Feminism and gender equality

(130 Posts)

Whem I was first persuaded to unhide the FWR boards and take a look around, I was of the opinion that I wasn't a feminist because I believe that everyone should be equal. I was told that actually that is a basic tenet of feminism.

Now I see on the male circumcision thread numerous posters saying that feminism is nothing to do with gender equality, that they are different things.

Which is it please?

FloraFox Sun 17-Feb-13 16:32:03

I can only speak for myself as one of the people who posted on the circumcision thread. It was not to say that feminism has nothing to do with gender equality but that it is about women as a class defined by their sex and addressing the oppression and inequality faced by women as a class. It's not about individual freedom for everyone or about anything that can loosely be called a "male issue" and therefore women have to address it because that's feminism (i.e. gender equality).

If you identify yourself as a feminist, though, it's up to you precisely what that means. There are a number of different interpretations of what feminism is, as defined by feminists. It's not up to people who don't identify as feminists to say "you are a feminist therefore you must believe x"

WidowWadman Sun 17-Feb-13 16:44:09

"It's not up to people who don't identify as feminists to say "you are a feminist therefore you must believe x" "

This. Also, there are some types of feminists who think other types of feminism isn't real feminism or good enough or whatever. They're wrong. Feminism is a wide spectrum.

Personally, I believe addressing equality is important - as inequality always affects all sexes.

Zippy1111 Sun 17-Feb-13 16:47:56

I'd like to think feminism meant addressing gender equality regardless which way round the genders were.

FloraFox Sun 17-Feb-13 16:48:53

Zippy1111 why would you like to think that?

Widow that was kind of my understanding too, that feminism strives for equality with men and therefore for men to also be equal to women. Which is gender equality, surely?

Sorry if I'm being really dense, I'm relatively new to all this.

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 17:36:51

YY Thank you for posting this TheJoyful. Something I often ask myself.

"If you identify yourself as a feminist, though, it's up to you precisely what that means. There are a number of different interpretations of what feminism is, as defined by feminists. It's not up to people who don't identify as feminists to say "you are a feminist therefore you must believe x""

Flora I may be joining Puddle on the dense bench here, but I'd like to think the definition of what it means for me to identify as a feminist was not only not up to those who didn't identify as feminist but those who do.

You and I may have very different ideas of what it important and how things should be achieved, in my mind I wouldn't think of you as not being a feminist though.

Mitchy1nge Sun 17-Feb-13 17:46:22

think tuia is why i prefer the term 'women's liberation', it says much more clearly what it's about and whose interests are central to its aims

Mitchy1nge Sun 17-Feb-13 17:46:49

this not tuia

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 17:56:45

really? as long as you say you are a feminist, anything you do is feminist?

even if it harms women?

can anyone explain?

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 18:03:18

Well no, if we're going to approach it like that. I've just eaten a sandwich, I don't think it was a particularly feminist action.

More the I chose to dress in a way that some feminists may not. I do not see how I dress to be a hinder towards feminism or my actions. Some may. If we all agreed on everything there would be very little debate on FWR (much of which I have enjoyed reading recently) and it would be limited to campaign and education, fwiw I'm glad it's not.

In my mind a woman may choose to wear make up, or not. One may think it is a feminist issue. She cannot deny the woman her identity as a feminist even though it does not fit into her own parameters of feminism and what it means.

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 18:17:56

of course a woman can choose to wear makeup etc. a woman may do whatever she likes, the law permitting, or even not, if she wishes.

i am just interested in the idea that you can be patriarchy compliant, do things that harm women and yet somehow be a feminist, and that no one should critique your choices

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 18:33:00

But surely you can critique someones choices without saying "You are not feminist because..."

How can you decide someone isn't a feminist over lip gloss? Yes I can see the compliance issue in regards to the patriarchy, but if you're going to deny women based on one aspect of how they live their lives you will end up with a very small band of women, lots of squabbling and very little achieved.

As Puddle says in her OP, some hide the FWR boards. I ventured in a few times and got a very one sided view on feminism (not the board as a whole I just happened to stumble across a bad thread) and from what I'd seen from some feminist debate that had spilled into AIBU, I backed off quickly.

Some self education later and I'm back. But if we're against the patriarchy and the damage it does to women, are we then going to exclude women on the basis that they have been influenced by the patriarchy? Surely if non were compliant and we were free from all influence there would be no need for feminism?

I'm not saying I'm right and this is how it is btw, I'm still coming to terms with my identity as a feminist. If you're saying I'm not because I've been brought up under and influenced by the patriarchy, well, should I just go now and not bother? Or can I identify as a feminist as although I am part of the status quo I wish to challenge it?

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 18:50:40

but you can't critique someone's choices, this is the thing- read any thread about removing pubic hair or the normalisation of pole dancing to confirm.

i am not the feminist police, and i don't really care - do what you want, whatever that entails.

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 18:53:58

Sorry Chibi, I didn't mean to imply you were in any way acting or even talking like you intended to police behavior.

Like I said earlier, new to chatting in FWR and still finding out what it means to be a feminist, both as I see it and how I identify and what others think on the matter.

chibi Sun 17-Feb-13 18:54:43

to me, feminism is a political identity, not hugs and caring and a support group for validating everything i do.

of course everyone sees this differently, fair enough.

Lessthanaballpark Sun 17-Feb-13 19:01:19

Personally I'd accept anyone who is brave enough to define themselves as feminist in the club. Except for those who espouse the "pole-dancing is empowering" baloney. To me that's not real feminism at all ..... that's subverted fake appropriated-for-commercial purposes feminism or "I'm worth it feminism" as I like to call it...

Oh dear, I'm such a hypocrite. blush

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 19:03:23

What's "I'm worth it feminism" Lessthan?

This is really interesting. I'm still dense none the wiser but it's interesting!

seeker Sun 17-Feb-13 19:11:15

Some people think that feminism is just about women having choices. It is, but it's more than that. A feminist considers how everything she does impacts on women in general, and does not make choices that perpetuate oppression/inequality. So a woman could choose, for example, to be a lap dancer, or to be a submissive wife, but those choices would be profoundly anti feminist, because they perpetuate oppression.

AmandaPayne Sun 17-Feb-13 19:25:12

Feminism is about gender equality, but with the recognition that it is women as a class who are structurally unequal in our society. It is primarily focused on improving the lives of women, which would of course hopefully improve everyone's lives - men, women and children.

Many very broad issues of gender equality can be feminist issues. Men's paternity leave is a feminist issue because it is part of the wider patriarchal society which has impacts on both men and women.

What I particularly objected to was the attempt to redefine feminism to mean mens issues which were just about men by a double leap -"Feminism means gender equality so that would mean male issues as well as female?" So somehow we now have to agree that male circumcision is a feminist issue.

Male circumcision is an important issue. It's a human rights issues. It's not a gender equality issue (unless you are trying to say that more men are circumcised than women experience FGM. Which is so daft as to be nonsensical because it is comparing two totally different issues). And it is certainly not a feminist issue in my book.

I care about human rights issues. I care about gender equality issues. And as there aren't boards for those, I suspect someone who said "I want to talk about X and there isn't a board for it. It doesn't feel right in chat so can we talk here" would have had a far better time than the "I want to talk about X. Oh, you all agree with me, well can we fight about whether it is feminist or not" approach.

AbigailAdams Sun 17-Feb-13 19:26:13

I have three problems with feminism = gender equality.

1. Gender is a social construct and I want to get rid of it in its entirety. So if we are talking equality then I would prefer the term sexual equality.
2. Before we can have equality we need to have freedom from oppression. I don't think the two phrases are interchangeable because out of one will arise the other.
3. When talking about equality the assumptions are that women gain equality with men, as they have all the power. I have a problem with that. It assumes yet again that male is the default and women should aspire to being like men. So who are we wanting to be equal with? The violent men who oppress us? The powerful, ruthless men who oppress us? "A commitment to sexual equality with men is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered." Andrea Dworkin

Like MitchyInge I prefer the term Women's Liberation. It explains better what we are trying to achieve. It also leaves scope to fashion a world that is more suited to women than the current world rather than us having to fit into the world men created.

seeker Sun 17-Feb-13 19:29:05

I am old enough to remember women's liberation. The words were hijacked and became a term of derision. It was replaced by feminism- which is going the same way......

