Is feminism dead? Did we win?

Somehow I’m always trailing behind a bit. Yesterday was the International Women’s Day and I didn’t do a single feminist thing all day. Generally, feminism is not a popular subject, as my friend Nanna (Danish) so rightly pointed out to me recently. When writing today on Facebook about doing nothing feminist I got a reply from a (male) friend which completely sums it up; he wrote: Feminism is dead. You won. This is the opinion of most modern men. Some of them have the experience close to home of a wife, who earns more and “runs the show”, others – most – just cite the high-powered women they know and emphasise how they both cook, empty the dishwasher and pick up the kids from school. Or whatever. But this is completely beside the point.

  • Women are still trailing behind men when it comes to same pay for same job
  • Women still do the bulk of the house work in 90% of all Western households and 100% of all non-Western households – yeah yeah, guestimates, but not wildly off the mark.
  • Men are still the majority everywhere important decisions are made.
  • It’s still women who tend to the huge majority of their children’s needs, 50 p for cake day, packed lunch with love, school clothes clean, ironed, ready for next day, swimming kit ready on a Tuesday, pictures printed for showing “My Holiday” at school. Etc. etc.
  • Women in the so-called Third World are most often treated like dirt. How much is this on the agenda, when the high-powered are discussing foreign policies?
  • Young women see a distorted picture of themselves in the media.
  • Young men get a sick introduction to sex, if that introduction comes from porn (which it depressingly often does).
  • Women in power very often have to endure endless comments on their appearance, before they even open their mouths.
  • And so on and so forth.

So don’t give me that cr… about women having won. Clearly some women have come out on top, but what about the unseen bulk of the iceberg? I’m not complaining about my personal life, most of my woes are self-inflicted and I’m determined to put the rest right too.

Today I read a blogpost from a Canadian writer/feminist, who uses Gladwell’s Outliers to make her point. I agree with her, that Gladwell’s book suffers from being only about men. But the important issue here is that a whole new group of Western women now have a unique opportunity to actually get somewhere if they work really hard (Gladwell’s 10,000 hours). The Internet offers us that opportunity, because we can do this at home, in between the myriad of tasks that many of us perform each day. Read the post. Her previous post also refers to Outliers, but from a different perspective. If you have a child, who’s youngest in class, read it. She mentions a few female outliers, but I’d like to mention one more: Carla Fiorina. When, to say the least, I disagree with her political views (she endorsed McCain – imagine what went through Fiorina’s head when he nominated Palin!!??), I do admire her. Do you remember her downfall? I remember wondering why so many male commentators felt the need to gloat so much? She has just undergone surgery for breast cancer. Fingers crossed.

I recently read this lovely book review. The book in question is Backwards in High Heels and, clearly, according to the reviewer, India Knight, whom I admire greatly, is nothing like the notions you get in your head when you see the title. I have it on my Amazon Wishlist and I WILL buy it, I just don’t have time to read it right now. You should see the look on my husband’s face when another packet arrives from Amazon. And he is right – I just have to attack the stacks at hand, before I start adding more to them!

But consider this quote from the review:

It’s one of those rare beasts that you want to earmark, scribble in and rush out and buy for all your girlfriends. It contains within its pages everything an intelligent woman might want to know about the nuances of every conceivable topic: big subjects, such as love, motherhood, feminism, politics, grief, ageing, as well as what stupid people often patronisingly refer to as the “shallower” stuff. Except, in this book, as in most women’s heads (to say nothing of their lives), the demarcation between the deep and the shallow is so slight as to be barely noticeable. This is a brilliant feat of realism that hasn’t been managed convincingly in print before: with this kind of how-to guide, the choice until now was either froufrou delight or slash-your-wrists gloomfest.

Isn’t this exactly the kind of book you want to read? I often wonder why it’s supposed to be so totally contradictory to read both the business- and finance pages AND the Culture- and Background pages of the paper, read serious fiction, be good at computer stuff AND take an interest in one’s appearance, read cook books, bake cupcakes? Nobody seem to think it’s strange when male top executives spend their weekends playing golf or watching football? Read a hilariously funny but yet acutely precise excerpt from the book here.

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9 tanker om “Is feminism dead? Did we win?”

  1. Do I get royalties for supplying you with the days thoughts? Yes, feminism is dead and thank god … sorry, God. (He’s dead too.)
    You give a list of grievances on behalf of womankind. Lets take them one at a time; 1)No evidence to conclude that women trail men in income. What is the same job? How do you define it? Any job where there is room for differentiated pay makes it necessary to factor in the effects of motivation, endurance, creativity etc. and they can only be weighed up subjectively. Besides, there are laws about this. If there really is a sexual bias in pay then complain, go to court. Do whatever needs to be done. Problem is it doesn’t happen. 2)Does the bulk of housework include taking care of the car, garden, moving furniture, electrical installations etc.? Didn’t think so. 3)An extremely vague assertion – where are all the important decisions made? God, (there he is again) what a general and completely unhelpful question. 4)Men have been using just as much time with their kids as women the past 20 years. Maybe you just need to light a fire under your husbands ass! 5)Everyone in the 3rd World is treated like dirt. Women more so because they haven’t had an emancipation in the form of the womens movement as we have. 6)Everyone sees a distorted picture of themselves in the media. 7)Don’t know enough about porn to comment. 8)They should dress better.

    There. That should do it. Feminism Dead as Doorknob.

