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View Diary: Why I'm feminist (205 comments)

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  •  Have you read much classic philosophy? (4.00)
    I ask because many of the big names, everyone from Aristotle to Hegel, pretty much considered women to have a maximum potential of well trained housepets. They most certainly did not grant us "people" status in any meaningful sense of the term.
    •  I take your point, but (none)
      Aristotle didn't literally think women were housepets. He just thought they were fundamentally inferior to men. He granted women "people" status in the most meaningful sense of the term, that they were of the same species as men. And if he went overboard in his theorizing (for some reason he thought women had fewer teeth than men) that's no reason to throw out the idea that women are characteristically different from men:

      Characteristically, on average, different things are good for women, women are good at different tasks, women like differnt things, etc. Notice that I take no position on what the law should be. You may disagree (and I'm sure everyone here will) but it bears thinking about.

      •  I've spent years studying it, actually (4.00)
        So I've thought about it critically more than most people.

        I thought my post made clear that I wasn't trying to assert that Aristotle thought women were literally housepets, just that that was more or less the status to which we were relegated by him. It was an analogy. Given that you acknowledge his belief that women are fundamentally inferior to men, I'm not sure where you disagree with me on that point. Perhaps it's because I consider equal worth as a subject to be a more meaningful sense of the word "people" than a simple categorization within the species?

        As to your second point, you and I are probably starting from a very different premise as to the essentialist nature of the sexes. I see some biological difference, but likely much less than you see. Overall, I think the scientific data supports that the sexes are much more alike than we are different, and that many so-called differences can be accounted for via social constructions of gender.

        •  I beg your pardon (none)
          I never said I thought women were "inferior" to men. I'm not even sure what that would mean; it's like saying chairs are inferior to tables.

          But there are valid Darwinian reasons for supposing that women are essentially different from men. F'rinstance, women, when they have sex, are liable to spend 9 months carrying a fetus, and not have any sexual opportunities during that time. Hence, women must be pickier about their sexual partners, so as to avoid being stuck with a dud fetus.

          Men, on the other hand, have nothing to lose by impregnating everything that comes down the pike; if the woman is not fit to raise children, the man has lost nothing by having sex with her, and if she is, then his genes have been successfully spread.

          So Darwinism at least gives us an explanation for why women are more choosy (and get more upset at being raped) than men, and I think it's a much better explanation than anything having to do with social construction.  

          •  No argument from me on these points. (none)
            Re: Physical differences

            The reason there aren't many (any?) women in the Navy SEALS, the reason there are very few female firefighters, the reason most of the people doing the heavy lifting jobs in the world are men... is that men are physically better suited to those jobs. FOR THE MOST PART.

            But when a woman comes along who is up to the task and gets turned down because the boys don't want a chick horning in on their territory... then we have a problem.

            As for the sex thing... are people still arguing about that stuff? Ah, well. I guess we still need stuff to talk about at dinner parties.

            Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

            by Maryscott OConnor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 04:05:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The main reason men are (none)
              more suited for those jobs is that they have not figured out how to do them without having as much strength. If they put their minds to it, they would be able to build machinery or something to make strength not so much of an issue, therefore women could do the same jobs.

              That's what was done for ditch digging. :-D

              By the way, I have done a lot of "male" jobs, and found that usually I had to use my body differently to work to my strengths. I used my legs more than my upper body, for instance. It usually was a completely different motion than the men used, and would take a while to figure out.

          •  Please read my post more carefully (none)
            I did not say that you agreed with Aristotle.

            Neither did I assert that there were no biological differences between men and women. What I said was that I don't think there are very many such differences. I did assume you believed there are more such differences than I do, which I freely admit may have been a bad assumption, although when you make an analogy like the chairs & tables one you made, it definitely sounds like you believe the sexes are far more essentially different than I do.

          •  I am confused by your explainations (4.00)
            First, the examples you use are choices for breeding and have nothing to do with rearing young, nor do they answer whether women should be equal under our laws.

            There are many other strategies used by many species. Wolves for example. The alpha male and female have pups, then the entire pack contributes equally to the rearing of the young. Male Seahorses are given the eggs and are responsible for gestation. For every example you have, there are many other strategies used to accomplish the same thing. Strategies also change under varying circumstances.

            Evolution has also endowed us with a large cranium. This gives us the opportunity to actually use it to make decisions. Your examples remind me more of "Social Darwinism" which was NOT one of Darwin's ideas. I could be wrong, but so far I have not been able to reconcile your examples and how they relate to the modern idea of feminism.

            We can choose what we view as "equal". Women are not asking to be able to lift more or be seen equal in all arm-wrestling endeavors. But if they are doing the same job, they should be PAID equally for it.

            Are women and men equal biologically in all aspects? No. But I know many women that are more aggressive than I am and much stronger. I know many males more suited to raising their children than their spouses.

            I am male and consider myself a feminist. My daughter can out-think most boys in her age group and if she is denied opportunity to be equally paid because of her lack of a phallus, or if she is unable to get the career she is more than qualified for, I will be pissed.

            If you could please explain to me more clearly how you are associating Darwinism and Feminism I would appreciate it.

            •  Well, (none)
              I never claimed to talk about child-rearing, though I suppose I could. I was talking about pregnancy, so your wolves example is irrelevant.

              Comparing the seahorse case to our own is useful. In the seahorse case, it is the males who do the egg incubating. Just as I would predict, in seahorse populations it is the females who are more wanton, and the males are more reserved, since the males have more to waste on a failed reproduction.

              In most other species, it is the female who gets pregnant, the female who (out of biological necessity) is stuck with the fetus, and the female who has the most to lose from a dud reproduction. So in those species, including humans, it is the female who is more choosy. Humans' reproductive strategy is not like a seahorse's and never could be.

