An Addendum to “In a Perfect World”

In my second post ever, I imagined a utopia where everyone got along, no one lacked for anything substantial, and inequality was a strictly mathematical term. How would such a world mold my political opinions, I wondered? The answers surprised me. I found that I’d probably condone cultural appropriation and consider affirmative action a disgrace – among other things I never thought I’d write. The purpose of the text was to bring nuance to the progressive manifesto. By exploring a flawless world, and how different my convictions would be in it, I wished to demonstrate that progressivism is a response to the world’s flaws. Not an immutable set of angry opinions.

In the two years since I published that text, I’ve thought of three more opinions that my utopian counterpart would probably hold. Ever the stickler for consistency, I present them below in the same format as the original post:

ETHNIC PREFERENCES OK!

In a perfect world, everyone would be entitled to their ethnic type. It would be no more problematic to say “I’m not attracted to East Asians” than to say “I like tall redheads”. We’re just visual animals on the prowl for potential mates. Ethnicity is a visual attribute like any other; there’s no reason taste wouldn’t apply.

However, in this flawed world, some ethnicities possess disproportionate visibility. White people, for instance, dominate Western media; it only follows that we dictate Western beauty standards. If you’re white, and you don’t find yourself attracted to black people, ask yourself why. Analyze your taste. Could it be that black people aren’t portrayed as desirable in the advertisement and entertainment that surround you? Is whiteness more attractive to you because its alternatives aren’t encompassed by the commercial beauty trademark? Is it truly a matter of taste, or a matter of exposure?

SEXUALIZATION OF WOMEN OK!

In a perfect world, I’d have no problem with Lara Croft’s prominent, pixelated pair. Or with cinema’s habit of lingering on the leading lady’s behind. Or the statistical certainty of spotting at least 10 painted nude women in any art gallery. We’re just celebrating female beauty, I’d say. Humans should be encouraged to express their sexuality in the things they create. You prude!

However, in this flawed world, women are being sexualized constantly. That wouldn’t be too bad if the trend was confined to erotica and other sexual contexts, but it’s observable in non-sexual realms as well. Commercials, film, music, literature, and general discourse all tend to value women by their physical appeal to straight men. The result is a universal bias which reduces women to sexy trophies. I’m not suggesting we boycott every instance of female sexualization I like Tomb Raider, myself. But let’s not add to that bias, fellow men. Consider dropping the topless scene, directors. Learn to draw realistic female bodies, character designers. Steer your discussion of famous women towards their accomplishments before their appearance, guys.

DOUBLE STANDARDS BAD!

In a perfect world, everyone should abide by the same code of conduct. If women may collectively exclaim “men are trash”, men should be allowed to retort with “women are trash”. If gay people may parade their sexuality throughout June, why not dedicate another month to straight festivities? It’s unfair to place groups under different restrictions. Hey, isn’t that what progressives are against?

However, in this flawed world, groups already face different restrictions. Women are denied political power and autonomy. Gay people are denied freedom to their feelings. The social playing field is uneven, and this fact necessitates uneven compensation. In practice, it means that misandrist slogans are okay, while misogynistic ones are not. Gay pride should blossom, while straightness should cease to insist upon itself. Until the world is fair, we must impose more restrictions on, and divert visibility from, the groups who are hogging power.

Opponents of progressivism often believe we live in a fair world already, that all groups are being treated equitably. Their arguments are accordingly flawed. “You don’t like the breast-accentuating armor in The Mandalorian? Well, what about Judge Dredd’s conspicuous codpiece? Why aren’t you crying about that too, you selective snowflake?” The next time you hear an argument of that sort, feel free to allude to my utopian thought experiment. Tell the person: In a perfect world, boob armor and codpieces would be equally okay. But since the world is cursed with female oversexualization, the former is entangled with more sensitive issues.

CONCLUSION

Progressives don’t like or dislike things on a whim. They acknowledge inequality and take measures to undo it. Sometimes, that means advocating a necessary evil (like social double standards). Other times, it means curbing something that isn’t conceptually bad (female sexualization). But it never means you have to stop playing Tomb Raider.

(Just don’t be these guys!)

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