Thursday, March 27, 2008

A "Concerned" Man Tutorial

Anti-feminists today are up in arms about the advances women have made in society. Because for so long men controlled the public sphere, these anti-feminists decry how women's entry into the public sphere is "ruining everything." Recently, a couple of men have voiced strong concerns about the dangers of feminism. (Yes, there are a few more than two men who are "Concerned" about feminism, but I'm taking two extreme cases). One of them argued that women entering a certain profession would destroy society. The other man was "concerned" that women entering any profession causes depression in women.

I know. These positions aren't popular in our nation today. Even those who preface their arguments with "I'm not a feminist or anything, but [insert feminist argument]" are able to recognize valid feminist points like "women are people too." In fact, it's probably pretty tough being a regressive hater of equality these days.

Where in the world could one look for inspiration, for a guide on how to keep women in their place? Where could we possibly look for a shining model on how to integrate fundamentalist religion with government while using the correct gender-conservative ideals declaring that each gender has a proscribed place in society?

Why, Iraq, of course! Although women in Iraq have more rights than women in some neighboring countries, conservatism, religious fundamentalism, and anti-feminism are still largely responsible for the oppression of women. And then, of course, you add the occupation of our military there and you get a ginormous clusterfuck of female oppression.

Grab your slates and chalk fellas, and let's take a look at how "real men" oppress women.

1. "Education harms women."

In Iraq, the government passed laws in 1979 to eradicate illiteracy. Women were allowed to go "literacy centers." Some conservative sectors, however, did not allow "their" women to go to these centers. Nonetheless, "the literacy gap between males and females narrowed" and women achieved literacy rates of 75% in 1987.

Due to a combination of conservative religious ideals being incorporated into policy and limited family resources that resulted in families only being able to send their boys to school, the number of women in 2000 who were literate dropped to 25%.
In other words, gender equality with regard to literacy regressed over time. In addition, since the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqi women report that there is less respect for women than previously as women are thought of as "possessions" who aren't able to attend school. Real men, it seems, invade other countries under the guise of protecting women from oppressive regimes only to foster an environment where women are further oppressed.

Close your eyes and think real hard to your own fundamentalist God, anti-feminists, these "gains" could someday be achieved in the US too! All we have to do is marry your own unique brand of fundamentalist religion and anti-equality principles with our laws. (Although I suppose that would be some sort of polygamy, but as long as two of those three concepts are female you're okay with that right?)

Anyway, like a wise man once said: Give me theocracy or give me death!

Oh, but I bet if someone did a study, these Iraqi women might be depressed too. So let me know, are you at all "concerned" that anti-feminism harms women?

2. "Women don't really want to work."

In Iraq, where women don't have the same education and career options as we do in the US, women whose husbands have died because of the imperial war that "our" men have waged have turned to prostitution in order to feed themselves and their children.

Thanks to the "women belong in the home" argument that doesn't take into account the fact that maybe just maybe a man will die without leaving his wife enough money to support the family, sex is the only thing women can bring to the market when they no longer have husbands.

Just think, anti-feminists, in a world where women "aren't willing to work outside the home," maybe we can have even more women forced into prostitution by their unfortunate economic circumstances than we currently have.

And while we're talking about sex, maybe anti-feminists would be in favor of rape during times of war. Since women are useful as male possessions only as far as they are sexually and reproductively available to men, the rape of a women can be used as weapons of war like in Iraq where the rape of a woman harms the honor of the woman's owner. (Poor guy.) Think of the possibilities for world domination!

Oh, but I bet if someone did a study, these women might be depressed too. But the burning question I have is this: Are you still "concerned"?

3. "Title IX ruins everything for men."

In Iraq, "as the economy constricted, in an effort to ensure employment for men the government pushed women out of the labor force and into more traditional roles in the home." From 1998 to 2000, the government dismissed most females working in governmental agencies and put restrictions on women working outside the home. Women's were no longer free to travel and schools were required to provide single-sex education only, reflecting tribal and religious tradition.

Title IX is the supposed bane of male sports' existence in colleges all across America because sometimes mens' programs are cut "because of women." Some men are now scared that some people will use Title IX to promote equality in male-dominated professions. This too, of course, will lead to the destruction of society.

All men who want to play sports should be guaranteed to be able to play sports, just like every man who wants to be a scientist should get to be one. Such an outcome could easily be produced once our government passes restrictions similar to Iraq's relegating women to the home. With these restrictions in place, women will no longer "want" to go to college, play sports, or have careers.

Just consider it an affirmative-action program for men. And with men completely in charge of everything in the public sphere that matters, what could possibly go wrong? Even though gender integration is vital to marriage because the sexes supposedly "complement each other," gender segregation is completely necessary in the public sphere for... um... some reason.

Oh... but if someone conducted a study, women with only one life option may find that they, too, are depressed. So, one last time, anti-feminists, are you still "concerned" about depression in women? Or is all your "concerned man" blustering really about trying to get your place back at the head of all that matters in the world?

As you can see, I don't think it's quite accurate to say, as some anti-feminists do, that women aren't willing to work, that education harms women, and that the advances women have made in education and career due to feminism has resulted in female depression. Nor do I think that these advances are harming society or will lead to its destruction. The only thing it is harming is (dare I say this word that will, in the eyes of anti-feminists, automatically discredit everything else I say) the patriarchy. (Dun-dun-dun!)

Men have been taking responsibility for society as a whole essentially forever. Doing so means that they have also been restricting women's access to education and work throughout history and culture. In essence, this restriction forces women to cede power to men and then trust men to always do the right thing with this power. It asks women to trust men to not abuse them, to not be controlling with money, to not rape them, to make enough money on his own to support the family (something that is sometimes beyond his control), and to make all the right personal, familial, and occupational decisions.

The "women belong in the home" argument is another way of saying that all women should surrender their power and let men "protect" them. In theory, male protection sounds benign. How noble, some think. In reality, though, we know that not all men are worthy of being entrusted with this power and some (most?) women want more than one life choice. (Blogger BetaCandy articulately discusses the protection myth here.)

In a perfect world, men would be perfect. But that will never happen. And that's why anti-feminists need to stop advocating for policies that treat the world as though all men live up to this noble ideal of manhood and perfection. "Patriarchy does not work as advertised," and anti-feminists should realize that most thinking people see them for the used-car salesmen they are.

Why do some people still think that out of all the billions of human beings that exist in this world, we all need to live exactly the same way- with men holding power over women? In fact, I'd say it's pretty selfish to insist that everyone in the entire universe must live the same way you desire to live.

It is unbelievable to me, in fact, that people in our country are still suggesting otherwise. Okay, it's not. I suppose there will always be people in every society seeking to maintain categorical privileges and telling us that we better regress back to some mythical Golden Era where everything was how it should be or we will face the Total Destruction of Society (tm).

And to them, I can only say this: How dare you (a) seek to limit my life options under the guise of protection and (b) wage an imperial war in the name of "freedom" and under the guise of "freeing women from oppressive regimes." By doing all of those things, you are actually harming women far more than you are helping them.

Are you at all "concerned" about that?

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