Tuesday, August 16

Feminism and Equality

There are a lot of hateful individuals - many male, but also some female - out there who claim that Feminism is no longer necessary and is ‘going too far’ these days. That feminists just hate men and want to make them miserable. That they want to oppress men and so on … and so on … and so on.

Yes, women in western societies have quite some rights these days which women in other areas of our planet are still missing. We can leave the house alone and without wearing all-covering clothing. We can vote. We can drive a car. We’re not going to be stoned to death for premarital sex or cheating on our husband. All of that is, of course, true. Then why do we still have feminism? Because we have not yet reached equality.

Equal is not ‘the same.’ Being equal means being treated like someone else, it doesn’t mean being the same way as someone else. In front of the court, the six-foot-two man with muscles on his muscles is equal to the five-foot-one man who could hide behind a lamp post. The law treats both of them the same way, we no longer have a law that sides with the physically stronger one. That is equality, not sameness. The two men are not ‘the same’ and nobody claims they are.

Where are women not equal? In wages. In reproductive rights. In the way society treats them. In some cases not even in front of the court.

On the whole, women are paid less for the same work than men are. One argument you often get when you say that in an online discussion is ‘well, they work less, don’t they?’ If you break down the wages in hourly rates, however, women still are paid less. Hourly rates are an equal measure, no matter whether a person works twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or even more hours a week. Yes, the one who works twenty hours makes less a week than the one who works fifty hours, obviously. But by the hour, they should make the same. Usual workplace ethics help cover that up - in most professions, people do not compare their pay to the person working in the next cubicle or office or next to them at the conveyor belt. If I don’t know whether my male colleague next to me makes the same an hour I do, how am I supposed to find out whether or not I’m paid fairly?

Reproductive rights are a very difficult topic, both online and in real life. A woman’s reproductive organs are still controlled by others. In most western countries there a strict laws as to when a woman is allowed to have an abortion. And before the pro-‘life’ fractions screams in: a foetus is a foetus, not an infant. Abortion is not murder, since murder can only be committed against what laws here call a ‘natural person.’ A ‘natural person’ is defined by the law as a human being between birth and death, which clearly shows a foetus can’t be murdered - just as a company can’t be murdered which isn’t a ‘natural person,’ either. In Germany, the lawmakers put a little trick into article 218 (which deals with abortion over here), not calling the foetus a human being, which would go against their own laws, but calling it a ‘Leibesfrucht’ which translates into something like ‘bodily fruit.’ That actually is bad wording, though, since we usually pick fruits before they would naturally leave the tree. I won’t call that an abortion, but it’s the same principle.
Why are there actual laws against abortion? The woman’s body actually is capable of terminating a pregnancy on its own, if it deems it necessary (there are various reasons why the body might do that, some statistics even claim it happens in 50% of all pregnancies, but usually so early the woman never realizes she’s pregnant in the first place). And an adult woman should have the right to decide about her own body. That includes such mundane things as deciding on getting a haircut or a tattoo, but also should include to decide whether or not she wants a pregnancy and a child. For the full reason why a woman is not allowed to decide on having or not having children, see this blog post. I’m not going to rehash everything again. In short: child more important than woman, child belong to man, man make woman carry out child.

In society, away from the law, however, the difference between men and women still is a lot bigger. Women are not taken seriously in discussions, which is where ‘men-splaining’ comes from. Since women don’t know what they’re talking about, men have to explain that to them - even if we’re talking about something like a menstrual cycle or childbirth. Women often aren’t heard in meetings - at least not knowingly. They are censored more often and corrected for the slightest mistakes - mistakes which are let slide when a man makes them. Interviews with transgender men (men who were born in women’s bodies, but have completely transformed into the gender they identify with) show there are indeed differences. Differences those men can see, because they’ve seen the other side, having been women before.

And about that whole ‘you complain about something as nice as a compliment’ topic: perhaps a woman doesn’t want your compliment on how good her ass or her tits look? Perhaps, apart from being attractive by modern standards, she also is very intelligent and wants a compliment on how good she’s at solving complex mathematical problems or how well she designed that difficult engine part at work? Perhaps she feels her tits are too big and doesn’t like them?
Compliments paid to women tend to be physical. They tend to be about what you can see. Which means every compliment, as nice as it is, reduces the recipient to a physical object. Yes, some women like that and they have a right to. A woman who spends hours each day training has the right to enjoy a compliment on how fit she looks. But it has been her in the first place who has put emphasize on that part of herself. She trains her body, because she sees it as something important. Other women train to stay in shape, but it’s not what they spend most of her time with. Or they might be one of those people whose bodies naturally are attractive by modern standards. (If that ‘modern standards’ part bugs you, do a little Google research on beauty standards over time. I promise you will be surprised.)
In addition, a compliment paid to a woman by a man also suggests that the man has the right to comment on the body of the woman. That the body is ‘his’ in a way. That it belongs to him and other men and they have the right to decide whether it looks right or wrong. He has the right to compliment that body, if he likes the look, or to criticise it, if he doesn’t.
I wonder how men would feel, if women commented on their looks everywhere. And I’m not only speaking of ‘hot’ women, guys. I’m also speaking of those you find ugly, of those who are old enough to be your mother (or grandmother), of those you don’t feel comfortable around. Imagine them yelling ‘hot ass, but wear tighter pants’ across the street or ‘you should put that dick on the left side and not on the right.’ Imagine troves of middle-aged secretaries whistling as you walk by, showing each other your backside by outright pointing at you. Imagine a sixty-five-year-old granny grabbing your ass in the train in the morning, then pretending to look away when you turn and stare. How many of those ‘compliments’ would you want?

Feminism demands equality of men and women in society, at work, in front of the court. Women and men are different, yes. They don’t have the same body, otherwise our biology wouldn’t work out. But for all those fields, the physical differences aren’t important. In most workplaces, physical strength doesn’t matter. In society, we are far beyond ‘rule of the strongest.’ In court, the law should treat every human equally - which means that laws controlling the female body shouldn’t even exist. There still is a long way to go before women and men are truly equal and not ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ equal.

And, yes, equality should work in the other direction for men who want to care for their children after a breakup or divorce or stay home with them, because the wife earns more. They shouldn’t be shunned by society for it or become laughing stock. We are humans. We live in groups. We share the work which needs to be done. There’s no rule we can’t share work between genders as we see fit. There are, in fact, signs we did so in the past. Those who were young, strong, and fit, went hunting, men and women alike. Those who were not, stayed back, gathered food, cared for the children. There’s no reason to make one gender the ‘caring’ and the other the ‘fighting’ one.

Feminism is not about taking any rights from the men. It’s about giving women the same rights. Feminism is not about making everyone alike, it’s about treating everyone alike.

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