NotDavidTennant Sun 17-Feb-13 19:39:23

"Whem I was first persuaded to unhide the FWR boards and take a look around, I was of the opinion that I wasn't a feminist because I believe that everyone should be equal. I was told that actually that is a basic tenet of feminism.

Now I see on the male circumcision thread numerous posters saying that feminism is nothing to do with gender equality, that they are different things.

Which is it please?"

Maybe a useful analogy would be between the terms "racial equality" and "black activist". Someone who would self-describe as a black activist is not just making a statement about supporting a general principle of racial equality but is describing themselves as someone who is active in trying to help black people specifically as a group to overcome racial inequality.

Many feminsts see feminism in a similar light - not just as about supporting gender equality in a general sense - but as being about actively trying to help women specifically as a group to overcome sexual inequality.

Hence why male circumsion is not identified as a feminist issue, because it has virtually no consequence for whether women acheive equality with men.

ashesgirl Sun 17-Feb-13 19:43:59

Joyful, slightly off-topic but I am really interested why you hid the FWR section. :-) Did it seem very off-putting? To hide something, I'm assume it bothered you quite a bit?

My understanding of feminism is that it's about the ending of the oppression of women as a class by men as a class. Certain schools of thought that have adopted the label 'feminist' in recent decades are not, as far as I can see, helpful in this regard. Some I see as a positive hindrance. Promoting 'choices' which actually just pander to mens 'needs' and are bad for women as a whole will get us nowhere.

I am quite capable of worrying intensely about my appearance and at the same time wanting to analyse why this should be so and how we can move beyond it to a world where women can wholeheartedly participate in all the important stuff without constantly having to check ourselves or police each other.

Feminism requires a willingness to critique the choices you make, IMO, whatever you actually do to get by.

KirstyoffEastenders Sun 17-Feb-13 19:53:37

Seeker "A feminist considers how everything she does impacts on women in general, and does not make choices that perpetuate oppression/inequality. So a woman could choose, for example, to be a lap dancer, or to be a submissive wife, but those choices would be profoundly anti feminist."

So, are you saying that any woman who, say, shaves her legs or wears high heels, can't identify as a feminist?

KirstyoffEastenders Sun 17-Feb-13 19:59:14

I would say I'm a feminist because I challenge sexist attitudes (whenever I can muster the courage) and try to encourage girls and young women that I know to think differently and not fall into stereotypes.

seeker Sun 17-Feb-13 19:59:31

Well, if shaving your legs or wearing high heels perpetuates oppression then not. But they don't do they?

I think you need to at least be willing to critique or analyse why you shave your legs or wear heels - to question what the impact of these practices is, why men don't do it etc.

seeker - they do - in lots of workplaces, hair-free legs and heels (not to mention make up) are expected of female employees but not male employees. That's a lot of grooming time and foot pain that men aren't going through.

NotDavid that's really helpful, thanks.

ashes when I first joined MN I posted a few times in FWR (I had a different name then). I got flamed a couple of times and felt very intimidated by the aggressive nature of some of the threads. So I hid the whole section. I was persuaded to try again by LRD a few months ago, and I'm now older and more confident in my opinions.

FloraFox Sun 17-Feb-13 20:16:51

Flora I may be joining Puddle on the dense bench here, but I'd like to think the definition of what it means for me to identify as a feminist was not only not up to those who didn't identify as feminist but those who do.

I'm not sure if I picked this up wrong Cortana but I think I was saying the same thing - it's up to those who are feminists to determine what that means, not for it to be imposed by those who do not say they are feminists. I certainly don't believe that therefore everything you do is a feminist act, I'm not sure anyone said that?

Sorry, I know the thread has moved on a bit but I just wanted to pick that up.

I think you can critique others' actions from a feminist perspective.

ashesgirl Sun 17-Feb-13 20:18:35

Oh right. Goodness, you are such a feminist too! smile I was surprised to hear you had hidden it.

Cortana Sun 17-Feb-13 20:35:20

Sorry Flora, I obviously just read you wrong. I asked as I was unsure what you meant.

The everything you do is a feminist act came from Chi asking

"as long as you say you are a feminist, anything you do is feminist?"

I hadn't put myself across very well, what I meant was it's not quite that simple, more that you cannot say"This is what a feminist thinks/does/is" We may all have similar ideals and want for the same things, but as with any group of people we are individual and have our own ideas.

I know Puddle from seeing her around and was surprised she ever thought she wasn't feminist because she held a view that not every feminist shares. Hence my comments upthread.

AmandaPayne Sun 17-Feb-13 20:36:12

NDT's analogy is good. I agree with you.

vesuvia Sun 17-Feb-13 20:47:18

It is often said that there is no need for feminism now because there is equality of the sexes (allegedly). I think the idea that gender equality and feminism are completely interchangeable can break down when people start from the mistaken belief that there is already equality of the sexes.

Most dictionary definitions of feminism are usually along the lines of "equal rights for men and women". Such definitions of feminism usually ignore the fact that the sexes do not currently have equality. They ignore the importance of the existing starting point, that women as a group are disadvantaged compared to men as a group, and for equality to exist, women need to gain or keep rights that men already have.

If a person thinks equality of the sexes already exists, then if a change occurs to help women, that person will probably think that women are getting ahead in some kind of rights race.

I've been searching for an analogy to help me explain this. I'm still looking, but so far I've thought of a numerical count or score of rights of men as a group and women as a group, comparing their relative status in society:

A belief that equality already exists would give equal scores: men:5 rights, women:5 rights.
Then if women win the fight for a new right, it will appear to many male-centric people that the apparent score of rights has become: men:5 rights, women:6 rights.
Women will appear to be advantaged or privileged over men.

However the real starting point is actually more like: men 5, women 3.
Then if women win the fight for a new right, the real score of rights becomes: men 5, women 4.
Women are actually still disadvantaged, and less privileged than men.
As so many fights for women's rights are still not yet won, women will continue to be disadvantaged for some time to come, not advantaged as patriarchy and it's supporters would have us believe. Even more has to be done to improve women's rights.

Some definitions of feminism along the lines of "liberation of women and girls from patriarchal oppression" take the current unequal state of affairs into account much more than a more vague "equality of the sexes".

ecclesvet Sun 17-Feb-13 21:58:56

Women are actually still disadvantaged, and less privileged than men.

But in what way? Certainly gender roles exist for women, but they exist for men as well, and aren't any more onerous in my opinion.

I think gender equality is a basic tenet of feminism.

But, personally, I would rather see gender become irrelevant, than see 'gender equality'. I just think gender equality is the way to go, first.

Women are obviously much more disadvantaged than men, as can be seen from poverty levels, violence against women, etc. etc.

This means - to me - that sometimes we need to look a lot harder at what's happening to women, because these issues affect women disproportionately. I see that as part of the way to make a level playing field. It's necessary to do it so that we can, eventually, be treated as equals.

Women need to be liberated in order to get to that point.

yourname1111 Mon 18-Feb-13 07:37:35

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

yourname that thread is over 5 years old and a lot of posters pointed out that laughing at domestic violence is always unacceptable. Please could you start your own thread if you want to moan about ancient threads? Thanks. Unless you have something helpful to add here...?

LRD you make a good point that gender should be irrelevant. To me this is kind of what I mean by gender equality but I appreciate that not everyone does and I'm still a little hazy on these ideas and constructs.

