When I first realized I was a feminist, I was angry about everything, all the time. I didn't feel like I fit into the feminist movement by virtue of my work but at the same time, I was realizing that I had been sold a load of bullshit and taught that that was what being a woman was about. Learning about Marxism only fueled the flames. It took a couple of years for me to be able to watch TV in the company of anyone, as my tirades often prevented friends and family from enjoying their shows. I have since calmed down (somewhat) and am able to separate my raging feminist tendencies from impeding on my enjoyment of life's small pleasures.
I am reviewing a book for a journal for which I've reviewed previously. When the editor sent out the solicitation, I thought I might try something new, something outside of anthropology. The program I work on now has a large social justice component, so I thought, "Hey, I should check out that book on social justice policy." I'll spare you the review (which I don't think I could publish for ethical reasons since it will be in the journal, nor do I have it written yet) but I was trying to be responsible and get through the rest of the rather dry stuff before my deadline. I had been discomfited on behalf of black people and immigrants and non-native English speakers (who the author treats oddly) and disturbed by his almost full endorsement of capitalism.
The civil rights movement combined with the women's movement in efforts to eliminate discrimination against women, and to give them more opportunities for employment and social participation. All societies have made distinctions in sex roles that have become a major part of their cultural tradition [no citation]. Mostly women have been restricted to the domestic role of raising children and household chores [no citation], while men have been given the main role of working outside the home to provide the family with needed resources [no citation]. They have also been assigned the more physically demanding tasks, including protecting women and children in the event of war and from crime and other hostile forces [no citation]. The result is that, in most societies, males have been treated as dominant and women as subservient. Rapidly changing technology has brought about major changes in sex roles. Birth control and other factors have led to a declining birth rate, and an increased number of women participate [sic] in the workforce (Cohn & Livingston, 2010; Sullivan, 2009) [popular articles linking the declining birth rate to the recession, one of which is a friggin' Time article].And he goes on to say:
The use of machinery that requires less physical strength made the employment of more women possible. An example was the development of the automatic starter, which enable women to drive without using the physically demanding crank. Most significant was giving women the right to vote and full citizenship, which has increased their political power. That factor, combined with the changing roles of women, has led to successful efforts to include women in most jobs. Also more women have been selected and elected for leadership positions in business and government [no citation].What a bunch of ethnocentric crap. The role of women in different societies is complicated and nuanced and gender is often a site of oppression and social control. However, making it sound like it happens everywhere naturalizes it and there are dramatic instances where women are not considered subservient, many in indigenous cultures and foraging populations, although contact with colonizing forces often changes that. The public/private sphere divide is an artifact of patriarchy (perhaps the point he was trying to make) but fails to take into account all of the women who have been forced to work outside of the home due to class, race, or nationality. Where do they fit into this scheme where women didn't have any agency and now all of a sudden they do?
I am often confronted with the rhetoric that women need to be protected from crime in a special way that men do not. I don't think anyone should suffer violence. Being shot at or sexually assaulted is always bad, no matter your gender. This rhetorical device, however, often limits the freedom of movement of women. Rather than making sure people don't rape women in the first place, women are required to have escorts.
I am a firm believer that reliable, effective, safe birth control has done much to relieve the oppression of women. His academic sleight of hand, however, doesn't make me think he thinks so. By citing articles linking declining birth rates to the recession, he is either arguing that more women in the workforce are part of the reason for the recession, or that women base their reproductive choices on economics. The later would make sense, but I don't see how that argument has anything to do with what he actually wrote. You upcoming scholars beware: just throwing in some mildly appropriate citations at the end doesn't cut it. And try to pretend that you didn't get your information from popular media if you are making academic arguments.
Thank god for the automatic starter! I am sure all those women working in military factories during World War II just would not have been able to handle a crank. Just like I'm sure the legions of male office workers today would be able to start up one of those relics in a jiffy. I feel privileged to live in a world where men are sensitive to the special needs women have for technology to compensate for their inferior abilities (see Bic for Her and read the comments, if you haven't already). And thank god someone had the balls to *give* us full citizenship and the right to vote, as if it wasn't earned at the expense of our foremothers' labor.
I'm glad women are included in "most" jobs now, even though the preponderance of women earn less than their male colleagues. Of all the universities I applied to, only one had women earning 99% of what men earned. For my over-educated, privileged status, I can still expect to earn 77% of what my male colleagues earn.
Now we have more women executives and advice to Lean In, as if the only thing keeping us from taking over the world was our inability to balance our work/life responsibilities or act more like men. I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the capitalist patriarchy's need for a disposable, adaptable labor force. Exceptionalism isn't equality. It also assumes that women are in jobs where they get to make career decisions, instead of just getting by.
This is the Leftist propaganda that we're supposed to buy into to work toward social justice through policy change. The revolution is over - the women have been recognized - we can all put our panties on straight and go home. Just a few more tweaks and we'll be done.
I don't accept it. I'm ready for a real revolution.
And in case you are interested, the book is Putting Human Universal Rights to Work: Policy Actions in the Struggle for Social Justice by Archibald Stuart, PhD [sic]