Sunday, October 20, 2013

The 4 Legacies of Feminism

I don't post much anymore because I have so many other things going on in life right now that I pretty much always feel guilty if I stop to ruminate on politics and stop trying to get all those other things done.

However, I saw this link today and thought I'd right a really quick post, which also means it's probably sloppy because I am not taking the time to read the link carefully and make sure I understand the author's POV and research whether his factual claims are correct and find sources to back up any counter claims I have and on and on.

So there's those disclaimers.

Anyway, from my skimming it looks like some guy is saying that yeah yeah, sure sure, feminism has helped women have more political and professional success, and now women's college sports teams get lots of money, and stuff...but has it been worth it? Nope. And there are four reasons why:

1) Young women now think they can have sex "just as men do," meaning have sex for fun and not have to expect a long-term commitment in order to have sex. This is bad because of the psychological and emotional effects on women.

2) "The second awful legacy of feminism has been the belief among women that they could and should postpone marriage until they developed their careers." This is bad because "the decade or more during which women have the best chance to attract men is spent being preoccupied with developing a career." Which is in turn bad because "most women are not programmed to prefer a great career to a great man and a family."

3) Women think they should work outside the home. This is bad because more children than ever aren't raised by their mothers, and are more often now raised by nannies/daycare.

4) Feminism has demasculinized men. Feminism has obliterated roles, so men no longer have the role of taking responsibility for the family. This is bad because "most men want to be honored in some way — as a husband, a father, a provider, as an accomplished something; they don’t want merely to be “equal partners” with a wife."

Okay, so, my "quick" thoughts (this is already taking too long) one at a time:

1) From what I've seen of the people I know, sex is different for different people. I agree that men are more likely to be emotionally and psychologically okay with casual sex than women, at least from my sample set. However I do know women who are also okay with casual sex, and when they are in a situation where third parties aren't telling them how to feel or act about it, the ones I know who feel this way seem perfectly content to me. From what I've seen, the most important factor is being able to be very direct and honest with yourself and the people you're having sex with about what it is you need and want, and finding people who feel the same way and can agree to that. This applies to people who want long-term, committed, monogamous sexual relationship, or people who want celibacy until marriage, or people who want to sleep with multiple people before marriage, sometimes even at the same time. I don't pretend all those options apply equally well for me (they certainly don't) but I've known people in every category, and when they had partners who were on the same page, they seemed to do well.

The author cites a correlation in women between depression and multiple sex partners. The author implies that having multiple sex partners makes women depressed, as opposed to depressed women being more likely to have multiple sex partners. I imagine it goes both ways, depending on the personality.

I think the ideal is for people to understand that how they want to approach sex is personal, and they should feel no more pressured to have casual sex in order to be "feminist" than they should feel pressured to have no sex until marriage in order to be "feminine."

I do think casual sex has major drawbacks, mostly because pregnancy is always a risk and it seems to me a lot of people put being able to have sex above making sure they never want an abortion. I think that's an important point but also a bit of a tangent, because the author's point seems to be that women are becoming emotionally and psychologically scarred by living in a society that says it's okay for women to have sex drives "as men do."

I also think it's a BS double standard to call on women to be the purists and hold off while easily accepting that's "just how men are." That could probably be a separate blog post too.

AND I think the authors skips over a major factor of "sexual liberation"--less shame and guilt placed on people who don't want to be celibate until marriage. I've thought about this before. Where I come from and where I was raised, I know people (men and women, but mostly women) who had various sexual experiences in high school and went through major bouts of shame and guilt, but it wasn't some natural, biochemical reaction. It was pretty clearly stemming from being raised to believe most pre-marital sexual experiences are very wrong (especially for women). I've seen some of those same people get older and come to accept that it can be okay to have sexual experiences outside of the template of what their parents demanded, and they've become much happier for it.

When I was in high school I thought my distant someday-husband would be angry or disappointed or disgusted if I had certain sexual experiences before meeting him. The boyfriend I have now actually could hardly care less what my history was before we got together, and I feel the same way about his history. All we really care about is how we treat each other, our loyalty and communication now. And I've thought before about how, had I been born decades, much less centuries, earlier, it would not have been that way. The repercussions for extra-marital sexual experiences (especially for women) could have ranged from my would-be husband leaving me outright to social ostracization to stoning, whatever. Instead, I am with a man who doesn't value me based on my "purity." He cares for me because of my mind, my personality, the way I treat him, and so on. And I'm grateful for that, I know it's not that way for everyone and wouldn't have been for me in a different era. And I think the sexual revolution brought me that. (Or maybe I just have a really great guy? Probably both.)

And I think society treating sex more casually has also affected how sexual assault is treated now compared to how it once was. It's not perfect, of course, but from what I can tell, victim-blaming has decreased enormously since decades past. (Hell, this case was only in 1989!) Wearing a provocative outfit doesn't make it kinda sorta "more okay" for someone to rape her, and I think that's because our society doesn't so strongly correlate casual sex with sin, not as it used to. And I also think it's because in general women are increasingly viewed less as objects and more as people. Getting less stuck on female purity and moving more toward it's-none-of-your-damn-business has, I think, been very good for women.

