Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Today's Morbid Excess

In Women and Economics(Appelrouth & Edles, 2008), Charlotte Perkins Gilman discusses the idea of “sexuo-economic relations,” which is created by human kinds newest manifestation of the evolutionary environment. Human beings have created an environment based on the social concepts of structure, culture and relations, which has replaced our natural setting as catalyst for our evolution (Allan, 2008). In her statement “We are more affected by our relation to each other than by our physical environment…The serious dangers and troubles of human life arise from difficulties of adjustment with our social environment” (Perkins, 1898 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p.215), Perkins lends support to the idea that human evolution is no longer based on the natural environment, but the social environment which we have created. Resulting from this notion, we have created the structure of the economy as a mechanism for survival (Allan, 2008). In “sexuo-economic relations,” according to Perkins, men become the economic environment of women, as women and children are dependent upon men for their livelihood. It thus becomes the woman’s economic trade to attract a man who is capable of providing for her and her children (Allan, 2008). The better a woman is at her trade the better she and her offspring will be provided for. Also in this theory is the creation of over accentuated, “morbid excess in sex distinction,” which encompasses the sole female commodity, in Perkins’ view, as well as the early social sexualization of female children (Allan, 2008). This is something we can clearly observe in everyday life. Mothers have their female babies ears pierced so as not to have them mistaken for male babies. Young female children are dressed up, their hair teased up and their faces coated in makeup before they are paraded in front of judges who declare one of them more beautiful than the rest. This behavior is not valuable to survival within the natural environment. Within the environment which we have created for ourselves, the social and economic environment, sex distinction to this degree is a mechanism for survival.
What other sorts of morbid excess in sex distinction do you think is prevalent today, for either sex?


  1. From personal experience, I can say that there is morbid excess of sex distinction in the form of plastic surgeries. Women are going out of their way to have large, voluptuous breasts and a slender waist to accentuate the hips and buttocks. In short, we all want to look like the Barbie doll. Even men are getting plastic surgeries to resemble bulkier muscles and other more "private" parts of their bodies. So it isn't just women, as you are discussing, Fraggle- with all due respect.

    Modern culture is OVER-sexed. That is, if you don't look like a Playboy pin-up, you don't look like a woman, or at least that is what society is imposing upon a lot of women. And men, if you don't have the six-pack (abdomen) and bulky arms- you're just Jo Shmo, not worthy of attention.

    Of course, we mothers and fathers are imposing this on our children because, like any normal parent, you want your kids to have what YOU never had, we are all trying to make improvements in the new generations. Perhaps mothers aren't going to the extremes, like the horse metaphor that Gilman used. Perhaps women should teach their daughters to be "smart" instead of "cute". Instead of praising our children for keeping themselves clean and neat, we should praise them for their imaginativeness, their creativity.

    Going back to the morbid excess of sex distinction, I see it also in the homosexual culture which is no longer happy with looking like a man or woman, they want the biological organs as well. Plastic surgery has made pretty much anything you can dream of possible. If a woman wants a male sex organ, she can buy it, and vice versa! How much more morbid can you get?

    I guess this is the easiest (and most obvious) answer one can come up with, but there are millions of answers to your question, Fraggle. You say earrings, I say push-up bras, corsets, high-heels, make-up. I guess we women have a greater advantage when it comes to artificial "beauty." Men don't have many of the "accessories" women take for granted, they actually have to spend the three days a week at the gym to look like a movie star.

  2. I agree with you when you say that the society we have come to create does not value these actions (young girls dressing up and wearing makeup, and piercing babay girl's ears)are not valuable to survival. One example that comes to my mind with regards to morbid excess of sex distinction would be how much emphasis women put on having the perfect/ideal. In order to attain this some go to extremes such as constant dieting and plastic surgery. However I do think that we can generalize all of this for even though most of society egages or has engaged in similar activities there are still a few who remain aside from all of these ideas.