April 5, 2013

"Women today operate" in "two worlds": "the system of beauty, and the system of power."

Asserts Garace Franke-Ruta, in an effort to explain "Why Obama's 'Best-Looking Attorney General' Comment Was a Gaffe."
Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded....
I thought there were 2 systems, beauty and power. But beauty is a system of power. Franke-Ruta stumbles over her own jargon. The word "system" was already too much. What makes beauty or power a "system"? Back in the 1960s, we were always complaining about "the system." It's the system, man. So it's a word that sets off my bullshit detector. What does it mean to say "Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded"?

Beauty is beauty. We are human. We have eyes. Our eyes our rigged to our entire nervous system. That's a system, and I'd certainly agree that that system is deeply rooted and preceding all others. But I don't think Franke-Ruta is talking about the nervous system that tracks through our animal bodies and that we would never wish to eradicate or even numb. We are alive, sensual beings. The visual experience is real and vivid and fundamental.

But Franke-Ruta pictures an external system that "operates everywhere in the world" and consist of women as "a natural resource, a form of wealth that men can acquire." Beauty is valued and people want what they value. Is that a system? Those with the value can make an exchange, or as Franke-Ruta puts it "can choose the extent to which they wish to engage with this system of power." But women can also "choose to go to law or medical school or contend in any other way for standing and earning capacity in the world."
That is, they can enter the system of power. 
That is, the other system of power. Which is to say, women can trade only on their beauty or they can have a career. But then Franke-Ruta talks about women wanting or needing to be in both systems at the same time. And this is "why beautiful and extremely capable women are often valued above their less glamorous or less fit peers — they are triumphs in two systems of value, double-threats." But somehow everyone is supposed to know which "system" we're in on any given occasion. In this light, what Obama did wrong was to mix up which was the operable "system" as he spoke on a particular occasion.

Despite all the jargon and the many nods toward feminism, Franke-Ruta calls what Obama did a "gaffe." A little oopsie. Would a feminist unbound by Democratic Party partisanship let him off so easily?

ADDED: I can't help but be reminded of how easily all the supposed feminists let Bill Clinton evade serious criticism.

62 comments:

Christy said...

Feminists unbound by Democratic Party partisanship never thought much of him in the first place.

Synova said...

I haven't commented on this so far. Do I need to carefully read this post first?

It seems to me... men in power play on their attractiveness, too. Absolutely. And the only reason that it's a horror for someone to make that sort of compliment is because there are a cadre of women who have made a full time career (often a paid career) of locating and pointing out sexism.

The truth is... an attractive women will do better in the halls of power than an unattractive one. No, you don't need to look like a sex kitten, but you have the same reality as men have and will be judged if you look unkempt and dumpy... unless you're a brilliant computer programmer.

But this lady is a lawyer, right? Spiffy power suits and expensive shoes and careful grooming.

Palladian said...

At least he's not calling women "sweetheart" or "honey" anymore.

chickelit said...

It was more chafe than gaffe. No one is chuffed.

Ambrose said...

She certainly is attractive - and she clearly works at it. Let him among us who would not do her cast the first stone at our President.

chuck said...

... let Bill Clinton evade serious criticism.

Clinton was a charming sexy man and a bit of a bad boy. Pulls them in like a magnet attracts iron filings.

chickelit said...

Hard core feminists may have to swallow this gaffe for POTUS. Taking it on the chin like they did for Clinton kept him up in the polls.

rhhardin said...

Power is a reification error like phlogiston, "what causes fire," as if it then exists, and can be sought, acquired, lost, and traded.

Some Critical Inquiry editor suggests distinguishing auctoritas, potestas, officium and imperium.

I'd suggest power is a marker in an account or narrative.

rhhardin said...

Kamela is no Princess Diana.

Freeman Hunt said...

Yech. Now this woman has to see her name connected with every assessment of sexism and the interplay between beauty and politics and beauty and power, and she had nothing to do with it. I bet she is quietly annoyed with Obama for causing all this.

rhhardin said...

Ugly goes clear through.

