04 September 2008

On gender equality.

So I was skimming online news headlines this morning (as I often do), and stumbled upon this: "American columnist Kathleen Parker is causing a furor with her newest book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care, in which she argues that feminism has neutered men and deprived them of their noble, protective role in society." I decided to give the excerpt a read.

There are aspects of this that I don't agree with. It's decidedly biased at some points, but I understand it's to make her case and I also understand that to every statement, there is a valid counterstatement. I posted this because I believe in true feminism, not militant feminism. As I understand it, true feminism is "Anything a man can do, I can do equally well, whether or not I do it his way or my own, so long as it's of equal quality...while not being afraid to work with or brainstorm with a man in order to work together to complete the task at hand." Militant feminism is "Anything a man can do, I can do better, and not only that but all men are rapists and serial killers, let's harvest men for their semen, then use them for manual labour, while having babies but neglecting them for our carreers."

It irritates me that there are still facilities that don't have baby changing counters in men's restrooms; two-father families and single dads are pretty common these days, and what about the father giving his wife a day to herself while he takes his infant out and about? Where are they supposed to change diapers? Sadly, I've seen men having the change them in shopping carts, on a table in a diner, and (I've heard) in the sink of the men's room. It also sickens me that legislation is so slanted in many (not all) states so that women are automatically granted primary or full custody of children during a divorce; I have heard stories of men fighting for their children from a drug-addicted mother or other abusive situation. I'm not saying men should get automatic custody, I just think things should be a little more equal. I feel it's come down to the sad fact that in trying to raise women up, we've pushed men down.

Men and women aren't equal: aside from the rare exception, men can't give birth, for instance, and women can't impregnate. The bodily muscles function differently. Scientists have found that even the brains of either sex process differently. However that doesn't mean that men and women can't compensate for those differences in many cases. I don't think society needs to get silly in making everything equal (there just isn't a market for male bras) but come on: think outside the acceptable norm. If there can be female-only gyms to accommodate women shy of men watching them, can't there be a male-only parenting class, for men who might be ashamed of asking a question that women might think of as common knowledge? It can't be "equal but separate" on only one side of the playing field.

Yes, there are still some instances where men are paid more than women for the same job. It's heartbreaking. I'm fortunate enough to work in a union and I get paid the same as the guy next to me. (That has it's disadvantages at times, too; pay isn't based on merit, productivity, or experience, so the drunken idiot you're working with is also making the same as you.) I also know that many women don't realise the opportunities available for non-traditional work; after high school, I was convinced that I'd be a teacher, a secretary, maybe a nurse...I had no idea that I could get into construction, and honestly, many women don't. If you're not afraid to work or get your hands dirty, you can probably get out there and do the job, male or female. I think alot of that is a lack of resources, a lack of education, lack of understanding. If mom and aunt and sister are in traditional female-dominated positions, why would a girl even begin to think there are other options? (On the other hand, having worked in the medical field, many of you probably don't realise the degrading shit that male nurses and medical receptionists have to go through; I knew a male nurse who was constantly called a "fag" by his female counterparts and often found tampons in his locker. He complained as was told to "be a man and deal with it". Not to mention male teachers who many assume are sexually deviant for choosing that career.)

So anyway: what this all boils down to is that, as far as gender equality goes, America has come a long way on some issues, has become stagnant in others, and has turned 180-degrees on others, causing a reverse gender bias. And it's sad, because we have the potential to solve all of this, but hurt feelings and the mentality of "I was hurt and held back, now it's his turn" is, unfortunately, more common than many think.

No comments: