Monday, March 29, 2010

Yet Another Misguided Attempt to Discredit Feminism

When I have recently shared with male acquaintances and co-workers that I intern for a women's advocacy group, I've noticed many of them respond by saying they were hoping to start a revolution: a men's advocacy group. I'm guessing they haven't been listening to/reading the news or watching ANY television (there was even a concerned men's group featured on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," hello?). So they wouldn't exactly be pioneers.

Either way, I respond by saying I understand their concern (or is it mass fear and discomfort?) that women are fighting to truly have equal rights in all aspects of life. It's a major change, and will take time to get used to. So I decided to give one of these male-focused articles a read, to see if they brought up any valid points about why feminism is problematic from their perspective. I stumbled onto an article from Men's News Daily: "You've Come A Long Way Baby-And There's No Turning Back," by Paul Elam.

This piece was a response to a report by CNN's Lou Dobbs attempting to understand a study conducted in the University of Pennsylvania which supported that women's state of happiness has been declining since the start of the women's liberation movement. Mr. Dobbs was extremely confused by this concept, and Mr. Elam, Editor-in-Chief of Men's News Daily, is hoping to clear it up for him...while also slapping feminists across the face. And they say men aren't good at multi-tasking...

Anyway, Mr. Elam hopes to prove that the whole problem with women "whining" to have equal rights, with the workplace as his focal point, is that men's lives are actually filled with misery. So what women have worked so hard for is the thing making them miserable.

As he puts it, "Men, for the most part, live life working at jobs they hate, measuring success by keeping their heads down in the workplace, trying to make some alpha jerk like Lou Dobbs happy, and staying out of trouble. Then they go home and live by pretty much the same rules with their wives or girlfriends."
~Am I supposed to feel bad for these men? Oh, they feel emasculated by their bosses because their belief is that Alpha is the only way to be. What are we, a herd of lions? Furthermore, the fact that men see relationships as torturous and women as tyrants? No one is forcing them to be in relationships, let alone to get married. This relates to statistics that have shown divorce rates have risen since the beginning of the women's lib movement. Wonder why? Women began to admit they were dissatisfied with their partners or the marriage. I'm not advocating divorce, simply pointing out the possibility of it being more of a blessing than a dysfunctional relationship. No one should see their romantic relationship as one in which they are downtrodden.

Mr. Elam continues, "The independence, freedom and personal power of a man’s world that feminists promised came with every paycheck is actually a cruel illusion, behind which is a lifestyle more servile than powerful; more stress than self actualization, and more a monotonous daily grind with pit stops at a mailbox full of bills than a breezy walk through the halls of privilege."
~Quite the generalization to assume that women never sit at the kitchen table surrounded by torn envelopes, rubbing their temples and trying to figure out how to pay the month's expenses.

"It‘s difficult, I am sure, for Mr. Dobbs to see this, as he lives the exceedingly uncommon life. But I tell you what, Lou, try dragging your fat ass away from that cushy position you are in and drive a cab or a semi for 12 hours a day to make your rent and see how quickly it cures that itch on your head. Or get yourself a union card and spend every day in a coal mine, breathing black death and feeling the walls tremble around you as you work."
~It made sense that Mr. Elam wants Mr. Dobbs to see that his cushioned lifestyle would make it very difficult to imagine why there are so many over-worked and unhappy men (and now women?) out there. I suppose this means all blue-collar workers despise their jobs. But I beg to differ, because I have run into quite a few cab drivers who have been nothing but friendly and talkative, even understanding when I found myself in a financial pickle.

"When women finally enter the rest of the man’s domain, they will finally see the fruition of the feminist dream. It will be written in the blisters on their hands; in their backs aching and skin burning from digging in the heat of the sun. And their pain will echo and reverberate in the male dominated halls of dispassion."
~As eloquently as Mr. Elam put it, this isn't the whole point of "the feminist dream." We are not in this fight solely for the purpose of being allowed to do the same physical labor as men. And on the subject of physical labor, let's have a look at the home, where men are still not helping out with the housework and childcare as much as they should.

I realize the focus of this article was to make Mr. Dobbs see why feminism has only led to unhappy women. However, he failed to bring up any truly valid points about the goals feminists still fight for. Once we do get those jobs, be they blue-collar or white-collar positions with equal pay, the fight still won't be over.

After all, unlike that of a man, a woman's career path tends to be greatly swayed by family life. Mr. Elam forgot to point out that it's women who get pregnant. Before and after giving birth, a majority of women stay at home or at least severely cut back work hours at work for many months. Following this, women may return to work and find themselves having to adjust to a whole new environment, considering the speed at which technological advances occur. Many companies still do not provide adequate resources for the time women are away from work, nor do they help them re-adjust when they return. And what do you think happens, Mr. Elam, when women return to work and find their male equals have been given a raise or a promotion while the women were on leave?

Those are just a few points I wish non-feminists would consider before they go questioning, "What's left to fight for? Women have equal rights!!" Obviously, women have different needs from men, so reaching workplace equality is more complex and still a long way away. And no, we are NOT turning back.

Photo credit: austerblitz at deviantArt

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