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Onside or Not

(94 Posts)
baddancingdad Wed 17-Oct-12 14:15:49

I started a thread yesterday where I sought to establish the opinions of those here with regard to what I saw as a contradiction between my understanding of human rights and the main stream treatment of gender-related issues. I have had some helpful insights and a fair bit of criticism; I think I phrased my question in a way that some people objected to and I will now seek to remove the thread; thank you to all who responded.

In the thread I was asked by TheDoctrineOfSnatch whether I was feeling more onside and I'd like to answer that question.

In short, no. If anything it is being suggested to me that I am even more ?offside? than I suspected I was. My view, as expressed in the thread, is roughly as follows:

Every human being should be treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexuality or any other circumstance beyond their control. Every human being should be treated as an individual on the basis of their actions and decisions they make.

I thought that my view would be roughly in line with feminism. I thought that the comments and attitudes of many people ? including those in the public eye (an example was provided) disregarded this principle in respect, roughly, of white middle class heterosexuals and wondered, therefore, if feminists rejected these comments and attitudes. I have been informed that I am, however, wrong. Feminism 101 (as it appears to be called) seems roughly to be thus:

Power in the world is governed by a system established by men and this system is known as the patriarchy. The patriarchy ensures powers remains with men and provides them with an easier route through life. This is privilege and it leads to a sense of entitlement. The patriarchy takes strength from gender roles, which seek to place men in positions of power and strength and women in servitude; these roles are reinforced through the use of images throughout the media and in everyday language.

Because of the patriarchy, there are behaviours and attitudes that appear contradictory to me, with my view of human rights, but which are, in fact, not. These have either been explained to me or are demonstrated by the reactions of those posting in the threads.

-a man?s opinions ? and his judgement of an individual?s decisions and actions - are often flawed due to his privileged position. This precludes men, to some extent, from discussion regarding human dynamics as they will naturally be prone to enforce their privilege. If I question feminism, therefore, I am seeking to continue the oppression of women.
-If something personal and negative is said, it is relevant who is addressing whom. If I am negative towards a woman, it is a sign of my privilege and belief that I am entitled to remind her of her place below me in the patriarchal hierarchy. If a woman says the exact same thing, it is seen as being rude by the man because he is unsettled to this challenge to his status. It is also only a drop in the ocean when compared to the millennia of abuse women have received.
-Male-only or male-dominated environments need to be challenged because they are elitist and perpetuate men?s sense of entitlement. Women-only or dominated spaces are a fundamental requirement because they allow women space to operate and think without the oppressive nature of men.

This is my attempt to understand the principles of the 101 and, whilst I think they are relatively well-meant, may in fact be yet more oppressive thought or ?mansplaining?.

BDD

blackcurrants Wed 17-Oct-12 15:28:09

It's hard coming to terms with your privilege, good on you for beginning to explore it.

Remember, context matters. When defending policies designed to support black students and professionals in the years after overturning the segregation laws in the USA, President Johnson said something along the lines of 'if two men were running a race, he said, but one had his legs bound together in shackles, they could not achieve a fair result by simply removing the shackles. Instead, the man who had been in chains should be allowed to make up the missing yards from the time he was bound.'

so your (generally admirable) goal to treat everyone equally ignores the context that everyone has not been treated equally for the past 6000+ years - and indeed, people are still not treated equally.

Individually, we should not discriminate, absolutely. But feminism is about looking at the underlying structures which do discriminate, whether it's the way STEM type toys are marketed to boys and housework type toys are marketed to girls, pay discrimination at work, etc.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 17-Oct-12 15:43:12

I think there is a fallacy here, in that, of course, we've not seen what happens when a woman says the exact same thing to you that you've said to her.

My understanding of the previous thread was that you didn't really take the point that people were not saying the same things to you that you were saying to them. You'd started a thread which (intentionally or not), took posters to task for a comment none of us made. None of us has, I think, started any thread saying 'why are all the dads like this, huh, isn't it discriminatory and rude?!'.

If we had, despite the obvious points about contexts of oppression, that would be a closer parallel, and you might be justified in being a bit upset (as posters on the other thread were).

I would say as a rule of thumb - if you think you want to tell someone off for not treating everyone equally, it's a good idea to check first whether they're part of a group that is habitually discriminated against. If they are, of course, they may still be prejudiced and discriminatory, and you may be correct that it'd be nice if they stopped. But it's unlikely (maybe impossible?) that it's the discriminated group who's entirely responsible for discriminatory attitudes existing - so it's both more efficient and less, well, rude, to concentrate on someone else.

Feminists aren't responsible for sorting out all the gendered inequalities in the world while everyone else sits back and ticks them off for doing it wrong.

MsAnnTeak Wed 17-Oct-12 17:50:28

if two men were running a race, he said, but one had his legs bound together in shackles, they could not achieve a fair result by simply removing the shackles.

It may not be fair but does it necessarily mean he won't win the running race. If he's continually told he won't win because he's been shackled, chances are he may not even enter the race and it's lost before he's even tried.

baddancingdad Wed 17-Oct-12 19:00:47

LRD, a few people have an understanding of the previous thread which have origins in pieces that I have not been party to; it is pretty clear (to me) from a re-read that I am asking genuine and open questions relating to the central topic of equal treatment vs treatment reflective of unequal starting points. I haven't 'taken anyone to task' or told 'anyone off' except for being a little questioning of some clear aggression; it took me a while to catch up, by which time my intellect and agenda had been already been firmly called into question. Whilst in my view a little harsh, this has been called fair and restrained by others who have suggested that, as a man, I was being uppity because my fragile male ego had been wounded.

I still think it's a bit harsh - notwithstanding my points in post one of this thread.

NB the point in my original post here concerns what the journalist was saying, not what I was saying.

To expand a little on this theme, if there is a risk that a man's view of a situation might be informed by his expectations of (patriarchal) superiority, is there not a risk that feminists' views of a situation might be informed by a sense of moral authority?

baddancingdad Wed 17-Oct-12 19:05:31

Hi Blackcurrants, thank you for the reply.

I can see the sense in the theory that I have seen so far (and my understanding of it explained above) and especially in the context of history and cultures beyond our own. The Johnston allegory makes sense too. It does however regard two individuals where one was personally disadvantaged and can seen absolutely to have been so. How does this apply to today's multi-layered society in which money and access to education seem (to me) to have more to do with opportunity than gender. Equally, is it not true that girls out perform boys at school and more go on to university? This being the case, can the patriarchy be said to be working in these formative years?

ConsiderCasey Wed 17-Oct-12 19:41:04

Of course it can. Just look at the types of toys that are geared towards boys and girls and the kind of skills/occupations they lead to, the horror that some people feel when they see a boy with a girl's toy, the way "don't be a girl" is such a put-down. The hierarchy is evident even then.

Just cos girls slightly outperform boys doesn't mean anything. What's far more worrying is that they work so hard learning the rules, yet end up earning less.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 17-Oct-12 19:58:49

BDD as per my previous post on privilege, it is multi faceted. Obama, Clinton and Romney all have wealth privilege and education privilege. Obama and Romney have male privilege. Clinton and Romney have white privilege. They all have heterosexual privileges.

So you can see that by the standards of the average Joe or Jane, all three are doing pretty well. Nonetheless, Romney is a member of one more class of privilege compared to both Obama and Clinton.

You can do the exercise at the other end of the scale too but you can't say uneducated boys are less privileged then well educated girls and draw a conclusion about sexism from that because you are comparing two different types of privilege.

