search instagram arrow-down
Jack Weinstein

Need advice? have a philosophical question or comment?

Explore a topic:

Top Posts & Pages

Enter your email to follow PQED.

Join 3,112 other subscribers

Recent Comments

Hank Sucks on Mad Max: Fury Road is a very v…
Jack Russell Weinste… on What’s it like being Jew…
Ira Sheskin on What’s it like being Jew…
JJ on My boyfriend wants to have a t…
s. wallerstein on What’s it like being Jew…

Click image for the Why? Radio podcast

Why? Radio’s Facebook

Instagram

Twenty-eight years ago me and my horrible hair graduated @sunyplattsburgh, thanks to the mentorship of Professor David Mowry. We lost him yesterday. Read my very emotional tribute to him at www.pqed.org. #philosophy #collegife Hi listeners! Do you want to see our host Jack Russell Weinstein (@diasporajack) in person as he deejays fun and exciting music? Come down to @ojatadogmahal records this Saturday for the fourth installment of Ska and Waffles! Rehearsing for Tuesday night! Want to hear #Klezmer music live? Come to Why? Radio’s 10th anniversary party, Tuesday at 6:30. Details at www.whyradioshow.org @prairiepublic @diasporajack @empireartscenter Above two folds! Thanks @gfherald @prairiepublic ❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩
#philosophy #ask #morals #advice #questions #help #curious #hardquestions #anything #podcast #discussion #currentevents #philosophyiseverywhere #whynot #politics #ethics #art #metaphysical #religion  #myund #questionoftheday WHY? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life, the Prairie Public radio show is celebrating its 10th birthday and we’re all invited to think philosophically about music with them!

Join the party for food, an interview with legendary Jazz flutist Mark Weinstein, and live Klezmer music! All for free!

For more information, visit https://goo.gl/FVRj3B or go to www.whyradioshow.org
-----
Award winning Jazz Flutist Mark Weinstein plays World Jazz and Straight-Ahead with world-class musicians rooted in the music of Cuba, Brazil, Africa, Argentina and his Jewish heritage. A Latin Jazz innovator, Mark was among the first jazz musicians to record with traditional Cuban rhythm sections in an epic album, Cuban Roots, released in 1967 with Chick Corea on piano. He also has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a professor of Education at Montclair State University, in New Jersey. His music is the soundtrack to Why? Radio. You can learn more about him at www.jazzfluteweinstein.com 
Stay after the recording for a live concert, as Mark joins the Balkansi Klezmer Band for a jazz-infused exploration of the classic Jewish folk music, Klezmer. Balkansi is an ensemble based in Grand Forks that specializes in traditional music from one of the richest and most diverse musical regions in the world. The members of the band include Tamara Auer on violin, Haley Ellis on clarinet, Edward Morris on guitar, Zephaniah Pearlstein on cello, Michael Ferrick on bass, Rachel Agan Muniz on percussion.

And then stay even longer for an informal Q&A with Why? Radio host, Jack Russell Weinstein. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼
@prairiepublic @whyradioshow @diasporajack @empireartscenter #logic #philosophy #podcast #jazz #flute #grandforks #music #event #klezmer #northdakota #philosophyiseverywhere #birthday #10 #markweinstein #jackweinstein #jackrussellweinstein #free #concert #interview

Follow PQED on Twitter

What is Philosophy?

Archives

Yesterday, the owner of my favorite local Japanese restaurant gave me a calendar as a gift. As he handed it to me, he whispered “a pretty young actress” and smiled with male camaraderie. It was a very sweet gesture and if you’ve ever spent any time in Asian restaurants, you’ll know exactly what the image looks like. It’s an airbrushed portrait, not very revealing, and I’m sure he got a box of them from his food supplier. This style of image is very common and I saw plenty of them in China.

My first thought was that I had no place to hang it, even as a piece of kitsch. But my second thought was about how different the world outside of my work is. As a college professor, my office must be completely void of anything that sexualizes women, and when sexuality is discussed in class, it must be depersonalized. I would never ask a group of students about their sexual lives or suggest that I found any of them, male or female, attractive. If I gave that calendar to a student, as tame as it might be, I would be risking my job.

