“Imagine: a truly oppressed class living longer, happier lives than their oppressors!”
Well, first I guess we should say what we mean by a ‘feminist’. If we mean ‘someone who believes in ‘equal rights and opportunities for both women and men’, then I’m sure it would be hard to find anyone who disagrees with that, so we’d “all be feminists now”!
However, if we mean someone who believes in the all-pervasiveness of ‘the patriarchy’ as an instrument created by men to oppress women and to privilege themselves, then these are the ones I consider mistaken; the ones who consider that ‘everything is men’s fault’ and ‘men are bad’.
Having said that, it would probably be difficult to find anyone – men included – who don’t believe that society in the past favoured men and belittled women; and ‘soft’ feminists would be those who did not believe that ‘men are bad’ but believe that society still has some way to go before proper equality is established.
However, I think we’re all missing something here. While it’s true that many societies consisted of men ‘working’ and women ‘staying at home’, with people – both men and women – thinking that this was ‘as it should be’. Such societies were constructed, however – not to favour men and keep women down – but to protect and provide for the family.
And that’s it!
We forget that, until the Industrial Revolution, work was generally back-breaking, difficult, dangerous and bad enough for men to be doing, never mind women. So society, over 100,000 years, generally developed along the lines were men went out and did the hard labour and women stayed home and looked after the family. A classic division of labour: with one half bringing in resources and the other half using those resources to care for the family: a veritable partnership!
And it has been only very recently – the last 150 years or so – that this arrangement has begun to change. As society got richer; medicine improved; technology improved; towns grew and rural economies dwindled; with the tertiary economy of services growing at the expense of agriculture and now, to some extent, even manufacturing.
Suddenly, women can now do the same jobs (more or less) as men.
So it simply is not true that women were suppressed so that men could be all-powerful. Women were actually protected by men! Instead of having to work in the fields with a baby strapped to their backs, they could stay home and care for their families! While it was men who took all the risks and – literally – did all the hard work. Hard work that a woman simply could not do!
Therefore, the basic feminist premise of the ‘patriarchy’ is an illusion. Men generally don’t do better out of this arrangement. Men commit suicide more than women, have shorter lives, are more likely to be victims of violence than women (in fact, children are also more likely more likely to be victims than women).
As Karen Straughan once said, “Imagine: a truly oppressed class living longer, happier lives than their oppressors!”
So while some non-western societies (without the technological changes and advanced economies that western countries have) may be a little slow to get used to these new changes and may be reluctant – or perhaps less able – to let women take as full a role as they would like (e.g. in Saudi Arabia), I think most western societies have accepted that women may now enter the workforce on a par with men.
Ah, but what about pregnancy and looking after the family? Well, that’s another topic but, generally speaking, I’d say that that is for each family to decide for itself.
But the salary gap, the salary gap, I hear you say! Well that too is for another day but, let me let you in on another little secret: That too is another myth !