avaboosmummy Wed 17-Oct-12 20:57:44

I'm not onside.
After reading a lot of threads in the topic F/WR I'm appalled by some of the contradictions made by those who class themselves as 'femininists'.
I think to see the world's issues simply split by gender is blinkered to say the least.
I can't help but feel that although feminism is trying to increase equality for women, I doubt a lot of women would agree, so where does that leave femininsm? If it does not represent the views of all women how can it claim to be a collective voice for them?
I can't help but feel that a lot of MN feminist posters are from a certain socio - economic background, and simply cannot empathise with anyone who doesn't share their views.
As to gender privilege, yes I kind of agree that we are in a male dominated world, to some degree women can compete but we are still tied by our biology.
A couple of posters on a previous thread about car insurance premiums rising for women, think it's a good thing, as t shows equality, WTF.
Good for those with their multi car polices and comfortable existence, not so great for single mums struggling to make ends meet.
If we applied this illogical thought process to all areas of female equality I can't help but feel that we are going to make the future even worse for women.
Suppose we put gender aside, not make any reference to it, so a person becoming a parent now has equal rights to parental leave post birth, so forget the emotional and physical strain put on a woman's body during the process, she'll be okay to return to work the week after because after all we're now all equal.
I think the book Freakonimics, gives us great examples of how social poloicy can end up self defeating.

blackcurrants Wed 17-Oct-12 21:02:37

I am rather hectic at the moment, BDD and don't have time to educate on the systematic nature of patriarchy, no on feminism as a critique of structures and systems of power. Suffice to say, definitely NOT talking about individuals (and nor was LBJ - he was talking about one race which had been systematically and entirely oppressed by another for hundreds of years).

I think TheDoctrine has said all I need say about kinds of privilege and intersectionality. It's worth noting that you need, always, to compare like with like: not a rich white woman and a poor black man, but two rich white/poor black/whichever version people of each gender: who is happier, who is more successful, who is safer from assault, who is more confident, who gets paid more, who has better health, who does the majority of housework?

Compare like with like, and you will see.

Also I think someone linked you to the Finally Feminism 101 blog, earlier? If not, google it and browse it. It's extremely good.

enimmead Wed 17-Oct-12 21:17:27

"but two rich white/poor black/whichever version people of each gender: who is happier, who is more successful, who is safer from assault, who is more confident, who gets paid more, who has better health, who does the majority of housework?"

Interesting - I can think of some white, middle class women who - looking at some factors - do a lot better than their white, middle class male partners. Get a cleaner to do the housework, send kids off to school, go to the gym / do lunch, meet friends all day whilst partner goes off to work in the city. Partner has a much higher chance of dying earlier from heart attack / stress whilst wife collects pension and life assurance.

Assuming husband doesn't run off with someone younger off course.

blackcurrants Wed 17-Oct-12 21:22:01

Statistically women do more housework than men in married middle-income families, even when they both work. (Can't google for this, on phone, but relatively easy to find).

There are outliers, always, but there are also averages.

enimmead Wed 17-Oct-12 21:26:42

Just thinking of a friend who is a SAHM - except the children are teenagers so no real hassles there, she has a cleaner so enjoys her time during the day and only has to make tea. Shopping done online at Ocado. I don't think she is complaining too much about her situation.

avaboosmummy Wed 17-Oct-12 22:13:26

enimmead
Precisely! I just can't stand the idea, that as a woman, you can be a feminist or just been blinded by the patriarchy, great.
Surely it's only right that if you want to be a SAHP then you are going to pick a partner who can support a family (be it financially and or emotionally).
We won't all ever have decent paid jobs, at the end of the day someone has to sweep the streets, work on the tills. Of course more women end up in these jobs as they offer part time hours, but then there's not much call for part time unqualified brain surgeons, architects, etc etc.
Perhaps those working the tills could have done better at school, gone to uni, etc, but surely this is more to do with social class and not gender.

WereTricksPotter Wed 17-Oct-12 22:28:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

summerflower Wed 17-Oct-12 22:32:53

>>Perhaps those working the tills could have done better at school, gone to uni, etc, but surely this is more to do with social class and not gender. <<

But for those working the tills, why is it that there are less opportunities for those working part-time to progress to more senior roles, why does this effect more female than male staff, why is there a long hours culture which makes it harder for women with childcare responsibilities to progress, why is it women who have those responsibilities?

Of course, class is a factor, but look across the management structures of most retail stores (and they are not all graduate trainees) and I think you will find far fewer women for all of these reasons. It is much still much easier for a working class man to make manager, than a working class woman with children. At entry level, there are more women in retail than men; at managerial level, far more men.

ConsiderCasey Wed 17-Oct-12 22:39:35

I don't know any full time SAHMs who have a cleaner. My friends would laugh at that idea. Actually most of them work part-time AND look after the children and keep the home running whilst their husbands work just as hard.

But when the kids are grown and they return to work full time it is they who will be restarting at a lower level. So it's swings and roundabouts. We just have to make our choices and hope they work out.

enimmead Wed 17-Oct-12 22:44:55

I don't think my friend has any intention of returning to work when the kids are grown. She'll be 50 then. Husband is fully capable of supporting them on his 100K salary. Why does she need to work in that situation?

avaboosmummy Wed 17-Oct-12 22:52:36

Not everyone wants to progress to management, some people are quite happy to do this. They don't want senior roles, they want to do a job, finish, go home, get paid.

I just don't see how you would expect to progress to senior roles while working part time. It's simply not the culture of work and don't see why it ever will be or why anyone would want that.
I'm not sure that certain businesses work well with part time people, as consumers we do tend to want things on demand. I don't really want say a Solicitor that I can only speak to 9 - 1pm, Tuesday,Thursday, Friday.
If I joined a supermarket, or any job I would not expect progression if I didn't put the hours in regardless of gender. I'm still competing with those that work long hours, can be more flexible.
I just think that this is about 'opportunity cost', of course if we chose one route in life, then we give up another.
The example given is not a fair analogy depending on the situation of the man.

ConsiderCasey Wed 17-Oct-12 23:00:44

Well that definitely has to do with class then. Of course a woman from a higher socio-economic position is going to have it easier than a woman from lower down the ladder.

I think the core of the matter is that the lifestyle of both women's lives depend on their husband's wage. If she is lucky enough to have a rich husband then she may have an easier life than her DH (health permitting) but the lower down the scale she will have a harder one because the onus is on her to run the home as well as work.
Although I think it gives someone a sense of self-worth to go out and be in the working world, which is probably why 19th century feminism found such a strong base in middle class women who weren't poor but were denied intellectual fulfilment by being barred from interesting professions

ConsiderCasey Wed 17-Oct-12 23:01:54

Sorry, my response was to enimmead.

MMMarmite Thu 18-Oct-12 00:34:29

Hi baddancingdad, I haven't read all of the other thread, hope I'm not repeating stuff.

Every human being should be treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexuality or any other circumstance beyond their control. Every human being should be treated as an individual on the basis of their actions and decisions they make.

Yes, every human being should be treated equally. But if they are currently being treated unequally, then some seemingly unequal actions may be needed to make progress towards equality.

Fundamentally, it depends whether you think we have already reached equality: if you don't, the rest follows. If you do, then perhaps that's a whole other thread wink

Male-only or male-dominated environments need to be challenged because they are elitist and perpetuate men's sense of entitlement. Women-only or dominated spaces are a fundamental requirement because they allow women space to operate and think without the oppressive nature of men.

I think it's a question of power. A women-in-politics group would give support to the underrepresented minority. If there was a profession where men were both underrepresented and faced greater obstacles and discrimination than women, then I would think it reasonable to have a men-only group, and unreasonable to have a women-only group in that profession. In society as a whole, men, white people,straight people and non-disabled people disproportionately dominate the public sphere, so oppressed-group dominated spaces are valuable to oppressed people.

-If something personal and negative is said, it is relevant who is addressing whom. If I am negative towards a woman, it is a sign of my privilege and belief that I am entitled to remind her of her place below me in the patriarchal hierarchy. If a woman says the exact same thing, it is seen as being rude by the man because he is unsettled to this challenge to his status. It is also only a drop in the ocean when compared to the millennia of abuse women have received.

Could you give an example of what "exact same thing" you mean? I'm trying to imagine the exact situation, where the same insult would be used in both directions.

Certainly insults between oppressor and oppressed aren't symmetrical. If a straight man calls a gay man a fa**ot, he is not just expressing his own anger at the gay man: he knows that that insult is effective because he has the weight of society behind him. The gay man, by that word, is reminded that whole sections of society consider his relationships disgusting or immoral, is reminded that newspaper editorials discuss how his relationship shouldn't be sanctioned by calling it a marriage, is reminded of the bullying and exclusion he may have suffered because of his sexuality. What can the gay man say in reply? I can't think of any insult for straight people, and if there is one, it will never have one hundredth of the power of "fa**ot", because it won't have all the historical and current oppression behind it.

a man's opinions and his judgement of an individual's decisions and actions - are often flawed due to his privileged position. This precludes men, to some extent, from discussion regarding human dynamics as they will naturally be prone to enforce their privilege. If I question feminism, therefore, I am seeking to continue the oppression of women.

Sort of, although I don't agree that you shouldn't question feminism - otherwise how will we be able to have a discussion? I think it's great that you're doing it here in your own thread: sometimes men questioning feminism can be disruptive if the thread is primarily aimed at supporting a woman, so obviously context is important.

Have you read a male privilege checklist yet? I think the concept of privilege can be problematic in some ways, but it's definitely something to be aware of and think about. One of the privileges is the opportunity to be unaware of your own privilege, so for example, as a white person I have the privilege to be very unlikely to be wrongly stopped by police; I also have the privilege that I don't need to be aware of police racism, the privilege that my parents didn't have to warn me about what to do if stopped when I became a teenager. My privilege meant I felt safe when I saw a police officer, and that I could assume everyone else felt safe too. Before I learnt about this, if I had seen a black person being stopped, my blindness to my own privilege would probably mean I would make an erroneous judgement about the situation: I would assume they were a criminal and that police officers were never racist. If I learnt that the person was innocent, I might come up with other explanations, because I still trusted the police - maybe they were acting suspiciously, maybe they shouldn't go out late at night, or wear those clothes. If I then started advising the person not to do those things, then I would be making their life more difficult, because my privilege had blinded me to the real nature of the problem.

Finally, are you aware of implicit bias? This is a huge huge part of the problem - that people discriminate without even realising they are doing it. This article is interesting, and you can test yourself for different biases at Project Implicit (click on "go to the demonstration tasks").

Hope some of that was useful/ interesting - I spent way too much time writing.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 18-Oct-12 06:39:48

Mmm that was a great post, thank you.

rosabud Thu 18-Oct-12 07:52:01

I agree, Marmite, that was really interesting to read and thankyou for the link to the male priviledge checklist, it's quite overwhelming to see all those examples listed on one page. The opening paragraphs of that link, in which the author rebuts some of the criticisms regularly aimed at the list, were also interesting as those regular arguments are so familiar! One of the most difficult aspects for any oppressed group is the "uphill struggle" starting point, not only the fact that they need to establish that the oppression exists in the first place, but also that they must then create a willingness in society to want to end the oppression BEFORE they can even begin to alter things.

I had an experience last year where I was in a seminar with graduates in their 20s discussing diversity, discrimination and prejudice. Despite the intelligence and high-level of education of all the people in the room, there was huge reluctance to acknowledge that certain groups (ethnic minorities/ gay people were 2 examples that I recall) were really disadvantaged and there seemd to be an element of "political correctness gone mad" tutting in their approach to acknowledging the bias of priviledge. The few of us in the seminar who were in our 40s were astonished and had no problem understanding the real nature of discrimination. It made me wonder if this was either 1) a personal, isolated experience or 2) an example of society becoming more conservative with a small c or 3) a result of some kind of backlash against some of the gains oppressed groups have made in the last 20 years since I was in my 20s.

baddancingdad Thu 18-Oct-12 08:53:05

Rosabud
Is there a possibility that the experience of those a generation behind you is completely different from yours? Our opinons tend to be formed at an early age - your opinons have their routes in the eighties while their's come from the noughties...

What holds true for them might therefore be different; that's not to say that they are automatically wrong.

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