I often read things that evoke strong opinion in me, but that I choose not to write about because I find it frustrating. In some cases, it’s a topic I’ve already discussed and therefore don’t want to sound repetitive. Other times I think to myself, in instances where someone has written or said something absurd, do I really want to give this person even more of a platform? And instead I often write about things like snarky knitters, or something equally as frivolous, because it’s fun and entertaining for me. So a few days ago when I read this short article, To be happy, we must admit men and women aren’t ‘equal’, I rolled my eyes, snorted, and clicked to something else once I finished. But it showed up again on google news today, and so I decided to address it.
The article is filled with catchy little phrases like ‘reject the cultural script’, and ‘the modern generation has few role models for lasting love’. My personal favorite was her decision to use a quote from Francesco Schettino, the cowardly ship captain that abandoned the Costa Concordia last year.
In reality, what the author, Suzanne Venker, is giving us is another worn-out dose of the ‘let’s get back to more traditional roles and we’ll all live happily ever after’ argument. Her main point, that feminists believe men and women are equals, is tiresome. Here’s a little quote for y’all to try on for size:
“You see, the problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications. That is what feminists would have us believe, and anyone who contradicts this dogma is branded sexist.
But the truth must be heard. Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”
First, that last sentence is ridiculous. I’m not sure what scientific method she used to arrive at her conclusion, but, while the lack of female CEOs or stay-at-home dads might prove a number of things, I’m fairly certain her point isn’t one of them. Second, the feminist movement was about equality. I don’t think I’ve ever known a single person that believes males and females are exact equals. Now, I’ve known a lot of feminists that believe women are better than men. And I’ve known a great many men that believe they are superior to women. But men and women as ‘interchangeable beings’? Um, no. I know not a single person that believes we are nothing but bodies, and any one person can be exchanged with another. Equality, whether we are talking about gender, sexual preferences, race, or religion, is not about saying, ‘we are the exact same’, because of course we aren’t all the same. We are all human beings, however, and our worth should be of equal value. So please, Ms. Venker, who are these vague feminists you are referring to that believe we are all identical beings? Most of the ones I know, even those I strongly disagree with, all understand equality as being equal treatment and equal worth, and not some notion of us all being the exact same.
One of the arguments Venker implies is that feminism is to blame for men being less willing to lay down their lives for women. The example she gives, and where the quote from Schettino comes into play, is the sinking of the Costa Concordia as compared to the Titanic. Less than ten percent of the deaths on the Titanic were women. The Concordia had far less casualties, but it was chaotic, and there were countless accounts of women and children being pushed away by men in their hurry to get off the ship and onto a lifeboat (if you haven’t read details regarding the incident, the spread about it in Vanity Fair was enlightening).
Personally, I think the Concordia debacle says more about our current society in general, and not much at all regarding feminism. Sadly, we live in a world where it’s every person for themselves. Just a couple of days ago, I was walking my dog when a guy’s car broke down in an intersection. Within seconds people were yelling and honking their horns, including the people directly around him. It was crystal clear his truck was on the fritz, and yet people, both men and women, were yelling from their autos, throwing hands in the air, and laying on their horns. I walked around the block with my dog, and when I came back up the other side, the guy was still there, and a new round of people were honking and yelling, and not just at the poor dude, but at each other in their hurry to cut one another off in the name of getting on with their day. Right as I made it back, another man had pulled off the road, and he got out and helped the guy push his truck away from the intersection. Time elapsed from breakdown until someone came to his aid? About fifteen minutes. Remember when people would actually stop at the sight of a person in trouble, and, you know, help them?
Fifteen freaking minutes for someone to help this poor person out. And while they were pushing the truck, people were still honking. That is the world we live in, and I don’t think it has anything to do with feminism.
Look, say what you will about feminists, Lord knows I often disagree with many of them. Perhaps you think feminism is wonderful, or maybe, like Venker, you believe it has done more damage than good, or maybe you feel it’s outdated and in need of an overhaul. Whatever your belief, that’s fine, but let’s not blame the sad state of the world on the feminist movement, that’s freaking ridiculous.
I’m not sure what it is about Venker’s so-called revelation of truth that bothers me so much. Obviously, it’s a very cookie-cutter explanation given by a number of individuals, both men and women, as an argument against the feminist movement. This idea that we should all travel back in time to 1950 and embrace traditional gender roles is silly, because we’re never going back. Never. And that applies to all sorts of things in our society. Unhappiness with the current state of affairs can’t be resolved by going back to the past, life doesn’t work that way, you have to move forward. I agree there are a great many problems with our society right now, but wishing for bygone times of chivalry won’t solve any of them.