Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Those hairy feminists...

It seems that everything I'm getting angry about these days relates to gender issues.

The other day for instance, I got mad over a disgusting article in a newspaper in Eastern Europe talking about how feminists are stupid, have a mustache and grow chest hair?!? Do I need to say that the article in question was (allegedly) written by a woman?

Not that I buy into the 'sisterhood' thing, but I find it extremely dangerous that in a country where gender equality was an official state policy, things can change so dramatically against women once equality is no longer publicly heralded (there still are equality of opportunity policies, but nobody - politicians included - truly support it publicly). What does this say about the real mental pictures people hold about 'women'? What does this say about the real shared understandings of what a woman is and where she belongs?

If decades of equality didn't do much to actually change collective gender stereotypes and patriarchal worldviews, exactly what will? (OK, I'm exaggerating a bit: it was a public equality, but not necessarily equality in the private sphere, in the everyday life of households).

But hey, not everything bad happens outside the 'civilized' world (note sarcasm here). As a woman has been killed while jogging in BC, the RCMP representative commented something along these lines: "women have to ensure their safety when they go out jogging in a park"?!?! Excuse me?!?! Again, women have to do something to protect themselves: how about, for a change, society collectively makes an effort to de-legitimize violence against perceived members of a group - be they women, gay, immigrants and so on. How about we live in a society that takes collective responsibility for such gender-motivated (and for that matter, ethnic and race motivated) hate and violence, and ensures that punishment is adequate and that social discussion in the public sphere takes place?

I just finished reading a review of the new movie Polythechique, recreating the massacre of women in Montreal's higher education institution way back in 1989 (incidentally, the same year when communism fell in Eastern Europe, putting an end to the official communist policy of gender equality). I don't think there's anything that can be said here, but then maybe something should be said: what is it that makes some individuals hate the fact that other individuals are to be treated as equals? That they have rights, and that they have the right to say 'no'?

You'd think that after so many years of discussion on gender equality, there will be less and less individuals prone to thinking that men and women are two separate biological entities, defined by their reproductive system and therefore pre-ordained to a given social hierarchy. But I'm looking around and many male friends cannot cope with the reality of an equal female partner. Rationally, they think they're all for equality. But the truth is that they cannot deal with equality. Emotionally, they are not ready for it. They are not ready to be told "no, I'm not gonna sacrifice my life to have a child now" or "no, I'm too busy working, and too tired in the end of the day, so I'm not gonna cook, wash or iron". They are not ready to be told "you have no right to tell me what to do, and if you continue imposing your views on me, I'll dump you".

That's the society we live in: an official policy can accomplish only that much in affecting the everyday life of people. And the irony of it all is that sometimes it's the mothers raising up the boy as the king of the family - and, guaranteed, that boy is gonna grow up emotionally unable to cope with gender equality.

It seems all I do is rant about gender lately. How can I not? I opened the newspaper today, and like everyday in the past week, there's an item there about Michelle Obama's sense of fashion. This one got on my nerves: a cartoon (click here to see it, I'm not sure I can reproduce it here because of damn copyright concerns...) summarizing the collective imaginary of the relation between men and women. I know that a cartoon intends to mock by exaggerating traits - and I think this one does a very good job of showing us what we actually think: clothes are for women, brains are for men... I beg to differ!

Photo credits: nyki_m

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites