Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feminism and You

I was going to post this over my apology from last night, so as to obliterate the evidence, but then I read it and realized I spelled 'write' as 'right' thus backing up my claim to incoherence. This is amusing enough to grant it a stay of execution, so my "Friday" update is here, on Saturday, in a new post.

Feminism is a dauntingly broad subject to address, so let me begin in a manageable piece. I consider myself a feminist. Of course what I just said can be interpreted in a plethora of ways, I am not a separatist, nor an eco-feminist, and Third Wave feminism seems a little too debauched for me at times. One of my philosophy professors would quote the definition paraphrased here, "A feminist is one who holds the radical belief that women are people."

This seems too easy, but I believe this may be a product of the era in which I grew up. I too have been influenced by the Girl Power culture of the nineties, and find it almost unbelievable to consider women as anything other than people. Watching the TV show "Mad Men" recently hit home the fact, which I knew intellectually, that as recently as half a century ago women were considered to be of similar competency as the children they raised. So, if I am perceiving our society correctly when I say that women, for the most part, are people too nowadays, this is something to be celebrated.

However, I do not believe that the progress is sufficient for us to grow complacent and lapse into a post-feminist society. There are inherent differences between males and females that necessitate treating women as people in their own right, rather than simply adding them to the "guys." In other words, although women and men are both people, women should not be forced to conform to the male-presuming standards for being a person.

For example, a woman may give birth, a man cannot give birth, thus denying a woman the right to take a break during an examination to lactate is not treating her equally to a man. While it is true that men are also not permitted to pause for lactation during the exam, it is a non-issue for a man. To hold a woman to the same standard despite the inherent differences in situations would be to declare that women may take a place alongside men in society, but only if they take the route of conforming to the traditional male role (the Margret Thatcher route you might cal it). I guess I'm not a liberal feminist either (one who believes women will achieve de facto [real] equality with men simply through de jure [legal] equality with men).

This leads me to why feminism is so important for everyone, because we are all individuals. While permitting women to assume male-roles in society may be a step forward, it is my dream that one step of the future will be to let go of the dichotomous nature of male/female roles in society and instead consider each individual as just that, an individual. This will be a boon to anyone who fails to fit either role perfectly. So, if you aspire to be something other than the perfect 60's mother or father, it is in your interest to be a feminist too.


Nicholas Graham said...

You are correct Kenny, women are equally as human as men, so their rights in society should also be equal.

It sounds like you hope for a future where people can be protected from negative action because everyone will be held to a new standard that is neither feminist nor masculine.

You bring up another good point: due to our genetic and physical differences, women and men should not be expected to live up to the same standards.

There lies the sticky part of Feminism. To what extent can we use biological differences in people as a reason to change standards? Are not legal rights a form of social standards of conduct? Your two statements inherently contradict themselves.

If one is genetically wired to sweat more than 99% of the population, and that person wears shorts and a T-Shirt to work due to his/her genetic precondition, and is fired for violating his/her company's dress code, can the individual sue for violations of his rights as an individual? If one is genetically wired to be fatter than 99% of the population, and his/her employer does not supply the individual with a proportionality larger chair, can the individual sue for discrimination? If you say "no" to either of these then it would be difficult to rationally support the truly equal society you wish to have.

I too wish there was a "perfect world" of gender equality, but because all humans are different, yet live under a large umbrella of society, we fundamentally must make compromises of self to live with one another. I believe the battle for equality will be never-ending for humans, because some people will always feel they are not being treated as equals.

Kenny said...

De Jure we have copyright laws, but de facto it is laughably easy to "borrow" media from a "friend" in our culture. There are more sinister examples.

As for who we accommodate and how, I would say it is a cost benefit thing. Also, does the sweater need to wear shorts and a T-shirt, how much of a sacrifice is it to wear the dress code?

Kenny_0 said...

Kenny, darn near everything boils down to a cost benefit analysis.