Monday, October 4, 2010

Feminism Ruins Everything

Right Wing Watch linked to an editorial from Concerned Women for America called, "It's (Some) Women's Fault" by Brenda Zurita. It was linked to a while ago (around June 30), and the arguments are even older than that. Really the author doesn't say anything that hasn't already been said hundreds of times over the last twenty years... but I wanted to critique the article. So I did. Because this is my blog and that's how I roll.

Right off the bat it's funny how cagey she's being about which women she might be blaming, when we all know she's talking about feminists. And what exactly is "it" that Zurita is blaming feminists for, you might ask? "It" is the fact that she could not get a seat on the bus the other day on her way to work. Seriously.

And as I stood tightly gripping the bar in front of me, I looked around at the young, able-bodied men sitting comfortably in their seats reading a paper or listening to music. Not one of them offered me their seat.
I didn't want to assume that Zurita was likewise "young" and "able-bodied", so I did a google search to try to find out more information about her. No luck. But as such information would have been directly relevant to the article, and she chose not to mention it, I am going to assume that Zurita thinks that the fact of her womanhood alone entitles her to a seat on the bus. 

Of course, being deprived of a seat is more than a mere inconvenience for her - it is a sign of the decay of modern society!
It is most disturbing when an obviously pregnant woman gets on the bus and the people offering her a seat are other women.
Women shouldn't offer other women their seats on the bus. Because that's the men's job. And it's downright disturbing when the two get mixed up!
For the first five minutes of the ride I fumed and, I must admit, made disparaging remarks in my head about the character of the men on the bus. But then I had to admit that the past several decades have been a confusing time for men. When the “second-wave” feminist movement kicked into high gear, many women strove to show how independent they were and refused men’s offers of assistance or common courtesy. 
Well, here's the root of the chivalry problem: "chivalry" is not about common courtesy. If it were, men would be expected to behave "chivalrously"  towards other men as well. It's rather about proving one's manliness by being kindly towards the weak womenfolk.

Anecdote!: It was one of the first times I was at my partner's parent's place for dinner, and his older brother was there too. We were passing the food around, when my partner's brother said disparagingly, "Why don't you serve your girlfriend?"

"Because I have arms!"

Yes, that was my actual response. It effectively shut him up.

Note that I was not the one my partner's brother was addressing; there was no question of, "is that pot too heavy for you" or anything like that. That's because "chivalry" is about men meeting expectations of manliness, not what the person (usually woman) they're performing the "common courtesy" for actually wants.

If someone refused your offer of "common courtesy" you shrug and get on with your day. But Zurita writes as if such refusals are an affront to manhood, which proves my point. If you're going to do someone a favour, do it because it's a nice thing to do, not because it's a "manly" thing to do.

For Zurita, it seems that women's independence/self-actualization must come at the cost of men. This is made even clearer by her next statement:
And to add insult to injury, in our brave new world of science, women are so independent that they no longer believe they need an actual man to have a baby.
That's right. When Maggie and Dorota down the street decide to have a child, it is a slap in the face to every man on the planet! Forget about their own happiness and aspirations - what about the happiness and aspirations of the men who... don't have anything to do with them... so... what was the problem again?
I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote from The Abolition Man, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Ah. So, not being required to impregnate a woman who probably never would have given you the opportunity to impregnate her anyways = castration. Since men have suffered such figurative castration, Zurita shouldn't be surprised when no man offered her his seat on the bus! See, it all logically follows.
Feminists have moved past wanting equal opportunities to demanding equal outcomes. As much as some want to insist, men and women are not created the same; men and women complement each other in having different strengths and innate abilities. This is something that should be celebrated and embraced, not rejected and denied. 

Oh, this old chestnut. So very well-worn and so very not true. We know that science is against her. So where does Zurita turn to conjure up support for this assertion? The Bible of course!
In the Bible, God defined roles so that men are normally the providers and women the nurturers. Feminism disparages these roles and does so to the detriment of our society. Today the roles of men and women are so blurred that there is no discernable difference.

...aaand now it's comically cliched. You'd think we were in the midst of the 1960s with long-haired hippies wandering around in beads and flowered shirts.

But really, I wish it were the case that men's and women's roles were that indistinguishable. That guys were lobbying for fully paid parental leave and affordable day care, and that women in politics weren't harangued over their looks.

It's not just the Bible, though, that supports Zurita's argument. It's also the moral filth manufactured by liberal elites in Hollywood:
And yet, Hollywood churns out chick flicks left and right wherein the apparently independent, self-made woman yearns to meet a man who will take care of her and marry her — to complete her. Hollywood makes these “Cinderella-type” films because women flock to them. The movies geared towards men are usually action-adventures where the main character is a macho guy who’s usually out to save a woman and the world from imminent disaster. So as much as feminism wants to ignore the differences, people understand them and pay to watch them on the big screen — perhaps nostalgically.

It always amazes me when people take examples of the way we talk about gender, and then present it as proof of the innate, immutable characteristics of gender. It's like arguing that the fact that we have the words "sunrise" and "sunset" in our vocabulary is proof that the earth is stationary, and the sun orbits around it.
If only we could get that depiction of traditional roles translated into real life again.
"... again." As if, at any point, rom-coms were an accurate depiction of real life.
There are many women in America today who want a man to open the door for them, and I’m sure there are many men who want to show women that courtesy. I bet the men who take the same bus as I do would be surprised to know that most of the women on the bus would be delighted, and not offended, if you offered us your seat.

Strange how Zurita is so sure she can speak for women like this. I mean, if a random dude offered me his seat on the bus, I probably wouldn't be offended, but I would look a the guy funny and say no thanks. It's also strange that she seems to assume that all these guys are just aching to give up their seats to grateful women. Like they don't prefer to sit on the bus just as much as she does... but I guess it doesn't occur to her that a man would enjoy something she enjoys, since men and women are so totally different from one another. 

And I think that deep down inside, Zurita realizes that men aren't secretly longing to give up their seats for her - at least not any more than women are. Because she seems to think that this is necessary:
Maybe we need a slogan — “Real men practice chivalry, and real women graciously accept.”

There's something we don't have enough of: gender policing!
So, to all the men who have been confused and, frankly, insulted by the mixed messages feminism conveys, I apologize.
 Yeah, I don't think you're in any position to be apologizing for feminism, lady. You'd have to participate in it before you can do that.
Now sir, may I have your seat?
Ugh. This is just gross. First there's the attempt to ingratiate herself towards men in general, whom she assumes to be anti-feminist, naturally. Then using her platform to guilt men into giving her a seat on the bus - which is just really petty. And on top of all that there's the notion that things really were better for women back in the day. When kindness was bought with weakness and vulnerability in the public sphere. After all, we got to sit on the bus, what more could we want?


  1. I was chuckling and eye-rolling through out the post and then I realised that women like her a REAL. Then my head goes, "Oh. I see".

    Good post, I needed this today :)

  2. If only women apologized for being all uppity, men would start offering us their seats again, which, you know, they all secretly really want to do.

  3. ""chivalry" is not about common courtesy. If it were, men would be expected to behave "chilvarously" towards other men as well. It's rather about proving one's manliness by being kindly towards the weak womenfolk."

    This, a hundred times over. Where were you when I was arguing with a co-worker about this last week?

  4. To be honest, when a man holds a door open for me (unless I'm carrying a big load) or offers me his seat, it's insulting. I am an able-bodied person who does not need their patronising chivalry, thank you very much.

    If I need help, I will ask for it. Likewise I will hold a door open for anyone, man or woman, who looks like they need a hand and if there is someone behind me, I wont let the door swing shut after me. That's just polite.

    (And for the record, holding a door open means stopping at the door, pulling it open and standing aside while the other person goes through, then going through the door after them. Not letting the door swing shut behind you is very different and not at all patronising. It's amazing in these discussions how many people think that not letting the door shut behind you IS holding a door open for someone. No, believe me we had whole assemblies about etiquette, manners and door holding, holding a door open is not the same as not letting it close after you)

  5. @ Kat, I don't mind anyone holding the door open for me as long as I can pretty much guess that had I gotten to the door first, I would have held it open. I've had guys insist they hold the door if I get there first, and that pisses me off ridiculous amounts. I'm already holding the fucking door, dude, what is it that you think is complicated about this?

  6. Eff. @Cat, not Kat. Apologies.

  7. Excellent takedown. I would only add that the chivalry that Zurita is so nostalgic for (at least in the US) only applied to *some* women. Others, by virtue of belonging to a different race/religion/socioeconomic class, were deemed "not real women" and were fair game for abuse. So, it was not just a system to distinguish "masculinity" from "feminity," but also to reinforce what kind of woman society valued. I've learned not to expect much from right wing editorials, but I'm still a little bit surprised that a US woman could write an entire article about not getting a seat on the bus without even a passing acknowledgment of this dynamic.

  8. Excellent points, Anonymous, thanks for your comment.

  9. Good post. I was really enjoying your analysis/criticism and then the more I read the more the author of the article you were dismantling started to annoy me. I'm feeling a certain amount of distress after realizing that their are people who actually think like this. Kudos for having the patience to say something about it. I think I may have vomited in my own mouth had I given it a try.

  10. This article reveals that I and Ms. Zurita inhabit very different experience-worlds... I stand on the bus frequently and have never thought to resent men for not giving me up their seat.

    Of course, there is the bit that, back in the day when men gave up seats for women, I wouldn't have been allowed to attend the uni to whose campus I ride the bus in the first place.

  11. Well, she'll be pleased to know that sexism isn't dead. "Kids Give Me Hope" (an inspirational site) has all kinds of stories about sweet little boys learning to dispense sexism-disguised-as-courtesy to every obvious vagina owner within speaking distance. I remember how thrilled I was to learn that having a squatter meant that I was made completely of porcelain as far as boys/men were concerned. I can only imagine how happy our dear little girls will be to learn that they are not considered strong enough to perform basic everyday tasks.


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