Unintended Consequences of Feminism Part 5- Where To Now?

Possibly one of the greatest developments of modern society is the rise of subcultures. These days there is a far wider spectrum of what is considered normal. At the last Australian Census we discovered that the nuclear family now makes up less then half of all Australian households. The rest are populated with single parents, single people, extended families, same sex couples and other variations of the word family. Mainstream society is far more accepting of subcultures then at any time in the past. We’re learning to be more accepting. Hopefully this trend will continue.

Despite all the arguing that goes on in chatrooms and on blogs around the world, when it boils down to it we are sharing ideas and being exposed to opinions we would otherwise never have come across. And while it often just gets us even more entrenched in our own ideas it does force us to think those ideas through, to articulate them to someone else who is more then ready to pull our ideas to pieces and display all the faults in our logic. This is a good thing. It’s a learning curve that forces critical thinking. We should be able to defend our ideas and presumptions as well as learn from others. For every person that posts a comment on a blog or gets involved in a heated discussion there are many more who are still making up their minds, who are reading and learning. Hopeful, this accelerated learning and interaction will continue.

Personally, I would like to see feminism become less contentious. Most women I spoke to about  this are divided about the idea of feminism. They felt that to criticise the movement was somehow traitorous. But they all admit scruples about  feminism itself, not wanting to be seen as bitter women with an axe to grind. And most women don’t agree with the most radical extremes- like the idea that all sex is rape, or the demonising of all men as evil patriarchal overlords. Most women like men, we want their respect, not to grind them into the dirt under our heels as it sometimes seems the extreme feminists want. So perhaps a move into less extremism would be good. A more balanced approach to equality, one that doesn’t involve alienating the majority. 

Ultimately, I would love to live in a world where gender isn’t ever an issue. Where we aren’t locked into roles to play simply because of the sex we were born. I’d love for my daughter to look back with incredulity at the thought that the world was ever divided by gender roles the same was I was surprised that women weren’t always able to do or be whatever they wanted. The only way to achieve such a world is to teach our children our ideals. Raise them that way. Because gender roles are simply a by product of our society and we are society. Its too easy to make problems of society ‘out there’ or someone else’s responsibility. Its too easy to forget that each and every one of us is society, or the public. It used to be easy to let out opinions be formed by the media, by newspaper and magazine articles- now, we can form our opinions on the internet, through discussion and wide research of opposing ideas. We can share our opinions and actually take part in society in ways we never imagined before the Internet Age.

I think the best way forward for the feminist movement, if it wants to include all women not just the loud and bossy radicals, is through meaningful discussion. We have achieved the laws we need, all that remains is to change the way we relate to each other. The only way to do that is to just do it. High and mighty attitudes don’t help. Assumptions don’t help either. Real discussions go both ways, so its important that we actually hear the concerns of those who disagree with us, be they men or women, and actually address those concerns. Changing the world isn’t an easy job, and it was never going to happen over night but a lot of progress has been made.

I’ll wrap this up with one last thought. Perhaps the single most important thing to keep in mind is that life itself is a work in progress. We shouldn’t be aiming for an end goal at all. So long as we continue to fight injustice where ever we find it, so long as we aim for fairness and equality no matter what gender, or shape, or colour, sexual preference or difference at all then we’ll be working towards a better world. And so long as we do our bit, every day, in all the little ways like smiling at a stranger or helping someone who needs it, then we will be working towards a world where the very concept of discrimination is as abhorrent to us as slavery. We may never reach Utopia but we should always strive for it.

Originally Published on Rusty lime 16th July 2008

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2 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences of Feminism Part 5- Where To Now?

  1. Very interesting – but sometimes difficult to apply. I think mainly of war situations, where too many armchair supporters now cheer because women are allowed into combat roles in the USA. Odd to cheer that anyone would be allowed there, but practically this does raise some issues, whether we like it or not. Just does. We can try to treat everyone equally but most men I know would take extra measures to protect a woman under combat. This is a form of sexism I would easily find myself guilty of, and could put people in danger. But one most be realistic – that is the future, and happened long ago in the Muslem Kurd Liberation army, among the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and the Nepali Maoists – very much, so is hardly a western invention..

    • It’s interesting that you use protecting women in frontline combat as your example. It brings to mind the stories of ancient Greek warriors who were encouraged to form relationships because the commanders knew that the men would fight all the harder to protect someone they loved/ cared about then a bunch of guys who just happened to be in their unit. I think the instinct to protect someone we care about is very strong, and to me, that need to protect a woman over and above how you would protect a man suggests to me that you care about in women in general. That’s not a universal feeling, but it’s one I deeply admire you for.

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