The boys club, or: How women have been, and still are, kept out of history

As I am writing this, I have just finished my first day at a seminar abroad, and I must say, the seminar started off on a frustrating and infuriating note for me. As we were listening to the first lecture this morning, which was supposed to be about Ricoeur, the lecturer, a male Professor from France, began with a brief sort of history slash back story of philosophers and great thinkers, among which Ricoeur was one (along with Derrida, Husserl, Foucault etc.). After talking about this and that philosopher he showed us a slide of all he had touched upon with their names and pictures, dates and such, and I couldn’t help thinking: There’s something wrong with this picture.
All the faces looking back at me from the screen, were Men. My anger and frustration was instant, I felt my pulse rising as the question boiled in my head; Why is there not a single woman pictured there?

Alas, I bit my tongue and let him continue on uninterrupted. I figured, maybe he will mention more, maybe he will say something. Or, maybe I am overreacting. But no, I am not, and I hate myself for even thinking that for a second, for going there, for almost forgiving yet again the erasure of women. Fuck that.

As the day went on, my frustration grew, but as a sign from the universe, it so happened that in the last section of the day, the group discussions, I was placed in the same group as the lecturer. I kept going back and forth for most of the discussion on whether or not I should now take the opportunity to ask him what he was thinking, why he decided to ignore female philosophers completely, and at the end of the discussion I raised my hand and spoke out. I said that I noticed that there were only men included in his presentation, that he didn’t mention a single woman, that while talking about this and that collaboration or link to Ricoeur he did not make a single connection to, say, Simone de Beauvoir, who, one could say, had similar thoughts on identity as did Ricoeur. Why was she left out?

The answer I got was, what I would call: a generic-non-reply-excuse. Basically, he said that he was not that familiar with her work (! How about reading up on it then?), that women at that time were not that encouraged to take part of the discourse (! Sure, but what about those who did?), that in France, Simone de Beauvoir is not that “popular” (! Ok, but we are not IN France, and you just gave a lecture about Ricoeur and how he was not that popular in France and had to go to America..), that the university at that time was very misogynist (! Obviously, still does not explain why you insist on keeping it that way..), and then another male lecturer chimed in trying to save the situation by saying: That was still not that long ago, and surely in a hundred years it will look different and more women will be included in the seminar then. And my honest response to that is: Well. No. Actually, things will in fact NOT look different then, unless we MAKE it different. If we keep excluding women, they will never be a part of the discourse. If we keep ignoring women, overlooking them, they will remain in the periphery.

Women have been written out of history for too long, it is not always that noticeable, it is not always complete or permanent, but it has happened, and still is happening. As Rebecca Solnit writes in one of the best books I’ve read this year, or probably my entire life, Men Explain Things to Me:

“Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.”

By say, not including female philosophers at a lecture where you mention a dozen male philosophers, you are, whether consciously or not, keeping women out of the discourse. You are showing your students that great thinkers equals men. You are holding on to the misogynist rules that have kept women on the outside for centuries. The fact that you have not read up on any female philosophers is of course also part of the problem, in fact, I can almost be certain that when your teachers presented their lectures on great philosophers, they most likely also did not mention women. And so the story goes. So it spins. Round and round. And if we keep spinning like this, we will forever be too damn dizzy to notice what is wrong with the bloody picture.

Enough is enough, is enough. It’s time to write a new history.

Not all men

I recently came across this article (in Swedish), in regards to the “not all men” debate, about how men, ordinary Swedish (or other..) men, help themselves to women’s bodies. Somehow, the “right” that men (think they) have to put their hands on women, surpasses the woman’s own rights to her own body. How is that normal? How can anyone think that this is ok, truly, really, ever?

The author of the article, an ordinary Swedish man, talks about this skewed, unjust problem, and tells stories about how this all started in middle school, where boys, ordinary boys, chased girls, put their hands on them, looked down their pants. How it then morphed in adulthood and was translated into more violent sexual assaults and rape. The author saw his friends, co-workers, acquaintances, all ordinary men, help themselves in different ways to women’s bodies, and he thought, foolishly, that he would never, could never, do something like that. Until he did. Cause the problem here is not that the rapists, assailants, grabbers are all monsters that hide during the day and come creeping out of the bushes at night. No, it’s that they are ordinary men, who take a step, or two, or a hundred, too far, who help themselves to something that they have been brought up to think, is rightfully theirs.

The stories he told all sound familiar to me, and I am sure, to all of my female friends, however my, our, point of view is from the other side. I too remember how the ordinary boys in middle school all of a sudden started to grab us girls, how they sometimes playfully, sometimes violently, put their hands on our bodies. How we were just supposed to deal with it, to feel flattered by it, how “boys will be boys” was an ever present echo in the air. I cannot possibly recall all the numerous times that my ass was grabbed by an ordinary boy in school, but I do remember a specific instant: a regular day when I was sitting on a table outside the lunch room, waiting for my friends, and this ordinary boy, one of the cute older boys, came sitting next to me, how we talked, joked, and how he suddenly slipped his hand on my butt, like it was inevitable, normal, something that I should feel good about. And the problem was, that I in one sense did feel good since that was what I was supposed to feel; if the cute boy at school put his hands on you, you were supposed to feel proud, flattered, happy. The question of whether or not you wanted his hands on your body at that particular moment, was not even a question at all. Obviously, whenever he felt that some ass-grabbing was due, that was always the appropriate time. So while I sat there, feeling his hand on my butt, I felt nervously happy, but at the same time, very, very uncomfortable. In my head, I tried to convince myself that it was ok, that it was something good, that I should just shut up and be glad about it, about getting this sort of attention. Cause if I told him off, surely, I would be the biggest dork ever. Right? He would then probably tease me, or even worse: never pay attention to me again. And since my “worth”, my raison d’être was (I was taught) linked to the amount of attention received from the cute ordinary boys at school, I could never say no. Looking back now, I wish I had done something, but while thinking this, I get angry, because no; it was not my responsibility to not get grabbed by him. It was his responsibility to not put his hands on me. It was not my fault then, and it was not my fault years later when snorkeling in Egypt, where a guide decided to conduct me away from the group and put his hands on my breasts inside my bikini. It was not my fault any of the numerous times while out dancing with my friends when  someone came and touched me from behind. It was not my fault when I was grabbed on the tram. It was never my fault when some ordinary man put his hands on me without my consent. It’s their fault, always.

And like the author in the article argued: this is such a regular, normal, ordinary thing that happens to everyone, and if you cannot count at least 10 women who have been sexually assaulted in some way, and 10 men who have assaulted a woman, that is because they have not told you about it. It is not because it does not exist in your immediate circle of friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, it is not because the ones who do that are monsters in hiding, or because “not all men” do that. All men, ordinary men, are capable of doing that, even the nicest ones, even the ones who “would never”. That is why the “not all men” argument has to die out. It has to be buried and forgotten so we can move forward and deal with the issue at hand, the norms that teaches ordinary men that they have the right to women’s bodies, that they may put their hands wherever they want, whenever they want.

This is a man’s issue, a woman’s issue, a human issue, everyone is involved, in some way or another, even those who de facto do not put their hands where they do not belong, if you are silently letting that happen around you, it makes you culpable too.

All men, ordinary men; it’s time to take a stand.

Mansplaining

Ah patriarchy, the gift that keeps on giving..

There has been some recent buzz online regarding the concept of “Mansplaining”, which simply put is when a man (or woman) interrupts a person (often a woman)  in order to explain something to them as if they were a little child not having the slightest clue about anything. Lovely, isn’t it? If you have never heard this before, you might want to check this informative video:

Now, first of all, there are those that behave in this disrespectful way regardless of gender, however, the issue at stake here is that mansplaining happens a lot both in films, TV and advertising as well as in real life and also that it seems most often to concern men mansplaining things to women, thus women are and have been systematically silenced by men for a long time. This really should come as no surprise, right? Seeing as how history is written by men, how society was shaped by men and it’s barely been a hundred years, even less in some countries, since women got the right to vote, i.e. “speak” their mind regarding important societal matters. Mansplaining may be a fairly recent term, but the act itself is older than feminism. Women and minority groups have been shushed and silenced in all types of manners for centuries, so this should really not come as a shock to anyone, the only thing I find surprising is that it took this long before we formulated a word for this type of behaviour.

Of course, whenever such topics get talked about online one will soon find people going on about “yeah well women do that too” and thus not really getting the point. But hey, let me manspl..ehm, explain it then:

The point is not that all men mansplain things, or that women never mansplain things, the point is that mansplaining is a phenomenon that occurs relatively often, and in most or at least many cases that are depicted, that many of us are exposed to, it is a man explaining things to a woman in a patronizing way, thus assuming that she is incompetent, that he is superior and knows best without having any reason for this belief. The point is that such an occurrence should not be happening in the scale that is has been and is happening, the point is that it should not be taken for granted that a man will always know more than a woman, regardless of topic.

So, how about treating each other as individuals, hearing each other out instead of silencing each other? There are always more sides to a story than yours. And in the words of David Brent:

Don’t assume. It makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.

March 8th

Here’s to all women and people subscribing to the female sex:

Happy International Women’s day!

Please: Keep fighting for equality, keep being strong, keep standing up for yourselves and others, keep being who you want to be and don’t take crap from anyone.
Today is a day to acknowledge yourselves and the injustices of a patriarchal power structure, today is a day to celebrate all women and their daily fight.

And for all you non-women out there, I hope you have or had a lovely day as well. I hope you took or will take the opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the women around you who make your lives worthwhile: your mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, partners, girlfriends, friends, colleagues and so forth. Why not support them, why not tell them that you are proud of them and happy to be a part of their lives? It shouldn’t be that difficult to celebrate others who may not necessarily be you.

While some may ask why this day is important or even needed, let me just say that, sadly, it is. I wish that we didn’t need it, but apparently, we do. It is important because it gives people an opportunity, a “reason” to at least once a year acknowledge the huge gaps that still exist between women and men. It is needed because women, and men, have for so long been trying to bridge the gaps and make them smaller, and to a degree, they have, but still, we have not yet reached equality. For all of you who feel that it is “unequal” to have a women’s day and not a men’s day, I can just say this: I would happily trade this day in order to get real equality in return, every day. But until that happens, no. Sorry, this day is reserved for women. So, women, let’s hear you roar.

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Be happy and proud to be a woman, but remember that you are so much more than your gender.

 

10 commandments for men

In a Swedish newspaper there was a debate article yesterday that made me happy and hopeful. It was written by a man who in his frustration regarding the recent writings in media about sexual assault towards women in different parts throughout the world, lead him to compose 10 commandments that he thought every man should read and follow.

Translated from Swedish, the commandments are as follows:

  1. Never let your sex drive compass over your respect for other people’s integrity.
  2. Learn to read other people’s signals, especially those that imply that what you are doing is not desirable behaviour.
  3. If someone sends out signals described in point 2, stop immediately whatever it was that you were doing.
  4. If it becomes more difficult to follow points 1-3 under the influence of alcohol, learn where to draw the line, or abstain completely from drinking.
  5. If other heterosexual men in your surroundings have problems following points 1-4, make it a habit to always reprehend them verbally.
  6. Make sure that you in depth understand the meaning of concepts like feminism, gender-power order and privileges.
  7. Help other heterosexual men to in depth understand the concepts in point 6.
  8. Understand that you in the reigning gender-power order are one of the most privileged people in society.
  9. Use your privileged position to lift someone who is less privileged.
  10. A gentleman is strong, brave, unselfish and puts others’ well-being before his own. Be a gentleman!

He wrote these because he felt and saw a need for drawing lines, since apparently, many do not know when they are crossing them. Because it is time for men to take their responsibilities and stop blaming women for their own assaults. Because these assaults are not “freak events”; they happen daily, regularly, to women all over the world.

I would like to make my own contribution in the spirit of his. But my attention is towards women instead. Here are 10 suggestions for women (I deliberately did not want to call them commandments, since women have in my opinion, been commanded to do this and that, be this and that, since the beginning of time, and who am I to command anyone to do anything?):