Tom said...

While there are certainly some pigs, man men work in a world of PC fear. Since we never know where the line is, we are always scared we're going to cros it. Sometimes we're lucky to work in a high trust environment. But some men have been burned by a high trust environment. So now the guy who certainly things we should play by certain rules flaunts the fact that he can break those rules.

But there is a second part of this issue. Comments made like this are about respect, or lack thereof. What Obama shows is what we have always suspected - he doesn't respect the office with which he's privileged enough to hold nor does he respect the people who put him there.

rhhardin said...

The system of throwing rolling pins and frying pans would be a third world.

Meade said...

“We know this is part of the larger cultural fabric. We’re still raising boys in an environment where they are not able to see the humanness of females in their lives.”

Freeman Hunt said...

I think the gaffe of calling a reporter "sweetie" was much worse than this appearance assessment gaffe.

rhhardin said...

Nagging is another world of feminine power.

rhhardin said...

Poor babies.

n.n said...

Apparently, Franke-Ruta envies the "best looking attorney general in the country." She probably thinks that a well-placed cigar is an artistic scene evincing feminine virtue, or something. Besides, all things being equal, Clinton had a larger fan base. Obama just doesn't get the job done. Not in politics, economics, foreign affairs, home life (i.e. single-parent), and, it seems, in feminist fantasies.

chickelit said...

@Tom: Men may walk on eggshells in the workplace but women leave behind a pile of them on the way to the top.

Rabel said...

Nice one, chicklit @8:07.

Funnier because it sneaks up on you.

Alex said...

Respect the cock. Tame the pussy and respect the cock.

Michael K said...

Beauty is the genetic expression of good health and promising genes. If Obama had said this about Janet Napolitano, people would be questioning his sanity.

Kamala Harris is a loyal lefty. Is she interracial ? I can't tell but she might be. He probably thought it was a safe remark since black women are so sensitive about their looks.

Rabel said...

I'm not much into the celebrity gossip thing but - there's something going on in that photo at the link.

Ann Althouse said...

Remember this whole presidency occurred because Hillary was there about to get elected, and he just had to get out in front of her... and America agreed.

bpm4532 said...

Power or being close to power can make you do strange things. Particularly, if you don't think you'll ever get it back or close to it again, you'll do anything to protect it.

Alex said...

Binders full of women.

Alex said...

RESPECT THE COCK!!!

Lem said...

I can't help but be reminded of how easily all the supposed feminists let Bill Clinton evade serious criticism.

It took a lot for Patricia Ireland to finally make a statement... and even then it reads boilerplate.

It felt as thought, that if they condemned Clinton too strongly, they would be aiding the republicans... For Patricia Ireland and NOW, Clinton's abominable behavior towards women took a back seat to their political preference of the Democrats in power.

Clintons behavior was just a nuisance... nothing to get too upset over.

DEEBEE said...

if GWB had done this, no deep analysis would be required. But our, oh so intelligent prez requires an analysis rivaling that granted Kafka,s "Metamorphosis"

William said...

I take pride in the fact that whatever success I have had in life is a result of hard work and tireless effort. I never once traded on my good looks in the workplace. Peope don't believe theat but it's absolutely true.

EDH said...

"California Attorney General Kamala Harris..."

There used to be a professional wrestler that went by the name of Kamala The Ugandian Headhunter.

EDH said...

Talk about a system of power, not beauty.

edutcher said...

I noticed that all the senior programmers where I last worked were all better than 6 feet tall.

Not the same thing, I guess.

Or is it?

Ann Althouse said...

I can't help but be reminded of how easily all the supposed feminists let Bill Clinton evade serious criticism.

If we're expected to believe Willie is all that good-looking, it means the supposed feminists have ridiculously low standards.

Remember this whole presidency occurred because Hillary was there about to get elected, and he just had to get out in front of her... and America agreed.

No, it's because Hillary! was a terrible candidate and even more incompetent that Choom.

