Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Equality Day

So, today is International Women's Day. It's all over Twitter. And I object to it. Or I would on principle, but I don't.

I'll explain.

I wouldn't identify myself as a feminist - mostly because of the negative connotations of the word "feminist". Writers who have termed themselves as "feminist" over the years have varied in success - I remember reading an essay TD wrote, focusing on Djuna Barnes and the lesbian and feminist overtones in some of her writing; I also remember an essay I wrote during my degree in which I wrote about Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, crazy French bitch that she is. I didn't like Virginia Woolf, though, and although H claims that modern feminism is less violent than it used to be, I was always disturbed by the kind of "power over men" thing that many people identify with feminism.

Some people take feminism in modern times as favouring women in order to promote diversity. As a straight white male, I have lost out on jobs because of positive discrimination in force. Although I see the reasoning behind positive discrimination (it's better than negative discrimination by several degrees), it is a rather stupid way to consider people for jobs. I'm jobseeking at the moment and am being continually rejected; the only job to offer me a reason for rejection started by saying the word "diversity". That's not how it works!

Feminism should be about equalisation between both sexes - if you make a distinction. Blacksilk and others don't differentiate between genders too much at all! But if it's about equality, why is it called feminism? Why not equalitism or something else which doesn't look right now I've written it down?

I define myself as an egalitarian, because semantics would instil a form of prejudice about me if I called myself a feminist. If we didn't have this silly "male dominance" idea to begin with, there wouldn't be a problem.

Now that we have that out of the way...

Although I both admire and see the point of having an international day for women, isn't that a little sexist... towards women? I mean, does that mean that women are to be ignored on the other 364 days of the year? That's not what feminism is about! Promoting gender equality - yes; indirectly saying that women have one day and that's it? What kind of an idea is that?

And come to think of it, where's International Men's Day? Gender equality, again - not having a day for men the way that a day for women happens indeed suggests one of two things:

i) men are less important so they don't deserve a day
ii) on the other 364 days, women are considered less important so they need this one day

Both of which are terrible.

So. I don't consider today International Women's Day because it can either be construed as sexist towards women or towards men. And to be totally equalitismist, both versions of sexism are just as bad as each other. It's a shame that society seems to have the views which have, effectively, "ruined" perfectly virtuous terms for me, but if one must make distinctions between gender... I'm not entirely comfortable that this is the best way to promote equality.

Because apart from anything else... in a perfect world, it wouldn't be an issue!


Jake (of Facts and Friction) said...

I think the day is worthwhile as it gets people talking and places media attention on Women's Issues.

However, I took offence to some Twitter users who ridiculed the idea of having an International Men's Day. Fair enough, these users probably saw a lot of laddish 'eh, if they have a 'day' we want one too! PC gone mad, innit?!' type posts, but realistically there are many areas where men are discriminated against, or disadvantaged compared to women.

Men live longer, yet have to wait 5 years longer to claim a state pension compared to women. We're more likely to be the victims of street violence, to be homeless, addicted to drink or drugs, and we do the dirtiest and dangerous jobs. We're three to four times more likely to commit suicide, yet pro-male charities that help fight depression struggle for funding while there are scores of feminist groups, and even a Minister for Women. When men complain of illness or depression we may be told to 'take it like a man' or to 'man up'. On top of that, in separation cases men are disadvantaged in the custody process, and for new parents, men receive a pitiful amount of paternity leave.

Obviously these things are small fry compared to how women are treated in areas of Africa or the Middle East, but it annoys me when the UK completely ignores Men's Issues.

Innocent Loverboy said...

All good points, my friend. I'll pick up on a few of them:-

- The way women are treated in the Third World is abominable, yes. And that's also why it's an International Women's Day. But even though tragedy is occurring in non-English-speaking countries, I can only really speak as a man coming from one country - in this case, the UK. You're right, a lot of men's issues are ignored... or simply glossed over.

- I've been told to "man up" by TD a few times, especially when I was emotional or fragile. I was very upset when being told this, because I was just being me! And last time I checked, I was a man!

- You mentioned the laddish comments on Twitter and I think that's where a lot of these problems stem from. Boorish "lad" lads are all over the media, because they garner the most attention. And so there is a bit of prejudice and maybe a fear that with more attention paid to men's issues in the UK, the yobbos will take over, or abuse their power. Not so! Most of us are nice!

- Women are also advantaged in the looking-for-sex stakes. Some of them don't think so, but it's true - it really is!

Your words are wise indeed. I'm not about to start campaigning for an International Men's Day (I've seen in several places now that there is one in November, although it's not very well publicised; it certainly won't get its own Google title bar), but more people need to be aware that there are issues facing men, just as there are facing women. They're just different issues. And need to be dealt with.

Anonymous said...

i agree that gender equality/general egalitarianism should be the forefront of feminism. and in my experience in various lefty groups, it has been.

the only thing that bothered me was this: "If we didn't have this silly 'male dominance' idea to begin with, there wouldn't be a problem."

i'm confused. are you saying the u.k. does not have a patriarchal social structure and, thus, women's issues are invalid? sorry, it's hard to gauge tone in writing so i suppose i'm attempting to establish if you believe that patriarchal societies and the effects therein exist. or if you're belittling the effects of patriarchy societies by deeming the system itself "silly," and, again, therefore invalid.

(not intended as a flame, i promise!)

Innocent Loverboy said...

The main point that I was trying to get across was that, in my experience, Western countries (including, but not limited to, the UK) appear to have a patriarchal idea ingrained into their citizens and socio-political set-up, whether or not that is correct or even intentional. I wouldn't say that the UK, for example, is with or without a deliberately patriarchal society, but it appears so at first glance; look at our Houses of Parliament and consider the ratio of men to women.

I didn't say women's issues are invalid. The idea was that we have men's issues as well as women's issues, which can be just as valid (although different), and as Jake said, they do tend to be sidelined a bit in comparison to the issues that women have, which have more sympathy in the media as women are (incorrectly) often considered to be more vulnerable - although, like the patriarchal bent thingy, this is also probably not intentional!

That's all I was attempting to say - and don't worry, I know you're not flaming me. You can actually form recognisable sentences.

Anna said...

I recommend that you watch this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIjiqeUx4fk

I agree utterly that equality is what we should be striving for, but we haven't reached that yet. It's a good idea to highlight these inequalities occasionally. Like the video says, "until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking."