Feminism makes some people – both men and women – a bit queasy. There is this inherent fear of “man-hating” behind this reaction, that promoting WOMEN must mean pushing down MEN, as if it is some kind of a zero-sum game.
The latest craze in feminism seems to be about allaying these fears by reminding everyone that feminism isn’t only about women’s rights, it’s about men’s rights too. Men don’t really need to have their rights promoted (by women) in the corridors of power, so the troops are marching to battle to promote men’s rights in the one sphere where women still dominate: the home.
The most notable thing about this movement is that it is driven by women. I see the cunning in the argument: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s widely publicised views on the structural blocks to (American) women combining work and family become less threatening, and she appears smarter and her views more acceptable, when she follows them up with an impassioned plea for the rights of men to have a say in the home. It’s OK, she is not a man-hater after all. Similarly Riikka Venäläinen, the Editor-in-Chief of the biggest Finnish newspaper, decides to celebrate Father’s Day with an editorial about the need to treat fathers as equal parents with equal rights (and presumably equal duties, although she is less clear on that). She is a woman in a man’s job, I understand that she must get the boys on her side, and some of her earlier writings, hinting at feminist views, must have caused a stir. This piece was a good counterweight.
I’m sure you’ve all seen other examples of similar writings in recent months, as they have proliferated in the media.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these ideas – most of them are in fact very good. But what I don’t get is why it all has to come at the expense of blaming women. Here’s Ms Slaughter:
“You know, women are hypocrites this way, because we would go crazy if men treated us in the workforce the way we typically treat them at home – if a guy in the workforce assumed he was more competent than you are, and told you what to do – but that's the way most women treat men in the household.”
While men sometimes have specific gripes about their own spouses (which is all entirely normal, at the end of the day it is for each family to decide how they handle their own domestic arrangements), they do not seem to be getting up in arms and blaming the womenfolk in general for keeping them down and preventing them collectively from having a say in domestic decisions. So why do women do it? As if most women don’t carry around enough guilt about trying to be perfect employees, bosses, mothers, wives and a thousand other things as it is. They clearly need the extra guilt, heaped on their heads by other women, that they are preventing men from blossoming into domestic gods.
Come on ladies. We can do better than this. Just like feminism is not about hating men, let’s not make it about hating (other) women either. Let’s remember who the real enemy is.* The enemy is the patriarchy, the structures that prevent equality from being achieved in any and all spheres of life.
*For those who recognised the quote: yes, I’m ridiculously excited about the new Hunger Games movie. Almost as excited as I was about Two Towers back in 2002. The trailer already passed the Bechdel test!