Oh, I get hazy too. I think my perspective shifts depending what we're talking about. I've got someone on my facebook at the moment who is busily lecturing me about how gender should be irrelevant so I really shouldn't be objecting to the fact that Steenkamp's murder is discussed in terms of her famous boyfriend - because he reasons we'd discuss it the same way if a very famous woman's boyfriend had been murdered.

And at that point all my 'gender should be irrelevant' goes out the window, because while it should, what I'm concentrating on is the fact that there's a concrete reality, a woman has been murdered, and women like her should proper respect from the media. Which they never do.

OTOH if someone is telling me that men and women are very, very different so my SIL should be dressing my DN in pink or she'll get an identity crisis, I will be laughing and saying I don't think gender should be relevant to what a messy toddler wears.

It just varies.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 11:07:26

joyful I think 'gender equality' is a false premise. It prejudices the mind towards a 'false equivalence' - there was a good explanation on this term recently - I can't remember the thread.

An example of when, instead of fighting for the removal of oppression, 'equality' is fought for (since 'equality' will always be defined by the dominant/oppressive group) is the case in America at Harvard: The women-only gym sessions - which were obviously held because of prevalent male sexual violence making some women uncomfortable to attend mixed sessions- were successfully legally challenged on grounds of 'gender equality'.

So on the grounds of 'equality' women now have a choice either go to that gym and feel afraid that a creepy man is going to perv, hit on them, etc, or stay away. Men do not have that choiceless choice. Men do not 'equally' fear sexual violence from women. Therefore men have greater freedom to go where they please than women - and use 'gender equality' to smoke women out of their safe spaces in order to force them to become the easy targets of men.

Feminism says 'gender equality' cannot exist where all the parameters are male-defined and women's reality is denied. Feminism is concerned with real change rather than abstract concepts to toss around which have very adverse effects when applied in the real world.

I don't think it's a false premise. I just think it's often wrongly applied.

'Gender equality' to me is an ideal, it's what we'd hope to get to one day. But we won't get there without doing some levelling of the playing field, because we're not currently in a world where gender equality is even easy to imagine.

AbigailAdams Mon 18-Feb-13 11:26:17

I agree Bubbles.

I also agree LRD that gender equality is an ideal. But Feminism is more about working towards that goal and redefining equality to include women's needs.

Oh, yes.

There are loads of things that we theoretically could be doing, but we can't do all of them. It's like when people ask why haven't you feminists sorted out an event for men to go to ... well, we could, but we could also concentrate on other things and maybe someone else could do it!

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 11:45:09

LRD But we won't get there without doing some levelling of the playing field, because we're not currently in a world where gender equality is even easy to imagine.

But how do you 'level the playing field'?

By implanting wombs in men? Giving girls growth hormones so women are equally able to physically overpower men? Giving girls penises and encouraging them to bond over raping men?

Because unless you acknowledge the sex-based oppression at the root of 'gender inequality' then I don't see what the ideal would actually look like, without some freaky eugenics-style solution.

I think it is an 'ideal' in the sense that 'absolute freedom' is an ideal - something that exists only as an abstract concept. It is sometimes a useful term though, since misogynist people with power are more likely to respond well to it than to promoting women's rights.

I do acknowledge sex-based oppression at the root of gender inequality.

I don't see what biology has to do with it.

The reason we think men being physically stronger matters is not because we have a huge need for one very specific form of physical strength. Men are not 'physically stronger'. We just happen to measure physical strength in a very masculine-oriented way. You see if a man can exert the pressure of tube doors closing using only the muscles of his genitals. He can't. We can. It's actually kind of useful in labour.

We don't need to make women stronger. We just need to kick down the idea that one particular form of strength is terribly, terribly important.

Being 'equal' isn't the same as being 'identical'. I don't see the slightest point in men and women trying to be identical. We all differ from other men and other women anyway. But I do want us all to be equal.

Sorry, that's a lie. I do see what biology has to do with it (obviously, because I have the brain power to walk and chew gum). I should say, I don't see why the argument has to reduce to biology and get hung up on that. We're not going to change our biology, but we could perfectly well make it a non-issue. Like having brown hair or being left handed.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 13:21:11

LRD "I should say, I don't see why the argument has to reduce to biology and get hung up on that."

Well my point about the Harvard gym is the reason I think the biology must be a central component to understanding the machinations of sexual inequality, otherwise it is not possible to make the playing field 'level'.

Without examining the biology you'll always be left with abstract like-for-like arguments such as 'potential fathers should have an equal say in whether a woman has an abortion' - and so on, which could (especially with rape convictions being what they are) mean forced pregnancy, etc - in which case a misguided sense of 'reproductive equality' would hamper a woman's autonomy in all other areas, and be used as a legal tool for maintaining male dominance.

These things are very important- and I think 'hung up' is an inaccurate way to view 'acknowledging the centrality' of something. I would say that focusing on 'equality' at the expense of biology is like putting your fingers in your ears, squeezing shut your eyes and repeating 'reality only exists in my mind' in order to ignore the bellowing elephant in the room.

But the Harvard gym thing isn't actually about biology. It's about the way one group of people treat another group of people. There is nothing inherent in female biology that says 'please treat me like shit'.

Eqaully, with abortion, the issue isn't that female biology has all sorts of special differences from male biology (though it does). The issue is that men have right over their own bodies and women do not. That is a skewed and stupid situation. There is no need to start thinking about changing biology and imagining pregnant men - all we need to do (all! It's huge, I know) is to get women the same rights over their own bodies that men have.

If you think about it in terms of biology it is true that the inequlities become more obviously ludicruous - for example, that (conveniently) people decide that the moment something becomes not a part of someone's body but a 'baby' is the moment when it's the woman's body in question. But IMO it isn't biology that is at 'fault' here, it's the stupid interpretations of women's bodies that are at fault.

I'm sorry if 'hung up' was a term that got your back up. I do take your point it wasn't a good term, though I didn't intend it to be belittling anything you said. I'm sorry.

I do feel angry, though, that we're so blinded by the patriarchy that we start blaming biology instead of actual misognyny, and I think that is the risk here, to be honest.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 13:56:20

LRD "But the Harvard gym thing isn't actually about biology. It's about the way one group of people treat another group of people. There is nothing inherent in female biology that says 'please treat me like shit'."

I don't really understand this. Isn't it about the fear of rape? Isn't rape rooted in biology? - Afterall penises and testes are biological, vulva/vagina/wombs/ovaries are biological. There's nothing that says 'please treat me like shit' about female biology, but there is something about male biology which means that, irrespective of whatever signals a woman gives off about how she would like to be treated, a man can choose force himself upon her and perhaps impregnate her against her will. Even the vague threat of such an action is enough to control and assert dominance.

"Equally, with abortion, the issue isn't that female biology has all sorts of special differences from male biology (though it does). The issue is that men have right over their own bodies and women do not. That is a skewed and stupid situation. There is no need to start thinking about changing biology and imagining pregnant men - all we need to do (all! It's huge, I know) is to get women the same rights over their own bodies that men have."

But then surely if you are that 'hung up' wink on equality you should give men equal reproductive rights to women? Abortion isn't just about men and women's bodies, its about reproduction and reproductive rights.

"If you think about it in terms of biology it is true that the inequalities become more obviously ludicrous - for example, that (conveniently) people decide that the moment something becomes not a part of someone's body but a 'baby' is the moment when it's the woman's body in question. But IMO it isn't biology that is at 'fault' here, it's the stupid interpretations of women's bodies that are at fault."

I don't really understand what you mean here.

"I'm sorry if 'hung up' was a term that got your back up. I do take your point it wasn't a good term, though I didn't intend it to be belittling anything you said. I'm sorry. "

Thanks, I'm not really offended, but I suppose a bit concerned that you were making a kind of sweeping statement about something that requires close examination.

"I do feel angry, though, that we're so blinded by the patriarchy that we start blaming biology instead of actual misogyny, and I think that is the risk here, to be honest."

