Monday, November 17, 2008

Essay II (part one of two)

Tyler. "Blame" the feminists?? For what? I'm really asking here, for real, not trying to be an ass. I'm just so curious as to what you blamed them for.

I think we're still coming to terms with the modern world. When things were biologically driven, it was easier to figure out. That's probably not actually true, it likely brought its own litany of issues but let's say it was so for the sake of this argument.

A few hundred years ago, pre-industrial revolution, if you were a woman you had babies and tended the home and if you were a man you did the farming or whatever your station in life suggested.

Now, things aren't defined so much by biology. I'm talking about the fact that a woman and a man can nearly do (and maybe totally do) all the same jobs. But, women still have babies and men still don't (except for that one person on Oprah) and that is how it is.


During WWI they needed women to work, right. Who would work in the factories, make sure the home fires kept burning? Thus Rosie the Riveter and all the campaigns to get women out doing what men used to do.

It succeeded, and when the men came home the women were like, what, no thanks, I'm not going back in the kitchen. And so were born all those hilarious but very serious manuals on how to be a good housewife. You know, you'll get a black and white one as a forward every once in a while, all hahaha, except that they were totally serious.

So we've come a long way, baby, that's for sure, but the choices are still hard choices sometimes. Men aren't exactly falling all over themselves, blogging and writing about how hard it is to tear themselves away from their children and homes to go off to work. Not that I want them to, that certainly isn't the solution I crave, but the dilemma seems to fall squarely on female shoulders.

The crux of it seems to be that men are struggling with identity while women struggle with the same old, same old. Women struggle with unequal pay and massive work/family struggles.

Actually, in my book I address some of these issues...betcha can't wait.


Tyler said...

Wow, a whole blog as a response to me! I love how it's becoming a forum for debate (but perhaps you don't.)

I hesitate to talk about this issue because I'm not well versed in Feminist theory, and I usually have trouble articulating myself very well on the subject which usually lands me in trouble, but I'll try.

I was thinking about this very topic today as I was walking to my car from class this morning where I've just started teaching Chuck Palahnuik's treatise on postmodern masculinity, Fight Club. The problem I see, the one that I've always had with feminism in general, is that it is too limiting. It creates a dichotomy between male and female. By focusing specifically on the female's place in society, it automatically opposes itself to the male. Now, some may argue that this is not true, that females can declare or champion their rights and/or privileges without necessarily opposing themselves to men, and with this I agree but only to a certain extent, because I've always found the underlying argument to be that men are the cause of these issues. That men are somehow holding women back. That all the problems women face in the world are due to the patriarchal system that men have forced upon the world. Because no matter how we interpret it, male and female are two sides to the human coin, and you can't have one without the other.

Naturally, not every women or feminist thinks this way, but generally, this is the way I interpret what I see and read. This is not to say that women shouldn't have equal paying jobs, or the right to vote and work or whatever, only that I see women's rights as equal rights and therefore think that by limiting them to women's rights creates an unnecessary opposition, but maybe this is my structuralist nature surfacing.

I have yet to actually write any of these thoughts down in a coherent manner, so this is a bit of a process for me and I'm trying my best not to argue myself into a corner. When I differentiated your generation of feminists from the previous one, I think I meant that from my experience, the real hard-core feminists of yesteryear are more or less man-haters and this attitude has subtly penetrated our culture to the point where "white men" are equated with evil.

I think I'm going a bit further than I'm comfortable with at this point though, so before I say anything reallystupid, I'll stop there.

spinregina said...

Listen, if that's how well you think off the cuff my compliments to you. I know what you mean about saying more than you are comfortable's not like a verbal conversation where you can back up and rephrase quickly.

You are right about an absolute dichotemy, my question is this. Is it feminism that sets that up, or the nature of male/female. Chicken or the egg again.

I don't think the intent of feminism, first, second, or whatever the wave currently is, intended to set itself up as an adversary to male-ism, but there was no choice. Women were in a quite subservient role, some may argue that they still are, and what else could we do? It had to be noted, and quite forcefully, that women were considered second class citizens and I guess that automatically raised the ire of the dominant class, leading to, you guessed it, opposition.

If men aren't the cause of these issues, and this might be hard for the egalitarian men of our generation (I'm putting myself in your generation even though I know I'm not!) to understand that leads me to ask, when then, who the heck put us in this position? See, men have pretty typically held positions of power in our society; government, work, whatever, and that gives them a lot of power women haven't necessarily had. If men have all the high up positions, are they going to care if there is accessible daycare, or if women have positions in parliament, or if women get paid the same? Not likely.

And yup, I think patriarchy stinks, quite frankly, and it is unfortunate that it exists. And it is likely hard to take, the idea that the males of the past have caused these issues, but it's also the truth, and wanting something not to be so doesn't make it not so. Kind of like any inherent racism; to say it another way, there are lots of white people who have nothing to do with racisim against black people in the US, but those white people still need to address the issue that their ancestors created. Even thought they did not cause it.

Again, just as you said, I'm afraid I'm not making sense here and I have a mad tendancy to go off on tangents...I'll put some food into my caffinated body and likely change my mind on everything I just said.

Tyler said...