  1. Do not be afraid to speak up; speak your mind. After all: you are woman, let’s hear you roar.
  2. Do not be afraid to say No; nobody should try to force or convince you to do anything that you do not wish to do. No still means no.
  3. Do not feel ashamed if you have ever experienced any form of sexual assault; try talking about it and of course report the incident if possible. Remember that these things happen to most women in some degree, and it is not something that you should feel ashamed of, it is a shame on the society in which you live and it’s the assailant who should feel shame. Not you.
  4. Dress however you feel like dressing, use make-up, or don’t, shave your legs/armpits/whatnot, or don’t. Just remember that the choice is supposed to be yours. Do not let anyone or anything (for instance advertising..) try to convince you that you are less of a woman or a person if you do not follow their standards. There is no such thing as “normal”, it’s just something people have made up.
  5. Remember Spice girls? Well, one thing they did very right was express the importance of “Girl Power”. Remember this concept, cherish it, live by it.
  6. Do not be afraid to call yourself a feminist: even though there are people with wild misconceptions about this term, the basis of feminism is equality. It is not about man-hating hairy women without bra’s wanting to abolish men and all their misogynist ways. No, it’s about fighting for each and every individual’s right in society = Women and Men.
  7. Stop being so judgemental towards other women. There are countless studies that have shown how men in organizations for instance, help other men reach the top (eg. see Kanter), while women on the other hand are fighting both other women and other men. But who helps women? We must help ourselves, let’s change that and help each other as well. We are sisters, not enemies.
  8. Remember that being a woman is a social construction: It is not something biological, it is not something stable, it is not something universal. Thus, be whatever woman you want to be, just be yourself.
  9. Learn more about concepts such as feminism, gender, power structures, institutionalization, norms, patriarchy and so on. They will help you understand what it means to be a “woman” in today’s world, and thus, help you to fight against old-fashioned notions that should just be put out of their misery already. For more information, read: The second sex, by Simone de Beauvoir. She explains it all so well.
  10. Encourage other women around you to follow suggestions 1-9.

 

Dear dad

Recently, a short film was made for the organisation Care.no that has now been circling the web, getting both appraisal and critique.

Let me make one thing clear before continuing in my writing: I am on the pro-side here, I really love this film and cried like an idiot when I first saw it because for me, this is highlighting such a crucial issue that concerns us all. Even if you do not want to call yourself a feminist, listen up: you probably still have someone you care about in your family, circle of friends or other who is a girl or a woman and has been, or will be, through some ridiculously hateful, harmful and unfair moments and events, just for being a girl or a woman. The least you can do is acknowledge this.

And take five minutes of your life to watch the whole film:

Now, the contents of this film may be upsetting, they may be disturbing, they may make you angry, sad, frustrated. But if you are one of those viewers who instead gets defensive about what you have just watched, then perhaps you should reconsider for a moment. This film is not intended to point the finger and blame men or dads, or you. The point they are trying to make is this: There is a big damn difference between growing up as a girl and growing up as a boy, and all of these differences are something that we have made up ourselves. They are socially constructed in the way we act towards girls and boys, in the way we speak to girls and boys, in the way we acknowledge girls and boys, in the way we encourage girls and boys, in the way we treat girls and boys and so on and so forth. Thus, it is each and everyones’ damn responsibility to make an effort and change this unjust system. If you happen to be a dad who raises a daughter and you feel offended by this film. Well, ask yourself then, why are you offended? Why does this film which is trying to make a difference for your daughter and the way others will treat her throughout her life, offend you? This is not intended to blame you as a father, but rather raise your awareness of issues that your daughter most likely will go through. And as a dad, as a parent, it is your responsibility, to make sure that you do all that is in your power to do in order to protect your daughters, and your sons.

Why should this offend anyone?

Well here is perhaps a short answer: I’ve noticed that every time you start a gender-discussion pointing out some of the unequal issues concerning women and men, there is always someone, somewhere, (often a man) who starts rampaging and going on and on saying: What about men? Well… what ABOUT men? Everything is not about you, you know. Being the norm for so long, I understand how this may be frustrating for you, but equality and “women’s issues” does in fact concern you as well. And when someone points out that for instance men rape more than women, or other such issues, instead of getting upset shouting that you are not a rapist even though you are a man, well, take it easy. If you are not a rapist, or whatever the issues is about, then obviously, the issue is not about you, per se. So why get offended? Listen up instead, listen carefully and try to understand that the issue does concern you as well, even though it may not specifically be about you. As people living in a society, all the issues that have to do with gender concerns each and every one of us. And therefor, each and every one of us have the power to make some change.

So, if you happen to be a dad, raising a girl, this film should inspire you. I hope it does. For all our sakes.