I see- but you know what I'm going to say here - misogyny is rooted in biology smile It is a hatred of everything female, our bodies, our reproductive ability and role, and our resistance to being subordinated or reduced to only that body and reproductive role in order to suit the male will to control us.

Wow. Sorry, I'm not going to answer very coherently as that's such a long post, so excuse me - yell at me if I'm missing something obvious.

It's certainly quite possible I am making sweeping statements. I don't know. Certainly I'm not trying to say don't do the close examination. I started in on this saying what my (shifting) perspective was, not trying to lay down the law.

But ... is misogyny rooted in biology because biology matters, or does biology matter because it is a convenient way to develop class prejudice? I'm not sure but I don't think the second possibility should be dismissed.

We simply do not know at what point the patriarchy got set up, or how. It is very possible it is to do with the biology of sex. It'd be interesting to know more. But right now, we are speculating.

Meantime, in the modern world, where the patriarchy has been set up, what we're looking at isn't just 'biology', it is a composite of attitudes and prejudices and preconceptions. These interact with biology in ways we're not even seeing properly. That's why I made the point about physical 'strength' being defined in a way that is oriented towards validating a particular aspect of male biology as superior. Biology is rooted in physical reality, but that doesn't mean it's objective.

I do - or I would if it was my choice - give men and women equal reproductive rights. That's basic, to me. It doesn't mean giving them identical rights. It just means getting rid of this misogynistic idea that women, uniquely, deserve to forgo their bodily autonomy at a particular stage in the reproductive process, whereas men never do.

(I think I am edging towards quoting the Popular People's Front of Judea now ... 'everyone agrees he can't have babies - not having a womb, which is no-one's fault ... but he can have the right to have babies ...').

kim147 Mon 18-Feb-13 14:16:38

grin

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 14:31:44

LRD I find your perspective a bit confusing and indistinct.

" is misogyny rooted in biology because biology matters, or does biology matter because it is a convenient way to develop class prejudice? I'm not sure but I don't think the second possibility should be dismissed."

Is the above statement the crux of your (shifting) perspective?

Because I would argue that no class prejudice occurs for the sake of convenience though perhaps 'opportunism' would be right. It is a pattern of widening pre-existing power differentials by abusing and exploiting those differentials - to the point that the inequality becomes so established and ingrained you can consider them different classes.

The power differential between men and women is because of women's reproductive vulnerability (it is interesting that so much DV begins during pregnancy or just after birth when a woman is at her most vulnerable). A woman carrying a baby in her womb or in her arms is at a big disadvantage to the man who wants to control her (though of course matrilineal groups can eventually bring a lot of power to women, through creating her own clan of supporters and defenders).

"We simply do not know at what point the patriarchy got set up, or how. It is very possible it is to do with the biology of sex. It'd be interesting to know more. But right now, we are speculating."

Actually, living today are all sorts of societies - some egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, and polygynous nomads - you can see the difference to women's status is inversely proportional to how much male wealth and status is defined by the number of their livestock and children a man 'breeds', 'owns' and 'controls'.

"Meantime, in the modern world, where the patriarchy has been set up, what we're looking at isn't just 'biology', it is a composite of attitudes and prejudices and preconceptions. These interact with biology in ways we're not even seeing properly. That's why I made the point about physical 'strength' being defined in a way that is oriented towards validating a particular aspect of male biology as superior. Biology is rooted in physical reality, but that doesn't mean it's objective."

Sorry I just think this is a very weak argument against the biological roots. Are you saying - something I would agree with - that gender is the conduit by which women and girls are culturally oppressed by boys and men?

"I do - or I would if it was my choice - give men and women equal reproductive rights. That's basic, to me. It doesn't mean giving them identical rights. It just means getting rid of this misogynistic idea that women, uniquely, deserve to forgo their bodily autonomy at a particular stage in the reproductive process, whereas men never do."

You've mish-mashed everything again here and I don't understand.

Fair enough, it likely is confusing and indistinct.

However, you're referring to statements when I'm asking questions, which could be part of the issue!

But to rephrase that question: how can we possibly tell whether the patriarchy exists because of biological differences (ie., it could only be this way, we could never imagine a society in which women were not oppressed because our biology dictates that they must be), or whether the patriarchy exploited irrelevant differences because it could?

My view is that the patriarchy exploited differences. Of course we now see those biological differences as hugely significant. But I don't believe they have to be.

I don't follow your point about different societies. I think what's important here is - we live in a patriarchy. Or, if you prefer, we live in several different patriarchies. But they're still patriarchies! So, we are still speculating about any non-patriarchial society. And we are certainly speculating about the precise non-patriarchial society which may (and I believe did) exist in pre-history.

We cannot know for certain how it was that patriarchy became established. It is certainly very likely that the biology of sex was hugely important, but precisely how - we don't know.

Gender is most certainly the conduit by which women and girls are oppressed by boys and men.

Sorry, I don't know what it is you don't understand about the last bit, so I can't help. blush

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 14:47:14

I don't follow your point about different societies. I think what's important here is - we live in a patriarchy. Or, if you prefer, we live in several different patriarchies. But they're still patriarchies! So, we are still speculating about any non-patriarchial society. And we are certainly speculating about the precise non-patriarchial society which may (and I believe did) exist in pre-history.

My point is that all phases of societies still exist now. From the hunter-gatherer, to the nomadic, to the primitive farming settlements and so on - we don't have to give up on establishing where patriarchy began in the past- we have living evidence of the evolution of patriarchy exisiting today.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 14:48:02

I don't follow your point about different societies. I think what's important here is - we live in a patriarchy. Or, if you prefer, we live in several different patriarchies. But they're still patriarchies! So, we are still speculating about any non-patriarchial society. And we are certainly speculating about the precise non-patriarchial society which may (and I believe did) exist in pre-history.

My point is that all phases of societies still exist now. From the hunter-gatherer, to the nomadic, to the primitive farming settlements and so on - we don't have to give up on establishing where patriarchy began in the past- we have living evidence of the evolution of patriarchy exisiting today.

How do you mean? confused

We really don't have pre-patriarchial societies. I'm sure about this. What we have today is most certainly not 'all phases of socities'. What we have today is a tiny, tiny, tiny restricted subset of all the possibile societies that could have developed, and a pretty tiny subset of all the socities that have existed.

We do not have historical records that tell us, unambiguously, about pre-patriarchial socities. Therefore, we do not know how the patriarchy came into being - in the way that, for example, we do pretty much know how the industrial revolution came into being.

Comparing a nomadic community in 2013, or a 'primitive' farming settlement in 2013, to something that may have happened in the Bronze Age, just makes no sense to me.

We know so, so little about socities in the past. Assuming they must have been like 'primitive' socities in the world today, and therefore must have been patriarchial, and therefore biology is the root cause of the patriarchy, sounds to me like a huge series of leaps of faith.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 15:03:39

Sorry about double posting - dodgy connection blush

I want to unpick this next statement, and I think I can get a bit closer to understanding what you mean:

"My view is that the patriarchy exploited differences. Of course we now see those biological differences as hugely significant. But I don't believe they have to be."

Here goes:

"My view is that the patriarchy exploited differences"
I am a bit uncomfortable about 'the' in front of patriarchy because it suggests a conspiracy - I don't believe you are implying a conspiracy. But I think you agree that patriarchy did indeed occur as a result of men as a group exploiting and abusing the power differential between them and women which is as a result of women's reproductive vulnerability.

" Of course we now see those biological differences as hugely significant."
This I don't get - who is the 'we' who sees?

"But I don't believe they have to be"
By saying this are you saying that we can put measures in place to reduce female reproductive vulnerabilities which lead to women being abused and exploited by men? ie- we need to prioritise addressing female reproductive vulnerability to make the 'playing field level' (which I agree with)

or are you saying that if we don't think/talk about biology, it isn't important or central and doesn't need to be? ie- if you don't talk about something it goes away (which I don't)

Or do you mean something entirely different?

