I posted yet another meandering demi-rant recently about sexism and bigotry in general, and I guess it might be getting to be a tiresome theme. Sorry about that. But then, this is my blog and I’m tasked with using it as a whetstone to sharpen my writing skills – any skills, on any topic – daily. So that’s what I’ll do. And it’s interesting to me.
This time, I got a comment from our esteemed regular dreameling, a man whose sense of intellectual fairness and self-analysis is matched only inversely by his ability to restrain himself from commenting after I’ve said “to be continued”. I kid, of course, but I’m going ahead with this anyway. dreameling was at once in agreement with some of the criticisms flung in the direction of a recently-published artwork (dare I say, ar-twerk? Looks like I dare), but also had no personal problem with the work itself and actually thought it looked quite nice.
Which, to be fair, it really did.
My indubitably cultured and philosophically impeccable friend also expressed some concern as to whether this was … I don’t know, a double standard? A conflict of some kind? Hypocrisy? A logical inconsistency? Or – oh, that original sin so loathed by the stupid atheist – the terrible cherry-pick? Something like that, undermining his opinion or making it unacceptable?
 You know, that evil and horrible way a person of faith will decide to be kind to people and not steal in accordance with the way the bible says stealing is wrong and being kind is good, but will ignore the wacky bits about butchering unbelievers and selling their daughters into slavery. Because apparently when you agree with a philosophy, you have to adhere absolutely to every written tenet of that philosophy ever written by millennia of interpretations and translations and revisions spanning a planet’s-worth of history, people and accompanying agendas. And in case I haven’t made this absolutely and abundantly clear by now, I think anyone who believes that is a fucking idiot right up there on the scale with the people who actually do believe every bit of their chosen holy book as literal, verbatim truth. Or at least any part of it they’re told exists, because they haven’t actually read it themselves.
 Not necessarily because the bible says so – I think people of faith are quite capable of arriving at a moral code without the book, but it can provide a foundation and may be something they want to credit. This is too big a debate to enter in a single post. Suffice it to say, I am dubious about the argument that atheists are superior because they “come up with their own” idea of right and wrong in some sort of vacuum, just as I am dubious about the idiot-deist argument that atheists lack morality because they don’t believe in the teachings of the fuzzy wuzzies. Everyone cherry-picks. As long as you’re cherry-picking to be nice to people and rejecting “kill all opponents” as an option, then cherry-picking is fine.
Now, these crimes against rhetoric do exist and they can be negative. Okay, I’m not convinced cherry-picking exists in any negative sense unless you’re psychotic, but I’m sure there are cases. And yes, you can exhibit a double standard, and hold a hypocritical opinion, and even be antisocially inconsistent in what you think is right and wrong.
But the old idea that consistency is the mark of a small mind – or, to be more specific, Emerson’s quote that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines” – is only true in certain contexts. And indeed, it is the “foolish” that is the key word here. It has to be, because it is my life’s work to make some things consistent and consistency is good in a lot of cases.
But in other cases, it is consistency for the sake of consistency, without consideration of context or common sense, that is the problem. It must be avoided, indeed, in any healthy, well-balanced set of opinions. Otherwise, you’re not a rational human being. You’re inflexible at best, and the reed incapable of bending will inevitably shatter. If you’ve arrived at a single sense of right and wrong, a solid division between black and white with no shading in between, and apply it mindlessly to every case and every situation, you’ve failed at being human on a fundamental level. Indeed, as I have said myself: logic, untempered by empathy or common sense, is just compulsiveness.
Of course some things are going to be wrong to some people and right to others. And of course it’s possible to agree with the arguments and points of people opposed to something, and still not be opposed to that thing yourself (and vice versa). That’s known as “seeing things from other people’s point of view”, a basic hallmark of enlightenment, empathy, and intellectual integrity.
And it’s something we all fail at, from time to time.
Of course, usually an issue can have any number and combination of dissenting opinions, and that’s great. Sooner or later, though, there’s only a limited number of actions to be taken in resolution of the issue. And those actions will only mesh with some of those opinions. What happens then?
For example, what do we do about Spider-woman’s butt?
Opinions are like arseholes: it’s all in how you “present” them.
See, you’re free to think whatever you like about it, but if tacit approval and publication of this sort of art promotes the objectification of women and the further normalisation of their status as secondary citizens, then this sort of work needs to be frowned upon more actively, even banned (or the less extreme practice of “voting with the wallet” needs to come into play, but it tends to amount to the same thing). And this doesn’t mesh with the opinions of anyone who has no problem with the art personally, even if they agree with the objections in theory. It also doesn’t mesh with the basically liberated way most Western societies are set up, regarding artistic expression and public consumption of sex. But that’s not a static thing. And let’s make one thing clear here: this is not a real person, in this picture. It’s exploitation, objectification, of an entirely imaginary fantasy ideal.
So what happens? We all have opinions and that’s wonderful. But what happens when only one group of people can get what they want?
Or, as I call it, “the real world”.
I think you can see it in the background of this picture. Did you even see that there was a background? Look at all those office buildings Spider-woman is showing her taint to. Best Thursday coffee break ever, am I right guys?
Of course, in practice, what will happen is that we’ll argue about it forever, too many people will scream about it if they try to ban such art, so things will just continue the way they have. People may become less willing to consume this sort of art in public, and it will go underground like every other kind of subversive, pornographic or otherwise fetish art. But it won’t actually go away. Is that what people want it to do anyway? Go away? Where do we draw that line?
Maybe, as sensibilities change, artwork like this will lose popularity and will enter the history books like so many other art styles have in the past, to be replaced by new styles and subjects. In fact, this is more or less inevitable as tastes and attitudes change and the decades and centuries go by, regardless of the impetus and specific taboos in play. There is no end state here.
There’s no end state here either, although there is an end, and it’s gotten some people in a state.
But that’s practice, not theory. That’s going to be different in every case. The purest form of opinion is going to be what we all know subconsciously, but don’t really think about: there’s seven billion of us, and seven billion unique opinions, each of them with a near-infinity of permutations depending on the context.
Narrowing those permutations uniformly down to a single static opinion and expecting it to be applicable to every instance of an issue or situation is just insane.