Friday, February 02, 2007

Place settings

So now that I've taken care of equality and race, I promised my friend I'd go back to his original intent which was to discuss the possibility of equality between the genders. As much as Wendao Jinxin will attempt to get me to talk about gender once in a while, I've never felt all that qualified to talk about it. It's probably due in some part to my discomfort with feminism, or at least the feminism that I've run into in my small life.

This is a topic that Magniloquence or Little Light could probably do better. However, since both of them are probably a lot busier in more productive ways than I am right now, I'll give it a shot.

Much like my ramblings about minority equality, I'm hard pressed to figure out what true gender equality would look like. Equality, as Magniloquence points out, should not mean the same thing as sameness. Although the two are often conflated. It also depends on what you think equality is.

According to some people's world view, the genders are equal. Each gender has its own assigned role, passive and active, aggressive and submissive, strong and weak. It was always an argument that the sexes had separate but different spheres, each completing one another. According to this world view, the sexes are already equal.

What makes this theory problematic is its rigid definition of gender roles and its assumption that all men perform their masculinity in the same way, and all women perform their femininity in the same way. And of course that all men are 100% masculine and all women are 100% feminine. It's too rigid a theory to allow for "deviancy" from the norm.

Also according to contemporary, progressive ways of thinking, the problem with the theory lies in the difference in status between the two. Their roles may be complementary, but their places at the table are not equal.

While the silence in the comments section indicates that many of you are rather bored by what I've been doing recently, I would, as always enjoy hearing comments on this.


endlessrambling said...

Hi Lovelesscynic,

I am writing in response to your post for your silent readers to share their comments as well as to assure you that your entries are definitely not boring.

On the question “Can we ever be equal?” I would have to say no. This would address both gender equality and power equality.

The main reason is that I believe everyone is different from each other- whether is it physically, psychologically or culturally. And since most of us are different from each other, how and where can we find a common platform to measure equality?

Let’s focus on the issue of gender. Men and women clearly have very different biological structure and this would given each gender an advantage over the other.
It is not anything that changing social expectation and norms could act on achieving equality for both men and women.

As for the issue of power, I feel that the problem of equality is not about giving each and everyone equal power or rights. The issue of whether everyone would take and use this given power the same way. Some people might not be comfortable or confident to assert the given power and prefer to take a laid back approach or simply pass on their power/right to someone they think is more capable of handling it. So if this situation occurs, the eventually result would still result in some people having more and some people having less.

To put the ideas of equality of power and gender together is to look at the people around us. Women are now given equal opportunities such as rights and education as men. Feminism is on the rise but yet we still see and hear of women expecting men to be gentlemanly, to foot the bill when on a date, to open doors, to send the girl home after a date, etc. Isn’t these actions/deeds done in the past when it was thought are too weak (financially and physically) to do these on their own? So why even when we (females) are given equal rights as men, we do not assert this rights? This shows that there can never be equality in gender or in power. (Although now that I am writing about it, some females may think that this is a form of power that we have over the males to be served hand and foot by them. =D)

Lastly, I would like to state that I agree on your take about genders being complementary to each other instead of equal to each other.

exangelena said...

You probably agree with most feminists about gender roles. Feminists are not a groupthink - there are many different schools of feminist thought and more often than not, they disagree with each other., although I don't like them that much, has a lot of good links; Carnival of the Feminists is another good place to start.
While in the West, most people accept that women should be able to drive, vote and own property, a lot of sexism and misogyny exists on a personal level, and when it comes to that, you have to change hearts and minds.
As for "man" and "woman" being discrete categories, I'm not so sure. First of all, there are people who are transgendered, born into the body of one gender but identify as the other.
How do you break down gender biologically? XY or XX chromosomes? There are XY women, who have no body hair and external female anatomy, but have XY chromosomes and testicles inside their bodies. There are men who have XYY or XXY, and women who have XXX or XO. As for the presence of reproductive organs, some women are born without uteri and people of both sexes can lose their organs in accidents or due to disease. There are individuals with ambiguous anatomy who have normal XX or XY chromosomes, but whose appearance does not fit the textbook parameter of discrete male and female. I'm beginning to think that even gender is not a one or the other category, but a continuum.

lovelesscynic said...

Yo, exangelena, are you responding to me or to endlessrambling?

Also, you're so articulate and opinionated, how can we share so much genetic material?

exangelena said...

Both, actually. And hey, you started the conversation, so I guess great minds think alike :)

disreputable bird said...

Articulate and opinionated = same genetic material! :D