There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
A friend of mine, Merete, wrote on Facebook a wall status on the International Women’s day that she wasn’t a feminist, but wished all humanists a happy day. That wall post started a thought process that have been simmering for a while.
What does it mean to be a feminist in a western country today? So I started to google feminism, and listen to lectures regarding women’s issues. I haven’t had a clear view on what feminism is, and considering the statements in discussions on women’s day, I had the feeling I wasn’t alone on this. I can’t understand how one can be a woman and not be a feminist. I can’t understand how one can be a man, and not feminist either for that matter.
Being a feminist isn’t about taking rights from men, on the contrary, feminism seeks gender equality. It also isn’t about promoting women no matter how bad a job they do, it’s about equal opportunity. Feminist activists has worked for women’s rights to vote, own property, education, workplace rights and family inheritance to name a few. I think very few people considers this to be a bad turn of events.
My viewpoint on feminism has very much been in regards to my education and career since I have worked within a male dominated industry and profession for 12 years. I haven’t had any parents that had much to say about feminism, unless you count my fathers advice to either become an air traffic controller (because they make a lot of money) or marry an engineer that could support me. I guess it didn’t occur to him that I could become a computer engineer myself.
I think one of the reasons that women’s day always starts a discussion of the type “what is the point with such a day”, is that there is no big women’s issue that unite people in the industrialized countries since we have achieved equality in most things.
Feminism has gotten a bad wrap, and I wonder why. When I told my boyfriend that I was writing about feminism, his immediate reaction was “You’re not a feminist”. Extremist female groups like Ottar in Norway who among things tries to censor posters of lightly dressed women might be one of the reasons or the demonstrations in the 60s where they burned the braw and were considered to be man haters. The phrase “Let men be men” seem to be a backlash to a perceived threat of the liberation of women. The reason Merete called herself humanist was because feminism is a concept with negative connotation today and humanism share the same core values of mankind and equality.
I want to take the word feminist back to it’s original meaning.
So since women have achieved the same equal rights as men, then what is the point of feminism today?
Discrimination against females today are difficult to see and detect unless there is statistics to lean upon, media to report on the findings and people that keep a keen eye on the social settings/organizations they are a part of:
– Rape is is considered to be the most under- reported violent crime, and the victim is often blamed for the rape because of alcohol consumption, wearing “wrong type of” clothes etc.
– Currently there is focus in the norwegian papers about women in the public who is more exposed to sexual harrassment and the police encourages women to not press charges.
– In Norway all limited companies were forced to at least have 40% female representatives in the board. When this law was passed, about half of the companies changed organization form to circumvent this law.
– Women gets discriminated because of their ability to give birth and there’s a wage gap for women going on maternity leave and men.
– When a male CEO had a daughter, the wages paid to his female employees rose relative to males’ wages—helping the long-documented pay gap to lessen.
– Men with a heart condition receive better health care than women and the research targets men
– Commercial strategies for animal products that endorse masculinity and females are at the same time sexualized.
– Few female leaders in business
All “small” issues, but if we put them together like this one gets an impression that females are valued less, if not openly, at least subconsciously.
Many years ago I was planning on purchasing a product from an electric store. I had done a lot of research as I usually do when planning to buy a gadget of some kind and I love to go into product specifications. I had some very detailed questions and as I was waiting at the counter to get help, I saw one man in his late thirties who seemed very knowledgeable, and one female in the beginning of her twenties. As I was the next in line, I was thinking: I really hope I will get the guy. When my number was called up by the young woman, my thought was “Here goes nothing!”. She blew my socks off. She knew the answers to my questions and more. When I left I was really happy. Even though I myself was a young women with a technical degree, I preferred a man until I was proven otherwise. I learned an important lesson that day.
But being aware of women’s issues is so much more than just equality.
Third-wave feminism also contains internal debates between difference feminists such as the psychologist Carol Gilligan (who believes that there are important differences between the sexes) and those who believe that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and contend that gender roles are due to social conditioning.
As a female, it’s impossible to work in a male profession without another female engineer in sight and not make up some thoughts about the role of women, differences between the sexes, educational choices and women in business today. On a job interview many years ago, one of the people who interviewed me stated that they noticed that most women disappeared from a technical job within a five year period, and went into project management positions.
Is there differences between the sexes and should we take that into consideration when recruiting women to male dominated professions and work place? Is there even recruitment going on of the opposite sex in regards to professions that are dominated by one sex? Should it be? Especially since it seems that women goes for lower payed educations.
Despite all the progress made in regards to women’s right in only a few decades, studies show that female happiness has been dropping since 1972. We have achieved much, but we haven’t crossed the finish line – if we ever will. It seems that achieving happiness is so much more than having equal rights. But my thoughts on that issue is for another time.