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Rambles' Ramblings

Ramblings, a salve for any hurts

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Feminism

Feminism menism

So, today I was studying feminism when one of my friends (a boy) tapped me and shoved his phone at me. I took it knowing that he wants to show me something every time he do this. A look at it makes me want to throw the phone out of the window – he has the phone opened to a Facebook page on Anti-Feminism knowing full well I am doing feminism and I am a feminist (at least I feel I am).

Now, before anything else, let me say that my friend is generally quite a nice guy. He respects women and girls and would never (I hope!) suggests that women should stay close to hearth and home and that ‘politics, like prize-fighting, are the work of men.’ After all, he admires Margaret Thatcher. But he is also very anti feminism as a legal theory. When I ask for the reason, he says that women have quite enough rights and that men are being cornered at every turn, proof in the Facebook post he showed me:

  1. Woman asked for split bill, independent; man asked for split bill, cheap
  2. Woman groped, sexual harassment; man groped, indifference
  3. Woman hit man, bravery; man hit woman, domestic violence

I told him off for that actually, lectured him a bit on feminism. How can you criticize and ridicule a theory you have not studied before? To describe Feminism in 4 four words: fight for gender equality. To achieve gender equality, feminists are trying to break the stereotypical gender roles and society’s perception of what the roles of the genders should be. The situations he showed me that I listed above? All because of something called gender roles. And what are gender roles? They are roles forced onto men and women due to social norms and social attitudes. This is not only unfair to women, but also unfair to men. Therefore, by the feminists trying to break the restrictions of the gender roles, it also advantages the men as it would have avoided the above scenarios.

Which then leads to the question: are feminism only for women? If not, then why called it by such a misleading name? If not, what are feminism for? This requires a little bit of history as the first organized group of feminists, the liberal feminists, were actually fighting for the rights of the women through the law. Hence, at that point of time, it is indeed for women.

But as time passes, formal equality has gradually been achieved for women. The feminists then asked themselves, now what? Although formal equality has been achieved through legislation, social attitudes are huge obstacles to their implementation. Part of the reason for these issues lies in the trouble with gender roles. From time immemorial women have by and large confined to hearth and home. They were regarded as subservient to men, a part of their property, and had little to no rights, ie they were assigned to a role. To suddenly be told that women are equal to men in every respect except for reproduction of life is a shock to the average man. The average man either did not believe women are capable of being equal to men (DUMB), or felt their position as the dominant family head threatened (WIMPS).

Gender roles not only act as restraints upon the women, but also on the men:

  1. Boys are not supposed to cry, even if you are very sad; girls showing their emotions are a ‘wreck’ and ‘too emotional’
  2. Boys have to play with cars and guns, too violent; girls have to play with dolls, too girly
  3. Boys have to work with science even if you prefer the art of sewing; girls have to learn to sew even if you prefer to experiment with chemicals
  4. Men are sexual creatures, they want to sleep with everyone; women are not, they should remain chaste and pure until marriage
  5. Gentlemen should pay for the meal even though he might earn less; women should not have to even if she wants to
  6. Men cannot be the victims of domestic violence even if he is; women can be and are easily believed even when they are not
  7. Men cannot be sexually assaulted, they are but rarely admitted by society and victims alike; women can be, but social stigma silenced them

From the short list above you can definitely see that gender roles are NOT, I repeat, NOT helping anyone. If anything, it just cause everyone (or at least anyone who doesn’t fit into the gender roles) to suffer much like a square peg in a round hole – unsuitable and uncomfortable. Any actions to break gender roles therefore should be, to my mind, be encouraged and supported. Any decisions to the contrary is mind-boggling and nonsensical.

This reminds me of the made up word ‘menism‘. Apparently, this is in response to feminism and is supposed to fight for men’s rights. What, pray tell, are your aims? In what way has the law been oppressive to men? Men’s pay is still 25% higher than a woman, majority of those in the business arena, the politics arena, the legal system, the public sphere are still men. Men are not pressured to ‘settle down’, have children and slow down their careers to have a complete life.

You say it is about the domestic violence? That women hitting men is a sign that feminism had overreached? Funniest joke I ever heard. If you read until here, you would have notice that above I talked about gender roles. These gender roles presumed the women to be the weaker sex and is therefore less capable.

But what most people didn’t realize is that this capability can be for the good, but also for the bad. There are more than enough literature on the capabilities of women in areas such as politics and law. But female criminals, now that is something often overlooked.

The gender role of women being the weaker sex and less capable not only excludes women from the so-called ‘public sphere’ of business, politics, law and etc, but also causes a perception that women are less capable of violence. This is certainly not the truth.

Women may not slit your throat or kill you in a fistfight, but women may murder you with slow-acting poisons. Women may not react violently and immediately to a provocation, but may find a chance to take revenge later. Women may not physically abuse their partners, but psychological abuse may be easily done.

Therefore, breaking the gender roles is also, from another point of view, a way of acknowledging that women are as capable of committing crimes as men. Only when gender roles are broken will the above situations I listed for examples of gender roles ceased to exist.

Society will no longer expect much more out of the men, nor extra effort on the part of the women. Emotions will be seen as normal and so are sex. When social expectations disappear, feminism would have done their job. And if feminism breaks the gender roles, then female criminals will no longer be overlooked as generally non-threatening.

What then, is left for ‘menism‘? What rights that women have that men don’t have? Being that men had been dominant in the legal, political and social arena for so long, it is inconceivable that women have some rights that men don’t have. It would therefore appear that there is NOTHING left for ‘menism’ to do. Therefore, the conclusion would be that ‘menism‘ is something totally unnecessary and merely adds to the conclusion.