Are we not of the same generation? Pretty sure we are since the typical generation span is about 30 years and at most I think we are 2-3 years apart in age. (Do you even know who I am?) jj

Your thoughts opened up a door that I myself was afraid to open, but now that it is, I'll try to walk through:

Your first paragraph is right on the money. No doubt that the feminists of yore, Mary Wollstonecraft and others of her ilk (yeah, I named dropped) surely wanted nothing more than an equal place in society, and not to "bring down the man."

It is with your second point, and I must say that I think this pretty much sums up the underlying argument that I was trying to articulate earlier, that I have problems with. Granted, the patriarchal system is in place, and women in general may not have had equal opportunities within such a system, but I do not agree that men are at fault. But the underlying premise that you've revealed (much better than I could have,) is that feminism blames men for the inequality of women, where as I see it as a naturally occurring role.

That sounds bad and is not really what I mean. I don't mean that women are naturally unequal. What I mean is that women, being the natural birth givers, are therefore the natural care givers. So, if we think back to hunter gatherer societies, who would be the natural hunter or gatherer: the female who is either pregnant or breastfeeding, or the male who is not physically bound to the child? Naturally, the male is the one to "go to work" so to speak. And I don't think much has changed today.

This is not necessarily a good thing. I am not praising this system, but to me this seems like the most logical reasoning behind the 21st century woman's position. The position of the "natural care giver" hasn't changed much over the last millennia and I don't see it as a male construction. It harkens back thousands of years. What feminism has done has been to say, "well, we're not hunters and gatherers anymore and we want to work too," which is a great thing. My point is that I don't think it's as simple as saying that men are the one's holding women back.

Granted, female restriction may have been true some years ago, (suffrage of women, equal work for equal pay, etc, etc.) But my perception of feminism now is not generally a positive one. For example, when I announced to a certain women that I was going to run for the government, she said, literally, that "really pissed her off." Why? Because I was a white male. Even though no other candidates had been announced, I was judged as taking away the opportunity for a woman or minority to run based on my own sex and colour, which was the most racist, sexist thing I've ever encountered.

I don't base my perception on the actions of one small-minded individual though, and I am a bit wary about some of the things I said because I'm afraid that they may be misinterpreted. But if I may summarize: I don't think males are the cause of women's issues.

I do believe that women's issues are important, but I also think it important that we approach it from an angle other than the current way of opposing female and male as though we're at war.

Tyler said...

Heh, I guess we're 5 years apart. BUT STILL!

lotusloq said...

Wow! Can I just say, W-o-W! There are so many things I would love to say, but I have no time now. I have to run make all this food for a big dinner tonight. (Hmmm! Not intended to show how society works, but still telling) If I'm coherent when after the dinner I may comment. If not, I'll comment on "Essay II, part II." Later. Did you see I commented again on the USA post? Ciao!

spinregina said...

I think I'm gen X and you are gen Y maybe?

(more later)

Tyler said...

You may have a point. I think I'm on the cusp, or, to quote a raunchy biker movie I just saw, "on the verge of the brink" between x & y.

Ha ha. How appropriate.

spinregina said...

Tyler said: But the underlying premise that you've revealed (much better than I could have,) is that feminism blames men for the inequality of women, where as I see it as a naturally occurring role.

Naturally occuring to be biologically capable of having children, yes, certainly. But naturally subservient to men? Naturally to be paid less? Naturally to do more of the work that is under and/or not paid? Natural to not have drug companies test their products on women's different bodies? Natural to hit a glass ceiling?

Say it isn't so, say it isn't so. We are naturally different, yes. But the systems in place are not fair, and those systems were set up by the (pardon this term) ruling class, because it worked for the ruling class. Let's keep women at home because let's face it, doing the laundry sucks, was likely said only in private, but I still put forth that people said it.

Tyler said...

Just for the record, I never said any of the following:

Naturally subservient to men? Naturally to be paid less? Naturally to do more of the work that is under and/or not paid? Natural to not have drug companies test their products on women's different bodies? Natural to hit a glass ceiling?

But I have to go right now as I'm missing My New BFF.

flashmom said...

Here, here! Hurrah for feminism. Otherwise where would we be? And we still have so far to go. So I say it was patriarchy that put us in the positions we are in, and if you think about it, men are now acting out against women's new and better role in society. That is why men aren't fathers in so many instances. Some say that patriarchy came about so that men coudl know exactly who their children were.

spinregina said...

maybe my italics don't show up on your screen? yes, Tyler only said the paragraph in italics. my apolgies if that is not clear!!

Flashmom - that is interesting; I was thinking about that, that patriarchy was established over time as a way of expressing control over just whose children women were having. It's almost like (in some) instances, men are acting out, as though because their roles are changing (it's becoming less necessary to define things other than childbirth by biology.) here I ramble again.

spinregina said...

Tyler, you are a true dichotemy. My New BFF, and English professor. Welcome to the two thousands, people.

Tyler said...

What can I say about My New BFF? I could go on forever...

But I fear that we're entering a circular argument and request to graciously bow out. (I've learned a lot about women in the last 14 years; the most important lesson of which: choose your battles wisely and know when to quit.)