              If it's not clear how my examples related to my definition of feminism, above, (which no one seemed to like) I don't know what to say.

              Also, no one (except maybe a few religiously addled people) denies that women should be paid the same for the same work. The question is whether women are usually capable of the same work men are (or vice-versa). Women are characteristically not as good at heavy lifting as men, though there are always exceptions. I'll even go so far as to say that if the average woman takes up heavy lifting as a career she shouldn't be paid as much (since she'll be unable to do it as well as the average man). But for doing literally the same work as a man, a woman should be paid the same. Savvy?

          •  Huh??? (none)
            Are you suggesting that men who are raped enjoy it?

            Are you suggesting that women cannot have or enjoy sex while pregnant?

            Try not to worship to heavily at the altar of Darwin.  Social creatures that we are, society does impact our beliefs and actions.

            •  Not exactly. (none)
              I can't say I (as a man) would enjoy being raped, but it doesn't hold the same horrors for me that I gather it does for women.

              And I'm not suggesting that women cannot have sex while pregnant, I'm just saying that they cannot conceive while pregnant; hence, it will do their genes no good for them to have sex while pregnant. And this by itself is reason enough for women to be choosy about partners, for those 9 months (and then some) are wasted time and effort when it comes to passing on genes.

              And I'm aware that social expectations do affect our behavior, but the question is "how much?" And my answer is "more than you evidently think."

              •  Can we get back to you (none)
                about this:
                I can't say I (as a man) would enjoy being raped, but it doesn't hold the same horrors for me that I gather it does for women.

                if you're ever raped?

                It holds no horrors for you because you perceive it as less likely to happen to you. It has nothing to do with your plumbing or your genetics. It has everything to do with your socialization.

                A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention in human history, with the possible exception of handguns and tequila. - Mitch Ratcliffe

                by wickerman26 on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 09:24:51 AM PST

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                •  It happens (none)
                  I suppose he's not planning on going to prison.  When you figure in estimates of prison rapes, it's quite possible more men are raped annually than women.  Possibly up to twice as many.  To say nothing of the circumstances surrounding them.  
          •  actually, (4.00)
            more recent physical anthropology suggests that women would, historically, sleep around in order to garner the best genetically viable material for their offspring, no different than men.

            You've gotta take off the pink and blue glasses when looking at bio-evolutionary arguments. Sometimes things appear to fit our conclusions only because we've discounted other explanations.

            For instance, there is the theory that women are better nonverbal decoders because of an evolutionary history that included primary care for pre-verbal (infants) and post-verbal (elderly) individuals, and head aphasics. Now, where was I on the day when the class was told that there were significant quantities of head injuries -- enough so to have an evolutionary impact?

            Cross cultural perspectives shows that the range of gendered behavior is quite large; far too broad to be a direct manifestation of biological impulses. Canary & House did a meta-analysis (about 10 years old now) that surveyed research on sex difference in communication; their findings showed that only 2% of the variance of difference in communication behavior between women and men could be explained by biology.

            And as for nonverbal decoding, women's abilities are on par with black American men -- suggesting that it's power, not sex, that explains that difference. Being a minority and having to consider not only your own standpoint but that of all/many others is actually what leads to better abilities. Being able to walk down the street in the dark without hesistation vs. being able to walk down the street and having to constantly monitor your surroundings and the nonverbals of everyone you encounter will do that.

            If there are biological influences on different behavior, they are small and likely not significant. More to the point, when the same behavior is called "assertive" in a man, and "bitchy" in a woman, does it really matter? I'm firmly with West & Zimmerman - gender is something we do and something that we think with.

      •  This may well be true (4.00)
        Characteristically, on average, different things are good for women, women are good at different tasks, women like differnt things, etc.

        This may well be true but the science is still out in on this issue.

        One of the problems with letting people like Aristotle, James Dobson or (one suspects) you, for that matter to define just how we are alike and how we are different is that women are usually defined as 'being better' at boring and repetitive tasks or  better at unpaid caretaking tasks or defined out of any meaningful, non-dependant role etc.

        I maintain that there are more differences amoungst the sexes than between them and defining gender roles (and particularly when one gender defines these roles) results in horrible, boring, demeaning lives for a great many people.
        One of the reasons I am a feminist is because when I was young the newspaper used to have employment ads for men and employment ads for women and the jobs for women were always boring, horrible, confined to few spheres and paid badly whereas the jobs for men offered a wide range of opportunities. This struck me as somewhat unfair.

        I really do get very annoyed when conservatives say things like "different things are good for women, women are good at different things" but, then, as someone upthread pointed out, racism and sexism are inextricably linked.

        "...the definition of a gaffe in Washington is somebody who tells the truth but shouldn't have." Howard Dean

        by colleen on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 04:22:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Male definitions (none)
          Did you notice that, for the most part, the ones making up the definitions of gender differences are male?

          Women who spend time keeping their bodies fully fit are often denigrated as "butch" or "lesbo" (their term, not mine).  Women who spend time exploring 'non-traditional" subject (like physics, or philosophy, for example) are often denigrated as "maladjusted."

          I speak as a heterosexual woman who spent my teen years hauling grain and shoveling manure at a barn, skating, bicycling, weight lifting, doing gymnastics, swimming, playing baseball, kickball, soccer, and skiing, who had an abiding interest in both physics and philosophy.  I know the denigration first hand.

          But hey, there's NO societal influence on women's perceived capabilities. No teenage girls ever cave to peer pressure...

          •  maladjusted == geek (none)
            In all fairness, the label of "maladjusted" is readily applied to male physicists - and mathematicians, and engineers, and scientists, and all other forms of geek - as well as females.  And it is often a sound assessment.  

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