, the fundamental psychological-social dynamics that create the rules are simply unavoidable. Hence discussion of the rules themselves (concrete manifestations of the underlying psychological-social dynamic) may lead to a never-ending debate on dress code while always missing the fundamental point that the pursuit of anything, that is, the focusing of freedom on the pursuit of any finite object, necessarily limits freedom.

Why do the two pursuits mutually exclude each other? In that hypothetical world, they do not—one could go to school naked if one wished and still get an education. But we do not live in a hypothetical world; we live in a world of Law and conflicting desire. In the world of Law and conflicting desire, one cannot do as one pleases and must submit to the Other. Therefore if one actually cares about one's education, one will accept the limit of a dress code in order to unburden oneself of the hindrance of punishment and the subsequent deprival of education. If one cares about dressing as one pleases, one does so at the expense of education.

Besides, this meme comes from the perspective of one who has never inhabited any seriously professional world (of which school is supposed to also be, but American students in high school and up like to think that school means childhood and not adulthood).

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