Archive for February, 2010

Feminism and Chivalry

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Can feminism and chivalry co-exist? Apparently this is a subject that some feminists are struggling with, since they want to be feminists and still have chivalry be part of their lives. There’s even a suggested solution of how to combine the two apparent opposites:

In order to have a healthy, happy relationship, there needs to be equality in all aspects, including the chivalry.

Equality in the chivalry? If we have equality in the chivalry then it is no longer chivalry, it is simply ordinary politeness or thoughtfulness. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s keep our labels straight. The very point of chivalry is that it is the man’s way of showing respect for a woman by taking care of her physical safety, whether by fending off an attacker, or simply pulling out a chair. For a woman, the traditional way to repay chivalry is not by being chivalrous back, but to repay the man by being sweet or cooking some food for him. Chivalry is therefore an intrinsic part of traditional gender roles, and the concept is impossible to preserve it if you are for a society where men and women have exactly the same roles.

Does that mean that chivalry is dead in a society with gender equality? Not necessarily. If a society equates gender equality with gender sameness, then chivalry is indeed dead. Contemporary feminism usually claims that all differences between men and women are socially constructed, and that these difference need to be torn down. This ideology is completely incompatible with chivalry, however much young feminist women might want to combine the two concepts. If you are truly for gender sameness, then women do half of the dangerous jobs and take on as many physical risks as men, but this is routinely forgotten in our current gender discourse.

On the other hand, in a society where gender equality is a given, but where men and women are free to choose the livestyles and roles that they like, chivalry is still possible. Any couple that enjoys gender differences can preserve some differences in roles, and also acknowledge any innate differences that they feel are present. This means that some aspects of chivalry can exist, without being forced to accept the full package of past gender roles.  Traditional gender roles were strict, inflexible and unconsciously adopted. Consciously adopting some differences in roles in a romantic relationship is a whole different ballgame, but one that can be crucial for maintaining the spark and polarity needed in a successful long term relationship.

At the end of the day, if you want full equality between the sexes but want to retain some differences between yourself and your partner, then you can have the experience of chivalry to the extent that you are ready to accept those differences. However, if you want a gender equality that is based on gender sameness, then chivalry is out of the picture. Any young feminist who disagrees, is trying to have her cookie and eat it too.

More Misandry

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Apparently it is perfectly OK to speak of “dimwitted males” in a headline.

Would it be OK to write “dimwitted females”? Or would that be oppressive and patriarchal?

Finding Mr. Right

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

I found this very interesting article about Lori Gottlieb and her book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. In the book, Gottlieb makes the case that feminism no longer means equal rights and responsibilities, it’s come to mean something entirely different for many young women:

“A lot of women took a you-can-have-it-all attitude and called that feminism, which it’s not. They confused feminism with you can have it all [...]“

If women and men alike were confined to strict roles in the past, the women’s movement has certainly taught women that they no longer need to stay attached to the traditional female gender role, but instead are free to make the choices they want. Now, teaching women about their choices and allowing women to be responsible for their own lives is a good thing. If feminism were content with transmitting that message, then the only problem at our hands would be the lack of a masculist movement that allows men the exact same freedom and liberation.

However, feminism hasn’t been content with liberating women; it’s gone way beyond supporting women in a healthy way. It’s told women that they can have anything, do anything and that any man would be lucky to have them. While aspiring to greatness and having goals in your life is one thing, programming women to believe that they are automatically princesses or queens is quite another one, and it leads to the kind of narcissism displayed in Sex and the City:

In the movie, Samantha tells her terrific boyfriend, who stood by her through breast cancer, that she’s dumping him because “I love you but I love myself more.”

When Gottlieb saw the movie, the audience cheered that moment — a reaction that left her baffled

What kind of world have we created when young women cheer at a woman who coldly dumps the man who’s stood by her during her cancer? It’s not that Samantha should be forced to stay together with anyone, but in the absence of pathological narcissism, most people wouldn’t consider that a happy scene that deserves cheering.

The “you-go-girl” culture has also led to double standards between the sexes. Mistakingly believing that only women were oppressed in the past while men were not, has served as the excuse for supporting almost anything that young women do, while similar behaviors from men would never be accepted. As Gottlieb says about the example from Sex and the City:

“Reverse the genders (she sticks by him through a gruelling bout of prostate cancer; he bails!), and I’m betting the entire audience would have booed and called the guy a total ass.”

The double standard is glaringly obvious.

The main message of Gottlieb is that this kind of immature feminism-a kind of feminism that I believe to be based on faulty premises-not only hurts men, but it can also hurt women in substantial ways. Believing that you are a queen who can have anything she wants makes it very hard to find a mate, or to settle down and start a family. Gottlieb even sent out a survey, to get a rough idea of how young women and men view relationships and settling down:

The majority of single women … said that getting 80 per cent of what they wanted in a mate would be ‘settling.’ The majority of single men said finding a woman with 80 per cent of what they wanted would be ‘a catch.’

The men seem to be realists, while the women are living in some kind of fantasy land created by misguided feminism that teaches entitlement and narcissism, instead of achievement and welcoming love into your life. It’s one thing to demand to be treated well, and waiting to settle down until you find someone you truly care about, but it’s quite another one to believe that you are a princess who can and should have every little detail the way you want it.

Something that Gottlied does not address, but which I believe to be just as important as the delusions taught to young women, is that young men have been just as affected by contemporary feminism. Not through believing that they are kings or princes who have the right to whatever they want, but through being taught that being a man is something to be ashamed of, and that manhood is synonymous with oppression and violence.

Is this what the future will look like? Young women who believe that they are too good for almost all men, and young men who believe that they are intrinsically flawed. What kind of world are we creating?

Male Studies: A New Academic Discipline

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

It looks like the US will soon have its first male studies program at the university level, to complement the many women and gender studies programs that already exist. This is the summary on malestudies.org:

Leading scholars concerned about today’s men and boys will convene at Wagner College on Staten Island on April 7, 2010, to plan for a new academic discipline at the university level: Male Studies. The event, sponsored by The On Step Institute, will be hosted by Professor Miles Groth, PhD, Editor, The international Journal of Men’s Health and Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies. it will lay out the groundwork for the First International Conference on Male Studies scheduled for October 2010.

I would love to go to the event on April 7, but since I’m going to the US this summer, I don’t really have time to make another trip. The October Conference sounds mighty interesting though.

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And What If We Like It?

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

One of the key findings of the men’s movement is that defining feature of the male gender role is disposability. Throughout history, men have been expected to sacrifice their lives in wars, accidents and dangerous jobs. The influence men have had on society has invariably been coupled to this willingness to take on dangerous, heavy and dirty tasks that nobody really wants to perform. Helping men realize that being disposable is no longer necessary in modern and postmodern societies is a big step forward, and enables men to let go of the learned helpnessless that characterizes many men when they sacrifice their own life without knowing why. In some ways, there is a direct parallell here to the women’s movement helping women realize that they do not need to be housewives; instead they can work and earn their own living, just like men.

So far so good. But what happens if liberated men continue to choose jobs that are dangerous, and liberated women choose to stay at home with the kids (part-time or full-time)? Does this mean that we’ve gotten nowhere in our struggle to help liberate the sexes?

The distinction that needs to be made here is that truly realizing what options you have, and what choices you actually make, are two completely different things. If I know that I as a man do not have more of a responsibility to be a police officer than a women has, then I have been liberated from my gender role, regardless of whether I choose to actually be a police officer or not. Similarly, a woman has been liberated from her traditional gender role if she knows that she has every option to prioritize her career-even if she then proceeds to focus most of her time on having a family.

In my opinion, the reason that we even focus on the actual choices of the sexes to determine whether we have reached some sort of gender equality, is due to the fact that mainstream feminism has repeatedly taught us that we aren’t equal until women work as much as men do outside the home. This narrow focus on making the sexes identical, has very little to do with gender liberation. Gender equality need not mean gender sameness, regardless of what we have been led to believe.

There is a lot of work still to be done for the men’s movement. Men are still committing suicide far too often, most of the homeless are men, boys are performing badly in school, men are removed from their children after divorces, etc etc. But as we are working to change the conditions for men, let us not make the mistake of telling men how to behave, or what kind of lifestyle is “approved”. Feminism has already walked down that path once, and it simply doesn’t work.


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