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 15:07:04

"Comparing a nomadic community in 2013, or a 'primitive' farming settlement in 2013, to something that may have happened in the Bronze Age, just makes no sense to me."

Hang on - Australian Aboriginals have lived in a similar way for thousands of years. Same way with hunter gatherers, nomads, etc.

"We know so, so little about socities in the past."

We know loads about the ones that haven't changed much.

"Assuming they must have been like 'primitive' socities in the world today, and therefore must have been patriarchial, and therefore biology is the root cause of the patriarchy, sounds to me like a huge series of leaps of faith."

This is a mish-mash - it is not consistent with my claims.

No, you're fine, don't worry.

You're right, I'm not implying a conspiracy, just using shorthand. 'The patriarchy' is not some pseudo-mafia group, and indeed, it's not sentient. It is just a helpful term for thinking about pressures on society that shape themselves after a very long period of time.

I don't know how the patriarchy came to be, and that is the point I am making.

The 'we' who see biological differences as hugely significant is simply all of us. It's how we are conditioned to see things. People are 'male' or 'female' - these are the binary distinctions we organize our lives by. And, of course, for loads of feminists it's also hugely important to look at how women's bodies are targeted by misogyny.

But I don't believe that this has to be the case. I see there are biological differences between men and women (and between men and men, and between older women and younger women, and so on ...), but I don't see why these have to be the primary, organizing binary.

I am not convinced that women inherently have this 'vulnerability' you mention. Of course it is possible they do. But it is - I think - equally possible that it is simply the product of the way our society has shaped itself over thousands of years.

Of course, now we've got to this state - where women are oppressed both because of their gender and because of their biological sex - you could say all of this is a moot point. I know. But I'm getting into it because I do not believe that men and women can't one day be equal. Not biologically identical, but equal. I don't believe there is anything in our biology that is a necessary and unavoidable weakness. Or anything in male biology that is an immutable strength. What there is, is a shed load of conditioning to make us feel that this is so.

So, what we need to do is keep pushing at that conditioning. Abortion is a good example - it is simply a matter of giving women the same rights over their bodies that men have. To say it's about biology isn't totally untrue, but it's not relevant. If we (society) treated women with the same respect as we treat men, we would never question that women get to have rights over their own bodies. We would also, I think, never have decided that the moment when a baby becomes 'a baby' and something with rights to conflict with a woman's rights, is precisely the moment when only the woman's body (and not the man's) is concerned.

Surely, here, you can see that we're not really talking about 'biology', but about the social conditioning that's the lens through which we see that biology?

bubbles - thousands of years is nothing, though, not if we're looking back to prehistory. It's tiny.

If I look at really old texts, like Gilgamesh (apologies for Western-centric but it's my background), they are still deeply embedded in what looks to me exactly like a patriarchial culture.

We would have to go back much, much, much further into socities we don't know about, in order to have a hope in hell of arriving at 'pre patriarchy'. I think.

<waits for anthropologists to come and correct me>

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 15:21:01

I'm afraid I still don't agree.

"I don't believe there is anything in our biology that is a necessary and unavoidable weakness."
The fact that only women can get pregnant as a result of rape, and only men can rape women and make them pregnant is pretty inherent to the differences in biology.

What do you mean a 'necessary' weakness?
What do you mean by an 'unavoidable' weakness? in this context?

I don't think those are biological weaknesses, though. That's someone exploiting biology - yes. But it doesn't make me 'weak' that I can be raped. The reason that can happen is because we live in a misogynistic society.

You might as well say that because blokes can be kneed in the balls, they're inherently weak. Well, they're not, because we don't live in a society where women habitually go around kneeing men in the balls, and where - moreover - the whole of that society has developed in such a way that this is treated as largely acceptable. There is no culture of saying 'hmm, well, maybe he was asking for it, we all know how men tempt women to knee them in the balls because they secretly enjoy it'.

I know this is a fairly daft example - but that's the point. It is extremely difficult to look outside of our conditioning. So we end up believing the misogynist propaganda.

I am not saying that, in our current society, it doesn't matter that female biology makes us vulnerable to rape. Obviously it does matter. But that is not a necessary result of female biology, IMO. That is to say, I don't think that any humanoid species where females are like us and males are like human males, would automatically develop into a rape culture.

confused

<settles down with brew and a notepad>

Sorry! blush

I was just trying to get my ideas straight.

I do honestly think an awful lot of this is just speculating about things. 99% of the time it doesn't matter whether we focus on 'gender equality' or getting rid of gender as a concept, or on whether the patriarchy has biological roots or not. I do think the practical stuff is pretty much the same no matter what you believe.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 15:37:36

I've been allowing my mind to wander a bit.

LRD is your view that patriarchy was established at specific point in the distant unknowable past - (and was probably associated with sex difference and female reproductive vulnerability), but then this evolved into gender roles and at some point/gradually - also in the past- the sex-based oppression fell away, leaving only gender-based oppression of women by men- which is where we are today?

Because I see patriarchy as something that is continuously being established and maintained, and where gender is the visible face of the sex-based oppression underneath (which is alive now just as much as it ever was).

Why is it that it is all so 'biological' for MRAs? Why are they always complaining about women having abortions without consulting them, women fleeing with their children to refuges to escape them, women getting custody of the children these fathers abuse, women wanting rape to be taken seriously... It is all about male entitlement to sex and reproduction, because that is still underpinning the desire of abusive men to control women- it still underpins male domination to this day.

Don't apologise LRD, it's really interesting!

I think part of the reason I never really identified with feminism until recently it the idea of 'The Patriarchy'. Too often it seems that the term indicates a male conspiracy to rape, belittle and oppress women.

Now I understand it to (mostly) be shorthand for 'this male-dominated society in which we live' and that makes sense to me.

No, my view is that we don't know when or how patriarchy was established.

I do certainly agree that patriarchy is continuously being established and maintained. I don't think that would be incompatible with believing it might have been established at some specific point in the past, though. A thing can be established, and then continue to reinforce itself. In fact I think most social structures do just that.

What I am wary of is this idea of a single, specific point. Obviously we don't know, but it's staggeringly unlikely it was that. It's much more likely it was a very, very, very slow series of changes over time.

I think the reason it's so 'biological' for MRAs is the same reason it's so biological for us. I am not in the least denying that biology has a crucial role in our current society. I am just saying I don't think female biology inevitably leads to patriarchial oppression of women.

An awful lot of the time, MRA (and non-MRAs) tell us that things happen because they're biological. And we are meant to understand that 'biological' means 'natural'. But our understanding of biology is pretty heavily socially conditioned. We're not really in a position to be certain what might be biological 'weaknesses' in a non-patriarchial society, because we've never seen such a thing.

Given that, I think it's dubious to assume that biological weaknesses have an existance independent of social conditioning.

I could be wrong - but no-one is currently in a position to prove the opposite position right. So far as I understand.

joyful - that's really gracious of you, thanks, I was worried I was derailing your thread.

I did the same with 'patriarchy' - I have to remind myself to use a longer-winded term if I'm talking to someone I don't know well, as I know they'll be picturing the mafia version. Which is highly amusing, but probably not terribly helpful.

grin Not derailed at all! I'm still finding my way with all this and everything is interesting. (I'm also learning which topics to avoid - I inadvertently started a thread recently which had turned into a bunfight by the second page and I had to abandon it... confused).

Unfortunately chronic sleep deprivation means that my brain isn't functioning particularly well, but I'll work it out eventually. smile

Well, hopefully no bunfighting here. Especially since my considered position appears to have all the finesse of 'ah, dunno really'. blush grin

Sorry to hear about the sleep deprivation.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 16:03:34

LRD "I don't think those are biological weaknesses, though. That's someone exploiting biology - yes. But it doesn't make me 'weak' that I can be raped. The reason that can happen is because we live in a misogynistic society."

Ah I see. You use 'vulnerability' to 'weakness' interchangeably -I don't.

