Archive for October, 2009

World Economic Forum Blatantly Ignores Men

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

A couple of days ago, the World Economic Forum released its annual report on the Global Gender Gap. The World Economic Forum is a highly respected, not-for-profit organization that is legally registered as a foundation in Switzerland. When they release a major report, the world listens and the media coverage is extensive. Several newspapers writing about the report list the top five countries in the report (i.e. the countries with the smallest gender gap), and they are as follows:

  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. New Zealand

Feminists in Sweden will likely be outraged that we are not at the top of the list, and feminists in other Western countries will likely be complaining that their country is not like Scandinavia. However, instead of occupying our minds with these quibbles, why not have a closer look at the report to see what they actually have measured, and how these measurements have been performed? Early on in the report its author explains how the Gender Gap Index used in the report works:

Our aim is to focus on whether the gap between women and men in the chosen variables has declined, rather than whether women are “winning”the “battle of the sexes”. Hence,the Index rewards countries that reach the point where outcomes for women equal those for men, but it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men in particular variables.

In other words, every area where women are outperforming men is ignored, made invisible and left out of the report. What’s even worse is that the author of the report isn’t even ashamed of plainly stating this for everyone to see, as if it was some kind of achievement. What has the world come to when the author of a high-profile report is proud of “only” ignoring men, instead of actively labeling male discrimination a good thing which can give countries a higher score in the report?

It’s also interesting to note the four different categories that are used to determine the Gender Gap Index:

  1. Economic participation and opportunity
  2. Educational attainment
  3. Political empowerment
  4. Health and survival

If men’s situation hadn’t been actively ignored, then the author likely would have been forced to report that men do worse than women when it comes to health and survival, and in many countries around the world female students are dominating the colleges and universities. Furthermore, categories that are of great interest of men are actively excluded, for example quality of life indices, substance abuse, access to your children, number of close friends, etc. The chosen categories primarily measure the areas where men do better, and ignore the areas where men are struggling.

Unfortunately, this report is yet another sign that feminism has become a worldwide phenomenon that distorts our perception of how the genders are doing–both at a national and an international level.

The prevalence of trafficking may be exaggerated

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Trafficking is a horrible practice which is nothing but a modern form of slavery. However, has our digust towards slavery and our inherent instinct to protect women made us exaggerate the prevalence of this problem? An investigation by British newspaper The Guardian, seems to indicate that this is the case in the UK:

The UK’s biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country.

The failure has been disclosed by a Guardian investigation which also suggests that the scale of and nature of sex trafficking into the UK has been exaggerated by politicians and media.

When it comes to protecting women and being angry about poor treatment of women, we currently have a doubly whammy which makes us focus a disproportionate amount of attention on these issues:

  • Protecting women has been one of the main goals of every culture throughout history, since only women could give birth to the next generation, and the death of a woman was a direct threat to the whole culture.
  • Feminism has taught us that women’s suffering is more important than men’s suffering (whether intentional or not).

Applying Feminism to Third World Countries Is Problematic

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

While an increasing number of individuals are waking up to the problems that feminist policies create in Western democracies, most people still believe that feminism is just the right medicine for Third World nations. After all, isn’t feminism exactly what is needed in these underdeveloped countries–where men and women still have very traditional gender roles–to bring them into the 21st century? Well, Hillary Clinton, the United Nations and a host of other international players certainly seem to think so. However, it’s the very same flawed gender analysis that has led to feminist thinking in the West, that leads to feminist thinking regarding Third World policies.

Regardless of what culture we are talking about, and regardless of the level of development of that culture (pre-modern, modern, postmodern), men and women are part of the same gender system and are assigned roles and tasks according to what works, not according to any kind of oppression. Therefore the gender system is always some kind of variant of women being protected (and perhaps limited) in order to be safe during pregnancy and when raising the next generation, while men take risks in order to find adequate resources for the women and the children, as well as defend them from any dangers. Instead of taking in the entirety of this gender system, feminism somewhat simplistically postulates that the gender system oppresses women while giving men all the benefits, and this very assumption means that feminism tries to correct an imbalance that doesn’t exist, instead of effectively working towards increased freedom and opportunity for both sexes. This is exactly what is now starting to happen in Third World countries.

One example of how misguided feminism is creating unnecessary problems in poor countries is microfinance programs. These programs usually target women, instead of giving equal opportunity to men. Partly this is because feminism informs these organizations that women’s role will be strengthened by allowing them to start their own business, and the other common reason given is that women are more likely than men to repay these loans. However, neither of these arguments are sound.

Regarding the feminist argument that women’s role need to be strengthened… well, this is nothing but propaganda, since it is notoriously hard to determine what gender is worse off in any given society, and since the two sexes are part of the same gender system, it usually makes sense to help both sexes at the same time. Women may be more likely to repay the loans they are given, but that is because women generally take lower risks when doing business. Assuming less risk may decrease the chance of bankruptcy, but it also decreases the chance of creating a truly profitable company that will end up employing lots of people. Men, on the other hand, tend to assume more risk, and while this may lead to bankruptcy it may also lead to larger companies, industrialization and the eradication of poverty.

When it comes to education in poor countries, feminism states that women should be educated first, since they will educate their children, thereby spreading the knowledge. As correct as that observation may be, it is only a partial truth. Men may not be as prone to teaching their children, but men–as we just saw–are more likely to use any skills, funding or education they receive to start new companies and build prosperity here and now. Educating men can thus lead to prosperity within five or ten years, without having to wait a full generation, which the feminist model assumes is necessary. Why not simply educate men and women alike, thereby creating positive change both short term and long term?

There are many more examples of how the feminist mantra “we must always help women” creates new problems and imbalances in underdeveloped nations, but for now, I just want to say that postmodern feminism is problematic in Third World Countries for two reasons:

  • It is in itself a skewed model of reality that doesn’t produce beneficial results even when applied to postmodern countries, therefore it makes no sense to export it to other countries.
  • Learnings from postmodern societies cannot always be applied to pre-modern societies, even when they are sound. Pre-modern societies need to make the transition to modernity and industrialization, before becoming postmodern. Poor countries are therefore less in need of human rights than they are of industrialization, because it is industrialization that leads to human rights, not the other way around.

This is not to say that there aren’t lots of important gender issues to be addressed in poor countries, just as there are in modern democracies. We certainly need a strong awareness of gender roles when analyzing any given society and its problems. However, feminism is too flawed and too one-sided to be the model that guides us in these endeavors, and I dearly hope that we will soon reach a point where gender issues are discussed more freely, using research and facts as much as possible.

Who Has It Worse?

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

There are lots of different shapes and forms that discussions about gender issues can take. They can focus on pay equality, custody battles, divorce, domestic violence, hours worked per week or just about any subject you can think about.

While there are many different gender issues to discuss–and a range of perspectives, facts and opinions to consider–the underlying unnamed question always seems to be: what gender role is worse, the male gender role or the female gender role? Feminism of course, is an entire political ideology built on the premise that the female gender role is far worse than the male gender role, and the premise of feminism has also been unconsciously adopted by most people in industrialized countries.

But what do we really know about the gender roles, and don’t we owe it to ourselves to consciously analyze the two gender roles before making the call of who has it worse? It’s easy to become emotional about gender issues, but emotions alone cannot guide us when trying to make these kinds of distinctions.

My own take on what the two gender roles are about, at their historical core, is the following:

  • The female gender role is about staying safe and protected, thereby giving up a certain amount of freedom and risk taking. The goal of a woman is to keep her children safe, while getting enough resources for herself and the children.
  • The male gender role is about protecting women, thereby giving up a certain amount of health and safety. The goal of men is to take the risks needed to gather adequate amounts of resources for the woman and children.

In other words: women give up freedom to gain safety, and men give up safety to gain freedom. So when we’re discussing what gender role has it worse, it all depends on whether you value safety more than you value freedom. Feminists attack men and the male gender role by saying that men get a much better deal in life since men on average have more freedom. However, they completely ignore that the price men pay for this is disposability (a lack of safety), and the advantage that women get from a lack of freedom is a higher level of safety. The perks of either sex have always come at a price.

At the end of the day, anyone saying that either gender role is better than the other one (at its core), is claiming that freedom is better than safety, or that safety is better than freedom. Personally, I find it very hard to objectively prove that either of these values is better or more important than the other one, which is also why I am not too interested in the discussion of who has it worse.

However, setting the original, “core” gender roles aside for a moment, we also have to deal with whatever contemporary fluctuations and developments that may affect the gender dynamics. Currently, we have a situation where feminism is quite influential in many different countries, meaning that we have a set of new conditions emerging for each gender:

  • Men (and the male gender role…) are no longer appreciated in the same way for the crucial tasks they perform for society and their families, such as working long hours in jobs that may be physically dangerous or psychologically stressful.
  • Women’s gender role has been expanded by encouraging women to enter the workforce. However, women have not been expected to choose professions that entail real physical risks.
  • The efforts to raise the status of fatherhood (which would mean an expansion of the male gender role) have been weak compared to the efforts to get women to join the workforce.

This means that we are at a point where we cannot continue down the same path, unless we want to artificially keep on helping women, while keeping men down.

At the same time, the effect of feminism seems to be just as negative on women as on men. In a previous post I wrote about the research on subjective happiness in women, and how it has gone straight down since the 70s when the female gender role started changing, in no small part due to feminism. In my opinion this decline in female happiness may well be attributable to the contempt that many feminists have shown for traditional female domains such as child-rearing and being “soft and feminine”. While it may not be politically correct to say out loud, could it be that many women are struggling to be happy when they aren’t allowed to raise and educate their children, the way that women always did in the past?

We are thus faced with a very interesting dilemma when discussing what gender role gets the worst deal. Historically speaking, it’s a very tough call, and the seemingly easy call of saying that men have it worse in a feminist world is partially contradicted by research. Thus, all we can say for sure is that: we need to keep on working towards gender liberation, but without the ideological baggage of feminism which prevents men and women from living the lives they truly want.

Looking Back at Feminism, 50 Years From Now

Monday, October 5th, 2009

What will people think of feminism 50 years from now, or however long it takes for a more balanced view of gender issues to permeate society?

The first question will likely be: how could we let it go so far? How could men be seen as the oppressors and sole winners in the gender role system when

  • The vast majority of homeless people and prison inmates are men
  • The vast majority of people who die in work related accidents are men
  • The only group of people forced to fight in wars are men

What kind of patriarchy protects its men in such a lousy way? Well, it’s certainly not a patriarchy designed to give men all the perks while leaving women empty-handed (women are the only oppressed class in history who had their oppressors go out and work in the fields for them, as Farrell says).

The second question would likely be how feminism could ever have been looked upon as revolutionary, when it simply perpetuates the view that men are responsible for society while women are seen as not affecting society at all through their lives and choices. That’s a weird way of looking at things once you start thinking about it, but it is one of the root assumptions of contemporary feminism.

Feminism’s belief that women do not have agency and are constant victims of “structures”, while men have nothing but agency and cannot be the victim of structures, is so simplistic that it wouldn’t have been believable if it didn’t play into our deepest instincts. These deep instincts tell us to protect women and children at all costs, and in turn make us listen without demanding proof when a group of women (i.e. feminists) say that they are victims and need more protection.

Anyone who’s interested in truly revolutionizing gender roles (I’m not, by the way), would have passed a law forbidding men to enter combat while forcing women into combat through an exclusively female draft or military service. However, such a proposal–though truly revolutionary in the very spirit that feminism claims to be representing–will never see the light of day since it violates the most basic principle of our gender roles: protect women, let men take the risks.

Feminists have demanded more freedom and better protection for women, but they have never demanded that women take more risks and that men be better protected. There is no outcry about men dying or being injured at dangerous jobs. There’s no lobbying to have women be better represented in the “death professions” that men dominate.

When looking back at feminism 50 years from now, people will likely say that feminism did get one thing right; it opened up our eyes to gender roles, and that there is a lot of room for improvement in both gender roles. We need movements that work with gender issues, and most of all we need men and women who truly care about these issues. However, feminism is not the movement that can make change happen in a constructive way, being far too polarizing and one-sided to be able to see the full spectrum of gender dynamics.

In fact, as long as feminism is seen as the one-stop shop for discussing gender issues, we run the risk of creating more tension and more of a gender war than was ever needed. But if we can let go of feminism sooner rather than later, we will be judged more favorably in the future, and I won’t have to change the title of this post to Looking Back at Feminism, 150 Years From Now.