03 December 2012

Missing the Point

So the FOX News Suzanne Venker "War On Men" bit has been making the rounds.  Though it pains me to link to it, as if by driving some traffic there I have given the idiocy some kind of psychic validity, here it is.  Give it a read, if you think your blood pressure can take it, and then just let it sink in for a while.  Really marinate in it for a bit, then, and only then, will you really have a chance to enjoy the bad taste it leaves in your mouth.

First and foremost this is offensive to women, and by that I mean all women.  Clearly it is offensive to any woman who has chosen not to pursue the traditional female gender role. There is the strong implication that any path outside of landing a man, keeping a house and devoting yourself 100% to your children and your marriage is somehow outside of the natural order.  The subtext here is that desiring anything other than a traditional role has destroyed the very fabric of society and made it so that...wait for it, this bit is great...when do come to your senses and realize you are nothing without a marriageable man (and you will, believe her) there won't be any.  It will be all your fault that you can't have it all because you had the audacity to want it all. You know, like men do.

Honestly, it is pretty off-putting to those who did go down the traditional path too.  As someone who lives a life that pretty much embodies the traditional-hetero-normative marriage, I still find this to be offensive.  The double edged sword also implies that anyone living that lifestyle is only there because it is the only right choice.  Sure, in Ms. Venker's eyes I have fulfilled my destiny as a woman, but somehow it feels pretty patronizing. As if I am only here because I know my role, not because I have been fortunate enough to enjoy the opportunity to chose for myself.

Along this line, it is also pretty demeaning to men as well.  If these gender roles are the foundation of proper society, then men are just as oppressed by these roles as women.  By telling women that they may only fulfill their true feminine ideals by acting a certain way, you are also telling men that can only act within certain parameters. I suspect Venker would be equally appalled to discover that there are men who aspire to anything outside of steady job, wife and 2.4 kids. The idea that there is somehow a war on men strongly insinuates that there is something wrong with any man who does not think ultimate fulfillment comes from living in a world more suited to the 1950s.  Heaven forbid you be male and think a little change in gender roles it OK.  If you don't perfectly fit the masculine role as defined by tradition, then you are part of the problem.

The heart of the issue though is that is ignores the real point of feminism.  Feminism should be, at its heart, humanism.  This mean that all humans, wherever they fall on the gender spectrum, should have an equal chance to pursue the life they desire.  For some women this may mean pursuing a career before/while having a family, for some men this may mean staying home with children or pursuing non-traditional work*.  Feminism doesn't mean you can't chose to follow traditional paths, it just means you don't have to do so.  In the eyes of real feminism all choices are valid.  One only need concern themselves with embodying their own perception of their ideal role.  As a corollary I don't think "marriageable men" are that scarce a resource.  I think if marriage were viewed as "partnership" and we all acknowledge that there are as many ways to form the kind of partnership as there are stars in the sky, the eligible pool of partners gets pretty vast.   Feminism has not ruined marriage, people believing that there is only one right way to form a marriage has ruined partnership.

Lastly, Venker seems to be unaware that she would not even have a dog in this fight were it not for the previous generations of feminists.  For all the implication that women wanting equality is what is ruining our society, she only has a forum for that opinion thanks to that very same feminism.  Suzanne Venker fancies herself an marriage expert, political writer and published author yet, without feminism advancing such opportunities for women she would be just another wife with no say in her own life, let alone anyone else's.  In her perfect world of traditional gender roles, she would not be permitted to have a say in politics or social debate, let alone be a published author.   Her very right to spew this nonsense in a public forum exists only because of this much vilified feminism.  As someone who has enjoyed being something other than (or in addition to) a wife and mother, Ms. Venker should probably think twice before she argues than anyone desiring more than motherhood and house-wifery has ruined it for everyone.  

*Let us for the time being ignore the argument re: is homemaking work or a job or a luxury or whatever. you get my point here.