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Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child
July 9, 2013 9:57 AM   Subscribe

In an essay for The New Inquiry, Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern consider The End of Men, global recession era capitalism, and ironic sexism.
"Mancession Lit portrays the Man-Child as pitiful, contrasting him with women who are well-adjusted and adult. But it rarely acknowledges the real question that this odd couple raises. Namely, are women better suited to the new economy because they are easier to exploit?"
posted by GameDesignerBen (108 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting piece, especially this:

That is, it puts more and more people of both genders in the traditionally female position of undertaking work that traditionally ­patriarchal institutions have pretended is a kind of personal service outside capital so that they do not have to pay for it.

We're all teachers now.
posted by zabuni at 10:04 AM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


As with pretty much every word written around this subject in the last decade, this is the usual nonsensical pre-copernican fare.

To be perfectly sarcastic, I would suggest that if you can't get a handle on the sexes within your current framework, you should maybe just try and make that framework a bit more complicated. That should work. That should bring everything into focus.
posted by zoo at 10:06 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Deep down inside, the Young-Girl has the personality of a tampon: she exemplifies all of the appropriate indifference, all of the necessary coldness demanded by the conditions of metropolitan life.

I can't even tell what I'm reading. I give up.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Left theory’s response to the feminization of labor has been to cry for mommy."

I'm sure this passes for sensationalist headline writing somewhere, but man, what a waste.

There are the seeds of some very important ideas in this article - why are employers able to insist on smiling, on top of everything else? Is that the long tail of the exploitative nature of capitalism? Why are we still engaged in race and gender wars, when there's a class war that really needs our full attention? - but this awful, obtuse writing obscures them almost completely, and makes it just about impossible for anyone who doesn't speak the same academic-niche-pidgin to engage.
posted by mhoye at 10:14 AM on July 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


What is this I don't even
posted by Slothrup at 10:15 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


In place of obscurantism, clarity and organization.

Physician, heal thyself!
posted by radicalawyer at 10:18 AM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is this one of those machine-generated pieces of writing? I'm honestly not sure.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


“It wasn’t until the Young-Girl appeared that one could concretely experience what it means to ‘fuck,’ that is, to fuck someone without fucking anyone in particular. Because to fuck a being that is really so abstract, so utterly interchangeable, is to fuck in the absolute.” Tiqqun’s language may be obscene, but its point is nothing new. The failure to see women as “anyone in particular,” or as subjects endowed with their own ends, has allowed men to fuck women over for centuries.

Ha, I love this.
posted by troika at 10:21 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Apparently anyone who decides not to reproduce is a man-child, according to her definition. I know a lot of (dumb) people who share this view, but somehow I don't think the author is as forward looking as she proclaims.
posted by smidgen at 10:22 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It appears that all the concreteness of the world has taken refuge in the ass of the Young-Girl.

Well, somebody is talking out of their ass...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's because I'm only one cup of coffee deep, but this entire piece just seemed dense and was difficult for me to parse. I feel like I need to do some background readings for any of this to make sense.
posted by averageamateur at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2013


Deep down inside, the Young-Girl has the personality of a tampon: she exemplifies all of the appropriate indifference, all of the necessary coldness demanded by the conditions of metropolitan life.

The "theory of the Young-Girl" as I understood it (read it, it put me off Tiqqun, honestly - a surprising number of European anarchists are really fucking misogynist, from the rape-apologists in Greece to these dudes) names and describes the figure of the Young-Girl - a sort of metaphor for How We Are All Now Under Capitalism, or maybe How We Are All Supposed To Be Now Under Capitalism. It's as though they said "The ideal person under capitalism is basically a penguin - able to withstand cold and only black-and-white in its coloring" and then went on to write a whole essay about the Theory of the Penguin, expanding on why a penguin is the ideal capitalist subject. Not because they really think that we are all penguins now, but to use this Idea of the Penguin as a way of examining capitalism today.

So Tiqqun is all "The Young-Girl this and the Young-Girl that", and tries to claim that just like our imaginary penguin, a Young-Girl has nothing to do with actual young women, it's just a metaphor, guise. But of course, when we talk about the Ideal Capitalist Penguin, we are talking to a group in which none of us are even slightly likely to be identified as penguins, whereas when we're talking about the Young-Girl, it's impossible to separate out the figure of the Young-Girl from actual young women, and it's disingenous to pretend that it's possible, which is why they suck.

People interested in the "feminization" of labor from an affective angle might try the awesomely named Nina Power's book One Dimensional Woman and another book called Cold Intimacies, The Making of Emotional Capitalism.
posted by Frowner at 10:25 AM on July 9, 2013 [43 favorites]


Maybe it's because I'm only one cup of coffee deep, but this entire piece just seemed dense and was difficult for me to parse. I feel like I need to do some background readings for any of this to make sense.

You're going to need a bigger pot.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:26 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Never Shake a Manchild
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:29 AM on July 9, 2013


Lots of discromulent words going on there.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I read the whole thing and I thought it was great.
posted by Aubergine at 10:35 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


obtuse writing obscures them almost completely, and makes it just about impossible for anyone who doesn't speak the same academic-niche-pidgin to engage

That pretty much nails The New Inquiry. I subscribe and I enjoy it, but there's a lot of dense academic-like language used as shortcuts for more complex explanation. I'm never sure if I'm reading an article that should've been a book, or an article that should've been a tweet.
posted by verb at 10:35 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Perhaps the most extreme example of Man-Child politics is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, which proposes that doing nothing might be the only way left to save the world. And yet, it is hard not to see these apocalyptic scenarios as cop-outs, typical of the compensatory fantasies of a disorganized left that, having given up on actually existing politics, daydreams about nature’s taking over where it left off.

Doing so, Man-Children overlook the fact that social reproduction—the work of having and raising kids—is not mere replication. It can be creative. That is, it might offer opportunities for social transformation.
A program of breeding children imbued with a political ideology is as distasteful as the status quo.
posted by banal evil at 10:36 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently anyone who decides not to reproduce is a man-child, according to her definition. I know a lot of (dumb) people who share this view, but somehow I don't think the author is as forward looking as she proclaims.

I would be astonished if that's what she actually meant - I think it's just clumsy writing. I think what she's trying to say is that to 'grow up' involves making choices about how you want to live, one of which is whether to have children, rather than just avoiding the question and expecting other people to clean up after you. Then she gets into a generality about society - that social reproduction (ie, having kids and caring for them) is a reality of the world that we all live in, and all this "society for human extinction" and "la la I hate children why are they always crying" business just isn't being real about how humans live as a group - you and I may not personally want kids, but it's childish to pretend that we don't have some social responsibility towards children-as-a-group (whether that's paying taxes, politely telling people that their sprogs are lovely, supporting policies that help others parent, or just not being an asshole when someone's kid is crying on the bus) . I don't think she means "you personally must have children or you are immature" - I think it's just that she doesn't explain herself quite clearly or transition well between the two points. Honestly, I would be Very, Very Surprised if the New Inquiry ran something from a 'have babies or be immature' angle.

I do think that this idea of the Grown Woman is a useful one - I see so many strong women and so many useless men in my personal life, women who work longer paid hours and do more in the home than their partners, women who support their kids when dad decided he'd rather split town, men who just can't fucking step up....and it's very useful to read an essay which reminds me that being a Grown Woman isn't about being better - it's about being shaped by capitalism as the Subject Who Can't Rest If There Is Responsibility To Be Taken. The Grown Woman and the Man Child are both unpleasant positions to occupy, albeit in different ways.
posted by Frowner at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2013 [27 favorites]


I get the basic ideas, but it's still terrible writing. It's obscure language that reaffirms the authors' distaste for modern society while insulating them from criticism.
posted by smorange at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2013



A program of breeding children imbued with a political ideology is as distasteful as the status quo.


I don't think you can transcend politics, even in reproduction and childcare.
posted by zabuni at 10:53 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


but there's a lot of dense academic-like language

Don't slander all of us.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find an odd satisfaction the the fact that the phrase 'new economy' isn't Lead Capped or used as shorthand for some miraculous new theory of financial physics. But that's probably just my dotcom memory showing.
posted by lodurr at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2013


If you want to cut costs, I guess offering a female worker 75-80 cents on the dollar is one highly effective method of reducing your per employee cost.

Are female workers cheaper to insure considering higher life expectancy?
posted by vuron at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2013


I'm not terrifically up on marxist theory and its descendants, but if I grasp this case correctly on skimming, the argument is that capitalism wants feminized actors like the young-girl (or the author's [ironically?] proposed 'man-child', or the Grown Woman). The compliance factor, and willingness to assume a consumption role, are much more important than the relatively small gain you get from cutting wages.
posted by lodurr at 11:02 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The retreat of men into apathy and self-indulgence is a definite help to the existing political and economic structures, but so is the active embrace of those structures by women. The situation can only be resolved through a reexamination of the foundations of our concepts of biology. In particular, Marx’s concept of Gattungswesen (genus-essence*) must be brought to the fore. Only by self-identifying with the human life-form as a whole is the individual liberated from having to project a self-alienated political and economic image:
Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become Gattungswesen in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his “own powers” as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.—“On the Jewish Question
A good introduction to this subject can be found in “Species-Beings: For Biocommunism” by Nick Dyer-Witheford.

*The term Gattungswesen is frequently translated as “species-being,” which is extremely misleading.
posted by No Robots at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think there are a lot of good points in here, especially with regard to how women are socialized to be "selfless" and "emotional caretakers" and how that makes us extra-employable in workplaces that commodify emotional experience as well as actual stuff (like smiling cashiers!) and how that means we get even more dumped on us because we are Responsible! And Care! Takers! We! Will! Do What! (Our Bosses Define As) What Needs to be Done! But I have no idea why it's buried in all this terrible pseudoacademic prose. There are plenty of journal articles that are easier to understand. Maybe I'm just not the target audience, but to me, if you can't talk sociology and philosophy on the street corner just as well as in the classroom, what in the world is the point?

I was thinking the other day about the gender disparity in terms of common social markers of adulthood*-- almost every young, just-out-of-college woman I know (biased sample, admittedly) holds down a steady if menial job, can run her own household, lives by herself, cleans regularly, can cook, and performs a lot of emotional work necessary to form social ties, from writing thank you cards and buying family members presents to holding charity bake sales. They are thinking ahead to family and career. The ones who don't have serious social anxieties that interfere with the operation of their daily lives (which is totally okay, everybody's at a different place.)

Whereas all the men I know of the same age do not now know how to cook for themselves, are confounded by the idea of grocery shopping, mostly have shifting and unstable employment, live with multiple roommates or parents, and have no idea how to undertake emotional work that doesn't involve a direct friend (sending thank you cards, doing favors for bosses, pursing shared interests through hobbies or voluntereing.) They're almost all wildly adrift. A few have successful careers, which is awesome, but they complain to me that they feel like they're failures in other areas because they can't even keep their living spaces clean in their limited time. The ones who do manage to seem put together all live with their girlfriends, who either do the lion's share of the 'adult' work or frequently police the men into contributing. They're all great guys and I'm really glad to have them in my life, but the difference is startling. Are our maternal gatekeeping and masculinity practices really so strong that these men are lagging so far behind because they didn't get as much practice at these tasks in childhood? Maybe. I don't really know why it's happening, and since I'm a pretty terrible sample maybe it's only happening in my immediate geographic area, or my particular economic class, or even just my circle of friends. It's interesting though.

*Not that these social markers mean anything in terms of how kind, smart, worthwhile, loving or awesome a person is, really. They're just interesting socially-defined metrics.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I don't think you can transcend politics, even in reproduction and childcare.

I agree.

I read the passage as the encouragement of reproduction as a means to a political end, not the child as an end in themselves and politics being used as a means to improve their welfare.

Even if I bought the argument that having children can affect positive societal change, I cannot imagine using it as justification to bring a life into the world.
posted by banal evil at 11:13 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The bits at the end there about having children are, I think, given in the context of examples of the Man-Child refusing to do, or commit to, anything at all.

The final example about the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement feels a bit tacked on, but seems to be saying, "Any young radical who refuses to have children because having children is not Revolutionary does not know very much about children."
posted by GameDesignerBen at 11:14 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can buy the social responsibility angle -- and I agree with it. Knowing absolutely nothing about the New Inquiry, it was hard to parse that out - but I'm going to assume I just missed the point as I rushed to the end of the article. :-)
posted by smidgen at 11:17 AM on July 9, 2013


Also, now I'm seriously worried about what people who read my emails must be thinking, because the language here didn't bother me at all...
posted by GameDesignerBen at 11:17 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was enjoying the "man-child" as a meta-ironic take on the "ironic" misogynism of the "young girl" and then hoping it would lead to a critique of the "feminization" of the workforce idea, but instead it kind of seemed like the authors went full-circle past meta-irony and into sincerity and forgetting that the whole "man-child" construct was meta-ironic, and rediscovered popular front communism or mussolini or something:
In place of obscurantism, clarity and organization. In place of indecision and irony, a praise song and a program.

A praise song and a program, with clarity and organization? Ummm... No thanks.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also let me just say that if I ever get around to building my own Markov Chain paragraph-generator this is getting used as a source and then I'm just going to start emailing the output to other sociology majors as, "Found this great article the other day...."
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


but instead it kind of seemed like the authors went full-circle past meta-irony and into sincerity and forgetting that the whole "man-child" construct was meta-ironic, and rediscovered popular front communism or mussolini or something

"You never go full Žižek!"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


Also, now I'm seriously worried about what people who read my emails must be thinking, because the language here didn't bother me at all...

This was not dense academic writing. This was fairly breezy, if a little awkward (it feels like the two authors didn't quite mesh) and sprinkled with pop culture references: Girls, niceguyism, etc.


Also let me just say that if I ever get around to building my own Markov Chain paragraph-generator this is getting used as a source and then I'm just going to start emailing the output to other sociology majors as, "Found this great article the other day...."


What is this I don't even

I can't even tell what I'm reading. I give up.

Depressing... Idiocracy will only become a documentary if you let it.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


WidgetAlley, it's not just you unless you are actually one of my friends in real life.

This conversation has come up multiple times, with multiple (women) friends in various locations. All of us have felt for many years that we're waiting for the men around us to finally "get it," and we also feel a bit shafted--we were raised to believe that our margins for error were very slim indeed, that nobody was waiting to take care of us, that we had better get our shit together, and fast, or else. We do not feel our brothers, cousins, and boyfriends got that sort of training at all. Like you, I do know a handful of guys who are self-sustaining and have many "adult" markers but yes, almost all of them were married or cohabitating quite young*.



*I see what you mean about the wife/girlfriend sort of policing the partner into adulthood, but I think some of it is purely economic. Many of those adulthood lifestyle markers are fucking pricey these days! People with years and years of dual income are just in a whole 'nother boat.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


A program of breeding children imbued with a political ideology is as distasteful as the status quo.

Yeah. Hells yeah, in fact. I was going to quote the whole conclusion before sputtering WTF but that about sums it up.

Overall, I thought it had some interesting ideas in it, but choosing to use this Tiqqan thing as the backboard to bounce her own ideas off of made parts of it abstruse. You'd have to be intimately familiar with them and their ideas to have a feel for a lot of the allusions she's making. Maybe The New Inquiry's audience is, I was not.
posted by Diablevert at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


What should motivate men to sustain themselves?
posted by Teakettle at 11:35 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Advertising.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:37 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't see the language or even necessarily the writing as bad per se -- but it is difficult to sift through the layers of ironism to figure out what the hell she's really trying to say.
posted by lodurr at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2013


Now, I say this lovingly, and I say it as a person who regularly struggles with the same feeling, but: it is very easy to assume that 'difficult' or 'uses specialized language' is the same as 'bad'. Texts are for different audiences, serve different purposes, attempt to use language differently. Writers are different from each other. Some people have brilliant ideas and struggle to articulate them; some people write like angels (to borrow from Margery Allingham) but have nothing to say but boring old cliches. And while it's easy to say that someone with a new idea - or someone who is struggling toward a new idea - should just put their pen down until they learn to write, well, I'd rather have the new ideas even if I have to put forth a little effort and patience to get to them, just as sometimes I want a nice familiar story full of boring old cliches

I know it can only sound sanctimonious and would at various points in my life have raised my hackles, but I cannot emphasize enough that reading with the text is extraordinarily valuable. Is it full of words you don't know? Either grab a dictionary or read as best you can from context (which is what I always do, actually). Does it refer to authors you haven't read? Concentrate on getting what you can out of the text, or speculate wildly about just what this "Lacan" is on about, or what Foucouldians mean by 'biopower'. Don't expect to 'master' the text - it's easy to feel that a "good" text is one where, if you have "appropriate" amounts of knowledge and put in "appropriate" effort, you can understand the text completely, down to the last morsel. This is a fine approach for a how-to book - a cookbook, an engineering text, a book about programming - but it's a poor approach for anything that does not have extremely easy-to-define aims. You're reading this, not some Ideal Reader studying for a test - what will you get out of it, based on who you are and what you've read?

The point is, when you read with the text, you try to approach in a friendly and optimistic spirit, rather as if you were going sailing for the first time. You want to go sailing, the breeze is nice, the sky is blue....but you don't yet know how to manage the sails, and while you hope to come home at the end of the day somewhat more of a sailor than you were in the morning, you don't expect to win the World Cup next week. It is very easy to approach a text as a disease to be cured or a dangerous animal to be defeated - something that is already flawed, dangerous and hostile, and something that you must master completely in order to feel good.

Maybe I speak only for myself, but I often find that "difficult" texts scare me - they make me feel inadequate. And I respond by describing them as elitist, by saying that they should be "readable on the street corner" or else they're no good. Is an economics text no good if it can't be read on the street corner? What about the poetry of John Donne? Or what about something that is new, new enough that the audience has no context for it? Remember that people met germ theory, for example, with tremendous hostility.


*I add that I found this essay really easy to read - really, really clear and simple, and even its excerpts from Theory of the Young-Girl were the easy ones. This is not because I am super smart; it's because I'm a practiced reader in general, a practiced reader of pop-academic texts in particular, and someone who has a long-standing interest in the matters under discussion. My point is that this essay isn't some giant elitist mind-fuck (it's the New Inquiry, fer Chrissakes, slightly more taxing than Crooked Timber, slightly less rigorous than Jacobin).
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


We were raised to believe that our margins for error were very slim indeed, that nobody was waiting to take care of us, that we had better get our shit together, and fast, or else. We do not feel our brothers, cousins, and boyfriends got that sort of training at all. Like you, I do know a handful of guys who are self-sustaining and have many "adult" markers but yes, almost all of them were married or cohabitating quite young.

God, wish I could favorite this a thousand times. It's not even the awareness that women need to be ready to take care of ourselves, it's that we will need to take care of other people. I've seen so many men (many who are married and with children) who don't seem to be aware of this responsibility and if they are aware of it, seem perfectly happy to leave the task of fulfilling it to the women in their lives.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


What a depressing thread. Do I really need to point out that if you refer to the author as "she," inadvertently revealing that you haven't even read the byline (or this FPP!) carefully enough to realize that the article was written by two people, not one, then it's fairly doubtful you put in enough effort to determine whether an article about French theory was insightful or not?
posted by RogerB at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]



but instead it kind of seemed like the authors went full-circle past meta-irony and into sincerity and forgetting that the whole "man-child" construct was meta-ironic, and rediscovered popular front communism or mussolini or something


That's a good point! She really does go from that whole 'Man Child as-if-Young-Girl' thing to "this is how men-children really are". You don't suppose she's doing it in order to reproduce the experience of young women reading about the Young-Girl?
posted by Frowner at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2013


That man-child bit hits pretty close to home.

I am way more fucked than I ever thought. I need more man-adult markers. I've been trying to be more earnest and plodding, Eschewing cynicism, ironisms and even my beloved meta-ironisms.

What about signifiers? I don't have a workshop to tinker with things. I can't wear a fedora. I can start smoking a pipe, but that may be an ironism or even a meta-ironism. Too old to fight in a war. Should I switch to drinking whiskey?

Even if I were to fully rid myself of irony and cynicism, lets not kid ourselves, irony and cynicsm are the default modes of relation to society in late stage capitalism, unless I affect the external markings of a man-adult, I will be perceived as dumb.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:49 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a depressing thread. Do I really need to point out that if you refer to the author as "she," inadvertently revealing that you haven't even read the byline (or this FPP!) carefully enough to realize that the article was written by two people, not one, then it's fairly doubtful you put in enough effort to determine whether an article about French theory was insightful or not?

We're not - or shouldn't be - aiming to discover the 'correct' 'insightful' reading that legitimates us as readers, or aiming to master the text. (On a mere practical level, most of us are reading this on the internet, probably on lunch break; many of the rest of us read theory in our spare time, since we don't have the various social privileges of the full time academic. Which is, again, why "mastery" is such bullshit.)
posted by Frowner at 11:51 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner, I must congratulate you. I do not believe I have ever been so thoroughly patronised. That comment is a monument, and if I were a billionaire I would set my minions to mining metric tons of pure, calcified Smug just so I could pile them into a mountain and place a plinth atop it, whereat that comment would be etched in granite and tipped in platinum, the better to pass unto generations yet unborn. Look on thy works, oh mighty, and despair!
posted by Diablevert at 11:54 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Frowner, I know you mean well, but that comment comes off as kind of patronizing. The people objecting to the style are not uneducated or unadventurous readers-- well, I guess I can only speak for myself, but I'm certainly not. I have, in fact, read Lacan and Foucault. Large words that I don't know the meaning of hold no terror for me. Your comment kind of reads like you're assuming that everyone who objects to this is new to the idea of reading advanced materials. I mean, it's fine that you liked it, we can totally have different opinions, but it seems unnecessary to imply that we don't like it because it's too hard.

And as I specifically said in my post, I'm probably not the target audience for this. What I don't understand is why a post on an internet website seems so inaccessible for the average reader. It has an important message, and a lot of interesting discussion, and it makes no sense to me to put it out there in such an incredibly public forum without also making it readable to people who do not have academic backgrounds-- and I don't meant the large words, or the references to academic authors, I mean the overall organization and the lack of introduction to concepts. Maybe that's what The New Inquiry wants, and it's an intentional gatekeeping mechanism to ensure that the dialogue stays within a particular class* or educational set of people. And sometimes that happens and it's okay (like academic conferences, for instance.) I am hardly insisting that all thought on any subject has to be at the level of introductory. But I don't understand why you would write something on what is, basically, an introductory-level forum most of the time (the Internet) at a level that seems weirdly inaccessible. Unless New Inquiry wants specifically to set itself up as a community that requires a certain intellectual entry fee to participate, which is fine, but then, if it's a closed community type thing, it seems like weird fodder for a MeFi post without further context.

*Not economic class, just class as in 'people who are interested in French anarchist thinking' or whatever.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I don't understand why you would write something on what is, basically, an introductory-level forum most of the time (the Internet) at a level that seems weirdly inaccessible.

The Internet might be an introductory-level forum most of the time. If so, then this is the other part of the time.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right, which is why more context, I think, would be helpful. So:

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Tiqqun
Here is an entry on emotional labor
Here is an article on the femininization of the workplace from The Nation
and this appears to be some info on "Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl"
and here is a review that helps elucidate what Theory of a Young-Girl is about.

for anyone who is interested but possibly confused by the original article.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's a good point! She really does go from that whole 'Man Child as-if-Young-Girl' thing to "this is how men-children really are". You don't suppose she's doing it in order to reproduce the experience of young women reading about the Young-Girl?

...

We're not - or shouldn't be - aiming to discover the 'correct' 'insightful' reading that legitimates us as readers, or aiming to master the text.

It seems weird to imply that ennui.bz has misread the article only to later decry misreading as an idea.

Really, without irony, I think I've missed some level of irony/some 101-level idea, and I won't ask for or demand an explanation. I'll go hit the books.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2013


God, wish I could favorite this a thousand times. It's not even the awareness that women need to be ready to take care of ourselves, it's that we will need to take care of other people. I've seen so many men (many who are married and with children) who don't seem to be aware of this responsibility and if they are aware of it, seem perfectly happy to leave the task of fulfilling it to the women in their lives.

I fail to see how this is somehow different from the status quo. You could be describing my grandfather, although to be fair, he occasionally tried to do some parenting with his fists. Did Archie Bunker do the laundry and write thank you notes unprompted?

I think the difference is that two generations of twenty-somethings ago, most emotionally stunted man-children (at least if white enough) could get a menial job that paid for a house and a new car every few years. Today's twenty-something man-child is exceptionally lucky if he can afford those surrogates of maturity. If anything, I think today's young men might be better than those of a few generations ago. They can't reliably provide the material trappings of maturity, and maybe are somewhat less ready to start performing their adulthood, but at least they are somewhat less homicidal when they have a temper tantrum.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:11 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


But I don't understand why you would write something on what is, basically, an introductory-level forum most of the time (the Internet) at a level that seems weirdly inaccessible. Unless New Inquiry wants specifically to set itself up as a community that requires a certain intellectual entry fee to participate, which is fine, but then, if it's a closed community type thing, it seems like weird fodder for a MeFi post without further context.

