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Once again on feminism

August 2, 2012

Recently, unlike before, I have somehow been coming across a lot of wordpress blog posts on feminisms, and so many healthy and some unhealthy discussions in the comment section. I would like to believe that maybe we are in a new age of intellectual revolution and wordpress is playing a part in it by providing a ground for such voices to be heard. Miriam’s freshly pressed blog on Yahoo’s New Female CEO stirred in me yet again a drive to let out what I feel about this issue.

I have been a feminist all my life, and seriously I find it surprising how any intellectual and rational person cannot be one. I don’t find it necessary to go into explaining why and how I am a feminist despite a lot of derogatory connotations associated with that word and a plethora of negative stereotypes attached to the people that word refers to. This doesn’t bother me because over the course of time I have observed that most adults are very resistant to change. It’s very unlikely that through my argument here I will be changing a sexist person into a feminist, or a humanitarian. Most probably all my article will be able to do is to preach to the choir.  However, the best I can hope to achieve out of this is to not let young minds (if there are any reading this blog) that are yet to be instilled with polluted ideas on gender stereotypes to spiral into the same type of ignorance. Most importantly, I don’t want any young feminist souls to feel alone as I often did while growing up despite an immense support from my sister, who is also a feminist.

I vividly remember the days when I was a young teenager bullied by my classmates for having a short hair. There were days when it would go off the limit, not only would I be called a boy, but some would even say that I didn’t belong to either of the gender. Sure, I did understand what they were trying to imply, and yes it did hurt. But what used to hurt the most was understanding that the world around me had such petty ideas on freedom, choices, and most importantly what being a specific gender entails. There used to be times when I simply wanted to grow my hair, but I refused to do so for the fear of being deemed as a loser in my own eyes. A lot of people comply to the rules that are set up by the society, and they have fear that’s opposite of mine – they often fear to go against the society’s idea of what it means to be a man and a woman. However, being a rebel that I was, I chose an entirely different route, and in choosing that route I was also compromising my happiness in a very peculiar way. I am a feminist because I don’t believe that I should have been forced to make such compromise, and a lot of other women who simply act “womanish” by society’s standard to act that way. Those days, I used to seek out in every human a part that was feminist, and it was rather disappointing how difficult it was to find people that could relate to my concerns. If it was not for my sister, and very few feminists whose books I came across, or whose column in newspapers that I happened to see, my soul might have been crushed.

We often let go of the choices that are made by some people that are not favorable to women or a specific group with a pretense that they are simply exercising their freedom. However, freedom is a very complex idea. Can we really be completely autonomous and enjoy an absolute freedom when what we have become as an individual is so heavily dependent on the environment, and the society that we’ve been brought up in? Sure, everyone in a similar environment doesn’t grow up to be identical. Everyone assimilates the information from the society in a different way and that makes every individual unique. Nonetheless, it won’t be surprising that people get predisposed to certain ideas that have been bombarded to them since their birth. The way our society is structured, ever since our birth, everything we do, and every choices we make, in one way or the other, is so heavily dependent on our genders. Bear in mind that most of these are not natural rules that nature chooses for us, but rather human made rules that we as a society chose a long time ago and continue to choose them. As for example, there is no solid reason why women should continue to have longer hair than men, or only women should be wearing makeup, or why men cannot wear nice flowery skirts, why a girl child should only play with certain types of toys etc. Are these human made rules about what being a man or a woman means enough for us to crucify some people for simply enjoying their freedom to be who they want to be?

Just as how freedom is important aspect of survival, so is self-esteem. It’s not simply enough that the choices we make in our lives are what we perceive as independent ones, they have to be respectful choices for both ourselves and others. Isn’t this the argument that’s made for not giving choices to people to commit suicides and making drugs illegal in so many places, even though it’s their own body that they are abusing/violating? However, why is it okay for women to willingly compromise in so many aspects of their lives, and be the victim of the rudimentary customs and traditions simply in the name of enjoying free will? Would all those women be making similar choices if there was no societal pressure to act certain way, if they didn’t have a fear of being a social pariah on making particular choices, if they didn’t have to choose between having a good relationship and having a successful career, or if they didn’t have to choose between being athletic and being perceived beautiful?

The answer is not that easy after all.  By asking all these questions, I am in no way blaming men alone for creating such a difficult scenario for women. I can’t deny that there are a lot of generalizations made about men as well that are also very limiting, and sometimes completely wrong, and offensive. It would be hypocritical and, in my belief, against any ‘true feminist’ ideology to place all the blames alone on men’s shoulders because by doing so we’d be tacitly implying that women were not capable of making changes that had to be made. I believe that it’s not a matter of having an ability or a lack of one, rather it’s a matter of having a willingness and a lack of one. There are several reasons that impact on our willingness to change the status-quo. Out of these reasons, as I’ve discussed in this article is that we (both men and women) are unwilling to give up the perks of some of these stereotypes. If only we were willing to open up our eyes, and approach these issues with logic rather than baseless arguments, maybe we’d be able to see the world as it is. If only we were willing to see a person as an individual rather than a man and a woman, we’d truly be able to appreciate how unique each individual is. If only we didn’t narrow down a person’s existence into baseless generalizations on the specific group they belong to, maybe we’d be able to see things as they are. Aren’t really our differences as individuals, and similarities as human beings greater than our differences between, and similarities within groups?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 10:39 pm

    “I have been a feminist all my life, and seriously I find it surprising how any intellectual and rational person cannot be one.”

    Aka, people who disagree with me are stupid and irrational.

    Female happiness has gone down sharply since feminism appeared, so i can’t see any reason why every woman would want to be a feminist. Many are much worse off.

    “Aren’t really our differences as individuals, and similarities as human beings greater than our differences between, and similarities within groups?”

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2003-08-28-our-view_x.htm

    Mostly female teachers agree with you, and so teach everyone like they are female. The result has been mass drugging of uncooperative male students, mass dropouts, and vastly inferior academic results.

    “One reason boys are losing academic ground to girls appears linked to a shift by schools to more word-based learning for which girls’ brains are believed to have an advantage. Over the years, even math problems have become more word oriented, according to education researchers. But because schools are doing little to help boys adjust, males risk becoming second-class academic citizens. Already the academic success girls enjoy in high school translates into more college acceptances — 56% of the students on campuses are female.

    The full impact from this shift is something society has yet to discover. But a drop in earnings for males is one likely result. Workers with only a high school diploma earn $20,000 a year less than those with a bachelor’s degree.

    One fact explains why educators are ignoring boys’ needs: You can’t address a problem that you don’t admit exists. The U.S. Department of Education concedes that no serious research is available comparing different instructional methods that might help boys. In fact, many education researchers are hostile toward research aimed at exploring gender differences in learning.

    Last April, when Kenneth Dragseth, superintendent of schools in Edina, Minn., presented a paper describing his district’s gender gap at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, he says the reception ranged from chilly to hostile. Female education researchers in the audience questioned whether helping boys would mean hurting girls.”

    To those female education researchers, a woman is a person but a man is not. I wonder if they were feminists.

    • August 3, 2012 1:51 am

      “Aka, people who disagree with me are stupid and irrational.”
      -Yes, about certain things like saying that women deserve same rights as men, if there are people who don’t agree with that then they are surely stupid and irrational.

      “Female happiness has gone…”
      -What are you basing these claims on? How can you speak for the entire female population? What makes you believe that female happiness has gone down because of the advent of feminism? Are you arguing that being blissfully ignorant equates to happiness?

      “Mostly female teachers…”
      -This claim sounds very absurd. I would put little faith into an opinion article with scarce or no references to actual scientific study. Our education system from the very beginning was already more suitable for men. So, it doesn’t make sense how you are trying to portray men as a victim over here. The point here is not to make the education system suitable only for women, but for EVERYONE. A person who is already good at math should not be hindered by extra information they are provided through word.

      Being a PhD student in a field that is dominated by men (Physics) with mostly male teachers, I don’t see how your argument about word based math problems being only suitable for women makes sense either. In Physics, it’s not just enough for us to write down the math, but we have to equally be able to explain the logical steps and the application of the math to the real world. And doing all these word based math problem is how all the great Physicists and Mathematicians alike (predominantly male) reached where they did. But if you are arguing that the female brain is more suitable for this kind of critical thinking then you should be advocating for more women to go into the fields of maths/science.

      If, however, you (they) are arguing that ‘word based’ simply meant ‘easier’ then that is a failing of our education system and the inadequacy of most teachers in teaching both men and women.

      Anyway, I am not going to pick apart an opinion article that is completely baseless from the start. Also, I find your last statement implying feminists are people, who don’t consider men as human, to be very offensive and perpetuating the negative stereotypes about feminists. If anyone claiming to be a feminist would argue against men’s right or argue that men are not people, then I’d be arguing AGAINST them. If you read my article clearly, you should have understood this. Feminism is not about hating men, it’s about being able to enjoy the same kind of freedom, rights, and responsibilities that every other human being is able to enjoy irrespective of your gender.

      I encourage healthy discussion in my blog. This will be the one and only comment of this kind that I will entertain with a response in my blog since you didn’t even take time to understand clearly where I was coming from before posting baseless arguments. My point of writing this article was not to hear everyone’s preconceived notions on the “evils of feminism”. It would have been appreciated if you had any feedbacks on the ACTUAL statements I wrote.

      • August 3, 2012 5:37 am

        “-Yes, about certain things like saying that women deserve same rights as men, if there are people who don’t agree with that then they are surely stupid and irrational.”

        Feminists don’t tend to campaign for equal rights.

        http://feminist.org/hot_topics/AffordableCareActAndWomen/index.htm

        They often campaign for different rights based on gender- for example healthcare rights for female only medical things like pregnancy. They campaign on a wide variety of issues where they seek different treatment for men and women. Some of those issues are controversial, and so people disagree.

        You say you work in a sciency field? It’s quite common for quotas to be imposed in jobs, a requirement for a certain number of women to be gotten. People disagree on which fields this is fair to do, based on differences in the distribution of traits between genders such as physical strength or mathematical ability. Is it fair to impose gender quotas on jobs like fire fighting, where high physical strength is required?

        Also, with women’s right to not have to compromise on looks or a job, there has been a strong feminist push to do that. They’ve sought to give more flexibility to women in their jobs (and so less reliability) with equal pay. They’ve sought rather ineffectually to get men to change their minds on what they find attractive, but that hasn’t worked well. Both measures are controversial. Maybe because babies are important it’s reasonable to pay them to take time off work to have babies, but it’s hardly equal.

        http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic457678.files/WomensHappiness.pdf

        This article goes in detail into female happiness and its decline.

        Second wave feminism was started by Betty Friedman writing the The Feminine Mystique and saying that feminism was the solution to women’s unhappiness. Women understandably expected an increase in feminism to lead to happier lives. Didn’t happen. More women had careers but women with careers aren’t happier.

        You talked about how many women don’t want to give up their privileges. Maybe that’s because they are happier with them. Less men are willing to offer such privileges now to women because of the equality.

        “It would have been appreciated if you had any feedbacks on the ACTUAL statements I wrote.”

        You noted your struggles with the education system. In the modern era guys struggle with the education system a lot more. The education system is pretty supportive of women with short hair who want to be physicists now. I often see a woman in science group or see advertisements trying to get women in something or other.

        In becoming more supportive of women it has become much more hostile to men though. I think it’s worth seeing what actually happens when mostly female teachers try to be gender neutral.

        “Our education system from the very beginning was already more suitable for men. So, it doesn’t make sense how you are trying to portray men as a victim over here.”

        While in the past the education system was hostile to women, it’s changed a lot. To give a potent example.

        http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2011-30100-001

        Far more men than women are diagnosed with ADHD and are given ritalin, a psychostimulant drug similar to cocaine that causes brain damage. Men are victims if they look out of the window or fidget more than women and are diagnosed with ADHD and are given a dangerous drug.

        “In Physics, it’s not just enough for us to write down the math, but we have to equally be able to explain the logical steps and the application of the math to the real world.”

        That emphasis on the process is now more important than finding the correct answer in schools. It’s more important to explain how you did something and talk about different methods than find the correct answer. Women tend to have superior communication skills, and so do better. Men do better at writing down the maths and getting the answer though.

        I remember in our maths exam long ago on the big maths questions (8 or so marks) you only tended to get one or two marks for getting the answer.

        “And doing all these word based math problem is how all the great Physicists and Mathematicians alike (predominantly male) reached where they did.”

        Einstein would have done badly in our school system because he sucked at word based problems. Do you think he was a great Physicist?

        “I rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterward.”- Einstein

        Many physicists didn’t reach that point by word based problems, they reached it by maths based problems.

        ” Also, I find your last statement implying feminists are people, who don’t consider men as human, to be very offensive and perpetuating the negative stereotypes about feminists.”

        I was not implying all feminists are anti male. Many are supportive of men and women, seeking simply gender neutrality.

        If those women i quoted were feminists though, they certainly weren’t. The education system is rather anti-male.

        “If anyone claiming to be a feminist would argue against men’s right or argue that men are not people, then I’d be arguing AGAINST them.”

        Good.

    • skuvin permalink
      August 3, 2012 7:08 am

      Ytakery, I don’t know what you are talking about. I grew up in this modern education system and I think whatever view you have is skewed by some personal agenda. It is clear from your second reply that what you mean by “word based” math is most certainly “easier” math and this is a failing of the education system at many levels. Not requiring the right answer and being able to talk bullshit to get through a problem with high points is not an advantage to women and a disadvantage exclusively to men. It is certainly a disadvantage to the education process for both men and women and an advantage in the sense that more and more people (male or female) pass classes. What this is doing is producing ineffective members of society of both sexes.

      Its from my personal experience going through middle school and high school in this 21st century in the US that there are still pointless gender-role influences which permeate through the school system(at an administrative and peer level) preventing some women from successfully integrating into science and math fields. You make this statement that the modern school system makes it easier for girls? I just can’t relate to this statement. In my AP physics class in high school we had a pretty even split of men and women. Of them the only people I know to go into a science related field were myself and one woman. I happen to know that she worked her ass off to get through that class and she continues to work like hell getting her degree in engineering, with plans to go to MIT for grad school. We both are where we are due to hard work and not because the system made it easier for her. If anything my Physics teacher, who was female, was easier on me since she just assumed that I knew the material cause I could grasp the material easily (and not because I’m a man). This doesn’t fit with your picture of a hostile environment towards men. I can’t even think of a single teacher I had growing up that would have identified remotely with this outdated “radical feminist” picture that you have painted.

      If I understand correctly are you blaming the diagnosing of ADHD in young boys to some sort of feminist conspiracy? This is quite outrageous I think. In some cases this is a very serious diagnosis and treatment is necessary (I do agree that more alternatives to drugs like ritalin should be sought) and in other cases its perhaps just that young boys these days are overstimulated, lazy, and lack discipline and focus for many different reasons. If more young boys are being diagnosed then maybe you shouldn’t see it as a conspiracy but rather that perhaps young girls are able to better deal with all of the external distractions we have in this digital age and are able to still focus on their studies (or whatever else they want to focus on). It seems to me like you have put together a distorted view on the problems this nation faces and look past the real problems like the growing positive sentiments towards anti-intellectualism and the complacency people have towards corporate influence in the government at all levels.

      • August 3, 2012 4:23 pm

        “Not requiring the right answer and being able to talk bullshit to get through a problem with high points is not an advantage to women and a disadvantage exclusively to men. It is certainly a disadvantage to the education process for both men and women and an advantage in the sense that more and more people (male or female) pass classes.”

        To bullshit, you have to have good communication skills and understand how feelings work. It’s hard to talk about how the number six makes you feel if you feel if you have poor communication skills, as many men do.

        It’s more than that though. Modern maths problems are lot more wordy and a lot less mathematical than past problems. They talk about complex situations and have lots of confusing social issues to work through and distract students. Both genders are screwed over, but men more than women.

        “If anything my Physics teacher, who was female, was easier on me since she just assumed that I knew the material cause I could grasp the material easily (and not because I’m a man).”

        It is fairly normal for teachers to give more help and criticism to women than men. As long as you are exceptionally smart and have the right mindset, as you two were that is fine. The issue tends to be more with less good students who need an excellent teacher.

        Likewise, the author of this blog is likely exceptionally intelligent and good at studying. Gender based physics aid and quotas are more important for less intelligent females with issues at school.

        “If I understand correctly are you blaming the diagnosing of ADHD in young boys to some sort of feminist conspiracy? ”

        Feminists sought to reform schools to make them more favorable to women. More men were then diagnosed with ADHD and disorders. I am blaming them for not caring much about men. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a lack of appreciation for normal variation among males.

        They talk a lot about how accepting they are of men who wear makeup, men who wear dresses, men who want to be more feminine. There is much talk about how gender differences are due to socialization. That normally means a lack of appreciation for gender differences where men do masculine things.

        http://www.livescience.com/15555-schools-cut-recess-learning-suffers.html

        ” When Deborah Gilboa’s second-oldest son Nadav started coming home from first grade with discipline warnings from his teacher, Gilboa and her husband were perplexed. Nadav, who had just turned 6, had the same teacher in kindergarten and had rarely gotten into trouble.

        So Gilboa, a family medicine doctor in Pittsburgh who consults at askdoctorg.com, and her husband sat down to ask their son what was going on. He had the answer right away.

        “He said, ‘In kindergarten we had recess twice a day and we went to gym twice a week,'” Gilboa told LiveScience. Now, as a first-grader, Nadav’s class only went to gym once every six days. They had one recess period a day, split with lunch, so that Nadav had only about 15 minutes a day to run around.

        “He said, ‘I get this feeling in my legs when they want to run and that feeling moves up to my belly and when that feeling moves up to my head I can’t remember what the rules are,” Gilboa said. “So he had really noticed a big change in his own behavior and self-control.”

        A problem for both genders, though more of a problem for men who tend to be physically active when bored and so get drugged.

        “perhaps young girls are able to better deal with all of the external distractions we have in this digital age and are able to still focus on their studies (or whatever else they want to focus on).”

        There are ways to deal with males being distracted. Less bright colourful displays in the classroom. More exercise. All desks facing forward. Don’t cancel recess. Instead they drug them. They didn’t in the past.

        Although generally studies find there are similar levels of ADHD among the genders (see the first adhd link i posted), but women tend to be quiet when bored. So both genders would benefit from trying to help the men.

    • skuvin permalink
      August 3, 2012 7:31 am

      “The education system is pretty supportive of women with short hair who want to be physicists now. ”

      Ajeeta did not get to where she is because of some short haired-woman quota that the Graduate school here has. She worked hard her whole life, in a nation where gender inequality is more outwardly obvious. She did not ride some fictitious western “easy track” to success like you might think. If she is taking advantage of anything its the fact that the United States is utterly failing at filling positions for hard science fields and has to rely on international students to maintain at least some sort of pace with the rest of the scientific community. The problem might be solved by putting more effort into focusing on individual strengths (not relying on gender-stereotypes) to find more women as well as minority men to fill the remaining positions.

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