Monthly Archives: June 2008

Get To Work, Boys!

After my loooong post the other day, I am presenting you with a shorter post on the same topic, addressing another of the supporting arguments in that ridiculous indictment of feminism that I lambasted because I was feeling fed up with the state of the sexist world that day.

The argument:  Because men simply won’t do housework, women have to work hard not only outside of the home, but inside, too; therefore, women should not work outside the home. (In my last post, I shared another example of this guy’s stunning logic.)

To be fair, here are some of his actual words:

The feminist promise that everything in their marriage will be 50-50 — each partner will do half the outside work, half the housework, and half the child rearing — has rarely panned out.

Most men will work their tails off outside the home, but won’t inside the home.

Consequently, many working women either experience increased tension with their husband or increased pressure to succeed both outside the home and inside the home as mother, homemaker, and wife.

Those dastardly feminists, expecting that men would help with housework. What a brilliant solution:  since men will not cook or clean, wives will simply have to quit their jobs and stay at home full time to do these things.

Hey, I want a wife! (Oh, haven’t I read that before?)

But there really is a logical solution to this problem. Raise boys who understand that it is their job to a) cook b) do dishes c) do laundry d) change diapers and e) etc., including all other household duties. Raise daughters who are aware enough to marry these kinds of sons and not the kinds raised by clueless parents who live by the ancient theory that drudgery is women’s work. When men can’t find slaves—er, I mean wives—they will be forced to change.

When I grew up, we girls helped with cooking, we did the dishes, cleaned floors, dusted and vacuumed. The boys took out trash and that kind of thing (I honestly can’t remember what else that kind of thing entailed—I suspect we were outworking them even then). One of my brothers now participates in all the household chores, while the other is of the persuasion that is is not his job to do housework (the funny thing is, his wife is of the persuasion that it is not her job either—this becomes distinctly not funny during family get-togethers when they both lounge about like the queen and king while the rest of us take care of the business of cooking and cleaning).

Okay, I promised this would be short and it’s becoming unshort.  Done.

Addendum:  Oh, and all you women who are married and working out of sheer necessity, if we follow Mr. Logic’s solution—sorry, you’re SOL.

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Sexism Sux

Watching Hillary being treated like a dog (well actually, far worse than any dog I know) throughout her campaign was incredibly disheartening. If we had an idea that we live in a country in which women are respected, all we have to do is look at what she went through to know it isn’t  true.

And all I have to do is look at my inbox—at the sexist jokes and cartoons that come in weekly from various family members.  Today an uncle sent me an email that began ” With all the political stuff, gas price woes, Iraq war, etc., hitting from all angles, the following cartoons are a breath of fresh air.” The “fresh air” was a host of largely sexist “jokes.” (And yeah, the answer when we get upset at these jokes is either “It’s just a joke, don’t take it so seriously” or “You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”) Sorry, but these “jokes” represent the way women are seen in this country and the fact that they are forwarded around and, apparently, found humorous, by so many, is a clear, clear sign.

At Linda‘s earlier in the week, I found this link to an article explaining to us why so many women are depressed. It’s because (as the conservatives never tire of telling us) the feminist revolution failed us. It’s because we women bought the lie that we could have it all and now we’re paying for it. This man is happy to tell us stupid women why we’re unhappy:  too many of us work, when what would really satisfy us is staying at home with a few children, cleaning and cooking. (He explains, “The feminist emphasis on career has been an obstacle to many women’s happiness.” Isn’t it just like some men to blame women for creating our own unhappiness?)

If we buy that lie, we’re back in the fifties. Anybody who is buying that lie ought to go read Betty Friedan’s eye-opening book, The Feminine Mystique, about women who were depressed precisely because they were trapped with no way to fulfill themselves outside of the home. (Read the first chapter here.)

Working isn’t what’s depressing women—it’s the empty, sexist society we live in.

Firstly, we go to work and are lesser than the men there. Doesn’t matter if we’re smarter or more capable, we’re automatically several rungs lower on the ladder than just about any man around, no matter how incompetent he may be. (Read about my own experience, if you’d like.) If this isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is. Even when there are corporate rules in place to combat blatant sexism, women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men and are not promoted to the upper echelons of management as readily.

Second, we live in a country that doesn’t support mothers, whether we work or not. And by support I do not mean supporting the idea that we should be at home with our children 24/7. I did prefer to stay at home with my daughter, and did for many years, but that doesn’t mean all women want to, or can. See this report, that ranks countries according to how mother-supportive they are. The U.S.—this great superpower—ranks number 26, tied with that other superpower, Hungary. (H/T to Charlotte.) How about, for instance, decent, affordable daycare, so all the women who have to work (yes, for many women, it simply is not a choice) don’t have to worry all day about their children? Maternity leave? Health insurance and decent health care? Supporting mothers does not equal saying they should be home.