See, here's where it would probably help to be talking face to face, with tone, etc.

The thing is, I've had this conversation so many times with so many people where the whole "this is so difficult, it's so elitist, why do they use hard words, the Proletariat Will Not Understand" thing is pretty nakedly a cover for personal insecurity, jealousy, being so unhappy in one's own life that one is unable be a good reader...and I've been on the "I am so messed up that I can only be an obnoxious, impatient, mean reader" side for years at a stretch. I've also taught classes where it is really fucking hard to get people to read with the text, and where folks get a lot less out of the class than they otherwise might. Not stupid people, either. And I got a lot less out of my education than I should have because I was a fucking resistant, impatient asshole of a reader. Learning to read with the text and without aiming for mastery was a huge deal for me, and it wasn't because I was stupid or because I hadn't read Foucault.

I've had this conversation so many times that I guess it's hard for me to identify when someone is coming from another angle, and I apologize for that.

I have mixed feelings about the "this is an important argument, why is it in this forum" line of reasoning, precisely because I know a bunch of non-college-educated people who read 'difficult' texts and who want to read difficult texts, and I most often encounter the 'but this is so elitist' line of reasoning from people who are themselves already pretty educated. I am really wary about advocating for an imaginary readership instead of the readerly communities that I know for sure exist.

I also feel like "why is this [not a perfect piece of writing for whatever definition of perfect]" line really separates authors from readers. The folks writing for New Inquiry - a couple of them are friends of people I know slightly. They're not unlike mefites, I think. (I expect that many among us could pitch articles to them.) So I feel kind of like, eh, they're just people. I don't expect them to bring universally accessible wisdom to the table any more than I expect to find it at any workshop or lecture I attend.

But I do apologize for coming across as patronizing. I was trying to convey the naive pleasure that I've found as I've become a better reader, but obviously that came across as snotty. And I also apologize for writing as if folks hadn't read anything complicated.

It seems weird to imply that ennui.bz has misread the text only to later decry misreading as an idea.

Wait, wait! I am completely on the fence about whether the writer was just being sort of clunky or trying to replicate the experience of young women/Young-Girl. Honestly, I veer a little bit towards the "this is clunky, not intentional" side, and I was curious about what folks thought about it. I tend to lean toward "this is poorly written" only to find out that it is intentionally experimental, actually, so I was trying to correct for that.

But I wasn't thinking of it so much as "misreading" as "arguing about what we think the text says". I think it's possible to have different interpretations of a text without having those be strong and exclusive interpretations, or at least I often feel like I have an interpretation of a text but don't feel like I've mastered it or extracted everything from the text - I'm happy to argue about it, but not so much in an Oedipal-death-struggle-I-AM-RIGHT way.
posted by Frowner at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, wait! I am completely on the fence about whether the writer was just being sort of clunky or trying to replicate the experience of young women/Young-Girl. Honestly, I veer a little bit towards the "this is clunky, not intentional" side, and I was curious about what folks thought about it. I tend to lean toward "this is poorly written" only to find out that it is intentionally experimental, actually, so I was trying to correct for that.

But I wasn't thinking of it so much as "misreading" as "arguing about what we think the text says". I think it's possible to have different interpretations of a text without having those be strong and exclusive interpretations, or at least I often feel like I have an interpretation of a text but don't feel like I've mastered it or extracted everything from the text - I'm happy to argue about it, but not so much in an Oedipal-death-struggle-I-AM-RIGHT way.


Thanks for the clarification. I still think ennui was right to chastise people who couldn't even bother to read the damn byline, though.

If anything, I think today's young men might be better than those of a few generations ago. They can't reliably provide the material trappings of maturity, and maybe are somewhat less ready to start performing their adulthood, but at least they are somewhat less homicidal when they have a temper tantrum.

Hooray, I don't kill people.

God, wish I could favorite this a thousand times. It's not even the awareness that women need to be ready to take care of ourselves, it's that we will need to take care of other people.

A few days every week, I realize that my parents are aging. I and my brother will have to take care of them somehow. I don't know how we'll do that, because I don't know when or whether we'll be able to leave my parents' house and provide for ourselves, never mind significant others, children, and our elders. The thought terrifies me for the whole family's sake.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:26 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are female workers cheaper to insure considering higher life expectancy?

Women are typically more expensive to insure because they get pregnant, which at least in the US is very expensive.

The cheapest people to insure are young men. No chance of pregnancy, few chronic illnesses, and they tend to not go to the doctor at all, and the hospital only if they're on death's door, and they tend to die inexpensively (trauma rather than illness). Very hard to beat those numbers.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I add that on re-read, being all "I am a practiced reader" comes across way differently than I meant it to. I was trying to say that because I've read a lot of random stuff over many years, I read really quickly and have a big vocabulary, and thus certain things are easy for me, but it's much more like someone being able to add numbers quickly because they need to add a lot than like someone who is actually a mathematician. This always comes to mind because I have a friend who is a really excellent reader-of-texts who has always struggled mightily with dyslexia, and there are things that I read really easily that my friend does not, but they are much better at understanding and interpreting than I. So I was trying to say that I have a trivial skill as a reader and that doesn't really mean much.

There's just so much moral language around reading, and it's such bullshit, and again I apologize for talking as though I thought I was better.
posted by Frowner at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whereas all the men I know of the same age do not now know how to cook for themselves […]

Actually, I think this is bullshit. There is a significant amount of confirmation bias here. Maybe I just run in different circles. The only part I identify with (and have seen most often) is the house keeping part. But I grew up with a parent who also did not do house keeping, so I've always thought of it as particular to my situation. I know a lot of women who definitely do not have it together and who live with roommates. In fact, using living alone as a marker seems, well, out of touch with economic reality (to be polite).

Also, a lot of the "policing" (e.g. nagging) that men (and non-conforming women) get is easily recognizable not as things that must get done to be an adult, but things that women were taught must be done. Some people were never taught that these things were necessary because a lot of them aren't in any absolute sense. Some of these things (like doing favors for your boss) are things that are not only not required, but have the potential to be a waste of time.

I still think ennui was right to chastise people who couldn't even bother to read the damn byline, though.

As someone who read the article end to end, but missed the second name, I think this is yet another grab for relative status by people who want to appear smart in public. In other words, no, I don't think she was correct at all -- whether you notice the byline is unrelated.
posted by smidgen at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's just so much moral language around reading, and it's such bullshit, and again I apologize for talking as though I thought I was better.

I like to think I read your original comment in the manner you hoped people would read the article.
posted by pulposus at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And..speaking of careful reading.. it wasn't her.. it was RogerB. :-)
posted by smidgen at 12:41 PM on July 9, 2013


Oh, for the love of an edit threshold. Sorry to ennui.bz, RogerB, and Frowner.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:43 PM on July 9, 2013


OK, so "the new Mancession Lit" has given rise to a new heroine: "Call her the Grown-Woman. A perpetual-motion machine of uncomplaining labor, shuttling between her job and household tasks." But the role of the Grown-Woman is still a "role that late capitalism has devised for us." That is to say, one where you are being exploited, as you strive for perfection, according to standards not of your own making.

And the path of the Man-Child can be seen, at best, as an opting out of badly compromised choices; but in effect you're still worse than useless.

So what do you do? The authors offer up social reproduction as a potential means of social transformation. OK, maybe. I mean, I have my doubts about how effective that may really turn out to be for actually changing the world, but who knows. But I am very sympathetic to this basic idea:

Just grow up, already. Make choices and commit to them, even though all your choices may seem compromised in one way or another. And this does not have to mean the usual constellation of grown-up markers; who says you have to own a home, or be married? It can just mean you care enough about yourself AND the world around you that you are willing to put some work into looking after both, as best you can. Even though none of it may seem to be making much of a difference.
posted by fikri at 12:51 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing the obscurity of the article. It's true that it buries the lede, so if you read the first page or two you're not going to see what it's about.

If you find it difficult, let me try to walk you through it.

1. Context for the context: unimportant note that anonymous authors were once mostly women, but the example about to be discussed is from men.

2. Context: who these Tiqqun people were.

3. Summarizing Tiqqun's notion of the "Young-Girl" as the supposed goal of capitalism, its idealized consumer but also somehow its hidden mover.

4. Examples from Tiqqun's prose poem about the Young-Girl.

(I just checked; the original is Jeune-Fille. Why the hyphen, I don't know. Jeune fille is itself the equivalent of English 'girl'-- you add jeune to avoid just saying fille which can be taken as 'prostitute'. Anyway 'Young-Girl' is a pretty clumsy translation.)

6. Counter-proposal: if there's a gender with problems these days it's men. Description of the Man-Child. This section is pretty amusing and you probably know a few people like this, so if you read nothing else, read this part.

7. A few cites to show that others are on to this Man-Child thing too.

8. One of the newest twists of the oppressors: the jobs suck but require "passion". Maybe women are better at this. Actually working, plus taking care of the Man-Child, the Grown Woman is a difficult role.

9. Tiqqun's dubious use of women as symbolic scapegoats has precedents.

10. Tiqqun would probably say that they're not really sexist. But they are-- it's just Man-Child privilege to hide misogyny behind a heavy layer of irony.

11. It's a long-term problem of the Left that sex/gender issues were to be taken care of "after the revolution"-- which in practice means not dealing with them.

12. At the same time, like the Man-Child, the modern theorist is afraid to commit to any particular program; indeed, he's attracted to theories that allow him to do nothing at all.

13. Conclusion: eh, never mind, they kind of cop out here and just throw out some nouns (imagination! courage!).
posted by zompist at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't wait to find out what happens when Straw Man-Child finally grows up. Will he finally settle down and marry Grown-Straw Woman, or will he toss her aside for her more spontaneous younger sister, Straw Woman Young-Adult?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:14 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's just so much moral language around reading, and it's such bullshit, and again I apologize for talking as though I thought I was better.

I'm sorry I sarcastic-ed back at you, man.
posted by Diablevert at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2013


frowner, i can only speak for myself, but AFAIAC it's not "why do they use hard words" -- it's 'why the fuck don't they communicate clearly?'

Very, very often when I read this type of cultural criticism, it seems to me that it's deliberately obscurantist. (This piece seems less vulnerable to that critique than most, to me, FWIW. As I've said, for me the problem with this piece is more a matter of how you tell what's intended and what's pose.) I'm quite convinced that at least some people doing that on purpose; I'm also quite sure that others are simply following the community norms.

Here's the thing, for me: YOU are not doing that. So aren't you personally demonstrating that it's not necessary?
posted by lodurr at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing the obscurity of the article. It's true that it buries the lede, so if you read the first page or two you're not going to see what it's about.

Well, one of the many areas where the article goes a bit fuzzy is in precisely this transition: The authors open by describing this group and its Young Girl construction, and seem to suggest that the Young Girl motif was a lousy metaphor for the ravages capitalism, and actually serves as to obscure a bunch of He-Man Woman Hatin' under a fog of Gitanes smoke.

They then invert and contrast this, saying that nowadays the au courant pose is to use the Man Child as a lousy metaphor for the ravages of capitalism, citing such popular middle-brow thumbsuckers as Hannah Rosin in The Atlantic.

That's the point at which the essay starts to lose coherence: they then throw in a Girls reference, the ultimate whitebread Kids These Days fretfest, but say it's not actually another example of the Man Child as lousy metaphor for late capitalism, but instead an example of the Young Girl As Man Child...because Lena Dunham has a scene where she pulls a splinter out of her ass, I guess?

And oh wait, turns out that the Man Child is actually quite a decent metaphor for the ravages of late capitalism, solidly based on real facts (does that make Hannah Rosin a genius?) and the problem was really just with the Young Girl thing and its authors. Who are actually all Man Children. Making this an essay whose point in that Tiqqan sucks, I guess. Or maybe that Man Children suck.


In any case, all of these problems could be solved with pumping out a few more sprog and properly setting up their Skinner boxes so as to indoctrinate them with Marxist-Leninism. Or something. I think I saw 3D printer plans for the Box at a Maker Fair one time.
posted by Diablevert at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I don't understand why you would write something on what is, basically, an introductory-level forum most of the time (the Internet)

A bit dumb this, considering this is an essay from a website that was set up as an explicitly intellectual space, founded to research big ideas in depth.

Frowner is right; sometimes it's not enough as a reader to be moderately intelligent but ignorant and you need to know more or be willing to engage more to get the best out of a text like this.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2013



I'm sorry I sarcastic-ed back at you, man.


Well, it was the kind of sarcasm that I would totally have favorited had it not been directed at me.

Here's the thing, for me: YOU are not doing that. So aren't you personally demonstrating that it's not necessary?

Here is what I am thinking:

1. I don't regularly use academic language, so it doesn't seem as natural to me - it's not my kind of shop-talk. It isn't my default. My peer group doesn't use language this way.
2. I don't have a career to make, so my internet presence doesn't need to be managed the same way - I don't have to produce cultural criticism as a way of building my academic brand. So if I want to talk about Tiqqun, I can be as sloppy as I like. I do not envy people who are under the gun and trying both to talk about stuff they like and build an academic portfolio.
3. I don't have as in-depth a knowledge of this stuff, so it's easy for me to be sloppy. I am not held back by thinking "but really it's so much more complicated than that, I had better talk about this complicated aspect of [THING]", and my conclusions are not as sophisticated. For instance, I have a lot of trouble looking at the whole structure of a piece and spotting where it's incoherent; I tend to get caught up in looking just at one section.
4. I am not accustomed to using academic language with the same kind of precision that, like, Badiou would. So basically, even if I wanted to be obscure, I couldn't.
5. On mefi, even the academics/theory-readers are wearing their mefi hats, so we are different as an audience.

I sometimes encounter work where I feel like it's written in a received style - where people are trying to "sound academic" and use the right words without really knowing what they're doing. I tend to read this as "those people think they are better than me, who do they think they are, who do they think they are fooling?" But I have also recently watched a friend grow as an academic writer, and their early sorta-pompous-sounding essays were really, I now see, attempts to practice with this new language rather than attempts to seem smarter and better. I think that often people who write obscurely (as opposed to merely being difficult writers - Lacan is difficult (to me anyway) but not obscure, for example) are either incompetent or still practicing, and that they themselves aren't really trying to justify being obscure. I think we assume that people are trying to be obscure in order to attain status because we are brought up to have this false reverence for academia, whether we are academics or not. I mean, I love theory, but it doesn't really have more authority than other ways of knowing.

I also think that people have different ways of working out ideas. I remember reading this Judith Butler thing right after 9/11, and I cannot for the life of me remember what conclusions she drew, but I remember thinking "yeah, this is a good conclusion, but I would have arrived at it [via simpler language and less academic reasoning]", and it occurred to me that Judith Butler, who is no fool, needed to think in the way she thinks in order to arrive at her conclusion. It wasn't "I have a conclusion, how can I dress it up in academic language and reasoning", it was more like following a twisty and obscure path and finding the conclusion, and while someone else might have been able to take a different path to the conclusion, Judith Butler needed to take the winding one because that's how she thinks. And also, some of the insights that she gets to along the path are valuable.

I don't know. I have certainly been excluded or treated like a big dummy by academics, even my friends among academics, in situations where academic social norms or status games prevailed. And that has made me feel really bad and very resentful. And I think that is a political thing, and it can be a political problem - at least in one situation, it caused me to drop out of an organizing project where they very badly needed a non-academic to be involved.

I guess I end up thinking that the issue isn't so much obscurity or difficulty or academic language of whatever stripe as it is that academic discourse is not one discourse among many - it's either totally dismissed as bullshit by pointy-headed eggheads (which eggs are mysteriously pointed) or it is given authority over all other ways of writing. Academic discourse does a lot of stuff that is harder to do in other modes, but other modes do things that academic discourse does not.
posted by Frowner at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Technical writing faces similar challenges, sometimes: there is a lot of exceptionally dense and very precise terminology that can be used to speed the process of "getting to the interesting parts" of any given paper or article. For those who know the shorthand inside and out, and are well-versed in the community's vocabulary, it's a way of jumping straight to the new ideas and assessing them on their merits.

At its worst, though, this tendency turns into jargon-hash, where the dense fog of layered references makes the content inaccessible. Think of it as stone soup for ideas: a thin gruel of analysis is offered up, and the reader is expected to cart over a meal's worth of ideas from other thinkers.

Those immersed in the community tend to see that as an ideas problem -- just another weak article or paper -- rather than a jargon problem. And from their perspective, it's correct. A casual reader, or an intelligent reader not as familiar with the deep chains of references, will have to do a lot of heavy lifting just to decide whether the novel idea or analysis is worth a look.
posted by verb at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be honest, hom impenetrable the article is doesn't really matter, as the key question was already asked in the post here:

Namely, are women better suited to the new economy because they are easier to exploit?"

Well, yes. At least for a certain segment of the work force. Anybody who is not destined for a top career in finance, the boardroom or a few other elite professions is increasingly expected to have the "virtues" that we've traditionally expected from women: quiet, hardworking, self-effacing, willing to put up with a lot of bullshit as the price of keeping your job, undsoweiter. We know that professions that become "feminised", majority women, become lesser in status, less well renumerated, so it's clearly in the interests of the bosses to generalise this throughout the work force.

This is not necessarily a new thing either, as other groups have been used for this before. Think of gastarbeiter immigrants in Europe, or African-Americans and Hispanics in the US. Bonus: you got a divided work force blaming those groups for their misery, rather than the bosses.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be honest, hom impenetrable the article is doesn't really matter, as the key question was already asked in the post here.

Well, it matters in the sense that this is an interesting question which the essay starts to raise and then doesn't really address, making reading the thing a bit of a bait n switch.


We know that professions that become "feminised", majority women, become lesser in status, less well renumerated, so it's clearly in the interests of the bosses to generalise this throughout the work force.

This is not necessarily a new thing either, as other groups have been used for this before. Think of gastarbeiter immigrants in Europe, or African-Americans and Hispanics in the US. Bonus: you got a divided work force blaming those groups for their misery, rather than the bosses.


This seems to me to be a bit like saying ice cream causes hot weather because the greater the ice cream consumption the hotter the weather seems to be. I don't think that jobs are becoming "feminisized" because the Blinderberg group had a brainstorm and decided that This Will Be The Future. I think you can build a much more convincing case that technological advancement has eliminated huge swathes of jobs that relied on brawn and is now beginning to nibble, locust-like, at jobs that rely on brain. Almost all brawn jobs and many brain jobs were man jobs.

Technology is not yet sufficiently advanced to eliminate jobs that rely on Face* --- on empathy, social skills, reading non-verbal cues. More of these jobs have traditionally been women jobs: medicine, social work, teaching. Body attendants. The Service Economy. Which requires Servants.

That, I think, goes a long way toward explaining why tired identity politics rhetoric seems so ineffectual, these days. Robots can't be guilted into giving a shit about one's self-actualisation.



*It occurs to me that I could make a metaphor here in which the world economy is the A-Team and the bad guys have captured Mr. T, the mental dude in the hat, and all that's left is George Peppard bossing around the Face, but I can't think of a way to incorporate it into the above paragraph.
posted by Diablevert at 2:39 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had some trouble following this maybe because I don't know anything about Tiqqun, but there was some pretty amazing stuff in here, for example, this was brilliant:

Today the economy is feminizing everyone. That is, it puts more and more people of both genders in the traditionally female position of undertaking work that traditionally ­patriarchal institutions have pretended is a kind of personal service outside capital so that they do not have to pay for it. When affective relationships become part of work, we overinvest our economic life with erotic value. Hence, “passion for marketing.” Hence, “Like” after “Like” button letting you volunteer your time to help Facebook sell your information to advertisers with ever greater precision.

Their critique of Semiotext(e) surprised me: I had always felt they were pretty feminist, at least their Native Agents series..
posted by latkes at 2:49 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am in theory a target audience, and I thought it was just me about the writing. This is terrible writing. I don't say that because I don't understand it, I do; I don't say that because I'm not used to reading academic/theoretical writing (I am in humanities-based grad school right now and swallowing academic material by the bucketful, even spinning some out myself). This is the writing of someone (I know, two people) grandstanding, attempting to provoke reaction and seeking credit for the number of coded, intra-community references they can make.

And that's a pity because nothing said here could not be said more simply. It's not because it's academic - this is unpublishable as a journal article. It's because it's not good writing. It simply does not embrace the values of good writing. But I want to speak up in favor of academic language, because this is not it, and to endorse to those who are frustrated by this loud, hyper-referential and chaotic style that (a) it's not you and (b) it's not that you don't understand academese. It's a turkey, style-wise. It's possible to draw meaning from it, but it's a lot of unnecessary work, and it's done intentionally, as shibboleth, which I find obnoxious. Yes, I can understand it, but that doesn't make it good or requiring the mounting of a defense to prove one's intellectual capacities.

Which is a pity because as many have noted, there are some important critiques of capitalism and gender ideology in here. They can be had elsewhere, though, without all the weeds.
posted by Miko at 2:49 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Actually on a 2nd read I would modify that critique. It's not that awful. Mainly, choppy, sprawling, and since it's a response to something that went before, a little midstream for a cold read.

My favorite section:
Theory of the Young-Girl shares a rhetorical strategy with texts that have been far more widely diffused and discussed. Their quips about tampons and Young-Girls’ body parts, which they insist are “not gendered,” resemble the cringe-inducing song about seeing actresses’ “boobs” that Seth MacFarlane wrote for the Oscars and Daniel Tosh’s much-­discussed off-the-cuff rape joke. In each case, a speaker insists that he is not saying what he says. If we accept a standard definition of verbal irony as saying one thing while meaning another, the comedians and Tiqqun both appeal to their identities to control the contexts in which they are understood. Claiming that its mastery of the misogynist philosophical tradition entitles it to do this, Tiqqun steps into what looks a lot like an old-­fashioned patriarchal role.

Even when adopted by radical theory, this knowing posture is conservative. Knowingness is the attitude that allows sexism to persist in progressive institutions that you would expect to know better, precisely because you would. When casual sexism pervades leftist theory, one assumes it is ironic; when progressive institutions ignore gender politics, one assumes this is because struggles for equality have already been won, or must be deferred so we can attend to more pressing political needs. Intellectuals tend to show class allegiance, bracketing or ignoring casual sexism in their own circles. They project misogyny outward, onto Middle America megachurches and racialized others, or onto the powerful men that pander to those masses.
posted by Miko at 3:08 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I really don't understand the complaints atop the thread — this piece wasn't very hard at all, and makes some excellent points despite being mostly an internecine leftist theory dustup.

And c'mon, two out of the first three comments are idiocratic whining.
posted by klangklangston at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2013


What should motivate men to sustain themselves?

Nothing less than total victory.
posted by yonega at 3:53 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'all realize that they're quoting and snarkily critiquing the "Young-girl" piece, right? That they came up with "The Man-Child" as an example of a more-or-less equal and opposite belittling, stupid, sexist metaphor?

They're at the same time trying to rescue some bits of valuable insight from its privileged, overweening, "ironic" misogyny, and critique that ironic misogyny straight into the ground. And misogyny among the "progressive" even "radical" intellectuals in general.
posted by edheil at 3:57 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


When did "man child" become a slur? When I was a kid it just meant boy, in a parental sort of way.
posted by yonega at 4:12 PM on July 9, 2013


Why would it reflect badly on a person to have roommates? It's both pragmatic and usually prosocial. One has to separate the genuinely harmful effects of the "man-child" phenomenon - i.e. complicity in the horrors of the world through inaction - with the simple refusal to chase expectations and rewards that don't seem worthwhile.

The pull quote and the section that follows stood out out to me as well for this reason. The guy who aspires to nothing beyond working at the video game store and drinking with his buddies realizes the pointlessness of social jockeying and the spuriousness of the idea that hard work is inherently valuable. He has some of the wrong ideas but also some of the right ones. On some level, he's on strike.

Of course one should aspire to work hard on something that is worthwhile but given the way the world is set up you can't entirely blame people for finding this intimidating.
posted by atoxyl at 4:22 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


The post could have used a bit more background on Tiqqun and Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, but yeah, the people complaining that this is too hard aren't getting a lot of sympathy from me. It isn't that challenging. I get that not everyone has the time or desire, but if all you want is nice, simple, unchallenging intellectual cotton candy, you might want to ask yourself if maybe you are a man-child.

I liked this article, but I also think Tiqqun is on to something. It's certainly possible that the Young-Girl idea could have negative repercussions for women, but I think we should take Tiqqun at their word that this is not the intent.

There's a very good reason to do so: They claim that the Young Girl is a symptom of capitalism. This is what it means to say that "capitalism compels individuals to internalize its imperatives." If we responded to their critique by stigmatizing actual people who embody those attributes — who have no real choice but to follow the imperatives of capitalism, and effectively are the symptom — then we would be addressing, managing the symptom and not the root cause. This would be an attempt to make capitalism function better. If that's their secret agenda, then not only are they crypto-misogynists, they are also crypto-capitalists.

If someone says that poverty is a symptom of capitalism, it's pretty clear that their intent is not for us to attack the poor, even if they paint their condition in lurid detail. But at the same time, that does happen. There was a link yesterday about poverty in Appalachia, and lots of comments on the site were denouncing the poor for laziness, etc.

This Theory of the Man-Child article does not dispute the accuracy of the Young-Girl theory, it only says "OK fine, but what about the menz?" For the most part, their critique of the Man-Child is dead-on, particularly the part about the lack of commitment, irresponsibility and disavowal of fatherhood, which resonates with me. I've lost a few friends who could not comprehend my decision to have children. So I want to hate the Man-Child, much more than the Young-Girl, because I have two young girls who I love.

But this article openly contemptuous of the Man-Child. If the Man-Child is also a symptom of capitalism, then arousing contempt for the symptom is to divert attention from the disease—an extremely reactionary move! The authors of this article claim that the Young-Girl symptom has been punished enough, so let's turn to punishing the Man-Child symptom. Neither of these are good options. Having identified them as symptoms, we're forced to drop empty moralizing.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:29 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


MetaTalk
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 4:36 PM on July 9, 2013


Anybody who is not destined for a top career in finance, the boardroom or a few other elite professions is increasingly expected to have the "virtues" that we've traditionally expected from women: quiet, hardworking, self-effacing, willing to put up with a lot of bullshit as the price of keeping your job, undsoweiter.

Was there a time when employers wanted their workers to be loud, slacking, boastful, and rebellious? No, never. What you're describing is what every ruling class ever has wanted.

I think there's something to the idea of jobs being 'feminized' in the sense that there's less need for sheer physical force and competitiveness, and more for education, cooperation, and people skills. None of which actually strikes me as a negative, which I take as part of the article's critique of Tiqqun's analysis-- i.e. they seem to rely on misogyny to do some of their criticism of the supposed capitalist ideal. (I haven't read the Tiqqun article, but was it really necessary to write about the Young Girl rather than the Young Boy? If it's not a bad thing to be a girl, why make their negative portrait female?)
posted by zompist at 4:51 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Deep down inside, the Young-Girl has the personality of a tampon: she exemplifies all of the appropriate indifference, all of the necessary coldness demanded by the conditions of metropolitan life.

I can't even tell what I'm reading. I give up.


I.. what? This is very obvious - its just a description of the coldness demanded by metropolitian life.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:10 PM on July 9, 2013


Some of what gets said in these sort of discussions about care and domesticity annoys me a little as well. Who says I want a woman to clean up my mess? I want a woman to have the same casual orientation toward mess as I do. The socialization of women that tells them they must take care of everyone and everything - what if I simply have low standards for the way my self and my things are taken care of?
posted by atoxyl at 5:13 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]



Is this one of those machine-generated pieces of writing? I'm honestly not sure.


There is nothing in this piece that's unclear. Its just a blatant, simple description of modern life. I'm not very well-read in theory, but there's nothing that isn't easy to understand.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:13 PM on July 9, 2013


Tiqqun can insist, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the Young-Girl is “obviously not a gendered concept” because it knows that we know that it knows this. Tiqqun uses works of Continental philosophy in the same way that schoolyard bullies use in-jokes: as passwords that grant access to a protected inner circle. Tiqqun assumes that readers will assume that writers so well versed in texts that have spoken truth to ­power could not really hate women. The prestige of the theoretical vocabulary that Tiqqun’s members have mastered bolsters their credibility.

Like this: how can this be stated more simply?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:16 PM on July 9, 2013


I.. what? This is very obvious - its just a description of the coldness demanded by metropolitian life.

I found this analogy truly alien. "Coldness" is pretty much the opposite of what a tampon is like. They are flexible, they become as warm as the body, and they are highly absorbent. It seems to me that "indifferent" and "absorbent" are fairly opposed concepts. I don't think a woman who has used a tampon would ever have written that line or created that analogy.
posted by Miko at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think a woman who has used a tampon would ever have written that line or created that analogy.

THAT'S THE JOKE
posted by RogerB at 5:22 PM on July 9, 2013


If so, Charlemagne in Sweatpants doesn't get it.

In fact, part of the piece's critique is critiquing what crap a lot of that is, stuff that can't even be held intellectually accountable.
posted by Miko at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The socialization of women that tells them they must take care of everyone and everything - what if I simply have low standards for the way my self and my things are taken care of?"

At my core, I feel similarly. But I recognize that my partner differs, and that every dish I do not wash is one that she has to. So even though I wouldn't mind if we were both slovenly, I try to do my part because I love her and don't want her to slog through housework resenting me.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing that should be noted: To Tiqqun, there was likely no such thing as Continental philosophy. Tiqqun did not try to sound French. For Tiqqun, Foucault and Barthes don't necessarily have anything to do with each other.

It's not about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; it's about the 1995 strike and BHL.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:43 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


At my core, I feel similarly. But I recognize that my partner differs, and that every dish I do not wash is one that she has to. So even though I wouldn't mind if we were both slovenly, I try to do my part because I love her and don't want her to slog through housework resenting me.

Of course, to refuse to wash dishes on principle would make you a poor partner. To be able to compromise for the good of others is one of the real, meaningful markers of maturity. What I dispute is the idea that all of these symbols of adulthood men are supposedly backing away from are really that fundamentally important. I don't want women to pick up my slack, I want them to be able to slack off in the right places as well.
posted by atoxyl at 5:55 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, I turned up this (good) 2012 piece about Tiqqun in the LA Review of Books that, at the end, says:
In the contemporary North American moment, the theory of the “Young-Girl” could just as easily have been the Theory of the Fratboy, Theory of the Chelsea-Boy, or Theory of the Hipster — and indeed, Tiqqun does find a moment to get their digs in at the hipster elements of Young-Girldom. The violence of gender normativity inheres in all of these “types.”
So I am not terribly sure this essay, which substitutes Man-Child for Fratboy, Hipster, etc represents original thought, though it's carefully drawn out.
posted by Miko at 6:42 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I read the original Tiqqun thing about the Young Girl and I think some of the cherrypicked lines are pretty badly out of context. The tampon line makes much more sense read along with the rest of it, which kind of leans toward the Young-Girl as passive absorber/consumer. I suspect translation problems in some of them. "Indifference" simply means, in this context, willingness to take anything in; but in English, "coldness" and "indifference" tend to connote impermeability rather than porousness.
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can also read "tampon" as "stamp" or "buffer". I don't really see why you'd go for the menstrual product, esp. given the previous sentences.
­
Les privilèges symboliques que le Spectacle accorde à la Jeune-Fille lui reviennent comme contrepartie de l'absorption et de la diffusion des codes éphémères, des modes d'emploi renouvelés, de la sémiologie générale que l'ON a dû disposer pour rendre politiquement inoffensif le temps libre dégagé par les 'progrès' de l'organisation sociale du travail.
La Jeune-Fille comme pivot central du "dressage permissif"
La Jeune-Fille comme agent d'ambiance et d'animation dans la gestion dictatoriale des loisirs.
La Jeune-Fille a, au fond d'elle même, un caractère de tampon; elle est ainsi porteuse de toute l'indifférence convenable, de toute la nécessaire froideur qu'exigent les conditions de la vie métropolitaine.
Il importe peu au Spectacle que la séduction soit partout haïe, pourvu que les hommes ne parviennent pas à se faire l'idée d'une plénitude qui la dépasserait
To paraphrase and translate somewhat:
So this Young-Girl, in exchange for her symbolic priviledges, has to contribute to absorption and diffusion of ephemeral codes, and other stuff that had to be made to render inoffensive the free time made available by the "progress" of the organisation of labour.
The Young-Girl as the kingpin for "permessive training"
The Young-Girl agent of mood-setting and animation in the dictatorial management of leisure
And so I'd go with, maybe:
The Young-Girl has, deep-down inside, the traits of a (buffer, rubber-stamp); in this way she carries all the suitable indifference, all the necessary coldness, that are required by the conditions of metropolitan life.
Finally:
It matters little for the Spectacle that seduction is everywhere hated, so long as men cannot conceive the idea of a plenitude that would surpass it
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:39 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I say: it was funnier with the puns.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:43 PM on July 9, 2013


Here's the full English translation cited in the article.

