What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

5 things feminism has done for me

I have been tagged! In this matter I agree with Tersely that the task is impossible to solve if we understand 'feminism' in its broad sense. 'Feminism' is a term that covers many different, at times contradictory, ways of thinking. It is an 'ism' and an 'ism' in itself does not really do anything to anyone.

However, I see one way of providing meaningful answers. That is to understand feminism as two particular periods of political activism in the Western world. The first being the suffragette movement in the 1910s. The second being the women's movement in the 1970s. So here goes the not-so-surprising-answers:

Five things feminism has done for me

1. I have the legal right to vote. In Denmark women won voting right in 1915.
2. I can be participate in society and political life without having to struggle with an attitude like this: "I have a mother, and I have a wife and a sister and daughters, and I wish to continue in the position of their supporter and their protector [Â…] I do not wish them to have extended to them the right not only to vote, but to sit in this Chamber. It is man's duty to be here, and it is woman's duty to attend to the family." (this was said by William Knox in an Australian House of Assembly debate in 1902. More interesting quotes at the Parliament of Australia web page)
3. I do not depend on father, brother or husband for economic support.
4. I have the legal right to abortion. Since 1972 Denmark there has been free abortion in Denmark.
5. That I can have a relationship where it is me and my partner, and not tradition, who decide which duties belong to whom.

I pass the question on to Mig og Verden, Morten Sørensen, European Scribbler, Klumbs Univers and Åbenlys Urimelig. If you are up for answering feel free to define feminism in another way than I have done.

9 comments:

Hans Side said...

5. That I can have a relationship where it is me and my partner, and not tradition, who decide which duties belong to whom.

Not really.

Feminism has replaced tradition with a political ideal.

At least, the tradition had been evolving and adapting to our nature for hundreds of years - thus it contained wisdom.

The feminist ideal, that all duties should be shared 50 / 50, is just as constraining - if not more.

And it contains no wisdom, whatsoever. It is simply an abstract political ideal.

It also overrules the rationality of the 'division of labour' and our freedom to make contracts as we please, thus infantilising women, assuming they do not have the strength or wit to get a fair deal with their partners by themselves.

I live in spain and the socialist / feminist government has been removing the freedom to make a voluntary contract between two partners.

Now there is a feminist law in place here. By entering marriage you sign a contract that obligates you to share all duties 50 / 50.

The lwa is that rigid. It does not care about the particular circumstances, whether or not the man, for example, works the double outside the home or not, he has to take 50 percent of housework.

So what you try to accredit to feminism, is actually being taken away by feminists.

Feminism does NOT allow us to live as we want. It does not allow us to make our own contracts that fit our particular circumstances, needs, abilities and so on as individuals.

Wake up, feminism is a political ideal not a liberatory movement.

Feminism is being used to take away our fundamental freedoms.

Feminism is being used as an excuse for government to extend its powers well into the ex-privacy of our homes.

R. said...

I live in spain and the socialist / feminist government has been removing the freedom to make a voluntary contract between two partners.

Now there is a feminist law in place here. By entering marriage you sign a contract that obligates you to share all duties 50 / 50.


In the case of marriages in Spain I support affirmative action. As it is now the majority of unpaid housework is being done by women (also in Denmark - but to a larger extent in Spain) and taking initiatives that take the free housework away from women and hereby give them the opportunity to spend their time on the labour market instead I have no problem with. I see this law as an attempt to 'break' a strong tradition of binding women to the home (and also of keeping men away from home and family!).

Sadly, I think there is still a long way to go for Spain and I imagine this law will be more a political signal than something that will change the lives of citizens (at least not for the moment).

However, I would not find such a law necessary in Denmark. We have culturally and system-wize (daycare and better arrangements with respect to parental leave) managed to escape the traditional distribution of work between men and women more successfully than Spain. That is what feminism has done for me.

Wake up, feminism is a political ideal not a liberatory movement.

As mentioned I find it a strange task to evaluate how a political ideal has made impact on my life. What has socialism done for me? Or liberalism?

But even if we understand feminism as a political ideal (here the idea that women and men should have equal rights in society) it puzzles me that you keep claiming that feminism has had no liberatory effect. Has providing women with the right to vote not been a liberation for, at least, half of the Danish population?

Feminism is being used as an excuse for government to extend its powers well into the ex-privacy of our homes.

That comes across as somewhat paranoid to me. I could then claim that liberalism is just an excuse for big multinational companies to get rid of the state and its regulations. I don't think many liberals would understand their ideology like that.

Anonymous said...

What about third wave feminism?

Hans Side said...

r.

We agree men and women should have equal rights.

But equal rights does not mean men and women will be doing the same things.

Men and women ought to have the right to choose what they want to do. They ought not be pressed into a political ideal which does not fit their natures.

Also you seem to think the goal (the artificial political ideal of 50 / 50 distributions) justifies any means.

This way of thought is dangerous and leads to totalitarianism.

r. how much freedom and privacy and free speech are you willing to give up to realize your political ideal?

R. said...

Hans Side

Men and women ought to have the right to choose what they want to do. They ought not be pressed into a political ideal which does not fit their natures.

If I understand this right you basically think men, by nature, are best suited to work and participate in public life whereas women are naturally more fit when it comes to taking care of the children and the home. Hence, house wifes and stay-at-home-mothers are just women living out their natural potentials?

If this is your opinion I am sure many would have agreed with you on that 100 years ago. Today the common perception of the sexes and their God-given attributes is luckily more in line with reality.

Also you seem to think the goal (the artificial political ideal of 50 / 50 distributions) justifies any means.

I am definitely not of the opinion that the achievement of gender equality justifies any means. In my previous comment I wrote that in the particular case of marriages in Spain I support the 50/50 law. And after stating my support for the Spanish regulation I followed up by saying that I would not support a similar initiative in Denmark.

This way of thought is dangerous and leads to totalitarianism.

Initiatives like the Spanish are not unusual in well-functioning democracies. Norway, for example, practices affirmative action with respect to women in top management. In Iceland parental leave is by law divided between the sexes. Implicating, a minimum requirement for fathers (I think it is around 30-40 % of the full parental leave). Very, very few people would accuse Norway or Iceland of being anywhere near totalitarianism.

r. how much freedom and privacy and free speech are you willing to give up to realize your political ideal?

The Spanish case is not a matter of less freedom but of more. Freedom for the individual by allowing her/him to escape the ties of traditional gender roles. Freedom for the individual woman to leave some of the free house work behind and pursue other goals in life. Freedom for individual man to be a father and a more vital part of family life.

With respect to your claim about free speech I fail to see the connection to topic at hand.

R. said...

@anonymous:

I recently read a definition of third wave feminism as the grrls-movement (which I am not alltogether sure what is! It was also referred to as 'lipstick-feminism' - even more confusing!) but what I normally understand as third wave is the queer movement. So I hope that is what you aim for?

So what has the queer movement done for me? The third wave has not had as substantial influence on my life as the first and second wave (most likely because it is the most recent one) but here goes:

6. The queer movement has brought to my attention how pervasive 'heterosexual twosomeness' is as a norm in society. It has made me aware to what (great) extent the high priority and preferential treatment of the nuclear family (man, woman and children) devaluate and marginalize other life styles and alternative types of communities.

Hans Side said...

If I understand this right you basically think men, by nature, are best suited to work and participate in public life whereas women are naturally more fit when it comes to taking care of the children and the home. Hence, house wifes and stay-at-home-mothers are just women living out their natural potentials?

What I think would be of no consequence under a truly individualistic system.

My point is that, the politcal idea that men and women would distribute themselves so that within every professional field there would be exactly 50 percent men and 50 percent women if they were free to follow their inclinations is wrong.

And it is just as far away from reality as were the traditional beleifs.

Why do you want so much affirmative action?

It must be because it is more important to get nice numbers on the paper. 50 / 50 looks so symmetrical, but men and women differ on interets and the actual distributions should reflect this.

Do you not see that having 50 percent males in a field where they would only make up 30 percent if following their inclinations is just as wrong as having only 10 percent. The same goes for women.

Of course if men and women are not just equal, but exactly alike, we need to look for structural explanations.

But this leads to a paradox. If men and women are exactly alike how did these 'imbalances' establish themselves in the first place?

Hans Side said...

The Spanish case is not a matter of less freedom but of more. Freedom for the individual by allowing her/him to escape the ties of traditional gender roles. Freedom for the individual woman to leave some of the free house work behind and pursue other goals in life. Freedom for individual man to be a father and a more vital part of family life.

Hans Side said...

The Spanish case is not a matter of less freedom but of more. Freedom for the individual by allowing her/him to escape the ties of traditional gender roles. Freedom for the individual woman to leave some of the free house work behind and pursue other goals in life. Freedom for individual man to be a father and a more vital part of family life.

Have you ever read '1984' by George Orwell?

Calling the Spanish governmental replacement of every couple's own right to freely make any kind of contract with regard to how they wish to share work contributing to the family collective with a state sanctioned, inflexible, irrational, abstract political ideal 'more freedom' reminds me of the Party line freedom is slavery.

In fact what the Spanish government has done is to replace flexibility and freedom with an abstract principle that cannot take into consideration the particulars of the reality of couples living in the actual world.

Before the law, you could have a household where the woman had a career and had to do a lot of work out of the house, and the husband was working less out of the home, so the natural and rational thing to do was for the man to do more work in the house than the woman.

Now this kind of common sense has been replaced with a state sanctioned irrationality.

This is one of my biggest problems with today's feminism.

The use State Power to impose their own ideals on everybody.

My proposal is this:

You want to split everything in your household fifty-fifty, fine, go ahead and do so.

But please, do not use the State to impose this on me.

I will (most likely) never marry here in spain because of this law.

On more thing. Fifty-fifty division is also not economical because it removes the benefits that arise from the principle of 'the division of labour.'

Practically, this means that societies instilling these silly policies will not be able to compete with more rational societies so in the end such policies are self-defeating.