The sexualization of women in China

In the West, the term sexualization is normally used in the negative. It is normally considered a bad thing to sexualize women, children, and I suppose men or animals when that happens.

Westerners see sexualization as a form of “objectifying” or “pornifying” people, reducing whole persons with complex psychologies to little more than objects of sexual pleasure.

I have no argument against the term when used that way in the right context.

Sexualization in China, however, (as an idea not the term) has a very different context than in the West, particularly the sexualization of women.

In the West, women benefited from various long traditions that worshiped them, Romanticized them, restricted men to one wife (not the case in China), prevented cousin-marriage, and sexualized them in the sense that they were and are considered beautiful and desirable by most men.

This is not the case in China. In traditional China, women were treated more as chattel, as son-makers, as workers, slaves, servants, or prostitutes. Few were deeply appreciated and openly admired for their physical beauty. There was no concept of Romantic love or deep pair-bonding between a man and a woman as in the West.

So if you come across a story about a Chinese pageant that sees models compete for best cleavage as I did today, it is best to understand it in a different context than you would in the West, for these pageants have a different purpose than they do in the West, at least in part.

Of course, some aspects of the Chinese pageant may be even raunchier than in the West, but at least one aspect has the purpose of overcoming Chinese cultural features that have for centuries deeply under-appreciated women by what are now modern standards.

There has been an effort for some time in China to raise the level of appreciation Chinese men have for women by portraying women as beautiful and desirable through media exposure and beauty pageants. Less than thirty-five years ago all women in China wore the same Mao clothes and before that dress was mostly traditional staid clothing that covered and de-emphasized female physical beauty. Confucius was not a sensualist.

The sexualization of women—even through cleavage contests—is serving to raise the standards of the whole society for when women are desired they will be valued and not be so much abused.

The above comments can be disputed in many ways, but the gist is correct. My information on the propaganda of creating a “modern” sense of the beauty of women comes from discussions in China many years ago with people who I believe knew what they were talking about. These efforts began in the 1980s and 90s with the new policies that opened China to the world.

I am sure the pageants mostly run on their own steam now, but the need is still there. To this day many women in China and Southeast Asia are kidnapped to feed the amazingly large industry of bride-selling in China. Buying a kidnapped “bride” and chaining her to a bed so she can produce a son, obviously, is not based on appreciating her beauty. That whole villages support the practice shows that it is deeply entrenched in the culture.

To me it seems a bit odd that the beauty of Chinese women is promoted by using Western lingerie and other styles, but it is easiest to import something and that is the state of a lot of world culture today.

Watch Dis Honesty The Truth About Lies 2015

This is a pretty good film, worth viewing if you have time. Many of the conclusions are what most of us would expect. Lying is social, there is a fudge factor, most people do it a little bit, while some refrain entirely and others lie with abandon.

There have been other studies showing that not lying feels very good and people like it if they can get into a situation where it is possible.

The take-away from the film for me is that people lie much less, if at all, if they are reminded to be honest.

In part, FIML practice constantly reminds partners of the importance of being honest. It also forms a social bond between partners that highly values honesty. These two features of FIML plus our simple desire to be honest with each other has allowed my partner and me to have a very good space together where we are confident with great certainty that neither one of us is lying and neither one of us has any reason to do so.

Repost: Malignant narcissism and identity

Malignant narcissism is an extreme form of narcissism characterized by aggression against people who threaten the narcissist’s narcissistic supply.

A malignant narcissist sees the other person as the threat, not just what they say or do.

This makes sense in that a narcissist has at some level concluded that they as a person are the standard for all things; thus, other people are blamed and attacked far out of proportion to whatever the narcissist believes they have done.

In Christian terms, the malignant narcissist blames the sinner not the sin and thus attacks the sinner, even when the sin may be as mild as a withheld compliment or a deserved rebuke.

I think all narcissists behave in a manner similar to this, though the ordinary type, which is very common in this world, is less aggressive than the malignant type.

Since narcissism is so common, one can say that in some ways narcissists have good reason to be suspicious of others and take revenge on them. There really is a good chance that they are dealing with another narcissist, who will do the same to them if they get the chance.

In a previous post, I wrote about the vortex or tautology of identity, the tautology of basing our identity on a semiotic matrix that, by its very nature, always refers back to the same “identity.” A malignant narcissist is an extreme example of this problem.

The semiotics of malignant narcissism are such that the narcissist sees his or her identity as being the person they really are. Seeing themselves in this way, narcissists apply a similar logic to others—at their core they are people who must be opposed or attacked for even the slightest perceived offense.

A group example of extreme malignant narcissism might be North Korea. If an NK citizen makes a single mistake—even a slight verbal mistake—they run the risk of being executed and also having three generations of their family sent to prison for life. The reasoning is that the original offender is a very bad person, which can be known from what they said. And since they are very bad, they must have influenced every person in their family who is younger than them and been influenced by every person in their family who is older than them.

If that isn’t hell on earth, I don’t know what is.

It is my belief that most groups, even very cute and nice ones, tend toward narcissism and many of them tend toward and become malignantly narcissistic. This happens because groups form and maintain themselves on the basis of shared semiotics, which necessarily are formulaic or simplistic.

We can see malignant narcissism in many religious, political, nationalist, or ethnic groups. The clearest sign is a disproportionate response to criticism—banishment, murder, violence, loss of employment, etc.—but narcissistic groups can also be clever and hide these responses or delay them long enough that the connection to the “offense” is hard to see.

Just as narcissistic groups cannot bear criticism, even self-criticism from within, so individual narcissists are bad at introspection. For either one, to honestly view and assess the core value (me!) is to destroy the false identity. For either one (group or individual) this would be a wonderful thing for them and others, but it is hard to do because their semiotic matrix is a tautology and they cannot admit this, or usually even see it.

Repost: The limits of general semiotic analyses as applied to human psychology

Much of the work done in human semiotics involves analyses of semiotic codes.

Semiotics and semiotic codes are often treated like language or languages for which a grammar can be found.

One obvious problem with this sort of approach is semiotics indicates a set that is much broader than language. Stated another way, language is a subset of semiotics.

Human semiotics also include music, imagery, gesture, facial expression, emotion, and anything else that can communicate either within one mind or between two or more minds.

It is very helpful to analyze semiotic codes and it is very helpful to try to figure out how cultures, groups, and individuals use them. We can compare the semiotics of heroism in Chinese culture to that of French culture. Or the semiotics of gift-giving in American culture to that of Mexican culture. We can analyze movies, literature, science, and even engineering based on semiotic codes we have abstracted out of them.

We can do something similar for human psychology.

Analyses of this type are, in my view, general in that they involve schema or paradigms or grammars that say general things about how semiotic systems work or how individuals (or semiotic signs themselves) fit into those systems.

This is all good and general analyses of this sort can be indispensable aids to understanding.

General semiotic analyses are limited, however, in their application to human psychology because such analyses cannot effectively grasp the semiotic codes of the individual. Indeed general analyses are liable to conceal individual codes and interpretations more than usefully reveal them.

This is so because all individuals are always complex repositories of many general semiotic codes as well as many individual ones. And these codes are always changing, responding, being conditioned by new circumstances and many kinds of feedback.

Individuals as repositories of many codes, both external and internal, are complex and always changing and there is no general analysis that will ever fully capture that complexity.

For somewhat similar reasons, no individual acting alone can possibly perform a self-analysis that captures the full complexity of the many and always-changing semiotic codes that exist within them.

Self-analysis is far too subject to selection bias, memory, and even delusion to be considered accurate or objective. The individual is also far too complex for the individual to grasp alone. How can an individual possibly stand outside itself and see itself as it is? Where would the extra brain-space come from?

How can a system of complex semiotic codes use yet another code to successfully analyze itself?

Clearly, no individual human semiotic system can ever fully know itself.

To recap, 1) there is no general semiotic analysis that will ever capture the complexity of individual psychology, and 2) no individual acting alone can ever capture the complexity of the semiotic codes that exist within them.

Concerning point two, we could just as well say that no individual acting alone can ever capture the complexity of their own psychology.

We are thus prevented from finding a complex analysis of human psychology through a general analysis of semiotics and also through an individual’s self-analysis when acting alone.

This suggests, however, that two individuals acting together might be able to glimpse, if not grasp, how their complex semiotic codes are actually functioning when they interact with each other. If two individuals working together can honestly observe and discuss moments of dynamic real-time semiotic interaction between them, they should be able to begin to understand how their immensely complex and always-changing psycho-semiotic codes are actually functioning.

An approach of this type ought to work better for psychological understanding of the individuals involved than any mix of general semiotic analyses applied to them. Indeed, prefabricated, general semiotic analyses will tend to conceal the actual functioning of the idiosyncratic semiotics and semiotic codes used by those individuals.

The FIML method does not apply a general semiotic analysis to human psychology. Rather it uses a method or technique to allow two individuals working together to see and understand how their semiotics and semiotic codes are actually functioning.

The US gov’t on cannabis

A new page at a dot gov address has actually posted positive information about cannabis, including its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects as well as pain relief, improved mood, improved sleep, and improved sense of well-being.

The page can be found here: Questions and Answers About Cannabis.

I wonder if Buddhists who broadly interpret the fifth precept to be about “intoxicants” or even sensory indulgence and not booze (as it is stated in the tradition) will reconsider their positions.

I am not advocating the use of illegal drugs and do understand the desire to make Buddhism look “nice” for lawmakers who have no understanding of human liberty or the true effects of cannabis, but times are changing.

I am good with Buddhists saying whatever they believe about cannabis, but am not good with them claiming it is proscribed in the fifth precept. More on that subject here: Are We Misunderstanding The Fifth Precept?

Please remember that the five precepts are for lay followers, not monastics who may live by different rules depending on their ordination vows.

