By Danielle,

Will Anything Ever Really be Good Enough for Feminists?

9/13/2012 DK 0 Comments

While replying to a comment on the post, Is Chivalry 'Benevolent Sexism'?, I decided to turn it into a post instead, as it touches on some of the things that I've personally been struggling to understand and because my response was getting too long.

Will anything ever really be good enough for feminists? I've been bought up my whole life being taught chivalry, ironically last night I had a conversation with a friend in which we came to the conclusion 'fuck chivalry'. For different reasons to that which this article bring to question. I'm of the opinion that it puts women on a pedestal (which results in manner of disparity). I just had this thought about the movie Titanic, where they put all the women and children on the life rafts. Do you think the women who wrote the article on benevolent sexism would sing the same tune if their lives hung in the balance?

My response:
I see what you mean. I've seen a stand-up comedy video in which this comedian talks about that scene in Titanic, and it really made me think about what gender equality really means.

I don't want to speak on behalf of the "proper" feminists because I think feminism is more complicated than its seemingly black-and-white nature, and I don't think I get it too well. But here is my interpretation:
People tend to think that feminists argue for the whole world to be more easy-going on women, especially in cases of violence. We see it all the time, how if a man ever touches a woman it's such a big deal whereas a woman can get away with hitting a man. I think, and I believe most feminists would think, that it's more than unfair. Not only because it shows double standards, but because it shows society's belittling attitudes towards women - the widely accepted thought that women can't hurt men even if they tried, and that men should be embarrassed to be physically dominated by women. But at the same time, I see how hard it is to argue that, because men ARE generally stronger, so in most cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, women are the victims and I don't think it'd be fair if that wasn't recognised.

I think it's similar to the idea of racism and hate crime. We want to treat others equally regardless of their skin colour or ethnic background, but it's hard not to make judgments and assumptions based on experience. For example, if I was violently attacked by a person of certain race, I would probably be more careful and fearful next time I'm around someone of that race (just as I would avoid people who dress in a certain way especially if they had lots of tattoos - junkies, "punks", "gangsters", etc). I believe that's natural human survival instinct, although it still is discrimination and we try not to do it where we can help it. Also, the idea of 'hate crime' is discriminatory itself, in that it distinguishes victims ("minorities") as the Other and suggests that they're more vulnerable. Some criminologists and sociologists argue that the notion of hate crime itself causes(?) more racism and discrimination against religious groups and homosexuals, because it's basically saying that we should treat people of different ethnicity, sexuality and religion differently. But at the same time, hate crimes DO happen, and it does need to be recognised.

So you see my dilemma!

Personally, though, when it comes to sexism, feminism, or gender equality, I focus on the areas that I actually understand and experience (while trying to educate myself on the areas I don't understand, of course!). And these things are normally not the more controversial cases like the ones you mentioned. For example, I saw an ad on TV a while ago for an energy drink in which two men fight each other in a crowd of people, and the winner walks off with the pretty girl who has been watching (and of course she was wearing revealing clothes and had big breasts). I found that quite offensive because it falsely represents both men and women - that men have to impress women with physical strength (or financial stability in other cases) and that women would get with any man that seemed to impress her in such a way. Even though most of us know not to take those exaggerated silly ads (or movies, etc) literally, the idea is still there and we see them all the time. The influence of the media is inescapable and it plants false ideas into our subconscious minds, I believe.
[feminism]On a more personal level, I have experienced on many occasions where men would completely ignore me or not take me seriously in situations such as when talking about cars or any technical or mechanical things. A few weeks ago, a plumber came around to my place to check if the toilet was leaking, and asked my flatmate and me some questions. I was able to answer all his questions as we just had to tell him what's been happening to the toilet and anything else we've noticed. Even then, the plumber would dismiss everything I said and only listen to my flatmate, a guy. He wasn't being rude, mind you, because he would make eye contact with me, smile at me and even asked me about my day, which is why I concluded that it was most likely his attitude (which he probably isn't aware of) that undervalues women's opinions. It could have been another reason but I couldn't think of anything else.
I know a lot of people would disagree with me and say I'm too sensitive but I would still argue that there is an underlying disrespect for women in our society. So, I'm all for feminism and greatly appreciative of feminists in regards to these symbolic problems in society, but I would still need to learn more about the less obvious aspects of gender inequality to really understand what feminism is really about and what they're fighting for in regards to the more complicated cases such as above.

As for chivalry, I'm still in conflict. I know where those feminists are coming from (I think), but personally I like and appreciate the gentlemen who hold doors and elevators open and lift heavy things for me. The way I deal with it is that I try to do the same for everyone, because then I'm not just selfishly enjoying being put on a pedestal! And the idea of saving women and children first in emergencies, I thought, was because women can take care of the children better (I don't mean that men can't take care of children just as well, but I can't think of the right word - Maternal/Mother's instinct?). But I'm not really sure.. And again, I do like and appreciate most men's natural instinct to physically protect women.

I think these things are really difficult to think about because both sides have valid points if you dismiss the insane ones (like "men are evil!" or "feminists are evil!"). And I really do think that we're in need of some serious change in the media. Why are we shown, on a regular basis, scenes in which women slap men hard in the face as if it's normal, acceptable and not hurtful? Why are we shown scenes in which women are basically given to men as a prize for some kind of a competition?

I know I kind of went off topic and didn't really answer your actual question, but it was a good opportunity for me to write down the thoughts I've been having! But to sum this whole thing up in one sentence, I don't know. :)

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