Third, we live in a society where our appearance is the most important thing about us. I’m not an unattractive woman and I find this depressing (my answer to those who say only “ugly” women resent it). I don’t watch t.v., but on Charlotte’s blog I read about a new show called Beauty and the Geek about smart young men and beautiful bimbos. Excuse me, are we back in the seventies? And I find it endlessly depressing that women participate in debacles like this.  Where is your sense of self worth?  Trust me, chasing after male admiration isn’t as gratifying as you might imagine, even though you may be nineteen and have heard your whole life that it is what matters most. Depressing? Heck yes.

More than one person seemed to think the greatest compliment they could give my very bright daughter when she was in high school was that she could be a model. I heard this from several women—oh, she could be a *model* (ooooeee! what an amazing achievement that would be!). Depressing.

Yeah, women aren’t depressed because they’re treated worse than dogs, or like children or like meat, it’s because they work.

It’s not feminism that let us down, it’s the backlash against it and the fact that we still live in a very sexist society. Look around! When half the people are treated—yes, here’s the cliché—like second class citizens, why the surprise that they’re depressed?

Here’s a quote from the article mentioned above:

Feminism raised women’s expectations beyond what life can deliver to the vast majority of them. It was hard enough for women in the past to realize their far fewer expectations of marrying a good man and making a happy family. But feminism told a generation of women that they can not only expect to have that but, perhaps even more important to feminism, they could also expect to have a fulfilling, financially rewarding, society-honoring career.

He asserts that women are more clinically depressed than ever and that proves that we were led, like stupid cows, to our own slaughter, not smart enough to see what was happening to us. What I find most insulting is that condescending attitude: let me—the male—explain it to you because you women just don’t get it. His logic is so simplistic it’s laughable. Even I, mere woman that I am, can see through his arguments.

My grandmother was depressed and I am quite certain she was depressed at least in part because she was an intelligent human being not allowed fulfillment outside the home. My grandfather was a good man, but he was a product of his time and believed he should be the bread-winner and she should stay at home. Now, she wasn’t, technically, clinically depressed, because she was never diagnosed by a doctor. How many women in the forties and fifties went to a doctor and got a diagnosis of depression? (Or even well into the seventies and eighties?) If they went to a doctor, they were likely to be given tranquilizers or told it was all in their heads! (What you need, little lady, is to scrub the floor a little harder—maybe twice a week instead of once. You must accept that this is all the fulfillment you’ll get in this life.)

Brilliant—take two facts (the feminist movement started in the sixties and women have since been diagnosed with depression at higher numbers), create a connection and twist it to suit your own bias. I eat oatmeal for breakfast most mornings and I enjoy walking my dog—therefore, oatmeal eating leads to enjoyable dog walking (or, if I feel depressed, was it the oatmeal? or could it have been the walk?).

While his argument is obviously based on very bad logic, I know that a lot of women are depressed.

We all understand (well, all of us except the man who wrote that article) that depression is multifaceted. While I do believe sexism plays a part, there are other culprits, including the inherent emptiness of a society obsessed with, no—not only women’s bodies—but with that great delusional pie in the sky: money. We live in a society that puts money above people at every turn. Corporate profits are more important than education, more important than public health, than the well-being of the earth we live on, than families (no matter what Republicans say—read their votes). Don’t believe the lie that women are our own worst enemies—feminism did not fail us, conservatives did.

The greatest lie we have been told is not that we can have it all but that it’s all about money. No—it truly is about family, about people, about love. Sending women back into the home one by one will not solve the basic falsehood that lies at the heart of our society. It doesn’t matter who is doing the earning, it matters what we put first in our lives, and in our life-in-common. We have forgotten the truth.

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P.S. Just checked my mail; lo and behold, my dad thought the sexist cartoons were such a breath of fresh air that he forwarded them, too. (We live in a society in which fathers send sexist jokes to their daughters—yeah, we’re all equally respected here.)

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J.K. Rowling and Amnesty International

This is an excerpt from J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard. I am sharing it because, as a member of Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network, I believe strongly in this work (see bottom of this post for links).

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

(You can read the entire speech here.)

To see an example of the current work that AI is doing, and the simple steps we can all take to help, click here. And click here to join the Urgent Action Network. By the way, you do not have to donate money to participate in helping human rights victims in this way—you can, as they say, just do it.

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