Friday, September 19, 2008

Feminism V. Machismo

In the last week, I’ve heard several women (some of whom would call themselves a feminist and others who wouldn’t touch the word with a ten-foot pole) describe how a woman should not be allowed to run the country because of their emotions. This is all in light of Sarah Palin being named as McCain’s VP pick. I won’t defend Palin on almost anything, but here I feel I must.

These women argue that the emotions women experience would make a woman unfit to run our country (or to be second in command). Surprisingly, no man has voiced this opinion to me. I say surprisingly because its usually the dominant population (in this case, men) that want to rid the oppressed (women) of their rights and argue that they’re naturally weak and feeble….the oppressed don’t usually agree. I think the men I come in contact with on a regular basis probably know better than to mention such an idea to such a real feminist like me.

I won’t deny biology. There is a time of the month, which we’re all familiar with, when women experience a surge of hormones that result in a fluctuation of emotions. Sure. Biology. Science. Fact. Makes sense. But any conscious female who has been experiencing this for, let’s just pick an arbitrary number, ten years can recognize this and can try to counteract it. At least I can usually control my outward emotions. Internally, I may be a “hot mess”, but outwardly I can hide my PMS. And I certainly don’t believe it’s a power that just I possess. Women aren’t the only ones to possess this strength either. Men do it all the time. I know this. I’ve seen my brother do it. And while he is a good man, nay a great one, I don’t think he’s the exception to the rule.

But the previous argument is ludicrous. And here’s why:
1.) It is ludicrous to call yourself a feminist and also espouse that women are unfit for any position simply because their women.
2.) It is ludicrous that people still believe this in our modern age.
* Although, in fairness, I will concede that suffrage happened a mere 88 years ago and it usually takes much longer, historically speaking, for the people to provide the every-day-equality that their legislation demands.
3.) Men have been in positions of power for thousands of years and I’ve never heard one concern that his machismo or masculinity might get in the way of a man doing his job well. If someone has said something similar, I imagine that it’s a much more modern theory and probably a statement of someone who considers themselves to be a feminist. Sadly, this means a part of the society will most likely write it off to a subculture theory that isn’t worth shit. This is, also, ludicrous.

All these points are troubling to me, obviously, because that’s why I wrote them. However, it’s the third point that seems completely obvious and not so all at the same time.

Now a little word association:
• Femininity says women should be dainty, polite, cultured, educated and well-spoken but not abrasive. Feminine women play a specific role at home as well. They are specifically the cook, the maid, and the primary caregiver and these roles are supposed to trump all others. A feminine woman’s career is secondary to her role as a wife and mother. Isn’t that why they say, “I know pronounce you man and wife”? Feminine women spend time and energy communicating their feelings. Evolutionarily speaking, women had to win over their mates with their willingness to be a good wife. Women are relationship kinds of people (and by relationship I mean that they value the interaction with both friends, family, and lovers) because we’ve been taught to be such. We force communication, play the caring role, and do our best to be attractive because we want our men to be faithful.
• Masculinity is about bravado. It’s about competition and spreading their seed. In our modern times, this evolutionary model sounds ridiculous because there is enough free will and thought to counteract this impulse but we can’t ignore our history as humans any more than we can ignore the Holocaust. If we do, it’s just bad news. Masculine men are to be strong, stoic, educated, and strong enough in mind for he and his partner. Masculine men take care of feminine women both physically and financially. All that emotional work, again, falls to the women. And this idea of strength and competition knows no bounds. That’s why our modern masculinity is found in the conversations where men brag about the number of women that they’ve slept with or how big their penis is. Sometimes these are serious conversations, other times less so. But they happen. With so much wrapped up in taking care of their wife and family in a superficial sort of sense and all the conquests that come before marriage, its no wonder that we have created a society ridden with homophobia. Let’s face it, you’re not really considered to be masculine if you’re not familiar with the vagina. Although this is notably ironic as many straight men don’t really know the vagina all that well either.

This is the dilemma: If a woman cries (an action that she has been socialized as okay and perfectly acceptable) at a movie or god-forbid anything, does this rule out her intellect and general competency for a job…any job? Conversely, does a man’s bravado or his desire to be sexually experienced and unemotional make them a poor choice for any job?

You could have guessed, but I say, unequivocally, NO.

Machismo has gotten our country into a few follies over the last eight years. And if you doubt me, just listen to a Toby Keith song. He epitomizes masculinity. Or perhaps Walker, Texas Ranger ranks Number One, but Keith is pretty close. His unwavering desire to fight back against what happened to us on 9/11 is admirable. No one wants to sit idly by and say, “It’s alright that this happened.” But it’s his unwavering desire to fight a war that has jack shit to do with what happened on 9/11, except that the Bush administration and a stupor-stricken media were able to spin 9/11 into a campaign for Iraq. This can be likened to the fact that masculinity suggests to men they shouldn’t ask for directions. Bush and Keith are way too prideful to back up, take a close look at has happened, and admit they might have made a mistake.

Femininity has issues too. Femininity, for starters, is outdated (well, it’s actually the dichotomy of masculinity and femininity that is outdated). And the image that femininity gives is weak. Literally, women are supposed to look weaker and smaller than men. The attributes of femininity are what our culture deems weak, too, and this is a major ideological shift that we need to experience as a society.

Women are now apart of the professional world. In a world of business and sales the attributes of femininity cannot equal success because it means a woman couldn’t be pushy or forward and she would, ultimately, have to be submissive to the male. It’s a dog-eat-dog sort of world. Femininity does NOT equal dog-eat-dog. Femininity says we should care for the dog even if it shits all over us and bites the hand that feeds it because we’re, ultimately, caregivers. And being a caregiver is the most important role a woman plays. Some would doubt that this sort of woman actually exists anymore. To which I would respond: Turn on TV Land. You’ll find her. She’s selfless, serving, and submissive. Will the real June Cleaver please stand up?

If a woman does show more masculine attributes in her professional or personal world, she’s considered to be a “bitch.” Just ask Hillary, she’s heard this before. When Hillary spent her campaign discussing the pressing issues our society faces, a pundit (who I can’t remember) said that we wouldn’t elect her as a nation because men would always feel as though she were nagging them to take out the trash. If that’s the case then I liken George Bush’s presidency to slipping the impressionable American public and media GHB and then taking advantage of us for the last eight years.

But let me get back to the issue of WHY women are seen as unfit for a powerful position. Their emotions.

Most of us (“us” here means humans, not women), are not empty inside. Unless of course you closely resemble my favorite fictional serial killer, Dexter, you probably feel things from time to time and probably express them in some way or another. But the great thing about humans is that you have control. Well, most of the time we do. Sometimes we choose not to control ourselves too and that’s where it gets dangerous.

Of course, as civilians many of us make decisions based on our emotions all the time. These decisions made on emotions usually range from greatest-idea-ever to catastrophic-in-consequences (i.e. your marriage v. a one-night-stand, respectively…or if you’re the other 50% of the population…one-night-stand v. your marriage). This is because we’re romantic, idealistic, and impulsive. But that’s an American thing. NOT a gender thing.

The bottom line here is that society has assigned men and women roles and each has willingly accepted different aspects of their roles over the years. Some parts of these roles have dissipated. Others will, hopefully, dissipate over time. Either way these roles partially dictate the appropriate emotional response (i.e. if we were taught marriage were akin to slavery all weddings would make us feel hopeless and sad…although I’m sure some DO see marriage this way already). Nevertheless we all play the part or risk being ridiculed and degraded in our own private lives or, if we’re unlucky enough, by national media conglomerates (the most recent and obvious of victims being the previously mentioned Clinton).

But while many of questioned how a woman’s socialization and adherence to her socially-prescribed rolled discussed above would affect their job performance, I’ve heard few ask how men adhering to their roles affects their performance. The latter question should have been a question we’ve been asking for a long time since history has been formed and manipulated by men in power for as long as we have existed.

Morale of the Story: Reality Bites. Especially when you have “feminists” claiming that women aren’t good enough for important jobs and men have been fracking up our country for centuries.

But then I guess, in reality, these women aren’t feminists. Or perhaps I’m being too harsh on them. But probably not.

No comments: