Monday, October 25, 2010

A Plea for Unity

I have touched upon this subject several times before, and it is a common theme in all my feminist rants, but today I feel the need to reiterate.

The struggle in society for gender equality is encompassing; its necessity perforates the entire society. It is a question about equality of opportunity between individuals, and the equality of status between any one individual. It is not a struggle for one sex to stand above another, but it is exactly as defined - to be regarded as equals.

Every now and again, I encounter someone who dismisses the gender debate as natural, as something biological. Because I do not always handle the discussion so gallantly, dismissing the arguments as "bullshit," as one of my friends had to experience today, I feel the need to express it in the written word. It leaves less room for heated emotion and interruptions, both of which I am guilty to. It is a topic I hold very dearly, and something I am very passionate about, so it is hard for me to debate it in an emotionless, rational manner.

What I wish to point out is that it is not a competition between male and female or masculine and feminine, it is a plea for unity against inequality in the world, for the right to be an individual and to be regarded as one. As I pointed out to another friend, I do not believe that feminism is the sole solution to equality in the world, but I believe it is a solution, and so I will pursue it to the best of my ability. Equality between the sexes in the eyes of society is a step towards equality in other areas. It will not come automatically and the processes for other forms of equality cannot be pursued independently. It is all interconnected in this great struggle of the individual's worth, of civil rights and of equal opportunity.

Both women and men are affected by gender roles. No one can escape from them; it is a common barrier that we all have to face every day, all day. We are assigned personality traits or generalised into huge groups with people who are nothing like us. They may come from a different socio-economic background, culture or simply have other values than us, but they are individuals precisely as we are. Yet we are presumed to be one and the same.

There is no point in denying that women have been structurally disadvantaged. Any history book will tell you so, sometimes the inequality will be justified by the authors, but it is there - the confinement, the assumption of stupidity, and the assumption of incapability. But, being disadvantaged is not exclusive to the female gender. Because we are women, we do not hold a patent on being disgruntled with society or feeling discriminated. Men are as well. They suffer legally and socially from their lack of parental rights. Women also seem to have the exclusive right to show emotions in public, and for a man to do so leads to emasculation, a less worthy man in the eyes of society. I believe this is wrong.

I am aware that there are biological differences, ones that cannot be ignored, and should not be. I just do not believe that some of these biological qualities should be deemed 'better' than others, nor do I think it justifies treating individual human beings significantly different. I also resent the assumption that because one belongs to a certain gender, we should be attributed this trait. We are what we are, sometimes because of our gender, sometimes despite of it. To generalise too broadly is doing any individual a big injustice. To say that all women are emotional, weak and nurturing is just as incorrect to say that all British people loves tasteless food; or that all Swedes are blonde. We are a combination of culture and biology, and those two are both divided into infinite subgroups with infinite possibilities.

I guess this is my plea to you for unity against this common problem of gender roles and a call to fight for every individual's worth; for the right to be unique. To evaluate whether this division is needed in contemporary society at all. Simply because I can't see why I should be less deserving of, or less worth than you. Nor why you should be any less worth or deserving than me.

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