Monday, December 15, 2008

Women are More Perfecter Than Men (Except When They Want Equal Rights)

I first saw this article mentioned on feministing. Propounding a blame-the-victim theory that is new to me, columnist Garth George argues that abortion and feminism are "at the heart of all abuse."

In his above-cited article, George gnashes his teeth about society supposedly reaping what it's sown for blurring the lines between men and women, for "the breakdown of the traditional family," and for abortion. All those arguments are pretty standard rightwing fare. I mean, what extreme social conservative doesn't believe these things. When I read such hyperbole, I mostly see nothing but men desperately trying to maintain male privilege.

It is such "traditionalists" who oppose women's equality because they believe that men and women are very different and, thus, cut out for very different roles in society. Observe, in blaming spousal and child abuse on the fact that women have made great gains when it comes to equality, George claims:

"The second major cause of violence against women and children is the belief held by too many women that they should not just be equal to men but, in all but physical appurtenances, are the same.

This is an illusion: men and women are different physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It astounds me that in this age in which knowledge of the makeup of the human being is greater than at any time in history, we will not concede that men and women are genetically programmed for differing roles."

This claim, that men and women are very different, is interesting in light of what George says next. See, in the above statement, George expresses a commonly-held view that men and women are very different and, thus, require different roles in society. Because men and women are different, he implies, women should not strive to be the equal of men. I have criticized this theory before. Many people have, actually. The reality is that we don't know how it is that men and women differ and, because "gender roles" have varied incredibly throughout time and culture, most evidence points to the fact that "gender roles" are nothing but constructs created by societies. As Colette Dowling has written in The Frailty Myth:

"Without difference you cannot have heirarchy, or one up, one down. You cannot have better and worse, strong and weak, superior and inferior. Heirarchy is how social inequality is maintained, and 'masculinity' and 'femininity' are about heirarchy. Supposedly 'natural' differences between men and women are used to validate the differences in the amount of social power they hold" (48).

In light of this, I think virtually every feminist will find George's following statement to be, quite frankly, really damn funny. On the one hand, women should not strive to be man's equal. But(!!!), George also goes on to place Woman on a pedestal:

"You can call me a sexist until you run out of breath, I believe that God left creating woman until last because he wanted to make sure he got it right. The result was the creation of the most perfect and wonderful creature in the world."

Aw shucks. Bright, shiny flattery sure is nice. What was I even talking about before?

Ah yes. Men such as George can claim until they run out of breath that men and women are very different. Yet, no amount of flattery will conceal the reality of what many women and some men know: Difference, in our society, means heirarchy. It means men are viewed as better than, more than, "more equal" than women. George would do better to know that transparent flattery does not make discrimination okay. I don't want to be placed on a pedestal only to be told later on that I am too dainty to do anything worth doing. Besides, his whole line of thinking here begs a very important question. If women are the "most perfect and wonderful creatures" in the world, shouldn't they be the ones running the show?

Likewise, pretending that his god made women "perfect and wonderful" (and dainty, passive, weak, and in-need-of-protection) creatures, does not obfuscate the reality that his god really made woman out of man's rib because he ordained that she was less-than man. According to the Judeo-Christian Adam and Even myth, god made males in his image. Women were then made from man because men needed a "helper." It's pseudo-sentimental for George to pretend that the myth is about god making Eve just because "he" wanted to get things right.

The Adam and Eve myth and the Bible have been used for thousands of years to justify the public and private subordination of women. Indeed, it was the Apostle Paul who declared "For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is in the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man is not made from woman, but woman from man."

So while I'm flattered that George apparently believes women to be perfect and better than men, I can only find it amusing that he thinks his god believes likewise.

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