Part Three: Politics
Much is made of the fact that women are underrepresented in the upper echelons of politics and business. There are discussions of glass ceilings in the business world, and systemic societal sexism, all conspiring--either purposefully or incidentally--to keep women from these spheres of power and influence.
I once sarcastically posed the question, "I mean, what woman wouldn't
want to work in a logging camp, living in a barracks in the middle of nowhere away from your family two weeks out of every three, toiling from sun-up to sundown in inclement weather, facing a daily risk of injury or death orders of magnitude higher than most other jobs? Sign me up!"
Considering the nature of the job and the sacrifices one must make with respect to personal and family life, no one questions the underrepresentation of women in these
kinds of positions.
And while political office is very different than cutting down trees for a living, much of the reason women are not flocking to politics in the west is largely due to these same calculations of effort, reward, sacrifice and risk. Being elected to congress may be a more influential, prestigious and financially rewarding position than working in a logging camp, and one that is probably less likely to get you maimed or killed on the job, however, the sacrifices necessary for either job are much the same. Both positions require a great deal of putting work before family, and may mean not being in the same room with your children for weeks at a time.
Moreover, both positions come with enormous risk--not as many trees fall on political candidates as on loggers, but the weight of media scrutiny into one's life, and the ever-present understanding that all your efforts could well be for naught come election day...these are considerations everyone makes before entering the political sphere. For women more often than for men, the risk and sacrifice of running for office is simply too high. And women cannot get elected to public office if they do not run for public office.
Because political office is an elected position, the number of women elected is based almost entirely on freedom of choice. First, on an individual woman's decision to run for office, and second, on the electorate's collective decision to elect her. In both cases, women have a great deal of power. Practically any woman can throw her hat in the ring, and women comprise the majority of voters in virtually every election since who knows when.
However, much is often made of the fact that when women DO run, they are less likely to be elected. It is often observed that both women and men do not trust women in positions of leadership and power.
I'd actually be quite interested in seeing some data on a woman's likelihood of being elected when she does choose to run. That is, if women make up 13% of congresspeople, and also make up 13% of the candidates running for congress, can any real argument be made that gender discrimination--either institutionalized or in the minds of voters--is at work?
But let's approach the issue of both men and women holding sexist assumptions with respect to women in politics as if it's a fact. The first question we must ask is why
do these assumptions exist?
I've often been told that perception is reality. We must perceive our leaders as strong, capable and responsible. And while patriarchal assumptions of Women as having none
of these qualities may still linger in many of us, what is being done to counter these assumptions, and what is being done to reinforce them? Is feminism helping Women in this respect, or is it hurting them?
Feminism takes great pains to tell us all that Women are strong, capable, responsible, accountable, intelligent, ambitious, and worthy of authority, leadership and trust.
But perception is reality, isn't it? And what else does feminism tell society?
Feminism tells us that Women are disadvantaged, need help and protection, can't make it on their own merits but need artificial measures put in place if they are to succeed.
These two agendas work at cross-purposes in the hearts and minds of the public. If there is a lingering sexist societal "why" behind the underrespresentation of women in politics, it absolutely does have something to do with most of feminism's focus on Women as disadvantaged members of society who are in need of protection and supports if they are even to survive their own lives.
Let's look at VAWA first, because VAWA is in the news right now, and as recently as a week ago, people with intellectual authority as feminists
spoke in favor of keeping it exactly as it is. The gender-profiling in VAWA works against women in two ways.
First, it gives everyone the impression that Women are weaker and more submissive and timid than Men, and that Women are prone to making poor decisions--like staying with an abuser--unless there are supports and assistance and measures in place to not only make it easier for her to leave an abuser, but to even convince her that leaving is a good idea.
Add in Women-only scholarships, ministries and congressional committees on the status of Women, social safety nets aimed solely at Women, and the constant focus on the oppression (both macro and microscale) of Women makes it seem like women as a group aren't capable of even functioning in our society without help. And just as our experience with the men we know can run counter to our perceptions of Men as a group or an abstract social entity, our personal experience with strong, intelligent, responsible, capable women does not always inform our perceptions of Women as a group.
If I bought into feminist ideas of oppression of Women, I wouldn't trust women in positions of power, either. Someone who is too weak or foolish to leave an abusive husband, someone who focusses constantly on their disadvantage and how they are kept down, someone who whines about oppression of women in North America (especially when oppression of women is not the norm for the middle class women who talk about it the most), is not someone I would trust to be a strong, capable, rational leader.
Second, VAWA's exclusion of men from its protections and benefits only reinforces the idea that Men (as a group) would be better for the job of running a government than Women (as a group). Because in reality, men are just as likely to be abused as women, just as likely to stay in abusive relationships, are just as in need of help, and just as foolish in their decisions. But we don't see them that way, do we? Not as a group, or an abstract social entity. We see them as capable of taking care of themselves, of succeeding (or failing) on their own merits, and of being responsible for their own decisions no matter how bad those decisions are.
VAWA, and much of feminist thought and activism, also demonizes male dominance. But by demonizing it, they only emphasize it. If Men are the oppressors in our society, well, oppressors are strong. The oppressed are weak. Weakness is not an attractive characteristic in a leader, is it?
Men are seen as strong and capable because they must be in our society. The objective Truth is a little different from our perception, though. Men are indeed oppressed and disadvantaged in many ways, and need help and support in many ways, but we don't see it because no one--especially feminists--is willing to acknowledge it. In this regard, because not only are Men forced to succeed without artificial help or support, but even the weakest, most unsuccessful of men are simply seen as not needing anything from the rest of us, well, we have an impression that Men are strong, capable, have merit, and would be good leaders.
The same gendered perceptions of Men and Women that inform the entirety of VAWA are what tell us all as a society that Men are capable leaders and Women are not.
Now let's look at the Skepchick elevator debacle, and how this informs public perceptions of Men and Women. Here we have a million people talking constantly about the oppression of Women in a society where that oppression simply isn't a concrete reality for most white, middle class women today.
Hell, if even an intelligent, white, successful, fairly privileged woman can't stand to be hit on (maybe) in an elevator without it turning into a huge internet kerfuffle over how being in an elevator with a man is scary enough even when he doesn't speak...how the hell is she going to survive a televised political debate? She felt threatened, a feeling which she is entitled to, but that feeling was not only informed by her perceptions of Men as aggressive and dominant and dangerous, but by her own perceptions of Women (and herself) as defenceless, small, powerless, in need of protection and incapable of even keeping themselves safe. Hundreds of people--mostly feminists--chimed in that it was entirely appropriate for her to feel this way. That is, hundreds of people chimed in to agree that Women are defenceless, small, powerless, in need of protection and incapable of even keeping themselves safe.
Contrast this to our perceptions and expectations of Men. Men, even though they are twice as likely to be victims of violent assaults, are not perceived in this way. A man in Rebecca Watson's position in an elevator may have felt the same level of threat, but he'd be expected to just deal with it. Why? Because Men are strong, capable, and responsible for taking care of themselves, even if an individual man might feel the same level of fear and be facing the same amount of objective physical risk in a given situation.
The fact that this ridiculously small incident caused the uproar it did, with everyone now talking about how scared Women are as a class, how in need of extra consideration and protection they are...all this did was reinforce that Women do not have the necessary mettle to be out and about at 4 AM, let alone be leaders.
And then Richard Dawkins essentially told her to pull up her big girl panties. And the shit hit the fan.
Rather than be able to accept that some people disagree with her and believe she's making a huge deal over nothing much, she called for a boycott of his books. Someone disagreed with her and had the temerity to say so, and in response, she rounded up as many bullies as she could in a determined effort to ruin his career. She could not win her debate with him on her own persuasiveness and the merits of her argument, so she called in the marines and took him down. And hundreds of people--most of them feminists--agreed with her position.
How on earth can someone like Rebecca Watson she be trusted in a position of real power? What little power and intellectual authority she had as a speaker within the Atheist community...she arguably abused this power to punish someone for exercising his right to free speech. He disagreed with her, therefore his career should be destroyed. What would she have done if she had the authority of office and government resources to do her bullying for her?
And that hundreds of feminists agreed with and supported the boycott--"If you can't persuade him, destroy him!"--only reinforces whatever lingering patriarchal perceptions we have in society of Women as irrational, prone to emotion, vindictive when scorned, and eager to get others to fight their battles for them...and none of these qualities make for a good leader, either, do they? And yet these are exactly the qualities many feminists--both male and female--supported and reinforced as reasonable and applicable to Women when they threw their weight behind Rebecca Watson and her boycott.
So while feminism makes a great effort to tell us that Women are strong, capable, responsible, accountable, intelligent, ambitious, and worthy of authority, leadership and trust, much of what feminism does in its efforts to help and protect women tells us exactly the opposite.
And while many people will indeed believe what they are told, most of us form our view of the world and how it works through integrating a multitude of messages that come at us from all directions. And in many cases, through its advocacy and activism, feminism itself has done nothing so well as to convince us that our old-world patriarchal assumptions are correct, and that Women are not fit to be leaders.
"Someone who is too weak or foolish to leave an abusive husband, someone who focusses constantly on their disadvantage and how they are kept down..."ReplyDelete
Someone who is entirely focused on her own benefit, security and safety over the needs of others would not just make a crappy leader, but a tyrannical one.
That's the view of women feminism is promoting. That women don't owe anyone anything ever.
Would you want to have someone like that have any power at all?
I hadn't heard of the Watson "elevator incident" kerfuffle. Just spent an hour reading up on it. Yikes.ReplyDelete
If Watson hadn't complained the invitation was "sexualizing" her I would have no problem with a complaint that she was sleepy and annoyed someone wanted her to stay awake longer. People are annoying at cons in many ways, asking for autographs, &c.
But sometimes coffee is just coffee. I have a story:
I called a friend visiting my city to arrange a meeting place for our previously-asked-for 'first real date' the next day, and she asked if I wanted to meet her *now* instead- it was 2am and she was in her hotel room. I told her no, and my friend who overheard this said, "You just turned down a booty call!". I've known her for a long time and knew it wasn't, but she had no idea that many guys would interpret it that way.
She and elevator guy were only guilty of being a bit naive.
Hey GWW, saw you on youtube and I love your videos however I think you failed to realize how feminism hates women that are well, like you. Against feminism or traditionalists or just right-winged in general. They only support women if they fit their mold of "real pure womanhood" and not "patriarchy enablers" like Margaret Thatcher, Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin. They basically only think left woman matter.ReplyDelete
Just some thought, no hate intended best wishes.
The Envenomed Ungulate