Continuing the discussion from Death threats drive Anita Sarkeesian from her home:
Well, I was warned, so I couldn’t reply to this in the original thread.
A. “Not conforming to gender roles” is the same thing as “Being a man” or "Being a woman"
Let’s talk about the idea that when men are kept away from “women’s work” that’s because they are not conforming to gender roles whereas when women are being kept away from judge and CEO positions it is not. These days people would be hesitant to say something in public like, “Being a judge is men’s work,” because they know that would be over the overtly-sexist line. Instead, a person who decides not to appoint as many women as men judges (as my federal government has been doing) is making some kind of conscious or subconscious judgement that women are less fit for the role of judge than men - whether because they believe women are less intelligent, less objective, less whatever.
I can think of two ways to come at this. First, I am pretty sure that the sort of people who deny women jobs based on their sex are kidding themselves if they are trying to separate out gender roles and abilities. The thinking would go: Why shouldn’t women be judges? Because they aren’t suited to be judged. Why should women care for children? Because they are suited for caring for children. The gender role and the aptitude are actually the same thing - that’s how God made us.
When you look at a man who goes to the extreme of killing women, we say he hates them because they are women. That’s true, but it is just as true to say he hates them for not conforming to their gender role. His understanding of their gender roles (in one recently highly publicized case) is that the function of women is to sexually service men. Women were very much not conforming to that gender role. That sounds insane and it was idiosyncratic, but it is only a matter of degree more insane and more idiosyncratic than every other gender role.
But secondly, let’s actually separate those things, since we know they can be separated. Suppose we accept that men are discriminated against because of their gender roles and women are discriminated against because of their perceived abilities. That means we are tacitly accepting that men could easily do women’s work but they simply choose not to. We are accepting that caring for young children is easy work - it’s built into our culture. This is a contributing factor in why it is underpaid in the first place.
B. If Men don’t do “women’s work” because it pays poorly, why do women do it?
Unless we accept the idea that women are actually less valuable than men, we can’t simply say men don’t do “women’s work” because it pays less.
We also can’t say that it’s because men simply aren’t interested in it. That was one of the arguments that men tried to use to keep women out of “men’s professions:” Women don’t want to be lawyers anyway. Check out this: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BwUCj0GCEAAtGyw.jpg. It’s the first point on the list against women getting the vote: they don’t want the vote.
Men don’t want to do “women’s work” because “women’s work” is seen as a thing a man shouldn’t do. It’s just like the clothing issue. There was a time that women would have been persecuted for wearing pants the way men are still persecuted for wearing dresses. It wasn’t enough at that time to simply say, “Well women don’t want to wear pants.”
And Men’s Rights Activists will point at that and naively say, “See, women have more rights than men,” but that’s missing the point. Most parents I know didn’t want to buy their daughters barbies or my little ponies because something about those “girly” toys put them off. Of course feminists have critiques barbies for lots of reasons, but we can hardly expect a three-year-old girl to come up with unique ways to explore what it means to be a girl in our culture - she’s three. Really, the reason we don’t like these toys is because they are “girly” and it is bad to be girly, it is bad to be feminine (I still don’t like barbie for a lot of reasons, but if my daughter one day really wants a barbie then she can have one and I will play barbies with her).
Men still insult each other by calling each other women. I don’t think women still insult each other by implying they are men (or at least not to nearly the same degree). The real point is that anything associated with being a women is degraded, and we are still okay with women degrading themselves by being women but it’s unacceptable for a man to degrade himself by being like a woman.
Also, the “pays less” is a red herring. Do a tour of elementary schools. Where I live the unionized teachers all make the same there. But virtually no men teach kindergarten, very few teach grades 1 and 2, and by grade 8 it’s a lot closer to 50-50 than 0-100. There are far more male nurses at the hospital than male childcare workers at the daycare. Where I live midwives make six figures but it is safe to say it is the most female job there is but somehow obstetricians still have lots of men among them so no one wonders if men can deliver babies. Men are staying out of these jobs because they are “for women” not because they are bad jobs.
C. But it’s just not as bad
Of course it isn’t, and I’m not sure how many times I have to agree with that point before people will stop bringing it up as a refutation. But when we say it’s not as bad, here’s what we mean:
Society is full of people. Each of those people faces discrimination in a different way. Some people who seem to objectively face harsh discrimination will be happy and fulfilled nonetheless, others who face seemingly less discrimination will have their lives ruined by it. If we took the total effect of sex-based discrimination against women and sex-based discrimination against men, we’d get a graph that looks like this:
Or maybe you’d prefer this to ensure we are capturing the difference correctly:
At any rate, we are comparing the averages - those vertical lines. Women have it worse than men. However, we know there are women out there who go and post “I don’t need feminism because” pictures who clearly do not feel discrimination has affected their lives (and there are women who don’t feel discrimination has affected their lives who are still capable of noticing it is out there affecting other people). And we know there are men who kill themselves because they can’t fit in as a man, so there are long tails regardless of where the averages are.
So it would be very silly to say that sex-based discrimination doesn’t have a greater impact on women than on men, but even in saying that we should be aware that sex-based discrimination is still literally killing men. That’s why I keep saying that I’m 100% okay with people saying, “That’s off topic, talk about it somewhere else” but I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut when people downplay discrimination against men or laugh it off.
But what if it actually wasn’t just as bad. Imagine a society where men and women are considered equals. Men are lawyers and doctors and construction workers and women are daycare workers, HR professionals and homemakers. But both are paid equally. People generally both regard both professions equally. Everyone (well, everyone who doesn’t want to be something their sex isn’t supposed to be) is treated with dignity and respect. There is no separate but equal, that is not a fair society.
D. Okay, but lets get our priorities straight
Okay, so we want to address the fact that women make less money than men for the same work before we address the fact that men aren’t childcare professionals. We want to talk about governments systemically appointing male rather than female judges before we talk about men being allowed to wear dresses. That sounds reasonable.
Except they are the same thing and we can’t change one without the other.
Back in university if one of my friends wanted to bate another one of my friends into a bad double in a game of cards, the standard taunt was “are you a girly girl?” Last year when some of these same people got together in the same setting for a reunion, the same taunt came out when friend A said, “What are you, a girly girl?” friend B said, “You know, that taunt devalues women and I don’t think we should say that.” Friend B said, “You’re right, I would never say that in front of my daughter.” Everyone acknowledged that he probably said it because they were back in the old place they used to play cards acting like they did in university, but that they all ought to know better now.
What was that an example of, an example of fighting discrimination against men who take on women’s roles or an example of fighting against he idea that women are feeble or ill suited for manly professions? It was both. I think when we are striving to make things better we are going to find that it’s usually both. If a generation of men could somehow be raised that no longer thought that they were less valuable when they did “women’s work”, wore “women’s clothes” or acting in “feminine ways” how could that generation of men value women less than themselves?
When conversations like this come up, I think we often wonder what we can do. Sarkeesian made a video series, and that’s great. My friend, in the example above, nudged the consciousness of everyone in the room. That’s a smaller impact, but that’s what men can mostly do - make sure other men don’t subtly or overtly put down women directly or indirectly by putting down one another for being like women.
And I really hope we can all avoid laughing at people who are beaten to death for being different. Holy crap that drove me nuts.