The only reason he was elected was the market crash. If Dubya pulled some of the stunts ValJar and Axelrod did in the name of keeping the economy looking like it was afloat to get I-am-not-a-dictator Zero re-elected, we'd be all be talking about who Vice President Palin's running mate is going to be.

EDH said...

Sadly, Wrestling Legend Kamala: "I got my leg amputated" - TMZ

Donald Douglas said...

I think you just like taking down Garance: http://althouse.blogspot.com/2007/03/bloggingheads.html

chickelit said...

Harris, like Michelle Obama, is a triumph in the system of beauty as well as the system of power.

Utter bullshit.

Looks aside, Michelle Obama married her power--or more accurately helped build her husband's power--just like Hillary did. This is an insult to Harris.

Meade said...

@Donald Douglas: Good catch.

I like the last sentence in A's post you linked to: No, no, you guys [lefty bloggers] are just boring politicos -- still ready to do anything to defend your man Bill Clinton and to say whatever you must to deny that he set feminism back 20 years.

1996 - the year of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
20 years later would be 2016. Hmm...

In the comments, above, Ann Althouse said...
Remember this whole [Obama] presidency occurred because Hillary was there about to get elected, and he just had to get out in front of her... and America agreed.

wyo sis said...

OT sort of.
Hillary looks much better these days. Always a sign of political ambition.

Meade said...

Those who bought into the Democrats' phony War On Women campaign were Sleeping with the Enemy.

chickelit said...

Rabel said...
Nice one, chicklit @8:07.

Masturful, huh?

Funnier because it sneaks up on you.

Supreme compliment, coming from you.

Leit Bart said...

Here's an idea -- let's poke everyone's eyes out so that beauty can never be seen. Oh, but then we'd start valuing youthful, fit bodies and melodic voices even more, and that wouldn't do. A towering intellect -- even one like Franke-Ruta's -- still wouldn't garner the power (appreciation?) she desires.

And yet intelligence is something you're born with. That's SUPER-DUPER unfair. Hells bells, there's no end to ending unfairness!

But as an interim measure, how about bringing back Prohibition? Because really, alcohol just makes men more lascivious and coarse.

Gah. Men are such a bother.

JorgXMcKie said...

At what point will it finally sink in to the MSM and Lefty elites that Obama just isn't that smart?

He's a One Trick Pony. He can campaign when all he has to do is repeat Lefty talking points and jargon. off-topic or off teleprompter he's exposed.

Both Leftism generally and feminism in particular are going to keep getting brought up short by evolution. Human beings seek attractiveness in humans for evolutionary reasons and will probably forever. They also are neither identical nor readily interchangeable.

JorgXMcKie said...

At what point will it finally sink in to the MSM and Lefty elites that Obama just isn't that smart?

He's a One Trick Pony. He can campaign when all he has to do is repeat Lefty talking points and jargon. off-topic or off teleprompter he's exposed.

Both Leftism generally and feminism in particular are going to keep getting brought up short by evolution. Human beings seek attractiveness in humans for evolutionary reasons and will probably forever. They also are neither identical nor readily interchangeable.

JamesB.BKK said...

America agreed? More like a plurality of caucus-goers and a plurality of registered voters and frauds.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

What Ambrose said.

I was going to assume that there was something worth reading in Garance's lil story. But then I realized that it was all bullshit.

Not taking beauty too seriously is just as democratic as refusing to take any other form of power seriously.

We can and should make cracks about Romney's car elevators. We can and should make cracks about Obama feeling he can just toast any Afghani guerilla. And we should be able to joke about things like this.

It's about constraining power. When women come to terms with that, then the species will have finally put aside the authoritarian impulse for good.

I'd propose that unease with one's own assets betrays a fear that one can't control their misuse.

David said...

Freeman Hunt said...
Yech. Now this woman has to see her name connected with every assessment of sexism and the interplay between beauty and politics and beauty and power, and she had nothing to do with it. I bet she is quietly annoyed with Obama for causing all this.


Beg to differ: (1) she's in politics, so recognition is nearly always a plus (2) she already knows how to play on her good looks so this is old hat for her (3) she is--as Rabel points out--giving Obama a happy slightly flirty little smile and (4) she's an attorney general for cripes sake and by definition a publicity hound.

