False Feminist Issues Versus Genuinely Feminist Issues, Part III

– Pay equity has not been achieved yet. This is a crucial issue which will not be resolved by promoting the belief that “men conspire to keep women down by paying us less.” We will not achieve pay equity, in my opinion, until the male identification with professional realization and money-making is weakened and the female identification with them is strengthened to a point where they meet somewhere in a healthy intermediate point. (I can go into more detail in another post if people are not sure how this is supposed to work.)

– Gender discrimination in the workplace should stop. And it’s up to all of us to stop it. A man who believes that women should not be doctors, firefighters and soldiers are as much of an idiot as a woman who believes that men should not be massage therapists, secretaries, and daycare workers. There is nothing in anybody’s anatomy that makes one incapable of performing well in any job.

And the most important thing that, I believe, would help us resolve all of the above-mentioned issues:

Let’s stop fixating on genitals so much. As progressive and enlightened as we are, we still allow the biological sex (of others as well as of ourselves) to matter to us way too much. As long as we see the world in terms of men and women, men versus women, female interests against male interests, we will be stuck in this gendered universe that hurts all of us forever. Just imagine the freedom we will all experience when people will read as little into the shape of our genitals as they do into the shape of our ears and the length of our toes.

Last week, in my Spanish 102 class, I handed out an exercises with pictures of people practicing different professions (we are studying the vocabulary of the workplace). Immediately, several students raised their hands.

“There is a mistake in the handout,” they told me. “Here it says that this person is called Carlos and that doesn’t make sense.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Well, he looks like a girl. And besides, this is an elementary school teacher, so it’s got to be a woman.”

I started getting hot behind my ears, especially because the students still don’t possess the kind of command of Spanish that would allow me to explain to them that it’s nobody’s flapping business how Carlos looks and what profession he chooses to practice. And also that we should not be policing anybody’s gender identity in a Spanish class or elsewhere.


17 thoughts on “False Feminist Issues Versus Genuinely Feminist Issues, Part III”

  1. One additional change is essential. Household division of labor in child-rearing will have to equalize. All too often women carry the burden of work disruption following child-birth, during child illnesses, and child-education problems. Employers naturally and justifiably reflect this in their hiring and promotion decisions.

    Some equalization is already discernible. But in my experience, women still harm their relative job chances by providing the larger part of these services, save where they can afford to hire servants to take over the role.


  2. The fixating on genitals is extra important; not only for ending discrimination against cis women and men, but espectially for trans men and trans women. There are far too many people who fixate needlessly on whether or not trans people have had “the surgery” yet, and refuse to call them by their proper pronouns and name “until you’ve had the surgery”.
    Considering how expensive, inaccessible, and sometimes unattainable “the surgery” they have in mind is, they could learn to give it a rest and just accept that trans people are women or men, whether or not their genitals match their previous idea of a man or a woman.


    1. Good points about the damage the fixation on gender causes to the transgender people.

      There are also the intersex folks who often don’t even get a chance to decide whether they want their genitals to be “normalized” surgically. I’m now doing research on the intersex, and the stories I have read about the harm this fixation on strict boundaries between male and female are daunting.

      Every day, one person is born in this country who cannot be immediately classified as either male or female.

      The very idea that the world is subdivided into two very different groups (men and women) is very recent historically. We act like it’s always been around but it isn’t true. And the existence of the intersex and the transgender people demonstrates how unstable, baseless and non-biological the categories of male and female are.


  3. “Respecting the rights of all humans to make choices..”

    Where did this come from? Nothing clarissa wrote came even close to this.


    1. I don’t think anybody has disputed anybody’s right to make choices. 🙂

      I’d rather we stepped away from the rhetoric of choice for the moment since it is too simplistic to address complex issues.


    2. Choosing one’s employment or what to do with one’s body, for example. I’m sort of joking, since this is obviously not the usual definition of choice feminism. At the same time, why not?


  4. Clarissa, with the pay equality it has largely been achieved (most studies put it within 5% once you remove all confounding variables and actually consider equivalent jobs not just similar ones). One thing with this and the child rearing one that needs addressed though is the other gender’s expectation. Men are (seemingly since I can’t find sources at the moment) more willing to accept a lower earning spouse than women are, until you reverse this the bias in both will be hard to change.


    1. I’m glad to have such smart readers who immediately catch on to what I’m saying. This expectation that men should earn more, be providers, etc is precisely one of the factors that maintains pay inequity and workplace discrimination. These factors, however, are never taken into consideration when the phenomenon of pay equity is discussed.


    2. Yes.
      Also, there are too many women who are happy to not earn or earn very little while their husbands/boyfriends earn the bread. Nobody should force those women to earn if they don’t want to and, given how many they are, their very existence will pull down the average.

      There is a growing number of female breadwinners in recent years but this is out of necessity and not choice – usually because the husband/boyfriend lost his job. And also, statistically, marriages with a female breadwinner don’t last long.

      The bottom line is, men are under more pressure to earn money. This has two consequences. 1) averagely men will earn more and 2) there will be more men resorting to criminal behavior to acquire money. It would be nice to be able to equalize that pressure across the genders but before that we’ll solve all hunger in the world.


      1. There are some women who are content in a “traditional” marriage, where they have low-paying jobs which enable them to take time off for care-giving reasons. And there are some men who are happy in the same sort of relationship, working all the time and not developing deep relationships with either their spouse or their children. But these aren’t healthy models, and I don’t think they should be encouraged. Also, the existence of these models makes it harder for the healthier alternative to exist. The healthier alternative is that both men and women work in jobs they love, where they are
        respected, and both men and women are equally involved in raising their children – both take parental leave, both take time off work to deal with emergencies, etc.
        I don’t know where you get the idea that women breadwinners do so out of necessity and not because they are intelligent and ambitious and love their job.


        1. “I don’t know where you get the idea that women breadwinners do so out of necessity and not because they are intelligent and ambitious and love their job.”

          – I was married to a househusband once and it took a huge toll on the relationship. I loved my work, loved making money (and spending it). But we had such different rhythms, he and I. I had a whole world outside of home, while for him I was his whole world. And that’s quite a burden. So I’m agreeing with what twicerandomly is saying here. Unhealthy patterns start appearing in such unbalanced relatiionships.


  5. “The bottom line is, men are under more pressure to earn money. This has two consequences. 1) averagely men will earn more and 2) there will be more men resorting to criminal behavior to acquire money.”

    – I also believe that this pressure influences life expectancy. It’s one thing to be responsible for supporting yourself, but supporting an entire family, including another adult and one or several small children, that has got to be very stressful.


  6. Just from your brief description I think the students had a better point than you’re giving them credit for. Why did the author of the handout choose to make Carlos an elementary school teacher, when very few men are elementary school teachers? Why did the author make Carlos look “like a girl?” Maybe it just happened. Maybe there was a reason. But without knowing more I’d have to suspect that your students might have thought that t a political agenda was involved.


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