Weakness suggests a lack of strength, but vulnerability is more an assessment of the relations between different factors- which can change. For example when I am sitting at a bus stop I am more vulnerable to being mugged than if I am sitting at home watching the telly. I didn't become 'weaker' at the bus stop, just 'more vulnerable'. And women are relationally vulnerable to men when it comes to rape/forced pregnancy/etc.

Hmm.

No, I'm not sure I agree. At all.

What has biology to do with the different rates of mugging in different locations? I can't see it has any bearing on it. If you tell me most muggings occur at bus stops and few in people's homes, I am sure you are correct, but I don't understand why this relates at all to biology.

Likewise, women are vulnerable to rape because we live in a culture that doesn't crack down on rapists. Women are vulnerable to forced pregnancy because we live in a culture that doesn't accord women the same rights over their bodies that men have.

We could perfectly well imagine a culture in which men were vulnerable to being kneed in the balls, as I said upthread. It is a basic biological design feature that you can knee a man in the balls and cause him a lot of pain. It's not a biological design feature our society happens to exploit on a regular basis (thank god). So we don't really think about it in terms of vulnerability. On the other hand, the design feature that women can be impregnated, we do see as a vulnerability.

I would suggest, since both of these are biological, what we're left with is social conditioning, and that is what makes the difference. That's what makes one set of biological features 'weaker' or 'more vulnerable' (and I accept the terms are not synonymous but our society does like to make out that 'more vulnerable' women are also 'weaker' than men, which isn't true).

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 16:24:23

LRD What has biology to do with the different rates of mugging in different locations?

Huh? I didn't say biology has anything to do with the different rates of muggings. I said that vulnerability is different from weakness.

Vulnerability is a relational word. Weakness is a comment on the thing itself.

Something can be vulnerable to other things acting upon it. Additionally, vulnerability can change according to circumstance.

A 'weak' thing is de facto weak whatever - even if it is sitting on its own, relating to no other thing.

So, sorry, why did you bring up mugging at all?

I'm sure vulnerability is a relational word, and weakness can be a comment on a thing itself (though it's not, really, it exists in a socio-linguistic matrix just like every other word we use).

But I don't get how this relates to the biology argument.

You seem to think that it's possible to identify something that is 'de facto' weak.

Such as what?

Are you saying that women have de facto biological weaknesses, or just biological vulnerability?

If they only have biological vulnerability (accepting, for the moment, your definition of the two words), then surely, this is socially conditioned so it would be perfectly possible to imagine a society where women were not biologically vulnerable. And it would be possible to work towards getting there.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 16:28:35

women are vulnerable to rape because we live in a culture that doesn't crack down on rapists.

No, women are vulnerable to rape, because it is possible for men to rape them.

The prevalence of rape is because rapist men choose to rape women and we live in a culture that doesn't crack down on rapists.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 16:32:40

LRD I am saying that you use 'weakness' and 'vulnerability' interchangeably.

Which misconstrues the point about women's 'reproductive vulnerability' - into suggesting I am saying that women are 'inherently weak' because of their biology.

I'll say it clearly:

Women are not 'inherently weak' because of their biology, but they are 'inherently vulnerable to being impregnated against their will' because of their biology.

Does that make more sense?

No, I think that misses the point.

Women are 'vulnerable' to rape in exactly the same way men are vulnerable to being kneed in the balls. In fact, all human beings are vulnerable to a huge array of possible things. But it's only a tiny number of these things that become elevated to play a big role in oppression of one class of people or other. Rape is one of those things. Routinely kneeing men in the balls is not.

There is a reason for this, and it makes no sense to say that it is biological - ie., that it's because women have bodies that can be raped - because it is also the case that men have bodies that are vulnerable in sex-specific ways.

I do not believe rape is an inevitable part of a human society, and your argument (as far as I can see) is that it must be, because of female biology (or rather, I hope, you'd at least concede, because of human biology).

Sorry, we're cross posting.

I understand the distinction you are making between 'weakness' and 'vulnerability'. I just don't agree with it. You think that 'weakness' is an inherent state, that something can be 'de facto' weak. I'm sure some inanimate objects can be, but to say that a woman is 'weak' is exactly the same as to say she is vulnerable, because of the way in which society shaped our use of language.

We define human strength in a way that props up our ideas about masculinity. We also interpret women's bodies as 'vulnerable' to prop up our ideas about masculinity.

Until we stop doing this, there is not (IMO) much point in trying too hard to work out whether we mean 'weak' or 'vulnerable' since both states are to do with being a woman living in a patriarchial society which skews our ideas about what women's bodies are capable of doing and what men's bodies are capable of doing.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 16:49:03

LRD "Women are 'vulnerable' to rape in exactly the same way men are vulnerable to being kneed in the balls."
What do you mean by 'exactly the same way'?

"only a tiny number of these things that become elevated to play a big role in oppression of one class of people or other. Rape is one of those things. Routinely kneeing men in the balls is not."

Routinely kneeing a man in the balls does not mean he'll end up with an unwanted pregnancy/child that will change the course of his life from that point forward. Rape is far more complex than a knee to the balls. Vulnerability to pregnancy is only shared by women- there is no like-for-like comparison you can draw with male vulnerabilities.

"I do not believe rape is an inevitable part of a human society, and your argument (as far as I can see) is that it must be, because of female biology (or rather, I hope, you'd at least concede, because of human biology)."

Jeez - can you keep within the parameters of what 'vulnerability' means please? ie - vulnerable is not a synonym of 'inevitable' or 'weak'.

Women are only vulnerable to being raped for as long as men choose to rape women and are not restrained from raping women. If no men choose to rape or if all men who would choose to rape are restrained from doing so, then women would no longer be vulnerable to being raped - herein lies the 'relational' part of vulnerability.

Women are vulnerable to rape because they have bodies that can be raped. Men are vulnerable to being kneed in the balls because they have bodies that can be kneed in the balls.

I am not at all trying to suggest that the outcomes are the same, as I said upthread. But they're also irrelevant.

We don't have a society where women regularly knee men in the balls, and where that society sends out the message 'oh, it's ok, men secretly like it, and besides, they're probably lying about it happening'.

As I am trying to explain - we can't really imagine what a society full of systematic oppression of men would be like. Because we live in this society.

I disagree with you about the value of distinguishing 'vulnerability' from 'weakness' in the specific context of talking about women's bodies in a patriarchial society. There is a reason why I say this, you know. I'm not just blurring the distinction between the two terms for kicks - honest. It's as I said above: the way our society has shaped the way we see male and female bodies means that these two terms become conflated. It is part of what is wrong with our view of women's bodies.

I do believe that women are only vulnerable to rape because we live in a society that doesn't crack down on it - and I stand by that. Is that what you're trying to say in the last paragraph (just checking)? I'm confused though, because if you believe that, why do you bring biology into it?

Btw - I don't quite follow why you quoted the bit where I don't use the terms 'vulnerable' or 'weak' ... did you misquote or am I misunderstanding?

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 17:06:26

"I disagree with you about the value of distinguishing 'vulnerability' from 'weakness' in the specific context of talking about women's bodies in a patriarchial society. There is a reason why I say this, you know. "

Yes I see that you do disagree - but by conflating the two, you disallow discussion of reproductive vulnerability, by suggesting any discussion of it encourages stereotyping of women as 'weak and vulnerable'. I believe that this discussion needs to be had, but you think keeping up appearances of being just as burly as men takes priority over it.

"I do believe that women are only vulnerable to rape because we live in a society that doesn't crack down on it - and I stand by that. Is that what you're trying to say in the last paragraph (just checking)?"

Not quite. I believe that women are vulnerable to rape because it is possible for men to rape women. Therefore if all men chose not to rape OR if as a society we were able to prevent every rape in such a way it was impossible for men to rape women, then women would no longer be vulnerable to being raped/impregnated against their will.

"I'm confused though, because if you believe that, why do you bring biology into it?"

