A Useful Phrase: The Instrumentalization-Infantilization Dichotomy


In “Summa Genderratica,” I argued that our gender system can ultimately be understood as two overlaid dichotomies; the subject-object dichotomy and the disposable-cherishable dichotomy. Men are understood as disposable subjects, valued only for the results of their actions, whilst women are understood as cherishable objects, inherently useful due to their biology yet fragile and thus both deserving of and in need of protection.

The only problem with this formulation is that it is rather unwieldy, and as such I have been working on a way to express it in a more simple manner.

The Instrumentalization-Infantilization Dichotomy is my ultimate answer.

“Instrumentalization” is a form of objectification (see Nussbaum’s “Objectification” for more, where she refers to this as “Instrumentality”) whereby an individual’s value is determined entirely by their usefulness/service to others. This encompasses both agency (one must be able to act in order to serve) and innate disposability and thus is the perfect encapsulator of the male condition.

“Infantilization” is also a form of objectification, specifically the denial of agency, yet it also implies the second element of the feminine condition; being considered innately special and precious. Our society’s package-dealing of women and children says it all – they are the future (or incubators thereof) and thus inherently special in and of themselves.

Thus, the Disposable-Cherishable dichotomy is combined with the Subject-Object dichotomy, resulting in the Instrumentalization-Infantilization dichotomy, which fully encapsulates all aspects of how both men and women are treated under the traditional gender system.

For more on the Infantilization of women, I recommend Ginkgo’s post on “Neoteny as a Feminine Gender Norm” (link: http://www.genderratic.com/p/2775/female-privilege-neoteny-as-a-feminine-gender-norm/) (in this post he also refers to the “maturity” aspect of the gender system and how it applies to males – a point I have stressed repeatedly as critical to understanding the male condition).

Apologies for my short post. I promise my next article will be much more substantial (and controversial!).

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather

About the author


<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="4359 http://www.genderratic.com/?p=4359">3 comments</span>

  • I prefer to view it as value vs. disposability. For any particular group, value should equal disposability (the more disposable, the more valuable). See my comments under the previous post on Female Disposability. I think agency is a function of both. Hyperagency results when disposability exceeds value. Hypoagency results when value exceeds disposability. I also think there is a difference between perceived (assigned) and actual value/disposability. I’m looking forward to your next (and more controversial) post.

  • Sorry for this off topic comment but does anyone have a link to a video debunking a comic who claimed that men were the leading cause of death and injury to women. I can’t remember if it was Alison or Karen. I could use the link as I just saw someone make the same claim using some domestic violence report of dubious relevance.

  • I think this and the other binaries YAC mentions are all reflections or implications of the hyperagency/hypoagency binary. I think it’s useful to list them all the way he is doing – the more detail the better.

Listen to Honey Badger Radio!

Support Alison, Brian and Hannah creating HBR Content!

Recent Posts

Recent Comments





Follow Us

Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather