As I mentioned in my last post, there’s a fierce debate going on in Norwegian blog land, with harsh words and a wide range of accusations – as usual, whenever feminists are involved. But it’s quite the proverbial storm in a cup, really, as the discussions are restricted to a very limited core of bloggers, whose impact on the public debate is less than insignificant, I’m afraid. Which is all good and proper, as the debate’s level of reasoning serves neither parties.
But I can’t for the life of me figure out how it’s possible to derail the overall issue to such an extent that it all boils down to a quarrel over what it is that actually defines a feminist. Do the Gucci feminists qualify, for one, and is their reluctance to embrace the feminist label acceptable at all?
These are the focal points of Norwegian bloggers’ debate on equal rights. Which, as you may have surmised, has taken me aback quite a bit – even if my interest in the subject is somewhat limited, to say the least. Even so I’m dumbfounded by how an inner circle of the blogosphere’s hoity toity toffs (incompatible and incomparable with those of the “real world”, as if blogs aren’t part of it) claim to be the bearers of the one single truth, shunning opposition in the most manipulative ways.
If I took a lesson from my two previous posts on feminism, the one recently published in Norwegian included, it’s that dissent from feminist consensus is met with accusations of childishness, prejudice, male chauvinism and similar condescending characteristics, from people labelling a little fun with feminism patronising — as if dismissing your opponents’ arguments as childish or sad isn’t (patronising).
But you know, such are the ways of the pack.
Women in charge of household routines, such as cooking, dishes, laundry, groceries and children are in general informed that they should rise against the oppression, whereas men assuming same responsibilities are met with cheers or an awkward silence, prompting me to ask:
- If cheered, because it’s time that olden days’ oppression of women is reversed, rather than balanced?
- If met with awkward silence, because continued oppression is recognised, but hey, at least the victim is the former oppressor (or a symbol thereof)?
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to claim that I possess the answers, but I do get a feeling that it could indeed be so, for want of an explanation to the absence of protested male oppression — unless, of course, such oppression is believed unexisting – or justified, perhaps.
In fact, contradictions stand in line. Equal pay for same work is – or ought to be – a given, but although many a modern-day suffragette demands it, she’d generally despise her spouse for not being the household’s chief or sole provider. It’s that ghastly old cake again. Eat or have? By which I do not imply that conditions should remain unchanged. It should be fairly obvious by now that I’m all for equal rights, but please bear in mind that it requires an end to that kind of habitual thinking, even among feminists.
As a fairly liberal man, brought up by old school standards, there’s no denying that I’m torn between habitual thinking and sheer reason myself. Certainly, growing up at a time when women were considered mere accessories, amid the dawn of women’s lib, with its infuriated, fearsome Amazons, marching Chinese Red Army-style, I’d be lying if I said their appearance didn’t scare me shit-less.
To this day that’s the kind of imagery the term “feminist” invokes. Being a man in the mid-forties, and a liberal one at that, it should come as no surprise that many of my peers – or older, of whom there are quite a few – associate feminists with these qualities, too. Yet, feminism has changed, or so they say. If so, why cling to the term at all? Surely, keeping middle-aged to old men (and women, for that matter) at bay, will only contribute to a delay of feminism’s ultimate goals. At least taking us aboard definitely wouldn’t hamper the process.
There’s a reason why I put up the picture (This is what a feminist looks like) on top here, you know. If most people did not associate feminists with bra burnings, uni-sex attires and raging furies — why spend so much time on explaining that it isn’t so? Explanations are unnecessary, I expect.
Another, yet weightier reason for replacing feminism with a better word, though, is its misleading implications. Perhaps I’d better go to the dictionaries for support:
fem – i – nine [fem-uh-nin]
- pertaining to a woman or girl: feminine beauty; feminine dress.
- having qualities traditionally ascribed to women, as sensitivity or gentleness.
- effeminate; womanish: a man with a feminine walk.
- belonging to the female sex; female: feminine staff members.
- Grammar. noting or pertaining to that one of the three genders of Latin, Greek, German, etc., or one of the two genders of French, Spanish, Hebrew, etc., having among its members most nouns referring to females, as well as other nouns, as Latin stella “star,” or German Zeit “time.”
Then we add an ism:
The suffix -ism denotes a distinctive system of beliefs, myth, doctrine or theory that guides a social movement, institution, class or group. For example, baptize (literally derived from “to dip”) becomes “baptism,” a distinctive system of cleansing in water to testify to the forgiveness of sins. It is taken from the Greek suffix -ismos, Latin -ismus, and Old French -isme, that forms nouns from verbal stems. Greek baptismos “immersion”, for example, is derived from baptizein, a Greek verb meaning “to immerse”. Its usage has since been extended to signify the ideology or philosophy surrounding the element to which the suffix is added.
Hang on… I thought feminism was all about equal rights for both sexes, but this just doesn’t add up, does it. Last week’s quarrel with the Norwegian feminist crowd was a bit of a revelation in that respect. Although all appear to approve of equal rights for both sexes, giving up a definition which blatantly favours only one seems something pretty close to impossible – maintaining that feminism has incorporated male rights over the years. Only problem is: It appears to have slipped under the radar. Just as troublesome however: Quite a few among us are bound to interpret definitions literally. Turning to the dictionary and to encycopledia we’re offered explanations leaving no doubt that feminism is all about women, which feminists may contest until their faces turn blue, but they’ll still be hard-pressed to prove the books wrong.
If clinging to a gravely misleading definition is of the utmost importance, you really can’t help but wondering, now can you…
Legal quota with consequences
Earlier this year Norwegian public limited companies were forced to ensure a 40 percent female board representation – or face legal implications imposed on them. Seeing as Norway’s population is made up by approximately 50 percent of each gender, 87 percent men employed versus 60 percent women, would imply that, with a 40 percent female boardroom – or management – representation, men are significantly less suited for responsibilities or much less competent.
If, however, that doesn’t hold true, the companies would yield drastically worsened earnings. The above conclusion could just as well be correct, however, leaving us no option but to crowd the boardrooms and the managerial offices with women. That goes without saying. Any recruiter hiring employees (or directors of boards) based on gender rather than capabilities, has proved her-/himself incompetent – period.
If at any time we all agree on that, that’s when feminism will have obliterated itself. Meanwhile, please find a better term – or face continued alienation by those who see feminism as a one-way struggle.
I should, of course, add that there are other aspects aplenty. We have structural issues, intolerable rape statistics, male and female students’ tendency to make traditional choices, the challenges posed by immigration from not-so-liberal cultures – and so forth and so on, but my access to research resources is limited. The above mentioned topics alone should however give plenty of cause for reflection.
In pointing out these things among Norwegian bloggers, I’ve succeeded, beyond my wildest imagination, in earning much aggravation and estrangement in the Norwegian blogosphere – a quest I set out to fulfil by other means, too, but holding up feminism’s shortcomings is always a winner. Some things should never be questioned.
F……….ism, you say?
I suppose you could say that.