Sunday, 25 September 2011

Added bonus: "The Problem with Favouring Women"

Continuing on the fine tradition of writing after getting angry at something someone said on Newsnight… I ended up writing a guest postfor The F Word.

That’s right! I have published something on The F Word. I have only been trying to do it for 5 years… YAY ME!

The point I was trying to make was that since women are socialised to be the carers in society, any attack on the jobs that provide the “care” will constitute an attack on women. And an attack on what we could even call “women’s values”. Not because women are intrinsically more caring than men, but because patriarchy has decided that they are, and socialised them accordingly. Throughout the world, “caring” is seen as something women do, more often than not, for free. So any attack on the “caring” jobs will be an attack on women’s labour and women’s values.

And that is how you explain the Tories’ cuts as “ideologically motivated”. They are driven by the assumption that caring is expendable, certain in the belief that if caring is needed, women will step up to do it, for free. Women’s work is therefore devalued and made invisible.

This is just a template to understand the cuts; it is not enough to explain them. For instance, police services are being cut as well, and these are not “caring” jobs, and neither are they more popular with women than men. So this “template” has its limitations; but I believe it’s useful anyway.

And now for an added bonus... (that is, something I wanted to add to the original piece but had to leave out). For your reading pleasure, I give you the reason why the Right's idea that "doing things for women is bad for them" is a whole load of cobblers. 

During the debate, Charlotte Vere came out with the old chestnut of “treating women as grown ups”, by which she means “don’t do things for women because they are women” because that is just “equality for equality’s sake”. Of course, being a conservative, she failed to actually acknowledge the real world.

On the surface, this argument sounds good. I mean, why should we do things for women just because they are women? That doesn’t sound like equality; it sounds like “favouritism”, which is the opposite of equality.

This idea is powerful because nobody believes that any group should be “favoured” above any other.

It’s important to understand exactly what the Right is doing when they come up with arguments like this one.

What they do is this: forget about the real world and imagine everything in it works wonders. Then present any attempts at “changing” the world as suspect and devious.

Indeed, who wouldn’t agree with Vere’s argument that favouring women is infantilising them? Women are more than capable to stand on their own two feet, thank you so very much, and to assume that women need “help” is simply offensive.

And you know what? I agree. I don’t believe that anyone should be favoured over anyone else. Regardless of gender.

And if I played my cards correctly, you will have understood where Vere’s argument fails. Because while she can see that “favouring women” is not good for them, she fails to realise that FAVOURING MEN IS NOT GOOD FOR THEM EITHER.

Vere, being a conservative, excels at failing to understand the real, concrete world in which we live. She simply assumes that the world is full of equality, and then she says that “doing things for women” is not according women the respect they deserve as adults.

And while the second part of her argument is true, her assumption is completely false.

The world is not full of equality. And what feminists want is for the world to STOP DOING THINGS FOR MEN BECAUSE THEY ARE MEN. Because that is not treating men as grown ups. That is infantilizing men. That is assuming men can’t do things for themselves without the whole world giving them an extra hand.

THAT is the real, concrete world where we live. It is men who are being favoured for being men. And that is what feminists want to change.

And one of the ways we can do that is creating equal favouritism: if men are being favoured for being men, then women should also be favoured for being women.

If, after all these arguments, you can see why “quotas” for women will not, on their own, bring about equality, you can give yourself 1000 points.

I will have to leave that for some other time.


trichquestions said...

Hi Mary Tracy. Remember me? I used to blog at crazy like us? a few years ago under the name shatterboxx :) Glad to see you've had something up on The F Word. I've been trying to write something for them for ages too! I've got my own blog now at if you ever want to check it out. Take care.

smashesthep said...

Congratulations, MT! Great article.