David said...

And good looks are an asset. What a surprise. When did this start to matter? Before or after the dawn of humankind?

Answer: Before. Even the dinosaurs had colorful feathers (or so it's not postulated.)

caseym54 said...

Best looking, perhaps. Less sexist and rather more accurate, she's the state AG furthest to the Left. She was considered on the Left in San Francisco, where she got her start.

Pretty sure she's on O's shortlist for the Supreme Court.

MayBee said...

It's funny GF-R had to include a compliment about Michelle Obama in a story about Obama praising another woman's looks. Why is that?

Nomennovum said...

What does it mean to say "Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded"?

It doesn't mean anything. Like most Leftist crit theory claptrap, it's space filler. If anything, it means, "A woman's beauty gives her power and I don't like it."

Probably because the woman saying it is ugly.


This is the feminist way of railing against nature. In vain, of course.

The facts of nature are that women use sex to obtain power and men use power to obtain sex. It's so simple and so cruel. And it's forever true.

Sternhammer said...

"I can't help but be reminded..." I call bullshit, Althouse. Sure, feminists will kowtow to Obama, but there is nothing like the same betrayal of their principles here.

Bill Clinton is a rapist. He raped Juanita Broderick. And it is an established pattern of behavior. He groped Kathleen Willey, exposed himself to Paula Jones, etc. etc. Saying a woman is cute at a work function? That's not the same ballpark, not even the same sport. His rehabilitation by the democratic party is a far bigger disgrace than anything associated with Obama.

Hillary knows her husband is a rapist, and responded by attacking and slandering the women who told the truth about him. Supporting Hillary is a far greater affront to feminism than anything Obama does.

I didn't vote for O, and I never liked him. But what he is trying to do is to imitate the black guys he knows. He tries to talk to and about women like older black men do, but he is culturally a white kid from Hawaii so it always sounds wrong. But being a faker and a chump is not being a rapist. Thinking its cool and edgy to talk patronizingly to women isn't being a rapist.

Clinton is a violent predator and Hillary is his power-hungry enabler (or was...I don't know if she has much to do with him outside of work these days). The girls in the Steubenville case who covered up and attacked the victim = Hillary.

tim in vermont said...

I wish I wasn't so much at the mercy of female beauty. Just sayin' We can't help it.

Mitchell the Bat said...

'I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
I woke, and found that life was duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shall find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.

-- Louisa May Alcott

damikesc said...

I think the gaffe of calling a reporter "sweetie" was much worse than this appearance assessment gaffe.

I'd agree --- except the reporter clearly had few problems with it.

If a woman doesn't seem to give a damn, I see little reason for me to do so.

It felt as thought, that if they condemned Clinton too strongly, they would be aiding the republicans... For Patricia Ireland and NOW, Clinton's abominable behavior towards women took a back seat to their political preference of the Democrats in power.

Much like how feminists loved Bob Packwood --- until a Democrat got in the WH and he was not needed.

Does anybody deny that Clinton was several measures worse than Packwood towards women?

Hell, Dodd and Kennedy were considerably worse.

Hillary looks much better these days.

Better than what? A gaping chest wound?

Paco Wové said...

Gah. Another babbling, burbling journalist educated beyond her intelligence.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

There is a down-side to great beauty that Schopenhauer had a really interesting observation about. Also applies to other attributes like high Intelligence.

He said: "They invariably offend, without ever intending to."

Here is how that can work, using Beauty as an example.

Two women meet. One, an obvious great beauty. Both are immediately cognizant of the beauty miss-match, and right away, the not-beautiful one finds herself fighting a sense of an offense, and the beginnings of a dislike of the beauty. Why is that? They only just met.

Well, inside the head of the non-beauty is almost certainly this thought or recognition: "Wow, that woman is way prettier than me."

And, also being human, inside the head of the beauty is almost certainly this thought or recognition: "Wow, I'm way prettier than that woman."