This comment confuses me. I have no idea what you mean by 'bring biology into it'.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 17:10:09

Btw - I don't quite follow why you quoted the bit where I don't use the terms 'vulnerable' or 'weak' ... did you misquote or am I misunderstanding?

I don't know what bit you mean.

No, I don't think I am disallowing that discussion - just explaining why, personally, it seems to me that this terminology is part of the same wider issue of social conditioning. We see women's bodies in a particular way because our social conditioning, and even our language, is skewed. It's not objective.

By 'bring biology into it' - now, I thought the issue you had with what I was saying way upthread, was that you think it's a fundamentally biological issue that women at the Harvard gym wanted a women-only space (if I'm following). And I think that it's fundamentally an issue to do with the patriarchy existing. It happens to be exploiting biology, but biology isn't the root cause.

The reason I'm trying to put together thoughts here is that it bothers me when we end up discussing women's bodies and biological characteristics as if they told us something really important about the way in which society has developed. I don't think they necessarily do. I think they tell us a heck of a lot about how society has conditioned us to think about physicality and biological sex. And that's not the same thing.

I'm trying to find a parallel to this discussion. So, back in the day, people thought women were - biologically - not really capable of academic study. They'd seen that women's brains were smaller (which they are, but we now know this isn't relevant). They'd said, look, women's bodies have to support a womb and a brain at the same time (which they do, but again ... not the issue it was thought to be!). So people said, women can't be academic like men, because biologically, they have small brains and their wombs would dry up and they'd be infertile.

Whether you say women were vulnerable to the rigors of academia in a way men weren't, or whether you say men believed women were weaker than they were isn't, to me, a big difference. The important point is that men at the time thought that women were biologically so different from men that they couldn't ever be equals in academia.

We now know women can be equals. This is partly because we found out some of this biological difference was cobblers. And other bits (the smaller brain) we know is true, but doesn't have the effect that was once thought. So, effectively, we've levelled the playing field. The way that happened wasn't by saying 'OMG, we must make women's bodies exactly like men's, and pump up their brains and whip out their wombs'. It was by sorting out women's colleges, and getting into positive discrimination, and so on. And gradually we get to the point we're at now, where at least in theory (!), everyone can accept that a clever woman will be as good at university as a clever man.

This is why I say that 'gender equality' can be an important ideal to aim at. You came into that bit of the debate saying it's not so, because women at the Harvard gym had a biological basis for their need for a woman-only space. And I am saying, well, yes, sort of, but all of these 'biological' aspects are pretty much socially conditioned. And it would be rash to assume we can be certain that it's biology is the root cause of any form of discrimination. And even more rash to assume that what we think today are biological 'facts' are the same things we'll recognize tomorrow.

I have now written War and Peace, so will try to take a breather.

It's not that I'm dismissing biology. Biology is hugely, hugely important in our current society. It is enormously important that women should get the recognition that our bodies are vulnerable in a way that men's bodies are not.

It's when we get to talking about ideals and biology is still being described as if it were an objective measure of differences between men and women, that I start to disagree. And it feels to me as if this is what is happening.

The blame isn't on women's bodies. It's on the patriarchy.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 17:46:08

So it is really the 'slippery slope argument LRD - you feel that any discussion of the different reproductive roles that are determined by human biology will inevitably lead to biological determinist sexism.

"It happens to be exploiting biology, but biology isn't the root cause."

This statement makes me realise that there is the ol' causation chestnut. You think I am saying that our biology causes patriarchy when I say that the exploitation and abuse of biological differences are at the root of patriarchy.

I don't use 'root' and 'cause' interchangeably.

I am not a biological determinist.

However, I do believe that women continue to be oppressed and discriminated against on the basis of their biological sex (eg- I don't want to employ her because she might have a baby or she's a slut for having her rapist uncle's baby at the age of 14, etc), and that male control of sex and reproduction is at the heart of misogyny, patriarchy/male-dominace (eg- rape and fear of rape, denied abortion/birth control).

That's good to hear. smile

Thanks for clarifying. I think I would have used 'root' and 'cause' interchangeably, myself, you see.

The reason I initially asked you that question - which came first - was to get a straight answer on this. But I think perhaps I phrased it a bit glibly as I'm using shorthand (like 'the patriarchy') too much. I'm sorry about that.

Anyway ... no, I most certainly don't feel that any discussion will lead to determinism. In fact, I'm not quite sure why you're so worried that I want to shut down discussion. blush I really, really don't. I'm totally with joyful on this one, I am just interested and want to work out where I stand.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 17:55:24

"The blame isn't on women's bodies. It's on the patriarchy."

Of course!

The blame is on patriarchy abusing and exploiting women's bodies in order to establish and perpetuate male dominance.

Yes. Absolutely.

So why is gender equality necessarily a bad thing to aim for, then? Is it just because we can go much further (we can), or what? Do you reckon?

I think that may have been the bit where I got lost.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 17:57:45

I don't think you want to shut down discussion - otherwise you wouldn't have taken the time to discuss smile

grin

This is true.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 18:14:05

"So why is gender equality necessarily a bad thing to aim for, then? Is it just because we can go much further (we can), or what? Do you reckon?"

Because 'gender equality' is a sex-neutral word that invisiblises the prevalent power dynamic of male class dominance that oppresses the female class.

It suggests false equivalence that in very practical ways leads down lots of dead ends to the point can actually be used to hinder women's progress (such as the Harvard example) and hinder progress towards the actual truth of the matter by circular, inaccurate like-for-like discussions. It allows men to nurture misguided notions that they are just as oppressed as women simply because they have a gender role that they sometimes resent too.

Basically - 'gender equality' prevents a clear view of the roots of women's oppression.

I think we can go much further and bravely look at the truth, the blood, guts, piss and shit of it. No sitting around with a mind tipping to-and-fro like a pair of abstract weighing scales trying to make things 'fair'. The truth is ugly and ragged. But there is a structure upholding it and by examining the structure you can see the mechanisms of oppression, and once seeing those, you can find ways to dismantle them.

So I think 'liberation' from this structure is preferable to 'equality' within it as a goal.

Yes, that I'd agree with - that it obscures the current power dynamic. That's why I said, in the first example I gave of Steenkamp's death, I wouldn't be interested in discussing 'gender equality' because it is not useful.

I certainly don't think it's always a useful term.

But it doesn't always prevent a clear view of the roots (or causes?) of women's oppression, IMO. Sometimes, it is necessary to make the simple, radical point that men and women should be equal.

Equality within this current structure is simply impossible and pointless to discuss, so I would have said that's a red herring.

I am not sure which will happen first - gender equality, or simply the disappearance of gender as a construct. But I think one or other of those, would coincide with the patriarchy crumbling.

Btw, it occurs to me I should say - and I've got to admit I was monumentally confused by where you were going with your argument, because I was being slow and because I still don't really follow why you disagreed with me when our perspectives seem to be pretty close - I'm definitely not an 'equalist'. I am a feminist.

Someone who says they're aiming to be 'an equalist' is (IME) someone who thinks that feminism isn't the most effective and powerful way to get to women being treated equally, and I totally disagree with that.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 18-Feb-13 18:45:31

Yes - I think this is the issue - I think 'gender equality' can be a useful and practical term in certain contexts - but not as an ideal I think. Having it as a goal is very likely to lead to 'equalist' pitfalls. It is also a term that is used by antifeminists to distract from/confuse the matter of women's oppression and make it all about men.

But 'goal' and 'ideal' are not the same (good lord, you and I are hard on dictionaries everywhere!).

I think gender equality must be an ideal. But it's not terribly great to have as a goal.

Lessthanaballpark Mon 18-Feb-13 18:52:37

If I might just throw in a little something here, it seems to be that there is a difference between achieving gender equality through equal treatment and achieving gender equality through differentiation.

Treating men and women equally leads to more inequality. Recognising their differences (albeit correctly and not making gargantuanly stupid statements like "girls aren't hardwired for maths, no they love pink fluffy flowers") and treating them differently in order to bring them up to an equal level does.