The Second Sex

Finished writing my second term paper in the classics course, where we were supposed to present and discuss some classical texts, any way we wanted. Now of course I chose classics that I found interesting and fruitful for my own research field; from social construction, to gender, to ads to the male gaze and so on. Connecting these all together, finding the red thread, the causes and effects, has been thrilling but also very depressing..

One of my favourite classics that I had the pleasure of diving into again is hands down Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Even though it was written almost 70 years ago, her examination of women and their (our) development and placement in society still holds. Dissecting and explaining the relationship between subject and object, providing both accurate and interesting examples covering both factual occurrences and myths, she put forward an incredible piece of work that should never be forgotten.

“Any myth implies a Subject who projects its hopes and fears of a transcendent heaven. Not positing themselves as Subject, women have not created the virile myth that would reflect their projects; they have neither religion nor poetry that belongs to them alone: they still dream through men’s dreams. They worship the gods made by males.”

How incredibly depressing this is to read, yet how important it is to understand the enormous impact of it. Just letting it sink in, and getting the picture of the vast amounts of ramifications this has had over the way women have been and are still struggling to get a shared 1st place position alongside men. You start to wonder, will we ever get there?

I very much believe in the social construction of reality and things, however when discussing constructions, more often than not you hear that “people” have constructed this and that, but let’s be honest for a moment; not all people have always had the same amount of power to construct all the pieces of the puzzle we call society.

“The representation of the world as the world itself is the work of men; they describe it from a point of view that is their own and that they confound with the absolute truth.”

Now, I am not saying that women have just stood idly by while men did whatever they pleased. At least, I hope it was not like that, but who knows really? There is no one that can for sure say how the first society was built; sure we can speculate, but we cannot know since we were not there. Either way, somewhere along the line, it was decided that men were the norm, they were the people, and women, well, we came in second place for some reason. Perhaps it had to do with just biological factors? Or perhaps it had to do with religion? Ah..religion. Let’s talk some more about that, shall we?

First of all, no offence to all of you who might believe in some “god” or other, but as far as I see it, religion (perhaps not all but major ones, plus sects and so on, organized religion with crazy fanatics) has been the cause of several problems we are dealing with today. Sure, religions might have started out innocently, people just wanting something bigger to believe in than just themselves, however, as so many other things that people get their hands on, religion has evolved and throughout history been used time and time again to kill, slaughter, rape, enslave and just fuck up everything for people who do not share the same fantasies and worship the same “god/s” (ah, the old sky-cake conundrum, Patton Oswalt does it best). Now, I am not going to bash religions that I am not that familiar with because that would be rather ignorant of me, but the one that I “had” when I was born and know most about is Christianity (I have since long left it all behind me). I would argue that the bible and the fantastical stories (yes, stories, not facts) they talk about in there have really made things more difficult for women than they had to be. Starting with the “creation”: Adam, a man, of course, being created after “god’s” own image, i.e. “God” is a man. Of course. And then, since he, Adam, was feeling lonely and miserable, Eve, a woman, of course, was created to provide him some company. However, being a woman and all, she could not also be created from “god”, but had to come from one of Adam’s ribs. Well.. that’s just lovely isn’t it?! What I don’t understand is that if Eve was created from Adam, then why the hell did she get the uterus and the ability to actually give birth to others? Wouldn’t it have been more logical to give Adam that “gift”? And let’s not forget Virgin Mary, who did not even get to have sex in order to have a baby, well that’s just great, cheers. she probably really appreciated it. Cause lord knows women are not supposed to have sex willy-nilly, unless they want to be whores, cause those are the choices men have provided for them: Virgin or Whore. Take your pick ladies!

Ugh.

Christianity has in my opinion, had a huge impact in setting the norms, dividing women and men and making sure everyone knew, they were not equals under the laws of “god”. That is one of my main reasons for detesting religion, because it was created by certain types of people, in this case men (God, Adam, Jesus, the apostles etc etc all men), who of course wrote and set the standards and norms that they preferred. If it had instead been clear from the beginning that women and men were equal, then we might not have been where we are today, who knows..

