Sunday, June 21

Here's What THEY Don't Get

Or maybe you could just call it WTF, Part Deux.

Check this out.

Is feminism obsolete? Are you kidding me?

There are more than 2 million women beaten and abused by their husbands every year. That does not include ex-husbands, boyfriends, fathers, uncles, woman on woman violence, or anyone else.

Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States - more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

Family Violence has killed more women in the last ten years then the total number of Americans who were killed in the Vietnam war.

U.S. Women, as a whole, continue to earn only three-quarters of what men earn, 75 cents to the dollar. Before you say well, that's becuase they are concentrated in lower paying occupations, let me say "Duh". And pat you on the head (pat pat). That's right, dear. That's what sexism is. You can read this study (among others, to be sure) if you want to get a more complete picture.

Lest you think this is old news, check out this article from exactly one month ago that discusses the ruling by the United States Supreme Court that effectively sanctioned discrimination. Yes, in May 2009, they ruled that it was acceptable for female retirees to get smaller pensions than their male colleagues because they got pregnant and took maternity leaves before Congress made such discrimination illegal. Shame on them for having babies during their childbearing years, eh? Of course, we can't blame it all on them. In April of 2008 (remember way back when?), the Senate Republicans killed a bill with a 56-42 vote that sought equal pay for women (.related to the Supreme Court case just mentioned).

Povery rates are higher for women than men in the U.S., across all ethnic groups. The gap in poverty rates between men and women is wider in America than anywhere else in the Western World. You can read all about it here.

For the most part, women are still the primary parent, more likely to be involved in their child's school, and still responsible for most of the housework, cooking, and shopping, and this is when BOTH mothers and fathers work full time.

When women take care of their children on an evening when their husbands go out, they are parenting. When men take care of their children on an evening when their wives go out, they are often said to be "babysitting".

It is well documented that there are far fewer women full professors (i.e. tenured) in major research universities, and that the process of tenure remains discriminatory.

Women all over the world are still sold into slavery. Yes, even in the United States. The argument could also easily be made that some women--a minority, but true nonetheless--are effectively sold into slavery when they get married to controlling and misogynistic men.

Women and girls are repressed and stifled and killed all over the world for simply being female.

And just for the record, Mary Matalin, 70's feminism (I was there, too) was not simply about getting to make whatever choice you want (which of course, is still not the case, but that's another story). That was part of the dream, yes, and is a very common and frequently used "short version" of what it was about. But the foundation of feminism was and is the analysis and eradication of patriarchal oppression. It saw cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked, and it encouraged women to understand aspects of their own personal lives as deeply politicized, and reflective of a sexist structure of power (Freedman, Estelle B., No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women). It was and is about the empowerment of women. All women. That game is still on.

That being said, there is one thing I do agree with in the video. Carol Costello says: "But if every woman has her own definition of what feminism is, what's the point of even using the word?" She's got that one right. The diffuse definition offered by the young woman in the video is precisely what has happened to feminism--it has been diluted over and over again, mostly by those (in my opinion) afraid of their own full power and of course what that power might do to their attractiveness to men. It's barely recognizable any more, more like water. Sorry, gals, feminism is NOT just whatever you want it to be, whatever fits neatly into your life. It is a political stance, a sociological analysis, a fight to end oppression of women--all women--not just something some braless women did in the 70's so that you could live with your boyfriend in the dorms.

No, the word is not obsolete--it has never lost its meaning. But the memories of what has been sacrificed, those are largely missing. The political and social context of feminism has faded under the cloak of privilege and entitlement experienced as "normality" by relatively highly educated young women (the cohort that fired the feminism of the 70's). You know what they say...sadly, people don't fight until they get what it has to do with them.

And of course, sexism is subsumed. Broken into pieces, shared between causes. There are some--like, say, me--that would suggest that misogyny is really the meat and bones of homophobia. There is no doubt whatsoever that the longstanding abortion debate is about nothing if not control of women. The struggle over labor and sweatshops is, in many cases, about exploitation of women. The clash of religions--of all stripes-- has, at its core, the preservation of male power. But we forget. We fight for equal marriage, we march for abortion rights, we (well, a few of us) try to buy things not made in sweatshops, we chalk the wars up to the age-old battles over who knows God. And we forget that these institutions and battles share a poured foundation of misogyny. We have forgotten.

Feminism is no more over because Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State than racism is over with the election of Barack Obama (another claim that has seemed utterly ridiculous). One or two or three or a hundred successes, as inspirational and important as they may be, do not a sea change make.

I can't say it better than a comment I found in an online discussion of feminism and equality:

"Around the world, every day, in millions of small and large ways, we uphold the masculine principle as the commanding principle that drives all things, to such an extent that we denigrate, shame, and invalidate things viewed as feminine in nature: grilling is better than baking, sex is better than love, work comes before family, punishment over compassion, thinking over feeling, straight superior to gay, doing is better than being, heaven better than earth, track & field better than gymnastics, the penis more revered than the womb, etc, etc…"


No comments: