One is not born a woman, but becomes one. Simone de Beauvoir
In more than 140 posts on this blog this is my first “women’s issues” post as this is not my favorite topic. But the current political environment makes it impossible not to add my two cents to the debates. So, here goes.
To begin, this is the video of little girl being upset about gender stereotypes. It serves as a good example that one is not a woman when born but made into one later.
In America feminism comes in a peculiar form these days. It’s either a bad taste to proclaim oneself outright a feminist or it comes with a disclaimer: I’m a feminist, but…
Normally that means that “I work full time but I also drive to PTA meetings, cook and look good.” From a strategic standpoint it’s a mistake – to fight all battles. From a tactical standpoint it’s fighting out of a self-dug ditch. If I met a man who would claim to be good at everything I would consider him a bum or delusional. Or, better yet, I would say to him “Let’s go play poker”. And yet many women aspire to be that man. No wonder they are being taken advantage of, both at work and at home. While the popular culture would want you to believe that there are numerous roles for women, most of those roles are of dubious importance. While the message that we send through numerous media channels claims that everything is possible, many women mysteriously find that “everything” involves being a super woman: looking good, kicking-ass, having a lovely home and baking. When you’re good at everything – you’re good at nothing. By contrast, notice how men don’t try to be everything, but are focused on one or two things that they find important.
The truth is to be like a man is to be good at one or two things. Working mothers can sure be happy but there’s only 24 hours in a day and there’s only so much that can be done. Most of their free time (if there’s any) is all about chores and children. There’s simply no time for transcendence, for quiet contemplation, for playing air guitar (the activities that, while producing millions of bums, have also given us Einstein, Bertrand Russell and Jimmy Page). And when all else fails you can always find refuge in declaring yourself a mom! To which men say – “oh, okay” and proceed to focus on the stuff that you have just implicitly declared either too unimportant or too tiresome. Margaret Thatcher, whom I greatly admire (and from whom I’d like our conservative women and men to take cues) chose her profession over her family and had no qualms about it. If you live in the West the impediments to becoming the next Margaret Thatcher are less external and more internal. A quick glance at “women’s shows” on TV these days would make you believe that empowerment comes from engaging in verbal and even physical fights while wearing high heels. Or, in the political arena, it comes from stoking the most basic fears and dropping snappy one-liners. Politicians like Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin might fancy themselves as resembling Margaret Thatcher, but the difference is that the Iron Lady didn’t talk about having a “titanium spine” but actually had it. Deeds are more important than words and are increasingly in short supply. Verbal fights, but in the form of debates about issues that affect everybody and not just women could channel the energy for good use.
Let me expand on this. We do not have “men’s issues” but we do have “women’s issues”. Does that imply that whatever the “men’s issues” are of concern to the entire humanity, while the “women’s issues” are only of concern to the female half of the population? Does that also imply that “women’s issues” are separate from “human issues”? As long as reproductive rights will continue to be a women’s issue, the country, especially one with a religious tint such as the US, will always be split on the matter.
Writing an article like this these days is almost impossible without mentioning the recent birth-control debacle. The trick is as old as the world itself: a woman who stepped over some “boundaries” (and those are subjective for any man – very convenient) is called a “slut” or a “prostitute” with the expectation that she will recoil from such labels and retreat. Women almost have to “welcome such hatred”, because that would mean we’re doing something right. Rush Limbaugh is a perfect barometer of this hatred (which, among other things, is why he should stay on the air). Conservatives have played Imaginary Communists, Whites vs. Blacks, Straight vs. Gays before, but the game of Men vs. Women has never been so pronounced as the recent breakout. As if they have ran out of issues to drive a wedge in, Conservatives have regressed into splitting the atom (yes, I’m referring to a nuclear family), driving the wedge between men and women. How can any business be done with the party whose ideas about reproduction are from the 13th century? How can you negotiate with someone who doesn’t think that you can make sound decisions yourself? To me voting Republican today is like voting for cavemen. To use a metaphor to describe how I feel about this issue – dealing with Republicans is like dealing with the state which denies my right to exist (I’m looking at you, my Jewish Republican friends). But for now, absurd is the best way to expose and fight absurd. And I think it’s getting some attention.