Friday, July 30, 2010

What Now?

Since my posts this month have not generated much dissent, I shall assume that most people agree that women face some societally created hurdles which men, for the most part, do not have to leap. Making yet another assumption, that you would like to see this changed, the question of how to progress toward a more equitable future seems quite relevant.

So, I ask you, how can each of us, as an individual, contribute to a more equitable future for women?

"What," you may be wondering, "is he doing asking us a question, this isn't Tuesday?" But rest assured, I am asking because I think the answer is important, and important to get from many people to obtain a variety of viewpoints. I also ask because I do not consider my own answer to be sufficient.

My personal answer is to contribute to a more equitable future by doing my best not to be inequitable personally. There are two components to this, one is to seek information about women's perspectives and priorities. Note that this is not a monolithic subject, one does not have a simple, cardboard-cutout worldview and opinion solely because one is a woman, nor should one, which is a main point of my post about women in politics. Once you are aware of the practices that many women view as dis-empowering, do your best no avoid them, the practices not the women.

Some common examples that come up repeatedly include, not assuming that because you know someone is a woman, that you know their opinion on abortion or whether they voted for Hillary Clinton in 2008. As noted above, women are capable of coming to their own conclusions, which may not parrot popular perception of women's priorities. Of course, men suffer, perhaps less frequently or pronouncedly, a similar fate. As I noted when discussing the importance of feminism, both genders benefit when we take the time to consider others as complex individuals rather than copies of a prototype. That said, we should not assume it is a panacea to treat women like men. Women are acculturated much differently than men (please assume when I make sweeping statements like these I mean, "in general" or "on average") so treating women exactly like men would lead to inequitable results. For example, men tend to be more assertive in their communication style, which can lead to women being left out of intergender conversations, unless the woman has overcome her acculturation to be supportive and agreeable, or the men make an effort to provide an environment where the women feel comfortable sharing their views. In short, try to respect people equally, treat people equally, but don't assume that means treating them the same.

Now, I think that if everyone held this point of view, simply doing this would be sufficient. However, since there are institutions that resist the shift toward equitability, it seems desirable that we should, in addition to trying to live in an equitable manner, make attempts to reform these institutions. How we might do this is where my ability to answer runs out, so I must ask you for your opinion on how one might go about reforming these institutions.

Thank you for a good Feminist July, as always, comments make my heart smile.

1 comment:

Kenny said...

Hi Kenny!

I don't really know what I would do personally, but I think that an effort must be made on both sides. I believe that you must know your audience and act in a way that fits with those around you, to a point.

I was on vacation recently and was playing Apples to Apples and the card "shallow" came up (I don't know if you are famillar with the game, but I assume you can become so rather quickly) and I played the card that said "women" My wife, the two other guys and I all laughed. I pissed off the other wife. I'll state right off that I knew she wouldn't like it, but I didn't know to what degree, I didn't intend to piss her off.

There are many reasons that I did this, the main reason was that it was a game, I wasn't being serious, and it was funny (I'll take 80% as enough proof this time). But there were other reasons, one of which was that I knew she wouldn't like it. I think that I have a good opinion of women, and my wife seems to think that I treat them well, so I'm going to say that it wasn't a sexist move. I have heard the other woman make jokes about men based on stereotypes and I laugh, because they are funny. But she can't hear the same type of jokes about women which, in my opinion, does not make for ending the gender war peacefully.

I could have certainly played a different card and lived a perfectly happy life, and no one would have been hurt, but it would have been a concious decision on my part and I think that is a problem. I think that anytime a different set of rules applies you will build resentment, and that is counter productive to equality. Yes I could have not pissed her off, but I would have resented the fact that I could not have played the card, knowing that she would still make jokes about men. I think that either the jokes are ok or they are not.

I guess that in this way I think that treating equally is treating the same. I would agree with you though that equal and same are definately not always interchangeable.