Relevant excerpt:
The Young-Girl prizes “sincerity,” “good-heartedness,” “kindness,” “simplicity,” “frankness,” “modesty,” and in general all of the virtues that, considered unilaterally, are synonymous with servitude. The Young-Girl lives in the illusion that liberty is found at the end of total submission to commodity “Advertising.” But at the end of this term of servitude there is nothing but old age and death.

“LIBERTY DOESN’T EXIST,” SAYS THE YOUNG-GIRL, WALKING INTO THE DRUGSTORE.

The Young-Girl wants to be “independent,” which is to say, in her spirit, dependent only on THEM.

The Young-Girl is the central article of permissive consumption and commodity leisure.

In the Spectacle, access to liberty is nothing but access to marginal consumption of the desire marketplace, which constitutes its symbolic heart.

The preponderance of the entertainment and desire market is a stage in the social-pacification enterprise, in which it has been given the function of obscuring, provisionally, the living contradictions that cross every point on the fabric of imperial biopolitics.

The symbolic privileges accorded by the Spectacle to the Young-Girl are her dividends for absorbing and diffusing the ephemeral codes, the updated user’s manuals, the general semiology that THEY have had to dispense in order to render politically harmless the free time that the “progress” in the social organization of labor has enabled.

The Young-Girl
as central pivot of
“permissive discipline.”

The Young-Girl as ambience and hospitality agent in the dictatorial management of leisure.

Deep down inside, the Young-Girl has the personality of a tampon: She exemplifies all of the appropriate indifference, all of the necessary coldness demanded by the conditions of metropolitan life.

WHEN THE SPECTACLE ATTEMPTS TO “PRAISE FEMININITY,” OR REGISTERS MORE PLAINLY THE “FEMINIZATION OF THE WORLD,” ONE CAN ONLY EXPECT THE INSIDIOUS PROMOTION OF ALL MANNER OF SERVITUDE AND OF THE CONSTELLATION OF “VALUES” THAT SLAVES
ALWAYS PRETEND TO ESPOUSE.

“Ew! You’re gross!”
The whole document really is some pretty misogynist shit, a lot of it not even bothering to pull over itself the decency-veil of irony.
posted by Miko at 9:13 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article makes some really good connections between feminism and capitalism, etc., but the last two paragraphs are weak. The segment "resembles the radical who wants to bide his time…" commits an intentional fallacy, and the segment "overlook the fact that social reproduction…" conflates fact with opinion (and I feel their dismissiveness indicates not sufficient and complete critique, but rather a surviving linguistic misconstrual of the valuable portions that have been contributed by the authors' opponents). They talk about constructive "creativity", but I get the feeling they are still very angry. They have done the same as their other.
posted by polymodus at 9:44 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


After reading the comments here I was expecting something messy but this has a really clear structure. It's taking all the contemporary internet talk about victim-blaming - in this case blaming young women for being good targets of capitalism, instead of blaming capitalism for targeting especially the vulnerable while ensuring that everyone is vulnerable to some degree - and moving it into a place that hasn't seen as much of it yet, Continental philosophy.

I really like that the authors take an idea that has some merit but is hostile to women, and flip it around so that they not only expose the original author's hostility for what it is, but show what it looks like when it's applied in the other direction. Then, once they've dealt with the more distasteful parts of the original critique, they can try to rescue the better parts.

I do agree though that the next part of the essay does rely on some pretty heavy stereotyping of how men are and how women are that seems like it came at least a little bit from exactly the NYT, Atlantic, Salon articles the authors call out elsewhere for not looking beyond the surface. Overall though I thought this was a smart and well-thought-out essay with some excellent points to make.
posted by subdee at 1:40 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, I think this is bullshit. There is a significant amount of confirmation bias here.

It is, and it isn't. It's a gender politics thing I'm not sure how to navigate that does see the average woman doing more hours of total work combined with work and home, and the tendency for women's leisure time to be split by things like childcare or other busy hands/divided attention tasks (ie folding laundry). That's relatively well researched and tracked, so when we speak of averages, not individuals, we know things like the fact that women generally do the household shopping, make less, are steered towards nurturing careers more than men, etc...

So people of either sex can be basket cases when it comes to these, but there's very early socialization towards being prepared for these roles, for example urban dwelling girl children participate less in extra curricular activities because they are more likely to have childcare related chores than boys. So it's not really in good faith to the facts to say that there isn't a bias towards socializing women to be more "together" when it comes to looking after themselves and other people.

And this arguably fails men. As much as I don't like being treated like the defacto baby tamer given a choice between a man and a woman, I know it's based on the fact that if childcare talents, at least as far as we've studied them, correlate most strongly with hours of practice, and people know the odds are I spend more time holding unripened humans.

So if I want to date women, it's way, way easier for me to find someone who is good at home economics. This is not to say all men are man-children, or even that people with less desire for the domestic have failed but... it seems to be more than confirmation bias, although that also should be taken into account because it may lead to things like overlooking men who are Grownups in the way the article puts forth.
posted by Phalene at 2:39 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jezebel breaks down the article into a more accessible form: dating advice
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:00 PM on July 10, 2013


I feel like the fact that both Man-Child and Young-Girl are/were at least supposed to be critiques of capitalism really gets lost in that discussion.

Ironic sexism is a thing that needs discussion, for sure. The TNI essay kind of stops there, though, before really solidly demonstrating how noncomittalism is a symptom of capitalist overreaching. So the Jezebel response kind of reverts to focusing on real-life examples of Man-Children which is related of course but I think also pretty different.
posted by Miko at 8:40 PM on July 10, 2013


I feel like the fact that both Man-Child and Young-Girl are/were at least supposed to be critiques of capitalism really gets lost in that discussion.

I think that the Man-Child counter example was trying to critique how gender roles are forced based on context, to cause people to miss the forest for the trees, so this was also one of those situations that by doing the opposite you demonstrate that woman-as-prop has more impact than the authors keep thinking.
posted by Phalene at 4:44 AM on July 11, 2013


That's true. It's just about impossible to imagine a forum exploding with "I dated a Young-Girl once, and OMG!"
posted by Miko at 6:35 AM on July 11, 2013


This is not to say all men are man-children, or even that people with less desire for the domestic have failed but... it seems to be more than confirmation bias, although that also should be taken into account because it may lead to things like overlooking men who are Grownups in the way the article puts forth.

It was, however, being asserted that all men (at least in WidgetAlley's experience) are 'man-children' incapable of running 'adult' lives in comparison to women of the same age. The suggestion that I am incapable of grocery shopping or cooking for myself was a bit insulting. Shocking as it is, I can do laundry too. (I am, however, pretty terrible keeping my apartment clean. But since I live alone (which I'm also apparently incapable of), that's surely my business.) That men overwhelmingly abdicate these responsibilities to female partners doesn't actually speak to whether they possess those skills in the first place.
posted by hoyland at 7:40 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jung-Girl?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:27 AM on July 11, 2013


Just to pipe up in my defense, see what hoyland said. :-)

I try not to be the type that is over-literal about universal qualifiers, but the prior commenter did say "Whereas all the men I know of the same age [can't buy food and cook it]" which bugged the crap out of me, and has a high likelihood of not being true unless she knows, like, only 3 guys or something.

Now, you can say something more reasonable, which you just did. That men, on average, aren't expected to know (as much) about child rearing, or expected to participate (as much) in domestic chores. But to say men can't live in their own place and make their own food... well… I think that's a little crazy, like saying all the women I know are helpless doormats who sacrifice their lives for their relationships (not true!). Or like some other much more dangerous and equally wrong generalizations one can make using their "experience" with other groups…

This may be at the root of my discomfort -- it's not a good idea to make this kind of thinking a habit.

There is a kernel of truth in all of these, of course, but pretending you can just state these generalizations and get away with it because "they're all awesome people, they're just being failed by [society]", is expecting too much. Doing laundry is not a hard task. Obtaining some form of self-worth is not an insurmountable part of personal development. This kind of well-meaning over-generalization from limited experience not only insults the group in question directly, but in the cases where one attempts to "sympathize", it feels like it takes away their agency as well.
posted by smidgen at 8:54 PM on July 11, 2013


http://theman-child.tumblr.com/
posted by subdee at 12:09 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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