University professors have worked very hard at eradicating sexism in our professional environment. We don’t always succeed and we have little control over the dorms, the frat houses, or the surrounding bars, but our offices and professional interactions are, for the most part, free of blatant objectification. Sometimes we are so good at this that our students are unprepared for the misogyny they encounter at their workplace. Many female students have talked to me about this after they graduated.

So, knowing that I could never bring it to work, I asked myself whether I should have refused the calendar in the first place. Wasn’t accepting the gift contributing to the misogyny that oppresses women? Then I had the thought that inspired this post: was I sure that the calendar was sexist in the first place? Is every picture of a woman that highlights her beauty a form of objectification?

I think the answer to this last question is no; a great deal of art emphasizes a model’s attractiveness, and all art objectifies its subject in some way. Objectification isn’t inherently wrong. But this calendar isn’t high art, it is a pin-up, and the viewer is supposed to think about the model sexually. Her outfit isn’t revealing by American standards, but by many other cultural standards it would be. And, frankly, even if she were wearing a hijab, it isn’t the view of the body that sexualizes a person, it is the intent of the viewer or the photographer. This led me to my next question: is all sexual imagery of women sexist? Can we create prurient images that aren’t misogynist and can we objectify someone without oppressing him or her?

I’m intentionally not answering any of these questions. I want my readers to, preferably in the comments below. But the question I ended up at is, for me, the most philosophically interesting: assuming that the calendar would indeed be sexist in my office, is it not possible that it wouldn’t be sexist in a restaurant? Just because it would be immoral for me to give the image to a student, does not mean that the owner of the restaurant was immoral to hand it to me. Can something be sexist in some contexts and not sexist in others?

 

Our world is full of images, most of which are intended to attract attention and to titillate. Sometimes, they are created to sell a product, but other times they are made simply because human beings find beauty entertaining. Is finding someone physically attractive morally problematic and do we have an obligation to eradicate all images that trigger the sexual imagination? Finally, if we do, what about pictures of any object that inspires lurid thoughts? Some people are turned on by shoes, or teddy bears, or household objects. (See Rule 34.) Is it the humanity of a model that we have to protect, or is it the sexual feeling we have to control?

In the end though, my interest is in this calendar, not in people’s fetishes. I have included a picture of the gift at the beginning of this post to show readers what I’m discussing, but since this is a professional blog, I’m even reluctant to do that. Should I not have included it? Is the picture on the blog promoting misogyny too? Is the calendar and all images of it completely corrupt or is it all just a matter of context? Is it not sexist because it illustrates a philosophical problem? I just don’t know.

2 comments on “Are pin-ups always sexist?

  1. Interesting questions, Jack. Seems to me the university can't seem to figure out how to deal with sexuality. On the one hand, as an abstraction or subject for class materials, nothing is too provocative (http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/4099633-418/northwestern-defends-live-sex-demo-on-campus.html or http://today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/the-academics-of-pornography-163307.aspx). I'm not saying this is wrong, but it is indicative of how the university relates to sexuality in general. Discussions of sexuality are ubiquitous, and students are actively encouraged to positively embrace their own and others sexuality, seemingly unless the context is one in which actual sex might result. Then a draconian set of conduct and speech codes are invoked… But that's a whole other subject.
    But I assume by sexist you mean inappropriate, furthering oppression, objectification, and degrading to women. In that case it's pretty clear the answer is no. Women have embraced pinups like Betty Page, and pinups and pornography, in addition to always being with us (like the poor), are increasingly produced by women in many cases for other women. I don't think any of that means it's inherently degrading, or sexist. If pinups are always sexist, then ethnic humor is always wrong. And then we wouldn't have Mel Brooks. And then we wouldn't have brilliant show tunes like “Springtime for Hitler” and “The Inquisition.” And the world would be a poorer place.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I do not think just because some women embrace pornography and pin ups that it necessarily follows that those same things do not further oppression, objectification, and as a result can be degrading to women.

Leave a Reply
%d bloggers like this: