Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Man Explains White Lady Unhappiness

Do you ever get the feeling that some people just wake up one day thinking "You know, today I think I might try writing about feminism and the ladies"?

I get that impression frequently. Usually when reading unfortunate attempted internet smackdowns of feminism that my Google Alerts feeds to my inbox.

Looking at that already-hashed-out study (PDF) that shows how white women's happiness has decreased over the years while black women's has increased, self-described "Life Coach, Executive Coach, Relationship Coach Writer" Stuart Schneiderman mansplains the (non)plight of the white ladies:

"How is it that feminism did not bring white women the same happiness that the civil rights movement brought to black women?

Baird [the Newsweek writer who originally wrote about the study] takes a few stabs at rationalizing this, but clearly feminism has managed to make white women significantly unhappier. It may be that drawing an analogy between the way white America treated blacks and the way male Americans were treating women is specious.

Perhaps the oppression and discrimination experienced by American blacks was real in a way that the oppression and discrimination that feminists insisted was the lot of women was not.

Feminists might have felt empathy for the suffering of their African American fellow citizens, but that does not mean that they were suffering from involuntarily servitude and pervasive social discrimination."

Wow, okay. Let me just collect my thoughts for a minute.


First, I'm not in the business of ranking oppressions, so I'm not going enter Stuart's fabricated Oppression Olympics. However, I will question what qualifies Stuart, a white guy who in this post demonstrates no understanding of Real History That Really Happened To Women, to be a competent arbiter of what counts as "real" and "not" real "oppression and discrimination" with respect to blacks and women. Likewise, given that Stuart belongs to neither the category "black" nor "woman," and in fact belongs to the identity group historically benefitting from the "oppression and discrimination" women and blacks have faced and its denial, his opinions on the matter are a conflict of interest.

Indeed, it is a conflict of interest that causes many men, even otherwise progressive and liberal ones, to feel a desperate need to deny white and/or male privilege. When white men deny that historical oppression happened to women it serves to reaffirm the narrative that white men were historically in charge of stuff in the US because they're actually better than, smarter than, and more competent than women and blacks, rather than the true historical fact that it's because they enacted a huge sweeping affirmative action program for themselves by eliminating blacks and women from the competition pool in the public sphere.

In this vein, notice how Stuart casually dismisses (without argument, natch) Baird's "few stabs" at "rationalizing" the results of the study, instead substituting his own manpinion as the True Explanation as to why the white ladies are apparently unhappy. It is a man speaking, I guess, so one's specious correlations count as actual authority?

Notice how he offers no actual historical evidence for all of this unfettered freedom and pervasive non-discrimination the white ladies enjoyed back in the day. No right to vote. Inability to own property or control their own assets. Legal spousal rape. Compulsory pregnancy. Limited access to financial independence. Big deal.

Whereas most anti-feminists who, with predictable schadenfreude, have simplistically noted that white women are less happy now that in the '70s because, hey guess what, feminism has happened since the '70s, Stuart's argument is a quite different beast.

Essentially, white women are less happy now than in the '70s because feminism made them realize how not not real all of this historical discrimination and oppression was.

Which brings us to the following. From the study Stuart based his manpinion, the researchers begin:

"By many measures, the progress of women over recent decades has been extraordinary.The gender wage gap has partly closed. Educational attainment has risen and is now surpassing that of men. Women have gained an unprecedented levelof control over fertility. Technological change, in the form of new domestic appliances,has freed women from domestic drudgery. In short, women’s freedoms within both the family and market sphere have expanded."

This study notes the Objectively True Historical Fact that women experienced oppression and discrimination and that women's freedoms have expanded in recent years. How in the hell someone can interpret a study noting that women have made "extraordinary" progress to mean women did not historically face "real" oppression and discrimination is just one of those great mysteries of anti-feminist logic that escapes all rationality.

I mean, really Stuart, why let the fact that women have not always had equal rights, and still don't in many parts of the world, get in the way of a cocksure historical revisionism. Sometimes, a man just knowwwwwwwws these things, am I right?

Next time you get an inkling to write about the lady issues, try reading the study. Until then, enjoy your bliss, n00b.

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