And while I'm on the subject of sexual assault, I would like to point out that the authors cavalier hand-wavy list of what feminism has accomplished is terribly short. People like this author are the people who say feminism has decreased respect for women mostly, by making sex casual, and yet, hey, isn't it great that marital rape is now illegal? It was only 1993 that the 50th state finally put that crime on the books. But I digress.

So I do think there are costs to how casual sex has gotten, but I think there are great benefits too.

Okay, moving on...

2) I have postponed marriage for multiple reasons, one of which is an interest in my education and career. My mother dropped out of college to get married, and when they got divorced she had no degree and a great deal of difficulty getting a job that allowed her to support herself and her children. This had a great impact on me and even as a child I thought about how there's no way I would get married until I at least had a degree. And given our country's epic divorce rates, I don't think it's unreasonable for plenty of women to feel the same way. Of course you don't get married planning on getting divorced--no one does, I would hope. But it's like the song goes:

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, 
maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one 
might run out.

However, not marrying for the sake of a career doesn't mean I can't date or be in a relationship. This author acts like if you care about education/career you can't even be on the market at all. Speaking as someone working on her master's, I know plenty of women with bachelor's and more who are married or engaged or in long-term relationships. Weird how men have been able to pursue both education/career and relationships simultaneously all this time, but the author seems to assume women can only pursue one or the other. I'm in a 4+ year relationship with a great man, and it's true we aren't married at this point, but it would be easy enough for us to get married as soon as we both feel ready, and it's like that for plenty of people.

I do think there's something to be said for it being easier for women to find mates in their twenties than later, and maybe that's true for men too but I think it's more true for women. At least from what I've seen, it's easier for "older" men (30 and up) to still find partners, even just much younger partners, than it is for "older" women.

However, as I said, I don't think women postponing marriage necessarily means women postponing relationships/courtship, and I also don't think all the women who really don't ever get married necessarily regret it as much as this guy suggests. Meanwhile, research shows women who delay marriage (but still ultimately get married) have lower rates of divorce and higher incomes. Sounds good to me.

As far as his comment about how women are programmed, I do think women are far more relationship-oriented than men and I think women are more likely to emphasize having a family than men. I get how a woman shouldn't go to college just because some ambiguous group ("society" or "feminists") tells her she should, especially if she would really rather settle down and start having kids. However, I'm not convinced that's the reason most women go to college. I think most women go to college for the same reason most men do--they want to develop careers, be financially secure, exercise their minds learning new things, and so on. Or, as the author puts it in his 4th point about men, women want to have "accomplished something." Apparently it makes sense for men to desire to be "honored" for "accomplishing something" but it doesn't make sense for women to desire the same thing, if that thing isn't "being a great stay-at-home mom." *eyeroll*

3) There's a difference between saying women "think" they should work outside the home and saying women want to work outside the home. See the point above. If a woman is only working outside the home because she feels she ought to, and it costs other parts of her life like raising her own kids, I agree that's a problem. The people I know who call themselves feminists believe women should be able to either work outside the home or be stay-at-home parents, and they believe men should be able to do that too, as long as each person finds a partner who wants the same arrangement.

I don't know enough about raising kids to comment on how to do it, but I can say my mom stayed at home with us and it was great and I'm glad she did, and I can totally understand why parents would want to do that. Personally I am very conflicted because I do want children and I think it would be great to stay at home and raise them. At the same time, I like my career path and would like my own career, partially to help financially support our family and partially because I get satisfaction out of exercising my mind and learning new material and creating things myself. I feel weird at the thought of living off of the fruits of my husband's work only, without contributing.

Speaking of finances, I expect a lot of women work outside the home even when they don't want to--not because "feminists" have told them to, but because the family needs the money. I've known plenty of families in which both parents work to get by, especially with more kids. So once again, the author suggests "feminists" and "society" have pushed women to do a thing they neither want nor need to do, but I doubt very much that's the case. In fact, even moreso than attending college, I expect women work outside the home because of lots of reasons besides "feminism" told them to.

4) I like how he puts "equal partners" in quotes. I found this part so condescendingly stupid I thought about just leaving it to speak for itself. But no.

I will just say I consider the man I am with quite masculine--in some ways more masculine than most men. And he treats me as an equal and isn't threatened by that arrangement at all. Masculinity and feminism are not mutually exclusive traits, and how sad to suggest as much to men. Everyone has different tastes in partners, and that's fine, but I know I couldn't ever be with a man whose very identity and sense of self is threatened by me wanting to have my own career, contributing financially (or, *gasp*, possibly even make more money than him!), wanting to have equal say in how we live our lives. I don't usually think of it this way, but I suppose he and I have a "feminist" relationship, and I think it works very well for us. There are some things each of us is naturally better at that wouldn't fit stereotypical gender roles, but we feel free to just do what we're best at and work with each other that way.

I know couples my age with more traditional gender-roled relationships, and that works very well for them. As with sex, I think in any relationship it's important to be able to be honest with yourself and your partner about who you are, how you are, and how you want the relationship to be, and for some people they really want it to be more traditional and that makes them happy, and more power to 'em. And for me, I like a more egalitarian set up, and my bf is good with that, and that works for us.

So, upon thinking about these four major legacies of feminism, I have to say I am as convinced as ever that overall feminism has been a great thing, and I'm very grateful to have been born in a time where my boyfriend and I feel free to live our lives how they work for us.

Aaaand this took  me like 45 minutes. I knew it!