There is a big problem I have with Feminism. It’s the aim of feminism.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of equality. In fact, I genuinely believe that if equality was the aim, then feminism would be laudable. Unfortunately, in many many ways, feminism is the antithesis of equality.
Historically society has been rather (or completely) misogynistic. I think it is fair to call that statement a truism. In many parts of the word this is still the case, with women being unable to hold positions of authority, driving licenses and even bank accounts. A situation which most rational people will abhor. However, arguing that in order to redress this historical inequality, we now should be condemning men for the roles their (and women’s) male ancestors played in the subjugation of females is surely as wrong as the historical paradigm.
I hate to be the one to point this out, but women’s rights have come a long way. I’m not suggesting that we are in a position where women are treated equally, but I am suggesting that from now on, feminism should be discarded in favour of something far less discriminatory. We need, instead of arguing for women’s rights, to be arguing for true equality.
There is a difference inherent in this distinction. Feminists argue to increase the representation of women, while egalitarians argue for the best possible person to provide this voice. In case the effect of this is not clear, consider the following:
We decide, in sport, to separate the male and female athletes. In the final of the 100m Olympic races, we have 8 men competing against each other, and 8 women doing the same in in a separate race. Why do we do this?
Well, if we look at the times for the two races, we would see that the last female winner – Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce was a very speedy (and well won) 10.75 seconds, which beats my best ever time by at least 6 seconds. This would, however, have been far slower than the time required to progress from the heats stages into the men’s competition. (She would have beaten the slowest man on the track, by over a second, due to a groin injury).
So, in athletics it makes sense to distinguish – that is to discriminate – between the sexes. Failure to do so would result in many, if not all female athletes failing to qualify for the games in the first place, and would make a travesty of the culture of inclusion which the modern games have become.
But what would be the effect of requiring the final to be made up of 4 men and 4 women? The answer should be obvious. On average – certainly at the top level – we would see four men cross the line, followed by four women.
Translate this to everyday life, where we are not reliant on purely physical ability (and the mental stamina which I these athletes possess) and the effect is less dramatic, but just as obvious. Let’s say we have a committee of 8 people, like the final of the 100 metres. The committee is meeting to discuss the future investment in space exploration/genetics/renewable energy. You get the idea, something potentially very important.
Now, in order to demonstrate our equality, we insist that half of those sitting on the committee are female. What effect will this have on the ability of the committee to function effectively?
Let’s suggest that, of the applicants to join the Space committee, we are offered 30 senior NATOSAT scientists. NATOSAT is a wholly made-up but faintly believable company, and the vast majority of their senior staff are male. They are in their 50s and 60s, and joined the company in the 1970-80s at a time when few women were interested, or able to begin, a career in the aeronautics industry. They put forward 26 men, and four women. This is pure conjecture, but go with me. We also have a number of applicants from a progressive company – make one up if you like – but it is far less male dominated than our fake NATOSAT. They put forward a group of 15 men and 15 women. We have a base group of 60 applicants for the 8 positions.
We hire a panel of judges, who screen the applicants for us. We set them the task of identifying the best 8 people to make the decisions about the future of space exploration, and they do so purely on the basis of qualification, experience and the results of an examination. They are completely unaware of the applicants’ genders. They choose a panel of 8, six of whom are male and two are female. This hypothetical result is based on a basic average weighting.
Now we introduce the rules of the committee – 50% of the panel members must be female. Now we need 4 men and 4 women. So, the two least suitable men – although better than at least all but 2 of the women – are told to pack their bags, and the two female runners up are called back to fill their places.
Many people may not see this as a problem, but I do. You see, of the 60 applicants, only 19 were female. Now we have a situation where – because of discrimination – two of the panellists can reasonably be expected to be a lower grade of applicant, and yet are working on the committee purely as a result of their gender. I do not see this as a positive effect – in fact I see all discrimination as a negative. If we rely on no discrimination at all, then the committee will be more effective, which has to be a positive thing, surely?
And another point. Recently, the BBC made a statement that in future there would be no more all-male panels on comedy (and other) quiz shows. I agree that in the past, they have often been testosterone heavy, and these comedy panel quiz events – from the aggressive and sometimes shocking (and great, by the way) Mock the Week and 8 out of 10 Cats, through interest-based gems (Buzzcocks et al) through to the rather more cerebral QI – have lacked a certain feminine touch.
Now, whether or not you agree with my diatribe above, you can at least see that there is an edge of discrimination in the BBC’s statement. By dictating that one panel member must be of a certain gender, we are not only impacting the potential effectiveness but also tainting those people who are of that gender due to association with discrimination.
(In fact, and as an aside, Dara Ó Briain (host of Mock the Week and panellist on many of the other shows) was terribly misquoted within the last week, when he opined that the issuing of a statement was unnecessary and demeaning, possibly in the way I mention above. Of course, in order to make a decent headline, this needed to be changed around a bit, and the Times thereby accused Dara of arguing against women appearing on panel shows. I’m pretty sure that’s not what he was saying at all, but never let the truth get in the way etc…
I’m sure he had fun explaining that in 140 characters or less.)
So, how about trying to find a way forward?
First of all, I think we should do away with all discrimination. Positive and negative. Instead of a Minster for Women, why not have a Minister for Equality? He or she could deal with all aspects of discrimination, whether it be due to gender, race, age or sexuality, and may actually be useful.
Look at how the gay-rights movement has worked. Within the last few decades, perhaps since the 60s, the campaigners for equality of sexuality have really turned things around. We are getting closer to a society in which I would like to live, where people are treated with compassion without reference to their preferences or their gender association. We may not be there yet, but in 50 years, homosexuality has ceased to be illegal. We now associate with a (fabulous?! (sorry)) section of society openly and without shame. Gay men and women are serving useful roles in every aspect of our daily lives, and soon will be able to marry with the full rights that this brings. How was this achieved? Not by campaigning and demonstrating on a ‘Gay-is-Better’ or ‘Gay is more Natural’ platform, but one which instead included the straight world. Equality was and is a goal, and I would like to think we get closer to achieving it every single day.
What next? Oh, yeah. Put men in to feminist politics. Not all the way, not by stealth or legislation, but allow men to have an opinion on feminist issues. Without doing so, you are alienating 50% of the population – something which the feminist movement has been arguing against for centuries. Again, how far has feminism come in the same time as the LGBT communities? It continues to be marginalised and ignored because it fails to engage with those people who believe in actual equality, very many of whom are men.
Moving on: We should throw out the notion that women are reliant on men for their ideas of what femininity is. The fashion and beauty industries are led and controlled in the main by straight women and gay men. Beautiful ladies, let me say this to you: Straight men, on the whole, have less of an interest in the shade of eye-shadow you are wearing or the designer of your clutch, and frankly if you show an interest in us and are confident, we will not only accept you for who you are but we will also love you for it. We love beauty, and it comes in many forms. It’s the fashion media which is teaching you to hate your bodies and doubt your abilities. Throw off these hurtful and damaging teachings and think for yourself. No more reading tales of how all men are disgusting, all they are after is your body, and here’s how to make him want you even more.
Discard hypocrisy, and engage with everyone. When someone asks if you are a feminist, say “No. I am a egalitarian, and proud of it.”