Feminism is actually a misnomer; the name implies that it is only concerned with advantaging women and to hell with men. This is so far from the truth that entire galaxies can fit within the gap. Feminism is all about gender equality, not only from the legal perspective, but also from the political and sociological view. It relieves the men of the burden of having to be a ‘man’ in the traditional meaning, and helps the women to release themselves from the confines of the traditional meaning of ‘woman’. It will help to ease the lives of those who do not fit into the traditional images of ‘man’ and ‘woman’.

Who I fuck, how I fuck and whether I fuck is NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS

My life, my pussy, my choice, my right; and by the way, none of your fucking business.

– Staceyann Chin (via audentes-fortuna-juvat)

Housework is not work. Sex work is not work. Emotional work is not work. Why? Because they don’t take effort? No, because women are supposed to provide them uncompensated, out of the goodness of our hearts.

– Jess Zimmerman, “Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor, TheToast.com, July 13, 2015

Motherhood should be praised, erasing women should not be

I don’t think it ever occurred to me before how much and how often women are praised for displaying traits that basically render them invisible. When I really think about it, I realize the culprit is the language generally used to praise women. Especially mothers.

“She sacrificed everything for her children… She never thought about herself… She gave up everything for us… She worked tirelessly to make sure we had what we needed. She stood in the shadows, she was the wind beneath our wings.”

Greeting card companies are build on that idea.

“Tell her how much all the little things she does all year long that seem to go unnoticed really mean to you.”

With a $2.59 card.

Mother’s Day is build on that idea.

This is good, we’re told. It’s good how Mom diminishes and martyrs herself. The message is: mothers, you are such wonderful and good people because you make yourselves smaller, because you deny your own needs, because you toil tirelessly in the shadows and no one ever thanks or notices you… this all makes you AMAZING.

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes

Feminism – Unitary?

We cannot expect poor women feeding their families on food stamps to have the same priorities as female lawyers hoping to become partners in law firms. We cannot expect working-class women concerned with getting paid sick leave to have the same priorities as college professors. We cannot expect women who face both sex discrimination and race discrimination to develop the same priorities as women who face only sex discrimination. … There has never been a single, unified feminist agenda. We see feminism as an outlook that is ever being reinvented by new groups of women. Feminism necessarily changes as the world women inhabit changes.

– Dorothy Sue Cobble, Linda Gordon, and Astrid Henry in Feminism Unfinished
So part of my module is formed around the idea that feminism is not unitary. It is labelled as difference feminism and I think that it makes a lot of sense. No one agenda is going to fit anyone and I think it is time we acknowledge this fact instead of crying that it merely weakens the power of the feminist movement.
What good is the power if what it achieves is merely for the advantage for the dominant group? Instead of oppression by men, females of the minority groups would be oppressed and silenced by the dominant group. Critical race theorists points out part of the problem, but from the book I have been reading (Jurisprudence, Penner et al), most (if not all) of the theorists comes from either America or the Western hemisphere. Their concerns are real, but relevant only to part of the female society. The women of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa had been ignored through no fault of theirs. Out of sight, out of mind. They are concerned with the problems they see happening right in front of their mind.
Part of the problems they have identified are is race. Inequality exists between races and such inequality often manifests itself in economic power. Long before the white upper-middle class women went out to work, black women have been working as domestic help and were invisible.
American theorists are concerned with black women, with their history of being perceived as sexually dominant and thus a ‘free-for-all’. They are concerned with how legislation had, on purpose or by accident, created a lacuna between sex discrimination laws and race discrimination laws through which black women fell, unable to receive protection from the state. Kimberle Crenshaw described two cases where it is obvious that black women are being discriminated against and yet the state do nothing. Emily Jackson and Nicola Lacey (authors of the topic in Jurisprudence) described this scenario as ‘All blacks are men and all women are white”.
But are these the only axes of differentiation between women? As the above quote from Cobble, Gordon and Henry shows, clearly not. Economic power, social classes, cultural difference, sexual orientation, mothers, non-mothers, healthy women and sick women, those who want abortions and those against abortions, married and unmarried, employed and unemployed, all these show that the axes of differentiation in society is much more than just men and women.
What these makes clear is that we can never look at feminism in just one angle. It is unrealistic and impossible. A sweeping agenda might looks grand and impressive, but often ignores the minorities without intending to do so. It is time to focus on the details, on the different concerns of different groups.
I am Asian, my priorities are different from Westerners. I am Malaysian Chinese, my priorities are different from other ethnicity. I am a student with student debt, my priorities are different from those who have no worries about money. I am 22, my priorities are different from those about to retire. How can we therefore see a unified feminist agenda?
Of course it is impossible to tailor the feminist agenda to every single person. But it is possible to acknowledge that a sweeping unified feminist agenda can sometimes turn on minorities, changing their oppressors from men to fellow women from the dominant group. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that different groups have different priorities and these acknowledgments will not only weaken the feminist movement, but instead strengthen it.  This is because women from the minority groups would be more willing to come forth and join the feminist movements once they felt that the movement will actually benefit them.
We cannot expect everyone to be so noble to fight for a cause that may not be at all beneficial to them. We must show that feminism and the feminist movement is important and beneficial to everyone, regardless of gender, social difference, cultural difference or any differentiation. And to do so, it is my opinion that the first step is to discard the myth that there is a unified feminist agenda.

Feminism (Part 2) – victim blaming

I love this quote.

He licked his lips. “Well, if you want my opinion–”
“I don’t,” she said. “I have my own.”

Toni Morrison, Beloved (via urbancatfitters)

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