Do you think women are treated as equals? What changes would you like to see?
Well, technically it was yesterday, but I missed the question. No, I do not think women are treated as equals, and I believe the inequality runs far, far deeper than most discussions seem to realize. It is obvious in the developing world, where female infanticide, genital mutilation, and so forth are still major problems, which I think everyone on my f-list can agree is not equal by any measure. So let us restrict attention to the "developed" world, like the U.S. On the surface, you have statistics on the glass ceiling, career attainment, work-life balance, etc. One wonders, for example, why more women aren't tenured professors in the STEM fields until you realize that the "tenure clock" was originally conceived for men living in a bygone era, when they got married to a nice wife
who took care of the home and babies, while he could focus on his research. Even with liberal gender roles these days, how many couples do you see where men are the primary family caretaker? How many where it's women? What are the expectations still in place? (I know my mother often says that if the household is a mess, it can all be blamed on the woman). And of course, there's cultural influences - a lot more emphasis is put on how women look, dress, their attractiveness than men. Don't even get me started on dating rituals. Or the abortion debate. Or the military. (Yes, we do benefit from not having to, say, worry about the draft. However, it's still inequality).
But like I said, this is all on the surface. People often argue that, well, women still have a choice
in lots of these, and many do choose to stay at home, rather than climb that corporate ladder! This is missing the point. For the vast majority of history, women have NOT been seen as equals, and this was taken for granted by both sides. To achieve equality, we must overcome all the ingrained biases from centuries
of this attitude, probably more than any other minority group. The problem is that many of the qualities traditional to women are associated with weakness - emotionalism, nurturing, empathy - while those traditional to men are glorified. This defines "maleness" and "femaleness". However, don't you think that if women were in charge for the majority of history, what is glorified would exactly be the reverse? To take an example: being a secretary used to be considered a high-skilled job, which only men could take. It was prestigious to some extent. Then, the workforce changed and the job became more the domain of women, and now just the word "secretary" conjures up images of some naughty after-work shenanigans from a B-rated porno. My point is, to truly achieve equality, we need to change the very attitudes that define feminine qualities as weak and masculine qualities as strong.
Here's a simple experiment: go to this site
and run the re-gendering program on a couple of sites. Believe me, it will open your eyes.
So that brings us to a question: should
women and men be treated differently in our society, based on basic biology? We have to be careful when we answer that. Yes, there are biological differences that will always exist, and they must be kept in mind when debating policy. Not even the most hard-line feminist would advocate sending a pregnant woman to the front lines alongside a healthy, middle-aged man. (Although there were some kickass women in the past who managed surprising feats while pregnant - see Caterina Sforza, for example). However, with technological innovations like birth control, those differences are not so central as they were in the past. Now, women have far more control over when they take on the physical burden of bearing a child. Similarly, in the past, man's primary concern was plowing the fields and defending his children against invaders, and to do so required raw physical strength. But nowadays, that concern is practically moot. Instead, accomplishment today is defined far more by education, intellectual ability, and social connections, where intrinsic disparities are slim to none. Taking all this into account, I believe feminist policy should push the boundaries of equality to where current technology has reduced the importance of biological differences (again, birth control and abortion are primary examples), while chipping away at the attitudes that label "women's work" and "femininity" as inferior, especially among the younger generation.
You might ask why I've been thinking about this so much of late. Well, I used to care little, until I played this little text adventure, Choice of Broadsides
, and chose to be a female. Rather than treat it as an afterthought, the entire setting (which is sort of set during the British colonization days) changes to reflect the reversed gender roles, with women being the pioneering sailors and men the stay-at-home marriage material. The courtship scene in particular is quite telling - when I read a flirty redhead woman, many stereotypical images immediately spring to mind, but when I read those same words and try to envision a man, my mind goes blank. Clearly, the mass media has ingrained certain archetypes in our head, associated with one gender. (Another experiment: think of a "grizzled private-eye", I bet you envisioned a man, right? Well, nothing about a gray-haired private investigator denotes either a man or a woman, but your mind is probably reaching for some old noir film).
Then, recently, I started reading fantasy again and observed how the vast majority are still set in that narrow, feudal patriarchy of a vaguely European nation, despite the fact that it's FANTASY, so anything goes. Well, in my head, I started formulating a setting where women ruled, and not just in some oddball country or because of a spunky heroine, but women always
ruled based on the fact that they were born with magic, whereas men were not. (This is before I discovered Wheel of Time already did this >_<). Just following through on the evolutionary implications - for example, the division of labor would be quite different, if say women had the power of "earth" or what have you and could farm far more efficiently - led to some surprising revelations. This post is dedicated to my mother, who while still holding on to some traditional views on gender roles, is still far more of a feminist than many women I know. I am grateful to her for bringing me up as a strong, confident woman. She tells me I inherited her stubborn attitude toward dating, so I guess I have her to thank for my Artemis spirit ^_~.