    But sexism isn’t finished yet. It thrives in what used to be called the women’s movement. Like an aged Japanese soldier on some remote island who doesn’t realize the war is over. ‘Just keep slinging mud’ is the formula.

    Maureen Dowd has a book out called “Are Men Necessary?”. Imagine a book called “Are Women Necessary?” It would be a scandal. But Dowd’s title goes virtually unnoticed. Men expect to be continually attacked, without grounds, for being sexist. And for some reason, they don’t actually mind. In the society I live in, there are 2 ways in which men and women are not equal. The first is an obligation to serve in the reserve army for a year if called up. Women don’t get called. The other concerns the rights over children which favour the mother. Both discriminations set down in law. Neither discrimination supports your thesis. On the contrary.

    The main issue between the sexes remains pay for same work. Besides there being no data about pay one could use to determine the truth here, women’s focus is often poorly directed. They look up and see men making more. They should also look down. The fact is men are also more often poor. Men occupy the extremes. Women often sit in the middle in secure jobs, not taking chances on making a bundle, or losing the lot. That’s our hair shirt.

    So, one nothing to me. Shall we play again tomorrow?

  2. Dear David,
    @ 1: Either you’re implying that women generally do a poorer job than men when employed to do the same job (I certainly hope not!), or you just can’t be bothered to check the statistics. This one is only one in a veritable sea of statistics which prove my point.
    @ 2: Yes, that includes washing the car and fixing the dead door knobs. Remember, the average here is NOT your household or mine.
    @ 3: Important decisions are made in governments, in ruling bodies, in courts, on boards. No statistics needed to prove that men are in the majority there. Only eyes.
    @ 4: No, men have NOT spent as much time with their children as women for the last 20 years. ‘scuse me, where’ve you been? I know that YOU have spent a lot of time with your kid, good for you (and your kid). But you’re not even the top of the iceberg. You’re the needle in the haystack!
    @ 5: No, everyone in the Third World are not treated as dirt. Look at the Saudi men strutting around with their veiled wives in trail. Pity them? More examples if needed.
    @ 6: True, the media is a skewed mirror. But if you look at male role models, they come in all shapes and sizes. Looking at female role models, that’s not the case. They’re thin as sticks and they wear very little clothes, considering the climate. That said, the young girls’ mothers are most certainly not without guilt here – many mothers treat their little girls like little princesses instead of little people and get out exactly what they put in.
    @ 7: Check it out if in doubt… (but keep it legal)
    @ 8: Not worthy of comment.

    @ Maureen Dowd. I can’t stand the woman and I think a book title like that STINKS. I hadn’t even heard about the book, but that’s probably because I try my very best to avoid her…

    And yes, men are found at both extremes. Ever stopped to wonder why? Top extreme: they have a woman at home to cater for their every need, including the needs of their offspring and their mother. Bottom extreme: Many men have never learned how to deal with normal day-to-day stuff and thus can’t handle life alone. This, however, will change radically over the next 20 years, I’m sure. And that’s a good thing!

    And the armed forces – you’re absolutely right. Nobody should be made to serve, if they don’t want to. Neither men nor women. Custodial matters between men and women: The person most capable of caring for the children should be awarded custody, if that is indeed necessary. Find me a woman, or even a feminist, who don’t agree. And then go talk to a judge, a psychologist or a social worker who meets these families and ask, whether or not it’s true that it’s mostly women – still – who are the more suitable to care for their children?

    Why do women take on the duller and safer jobs? Is that because they are duller and dumber? Hardly. It’s because the dull and maybe dumbing safe job is what’s best for the kids (good old 9-5). Go and ask the women at the bank counters what kind of job they would have if they didn’t have kids?

    Yes, by all means, let’s play again tomorrow!

  3. I don’t agree with much there, but don’t have time to chase it. All the institutions you point to are democratically elected. If there are too many men then vote in some women. This won’t solve anything however because there isn’t a problem.

    The link to stats doesn’t work by the way. Your saving grace. There are statistics that show that women earn a lttle less on average but not for the same job. Not in this country anyway.

    Check out Capac just above your comment. She hopes women will not only win … She sees conflict where there isn’t any. Feminism is left to create the conflict it needs to survive.

  4. “look at overall average earnings for full-time and part-time employees as well as looking at the pay differences between men and women,…” Doesn’t say anything about specific pay discrimination. It wouldn’t however, it’s illegal! And it therefore doesn’t happen. Even if it did happen, you’d still have to prove that it had a direction; that it was women who were discriminated against. Perhaps the gap between men’s and women’s pay isn’t as pronounced as it should/could be. I could imagine this is closer to the truth.

    It doesn’t matter what gender Capac has. He sees the issue as one of winners and losers. He pits men against women. How about we all fight discrimination between people. Whether they’re men, women, tall, short, stupid, fat, blue … who cares. It’s discrimination that’s the problem – not men or women.

  5. @David: It’s no me, who defines Woman’s Liberation as af struggle or a battle. The Metaphors were there at the Beginning. A lot of (danish, at least) feminists thinks there is a fight to be won (or lost). I think: Ok, let them win the battle. That ok. But there is more to it that that. Having a female president in the USA would be nice, but if the Politics are the Same, I really don’t care.

  6. Hi! Thanks for your comments and for linking back to my posts. I disagree with the idea of luck. What often lurks behind “luck” is sexism and racism. Undoubtedly, there are odds at play, and if you’re a white male, those odds will be very different than if you’re a black woman.

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