For example. When I was preggers I applied to go part-time. My company said no. When they said no they also covered themselves by saying "It's not gender discrimination, Lessthan, we would say the same thing to a man requesting to go part-time" at which point I wanted to shout "But men aren't usually the ones who get pregnant!".

There are many instances where treating men and women equally will lead to more crap for women. Literally! Unisex toilets case in point .... grin

I would also say, there is a lot that antifeminists say, which is unfortunately also something feminists agree about, but from a radically different angle. Look at the situation with pornography.

lessthan - ohhh, now I totally agree with that. Yes! That's the sort of thing I mean. You start talking piously about gender equality when some idiot asks you why your niece doesn't have nice pink clothes and whether it matters that she is wearing green.

But you basically concentrate on that 'equal level'. Which doesn't mean treating people equally at all. It means treating them fairly to make up for the inequality in the world.

Lessthanaballpark Mon 18-Feb-13 18:56:28

"Treating men and women equally leads to more inequality."

Haha just read myself and barfed!! Really Lessthan! I meant in some instances mainly physical, or like Bubbles pointed out where women are at a disadvantage because of the actions of men*.

*disclaimer: certain men, not ALL men, but enough men to affect ALL women

No, but I completely know what you mean. It matters. It's why positive discrimination and women-only spaces are important. Because we're in effect trying desperately to achieve anything vaguely resembling equality for women, and some of the ways that's done, look to idiots like preferential treatment.

Lessthanaballpark Mon 18-Feb-13 19:02:03

"It means treating them fairly to make up for the inequality in the world. "

Oh bless, LRD, that's gonna be my new mantra. My new definition of feminism. Ta thanks

Plus, by the time boys and girls have grown up they have experienced such different cultures so as to be practically different species (slight exag) so I think a certain amount of positive encouragement of women is definitely called for. Men don't need that encouragement because no one has ever told them they can't do stuff.

I disagree that the term 'equalist' is used to distract/confuse the matter of women's oppression and make it all about men. I think a lot of the time it is used by people like me (or at least like I was) who want the sexes to be equal but think that feminism doesn't want that.

Oh, I'm not sure I deserve that since I've spent this whole thread being conspicuously slow on the uptake. But thank you.

It is so important, though, isn't it? It fascinates me. And then of course you do get into the collateral damage stuff, in that men do get told they're not so good with babies as women. But broadly, it is so clear that men get this encouragement they don't even ask for - it's just there.

Lessthanaballpark Mon 18-Feb-13 19:06:34

OMG LRD is there anything more annoying than when there's been some kind of office sexual harrassment case and the yahoo posters are like "yeah, well you women want equality in the workplace, then you get it and start whinging".

I was doing a gruff voice as I was writing that quote BTW grin

joyful - yes, I agree with that too. I think often it is used that way.

I do think it is right, though, that sometimes it's used to distract from the issue. I think the thing is, some malicious or self-serving people will always fix on terminology and twist it. And that is what is happening here.

It is horrible because it makes rifts within feminism between people who are beginning to work out their ideas and people who've seen the pisstakers before. And IMO lots of the disagreements amongst feminists are really productive, but this one isn't.

grin I heard the gruff voice.

OMG, yes. So annoying!

Lessthanaballpark Mon 18-Feb-13 19:10:20

Yeah totally re. the men and babies thing. But somehow, I get this kind of feeling, that the reason why men / boys are steered away from all the caring / nurturing stuff is because it's beneath them. "Don't be a girl" kind of thing.

Which is still kind of sucky for the sweethearted boy who likes kids, but sucky for different reasons.

Oh, absolutely. I think that's exactly right.

I have a girl and a boy. They're being brought up exactly the same way - 3yo DD loves Octonauts and pirates, while so far 13mo DS' favourite toy is his doll. grin Fortunately I have a DH who shares my opinions on toys and gender and all that.

Btw, I should be prefixing everything I say with a big pinch of salt because I don't have children. Though I have noticed recently that people are very keen to tell me how I will likely hit 30 and suddenly want babies whereas DH won't. And this is partly why I think the concept of gender equality is actually quite important. Because I need to be able to say, look, what is it about us that makes you assume you know which of us is the nice, domestic type who wants a baby? Are you sure DH won't also get broody?

Constantly, the answer is that (apparently) I get all hormonal and DH doesn't, but closely following on from that is the idea that if we had a baby, I would be home with it most of the time and DH wouldn't, so naturally it would matter more to me. When people say that, that's when I really need to push the idea of gender equality in their faces.

Your DH is obviously lovely. smile

He is, and I think on the whole he's far better with the children than I am!

Oh, that's good to hear. If on the offchance we do manage to have a baby, DH wants to stay home with them so it is always good to be reminded there are real couples who just naturally do this, who naturally find the man is better with the children.

I do think it has to be the way forward, doesn't it?

Lessthanaballpark Mon 18-Feb-13 19:25:46

Yeah but even if you do have a child LRD and feel all those surging hormones telling you that you have to be with your DS/DD all the time..... it doesn't follow on that you don't want an interesting career, lots of intellectual stimulation, fun nights out with your friends or that you will get oxyfuckingtocins from doing the ironing!

Personally I think feminists should propagate like crazy! That way there'll be lots of little righteous nippers going out into the playground and challenging sexism wherever they see it.

That's the way to do a world takeover!! grin

Well, exactly.

I love the idea of feminists procreating earnestly in order to further the movement. grin

But there is some truth in it, isn't there? There must be millions of women who kinda want things to work differently, and I'd be surprised if there weren't also millions of men who want that. And that is just ignoring all the other situations where we actually have to fight our partners. I'm not belittling that at all. It's just it seems such a waste of time that you will get a couple, where the man genuinely is better with the kids, and the woman genuinely is good at her career -and the the whole of society is geared up to saying that is abnormal and making it harder. confused

AmandaPayne Mon 18-Feb-13 20:43:45

Should I add that to my never ending pros and cons list of having a third? Pro - Populating the country with feminists.

Lessthan - Yes, exactly. A girl can be 'like a boy' because that is aspirational. For a boy to 'act like a girl' is degrading, because deep down the view is that being a girl is degrading. Which brings me onto the 'cries like a girl' type comments that get made. I have actually pulled someone up on that in the middle of a business meeting. I was a bit blush afterwards as it really wasn't the place for an active rant as opposed to a raised eyebrow and a quiet sigh, but it came out automatically.

Yes, DD is almost praised for being 'tomboyish' and it annoys me. She's just who she is. (DH got quite cross with the Octonauts annual when it referred to one of the characters as a 'girly girl', he hates that phrase).

AmandaPayne Mon 18-Feb-13 20:55:28

God, I can't stand it. There is no male equivalent - except sissy. No 'janegirl'. Can you imagine the reaction if you called a boy that - the reaction you'd get from a parent that their boy was playing at being a girl. And that's before you even get me onto the wrongness of saying that a given activity -climbing trees say- is boy behaviour.

Feminist12312 Tue 19-Feb-13 03:55:39

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seeker Tue 19-Feb-13 05:36:11

You're back! You know, you could always have a go at joining in the discussion - it's interesting and you might enjoy it.

PromQueenWithin Tue 19-Feb-13 12:47:57

Argh, just missed that deletion! I can't help thinking that HQ should let some of these stand so that their unpleasantness* / idiocy / bigotedness / whatever they said could stand and be examined for what it really is.

*unless it's really nasty and could upset people

BubblesOfBliss Tue 19-Feb-13 13:51:17

Just to let you know PQW - it wasn't nasty in this case - just tiresome and repetitive - bringing up the same ancient AIBU thread to supposedly confute the validity of feminism by suggesting that women are the matriarchal conspirators of endemic violence against men or some such thing.. it was a yawn thing.

nina17 Thu 21-Feb-13 18:03:03

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