Instead of fighting for gender equality, let’s forget gender altogether
Writing about feminism always seems to leave me stuck between a rock and a hard place. When I write about the need for a greater awareness about sexual harassment and to challenge some men’s inappropriate behaviour, it is interpreted as my hatred for the entire male half of the species. On the other hand, when I write criticising the way some women approach modern issues like marriage and family, I am a self-loathing misogynist.
The feminist debate has become so bitter and divisive that every positive or negative statement about men or women is viewed as a battle cry. The inequalities between men and women in the UK speak for themselves but the endless competition and bickering between the champions of women’s and men’s rights hinders progress towards equality because they distract attention from the bigger picture.
There are barely any women in the UK that would try to claim that the life of the average Western women is as bad as the lives of some women in the developing world. War, rape, female genital mutilation and forced marriage are just a few of the vicious injustices faced all over the world that most British women have escaped.
But this circumstance this is due to the efforts of successive waves of feminism over the past century and the improvements feminists in the developed world have achieved. We had the enfranchisement revolution after the First World War, then the social and sexual revolution in the ’60s — but now these battles are won, it’s time for an identity revolution.
Take a look at a lot of modern day gender discrimination; unequal pay, women being excluded from FTSE 100 boardrooms, men being denied access to their children or being considered ‘weird’ if they want to become a primary school teacher or a nurse and, more generally, the sexual and emotional double standard that still exists between men and women. All of these problems are, to a certain extent, hinged upon the idea that there is a binary set of gender differences.
Gender binary assumes that humans can be categorised in simplistic base evolutionary terms as the male hunter and the female nurturer. As nature’s stereotypical ‘care givers’, women are supposed to assume the role of wife and mother — they are therefore presumed to be ‘too weak’ or unsuitable for the rigour of the boardroom; similarly men as nature’s stereotypical providers are ‘too hard’ or ‘cold’ to be able to care for others.
The endless hand wringing over the past few decades over whether or not women can ‘have it all’ fails to acknowledge the fact that some women may not want it all. Some women are simply more interested in their careers and can feel perfectly fulfilled without a husband or a baby. Similarly, young girls who don’t save themselves for marriage are not insecure or immoral — they just want to have fun in the same way a man would. On the flip side, men are stereotyped as power hungry, naturally aggressive; too busy earning money and being alpha males to want an equal role in raising their children or to worry about their emotions. But thoughts and emotions can be just as important to a man as to a woman and they therefore may not want to lose themselves in the cut-throat world of business; they may want a platform to get things off their chests or spend time with their children. It all depends on individual choice.
Much like class and race, ‘gender’ and the series of characteristics associated with it create an oppressive sense of ‘acceptable’, or hegemonic, behaviour, desires and thoughts. Human beings do not fit into neat boxes and the injustices that this notion creates need to be addressed by the Western gender equality movement. It’s hard to be a woman, but it’s not that easy to be a man either and the problem will only be solved by mutual acknowledgment of this.
The insistence on the age-old ‘Battle of the Sexes’ where stereotypical men and women battle for dominance is ultimately futile. While in some parts of the world — and in the past — women have — and had — to fight against their patriarchal oppressors for their rights and their freedom; but in Britain and in the twenty first century, maybe it’s time the battle lines were redrawn.Tagged in: equality, feminism, gender, misogyny
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