Monthly Archives: October 2007

Can Facts Turn this Dude Into a Feminist?

Over at Feministe, Jill posts a sad lament from a reader. See, she has this friend. And he’s great. But he doesn’t get feminism. He doesn’t believe there’s a patriarchy. It makes her cry tears of frustration when they argue about it. And she wants some advice.

I think we’ve all struggled with people like this in our lives. I’ve asked myself many times what type of argument works best with such an individual.

If he’s pro-choice, he might consider laws that enforce "waiting periods" on women requesting abortions. When was the last time the state told him he wasn’t fit to make a medical decision without thinking it over just a few more times? Does he believe a government composed of equal numbers of women and men would pass such laws?

And speaking of government, if there is no longer a patriarchy, how come less than 20 percent of Congress is made up of women in 2007? How come we still haven’t had a woman president? Isn’t our democracy supposed to be representative, meaning that it reflects the population at large? How can our government fairly create laws affecting women’s lives when it is made up of so few women?

But maybe this guy believes women choose to stay at home instead of pursuing high profile careers. And that’s okay, because domestic work is wonderful. It’s uplifting. Somebody has to do it, and it’s only natural women should be the ones. After all, women get pregnant. And pregnancy leads directly to doing other people’s laundry and all the vacuuming.

You might want to point out to him the ways in which this ideology constrains his own choices. If housework and childcare are so exalted, how come so few men are doing them? And if he, as a man, does decide to take time off to be with his family or work from home, how come he would be in such a minority? Why is so much of his worth wrapped up in his title at work, his income, and other traditionally masculine measures of status? Why does he feel pressure to pay at dinner, even if his date makes more money?

And speaking of money, how come auto workers are unionized, but house cleaners and hair dressers aren’t? How come research continues to show that even when we control for maternity leave, time off of work, and different levels of education, women still make only 70 cents on the male dollar?

And if there isn’t a patriarchy, why did the Supreme Court, on which only one woman sits, decide last spring that women and people of color should be severly limited in filing complaints against such pay discrimination? Congress, led by a woman, had to overrule that decision.

Feminism is necessary.

But do you think facts can ever convince a skeptic?

What We Argue About — Less Important Than How We Argue

Chart This New York Times chart listing the most common reasons couples fight tells me that I’m both very normal and incredibly odd. Recent arguments in my relationship include whether it’s acceptable to vacuum loudly on Saturday mornings (housework is a popular cause of fights across the board, it seems), but also whether writing or editing is a better career-building skill, and to what extent it’s appropriate for a news article to primarly give one national party’s side of a story.

The dating scene in Washington, D.C. is very special.

In any case, Tara Parker-Pope‘s article about couples’ fights is really depressing. Consider this scene:

For women, whether a husband’s arguing style was warm or hostile had the biggest effect on her heart health. Dr. Smith notes that in a fight about money, for instance, one man said, "Did you pass elementary school math?" But another said, "Bless you, you are not so good with the checkbook, but you’re good at other things." In both exchanges, the husband was criticizing his wife’s money management skills, but the second comment was infused with a level of warmth. In the study, a warm style of arguing by either spouse lowered the wife’s risk of heart disease.

Wow. Even the "nice guy" in this scenario is just incredibly condescending. The couples in the study were primarily in their sixties, so one can only hope that younger generations are better at respecting one other. Because as Dr. Timothy Smith told the Times about fights, "It’s how you conduct yourself. Can you do it in a way that gets your concerns addressed, but without doing damage at the same time? That’s not an easy mark to hit for some couples."

What Have We Really Learned from Anita Hill?

I missed this yesterday, but Anita Hill took to the page of the New York Times to answer Clarence Thomas‘ sexist allegations against her. Again. Hill reminds us of one of the primary ironies of the scandal: Thomas’ reputed harassment of Hill, his employee, took place while he was chairman of the EEOC, the federal agency charged with protecting workers from discrimination.

Hill expresses optimism in her piece that since her contentious moment on the national stage in 1991, we’ve made much progress in combating workplace harassment. While it’s true that cultural norms have advanced over the last decade — "sexual harassment" is now part of the national vocabulary — the story of the EEOC under the Bush administration is a sad one indeed. The agency has been diminished by slashed budgets, staff cuts, and a shift away from investigations of systemic discrimination practiced by large corporations and toward individual complaints. In other words, the current EEOC prefers to target discriminatory bosses, not discriminatory corporate policies and practices.

cross-posted at TAPPED