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On Gender Roles, Feminism and Misogyny

Originally posted on Cupcake Fulla Malice on July 15, 2010by Laurel

A friend of mine recently wrote something for and while she's my friend and I respect her opinion, I only partially agree with her. I found I had so much to say about it that rather than comment on the piece, I'm just making it a blog post. It's not so much a direct response to her or an attempt to defeat her argument as just I'm taking her article and jumping off from there... some agreement, some disagreement. The usual. :)

The Rabid Feminists

Let's start with what I do agree with – her point about rabid, reactionary, feminist-minded folks who, instead of examining an argument on it's practicality or merits simply label it and then bash you over the head with the label... again and again and again.

What these folks (like their equally ineffective and offense counterparts on the conservative side) don't realize is that they are enlightening no one, they are changing no minds, they are only preaching to their own little choir. Their points are quite popular among their peers, however even those who may share many of their beliefs are alienated by their abrasive tactics.

The ultimate problem with slapping a label like misogynist or victim-blaming on any person or argument is that it ends the conversation. It eliminates the chance that you had to actually talk to someone, learn about why they think the way they do and perhaps make your case about why you think they should think differently.

An example of this can be seen in the comments of this discussion. Right or wrong, what most amused me about this discussion was labeling and name calling while simultaneously claiming what a shame it was that the original poster failed to learn something about the way the commenters think the world should work. The message was: We hate you and we think you and your ideas suck beyond words, but let us teach you something! And then they are surprised when the response to their message was "F*** you!"

And that is the message they will continue to get in response to their arguments because, more often than not, they are more interested in hearing what they want to hear and saying what they want to say than in paying real attention to anybody who disagrees with them and having an actual conversation that would bring about change.

The Natural Order

Ok, now let's talk about what I don't agree with. My friend speaks to a natural order supported by history, sociology and nature. Now, I do understand she was attempting to say that while her partner believes in a natural order, this does not make him a misogynist. And I agree, it certainly does not make him a misogynist. I do believe he's misguided tho. And of course, I am going to tell you why I think that – cuz that's what I do!

History– She suggests that the fact that we've gotten along just fine with men in leadership roles as proof that men are better leaders than women. But what this argument lacks is significant evidence that women who have been leaders have done worse in these roles than men. I understand part of this is to counter the idea put forth by extreme feminists who suggest only women should be leaders, but what I find to be true is that women are just as capable as men when given the opportunity to lead.

Sociology–Are men and women different? Often, yes – in varying degrees. But the very fact that some men make lousy leaders and some women make incredible leaders speaks to the fact that leadership qualities are not inherent within a particular gender role. It's the qualities of the individual and their particular experiences and education that make one a good leader. Women socialized to believe they can and should be capable leaders often exhibit these qualities and do so exceedingly well. If we, as a society, choose to bring up both men and women to believe they are capable of effectively fulfilling any role they choose and they manage to achieve that, if they are, individually, capable of doing so, doesn't this disprove the "natural order" argument?

At one time, some women may not have had the strength to be effective warriors or will to be strong hunters and in a world where the tasks for basic survival were so few and women were naturally endowed with the ability to bear and raise children – it was practical and efficient for women to be the caregivers and not the hunters.

This is a world in which we no longer live. The survival of the species in an overpopulated world dictates that it is better for some women not to bear children and thus continue to expand a population that our planet will eventually cease to be able to sustain.

Nature– If we examine the interactions of other species, the idea of a natural order is a false one. There is no consistency in gender rolls among any species of animal nor has there been a consistency from culture to culture through the course of human history. There are certain human biological traits that, at one time, suggested certain roles requiring strength be filled by the male of the species because of his hormonally induced tendency to have more muscle mass.

But those days are gone. Our knowledge has multiplied, our discovery has expanded and what we are all capable of has grown and so too should the roles we wish to fill.

Ultimately, my point would be that everybody has or should have the freedom to choose their own place in the world. What place you hold in society or your personal relationships should be based on your individual capacity for that role, which cannot be tied to your gender assignment. We no longer live in a society where you can predict what someone can achieve based on their sex and therefore it is illogical and impractical to continue to insist that we try.


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