Perhaps I am rambling a bit but I will make my final point now. The point being, that this society, the one in which I am writing this, started off on the wrong damn foot. And once you start something wrong, it can be very difficult to undo it. The thing is, that since we started off having men as the norm, they have thus always been the norm, no questions asked. It wasn’t even an “issue” some hundred years ago, I mean come on, in the early nineteenth century, the word ovary didn’t even exist, because they never thought about naming it since women were just seen as men who were “defected”, men turned outside in. Think about that for a minute.

Now think about this: What if we had started off in the opposite end? What if women had been the norm from the very beginning? What if men were seen as merely women, turned inside out?

The world would look very different indeed.

About not being equal and speaking up

By this point in time one would hope that it was pretty obvious that equality between the sexes is still just a mere dream, however, not all seem to see this crookedness and think that we all have the same opportunities and live according to the same standards and in the “same” society. However, the society we do live in does look fairly different for men and women, and therefore I must give praise to Jared Mauldin, a senior engineer who took a stand and spoke (well, wrote) about the inequality that surrounds his field. Thank you for your letter, for you seeing the vast differences regarding men and women in this field, for speaking up about it and foremost, for admitting that you and your gender are in fact the privileged ones when it comes to engineering (which basically includes all fields that have anything to do with technology).

Here is Jared’s letter:

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While feeling inspired and hopeful reading this, it also gives me a pang of cynicism and bitterness for the simple fact that this is the reality in which we live. Because even today women are not as encouraged as men to pursue technological activities and education, and when they do, they still face ridiculous challenges that have nothing to do with their capabilities or ambition, but everything to do with their gender. I have been in the IT-business for some time now and I have heard time and time again by my male peers who work as developers that “there just aren’t any great women who code”, in fact it is very rare to even find female developers at all. It does not surprise me that this is the mentality, and as much as I hate saying it, I can see what they mean. However, the reason for there not being enough developers who are women surely has more to do with the society we live in, than the fact that they are unable to code as well as men. Surely, this is in fact where the real problem lies. And this is a big problem.

Unless the challenges facing women in technological fields change, unless we (i.e. the society as a whole, the social structures we live by) change our mentality when it comes to women and technology, the crookedness will remain the same. And that is why Jared’s letter is so important, because it takes a stand in the right direction, towards equality.

Let’s just hope we get there some day.

Choices

Ok, say what you want about Lady Gaga and her music, however, couple of nights ago while perusing the web I came upon this video, which raises a very important and unjustifiable issue. I was moved by it, and before I knew it I had stumbled upon a rather frustrating debate on Facebook with some co-feminists and this one rather ignorant man. He started the debate by stating some statistics (who knows where the hell he even got them from) about there only being 6 cases of reported rapes in 1000 colleges, so what is all the fuss about? Well first of all, the fuss is not about this being an issue that happens so rarely and is so easy to get over we should all just get back to our own business and ignore it. The fuss is about this being a violent crime that should not happen at all. I don’t give a shit really if it happens to 1 in 100.000 women (or men for that matter), that is still 1 too damn many! The fuss is about us living in a world where this actually does happen, and trust me, I bet my own life on it, it happens in more than 6 occasions out of 1000, because the reported ones are not all that actually occur. We have no idea of knowing how many cases go unreported in our colleges, in our homes, in our cities, in our countries in the whole god damned world. But needless to say, it’s too damn many for it not being something to fuss about.

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We did not (surprise surprise) convince the man with our “female logic” and all of a sudden the debate was about gender, and him saying that basically us women are privileged and it’s our own faults cause we choose to have smaller salaries because we choose to have babies, and we choose to have low-paying jobs, because we choose not to work as hard as men. At this point, I was literally boiling. Apparently this guy has been living in a cave somewhere for the last thousands of years when the rest of society was built upon certain values, institutionalizing certain norms and certain social structures that we have, and are still stuck with, today. Cause how else on earth can you say that all of these things are choices? I did not choose to have the ability to have kids, but if I choose to have kids, that should still not be a reason for me earning less than the equivalent man (who also can choose, or not, to have kids, but at least is not more or less expected to have them by the society he lives in). I also did not choose, and have never chosen, to earn less than any man who performs the same tasks as I. For those who know me, know that I am a damned hard worker, and have always been, I do not like things handed to me on a platter, I want to earn everything for myself. But when I work as hard, or even harder, and still get paid less, well. Sorry but then I will start making a fuss.

When it comes to biology VS. society, I believe that the former is what gives us our basic foundation, while the latter is the force that actually shape who we become. We do not choose as much as we think we do, we only fool ourselves when we think all our choices are actually our own. Every choice we make is basically the product of our biology, culture and society, we are taught to like this and that, we are taught to choose this and that, we are taught to believe this and that. We are not ourselves but everything that surrounds us, and if you think for a minute that women chose to be the “second sex”, well think again. That is not, and has never been, a choice of ours. It has been stated, normalized and reinforced, over and over again. This must probably be one of the most used quotes when it comes to gender and feminism, but dammit, it can apparently never be said enough:

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
– Simone de Beauvoir

Before leaving the never-ending debate I wanted to address the man one last time, (even though I know it would not make any difference to him), so I wrote:

Brandon, I do not know where you got the idea that white females are the most privileged ones, since throughout our history, and throughout the world, the only really privileged person in almost all categories is a white middle-aged man. And do you know why “he” is privileged? Because “he” is the norm = the focal point whether it’s about power, money, medicine, literature, art, advertising and media, heck even language (think of how language is built, what words we use, very simple example, take sports, it’s called football and basketball etc, but when girls/women play, it becomes “women’s football” and “women’s basketball”. Just “normal” football is played by men, for they are the norm). The world we live in is based on the white male norm, whether we like it or not. And what feminism wants to do is raise women to the same level as we have raised men for ages. Now I am sorry that you feel “oppressed” by feminists cause they seem to mostly raise and discuss “female” issues, but the issues they (we) raise actually involve you too, they are not female issues at all, they are human issues. And also, when trying to lift up one “minority” or oppressed group of any sort, is it really that unbelievably weird that the focus is on that group? It rather seems like you feel less valued as a man, and that stings since you, as a man, have always been the most highly valued. But take it easy, you are still the norm, cause we still have a looooong way to go before actually reaching something worth calling equality.
Good night.

Talking to girls

I was bored and perusing Facebook when I came across this interesting blog post.

The fact that we talk to girls and boys differently shouldn’t really surprise anyone, but it should upset us all. The social norms we live by are not something we are born with, it’s infused in us as children. We learn early on how girls and boys should look and act, respectively. These norms are then passed on from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, mother to daughters, from our teachers, friends and even strangers. We all learn to conform to our gender. But gender, be it masculinity or femininity, is just something we have made up, so what is stopping us from reinventing these age old norms? Well, nothing really. The problem is that norms that are so deeply rooted are difficult to break from, they are engraved in our minds and our selves, therefore we have to actively think and decide to act differently, in order to make any change. This is not an easy task. I know. But it’s still worth it. If we can try changing bit by bit, making it possible to talk to girls about what they like and do, instead of how they look, asking boys about their feelings and stop pressuring them about being “strong” and “manly”. How great would it be if both girls and boys were encouraged for the same things, being complemented for the same achievements?

This issue is also deeply related to media and advertising, since ads reflect our culture and society, therefore reinforcing the norms we live in. So many ads are portraying women and men like the stereotypical image of gender we have been taught growing up: Women are beautiful and passive, Men are strong and active. As John Berger put it:

“Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision:
a sight.”

Growing up my mother always told me I was beautiful, being her child of course she thought and said so, as any mother would. This probably gave me some form of confidence boost that girls get from (being taught) hearing that. Still, more than praising my looks, she always encouraged me to use my brain. As a kid I was good at math, which thrilled my mother, and in the 4th grade it was me and this boy who were the best in class. However, while he was praised and acknowledged about his math skills, I was not. Needless to say, this really upset me so I told my mother about the boy and he being “better than me”. There and then, she made me a proposal: “How would you like to beat him at math and be the best?” I don’t know why but something in me triggered that day, my competitive instinct kicked in, I was sold. Of course I wanted to beat that boy in math, what ever it took. So from that day on I studied harder than before and sailed through the entire math book, I got so far ahead that in 5th grade I was reading the 7th grade math books. All the while my mother kept encouraging me and pushing me forward, praising not only my looks but also my smarts. So yeah, I did beat the boy, and that gave me a bigger confidence boost than any compliment about my appearance ever has.

I love my mother of course, but even more I am grateful for the way she raised me, being a strong independent woman herself, she always encouraged me to think, act and do. Not just be.

Thank you mom.