Now, when the non-beauty realizes that the beauty has probably had that thought (whether the beauty actually has or not) - a thought that is just the flip side of her very own thought about the beauty, she can't help but feel an insult, even though nothing has been yet said by either party.

The perceived insult is of this form: "So, she sees and thinks she's way prettier than me, eh? Well fuck her!"

And so Beauty has 'offended', without doing or saying anything. Just her mere presence was enough.

Bruce Hayden said...

Not sure if I buy into these defenses of Obama and what he said there. For one thing, his White House is apparently far, far, more sexist than that of GW Bush(43). Back then the 2nd Lady (with her PhD) was running a daycare for chidren of WH staffers in the EOB, and working at home was allowed in certain cases. Back then, Bush seemed to really like and trust women, and surrounded himself with a lot of strong women. Obama? His WH is apparently much more sexist, and there have been repeated claims of sexual harassment throught his regime. And, there is some indication that this starts at the top, where he seems much more comfortable around men, than around women. And, maybe this is a result of his upbringing, more akin to that of many Blacks today, with a stepfather, and then primarily raised by a single mother. So, I don't think that he understands, deep down, how offensive what he said was to many people, and, yes, it would have been far worse with a Republican, with the feminists again giving him a pass based on his party and support for unfettered abortion (including his almost solo votes in favor of killing babies born alive as a result of botched abortions). The funny thing here is that Romney would have likely been far, far, less sexist - you just have to look at the outward signs in the Romney (and Bush) marriage, versus the Obama marriage. Both Romney and Bush respect women, while Obama seems to respect only one woman, Michelle (after the loss of his mother - which is, of course, very similar to Clinton).

Bruce Hayden said...

So, what is wrong with the concept of beauty as power? girlwriteswhat in her writing and videos points out that men can view women as either people or objects, and the more the sexual buttons are pushed by a woman, the more she is viewed as an object. Yes, there is power there, the power of the way male brains are wired combined with healty levels of testosterone. When a male sees a sexually attractive female, he is wired to want to mate with her. And, her power is her selectivity, that she is going to turn them down, unless they give more and more, etc.

But, along with this power comes objectification. Since there is no relationship between the male and the female, she is to him a potential receptical for his sperm and mother to his bastard children. Not legitimate children - we are talking freebies on the male side, where he doesn't need to take responsibility for their raising. Sure, if she is clever, she can turn this alure into marriage or the like with one guy. But, keep in mind how many guys the average woman excites and incites over her lifetime, and for many, 99.99% were never really potential marriage prospects.

As should probably be obvious, being seen as an object by men often does not benefit them when they are trying to compete with men in a male hierarchy using men's world rules. They are discounted by men as unworthy, and as cheaters by women and by many of the men whom they jump over through use of their beauty.

carrie said...

No, feminists unbound by democratic party loyalty would not have let him off so easy. Remember in the debates when Romney was proud of instituting flex time scheduling in Mass and the feminists almost shouted him down for talking about that. To me, that is what the feminists should be working for. Instead, they continue to focus on making women into sex objects/receptacles instead of celebrating the differences that make women women. Women do enjoy being Moms and they want to be Moms but the feminists oppose just about everything that makes it easier for a woman to be a Mom--whether it be marriage, flex time schedule, sacrificing career advancement for family (which really isn't a sacrifice it is just giving up one thing for something else).

Anthony said...

Ms Franke-Ruta says "Kamala Harris got her position of power through the same methods that a man in that position would have. Obama's comment about her looks implies that she got her position because of her looks instead of her legal or political skills. That is the true gaffe". All the rest is added verbiage which Slate is paying for by the word.

Except that it's (probably) not a gaffe. Kamala Harris got her job as California AG through her political skills (not necessarily her legal skills - she was a lousy DA in San Francisco), and her looks didn't play a huge part in that.

Therefore Obama's statement, or its implication isn't a gaffe, which is where a politician says something true that isn't supposed to be said.

AlanKH said...

In other news, the other 49 state Attorneys General complained about the President overlooking their hawtness.