As society becomes more rational about cannabis, we can probably assume that it will become more rational about psychedelics as well, as they similarly almost certainly do more good than harm.

Personal freedom, liberty, civil rights, personal autonomy, or bodily integrity—no matter what you call it, each person’s right to have maximum freedom and control of their own body is fundamental to the American value system.

Explanations made to the self versus explanations made to others

We can make a basic division between how we explain ourselves to ourselves and how we explain ourselves to others.

Explanations we give to ourselves are typically secret and known only to us. They can be quite crude and selfish at times.

In contrast, explanations of ourselves that we give to other people are generally “nicer.” We plead our case for being a “good person” by explaining at length whatever led up to whatever thing we did that needs explaining.

Of course, we have different explanations for different other people and even different classes of other people, but for now let’s just consider the two kinds of explanations—ones given to the self and ones given to others.

These two types are a good way to explain what is meant by honesty in a FIML discussion.

Simply stated, in a FIML discussion the explanation that I give to my partner of my words or deeds should be exactly the same as the explanation I give to myself. There should be zero difference between these two types of explanation.

A refinement of the above is that if there is a difference for some reason that I do not want to go into, I must tell my partner that the difference exists though I need not say exactly what it is.

For example, I may appear upset in a way that affects my tone of voice. My partner notices and asks about it. I know (my explanation to myself) that I am mildly upset because I just remembered a disturbing event from the distant past. If I do not want to talk about that event, I can excuse myself by truthfully telling my partner that, yes, I am slightly upset but it is due to an event from a long time ago and I do not want to talk about that now.

My partner will probably understand and drop the subject. By saying what I did I was completely honest with my partner, importantly confirming her sense that I was upset. At the same time I preserved my privacy in an area where I wanted it preserved.

Exceptions to the honesty rule like the one just described should be rare for most partners. If one or both partners have large exceptions that come up often, it would be best for them to gradually begin chipping away at these topics to reduce their size and influence.

For most FIML discussions for most people, perfect honesty—perfect accord between the explanation for the self and the partner—should be doable most of the time. Remember that the basic FIML discussion deals mainly with very small things that are generally not hard to be honest about.

When FIML partners keep their private and public explanations in perfect accord, they develop a sense of trust and contentment that cannot be achieved in any other way. They will not need to spend so much time “reading” each other (and thereby making frequent serious mistakes). Instead, they will know how to communicate on much more refined levels.

Note: I wonder if some aspect of a definition of morality might be that the two explanations described above are always in perfect accord and that when they are not, we have transgressed an important moral line.

As with almost everything individual or social, the two explanations scale up and down between individuals, small groups, and large ones. Some cultures have explicit rules for explanations given within the culture and explanations given to outsiders. In the case of gangs or criminal societies, these difference can be very large and very harmful to others.

A very simple example of what FIML does

This is a simple, concrete example that is best understood as a material analogy for what happens in a FIML discussion or query.

I wanted some fresh local yogurt and we also needed some cheese. The place that sells the yogurt I like has only a few kinds of very expensive cheese.

My partner and I discussed the merits of going to the yogurt store and paying extra for cheese versus driving to a different store that has a better cheese selection but does not have the fresh yogurt.

Since the yogurt store was on the way to the cheese store, we stopped in but found that they were out of yogurt and also had no cheese.

Oh well. We went to the cheese store and got the cheese and a couple of other items we needed.

In the car we noticed that our having stopped to look for the yogurt in the yogurt store made it possible for us to dismiss that option completely from out minds. Had we not stopped, we might have wondered if we had missed a chance to get the fresh yogurt and probably would have wondered about it.

Our ability to dismiss the yogurt option and not have it be a small shadow in our minds was gained only because we had actually stopped at the yogurt store. If we had not stopped and gone only to the cheese store, we would not have known that the yogurt store didn’t even have any yogurt.

Like I said this is a very simple example.

Now, consider that instead of yogurt or cheese we are working with emotions and human perceptions. A FIML query works in a way that is analogous to stopping at the yogurt store.

Yes, it cost us some energy to stop at the store, but it saved us the energy of thinking that the yogurt was a possibility.

If instead of yogurt, I am wondering if my partner disapproves of something I said, I can ask her (stopping at the yogurt store) or refrain from asking her (not stopping).

If I ask her, it costs us both some energy, but saves me some worry and possible defensive behavior which will likely snowball and cost us even more energy.

Please put in your own emotions or concerns into this example. Isn’t it better to ask about them than not ask?

When we have many small things in our minds that we never ask anyone (including our partner), we begin living in a fantasy world or a world that is simplified to conform to simple standards made up by other people.

FIML clears up problems by catching them when they start. The FIML technique is designed to facilitate quick interventions so snowballing never gets started.

It’s not hard to do FIML if you understand what its purpose is. The hard part about doing FIML is it goes against a great deal of normal human training. Rather than ask, most of us will skip going to the yogurt store.

When we do that hundreds of times with someone, small divisions get larger and larger. When they get really big it is very hard to analyze them and we become their victims.