After reading the comments by Mr Willett as reported by the Daily Telegraph yesterday, I had to admit that there was some truth in it. There is definitely evidence to suggest that feminism has helped women into work, with their worth and ambition and, in turn, this has mean that ‘ambitious working class men’ have had more fair competition for jobs. I’m not entirely sure if Mr Willett was reporting a fact, or stating a bias, but the reported evidence is definitely in favour of his statement.
Just one hundred years ago, women could not vote. Women over 30 were given the right to vote in 1918 and all women became eligible for the vote in 1928. This gives some insight into the very recent treatment of women as unequal to men, and there are people alive today who will remember this. This blog post examines a letter from 1911 from activist Emily Davison to Parliament regarding the same issues that Mr Willett’s comments raised – what should people be doing in their daily lives? What roles should people be forced into?
My question here is, now we are all apparently legally equal, who decides what we should do with our everyday life? Regardless of sex and gender, is it not the right of the individual to decide if or how they work, who looks after their children, or if they engage in education? What business is it of anyone else? Does that make anyone elses opinion subjective?
The holding up of women in general as a binary opposite to men in general is ridiculous, as there are as many different opinions on how we wish to live our lives as there are people. Sadly and inevitably, there will, amongst the masses, be a section of the community we are bent on power, on status climbing, and on forcing others to take on their opinions. Thankfully, this is fairly transparent in society and most intelligent people will sigh and turn their faces from the misogynistic white noise and carry simply living a fair life, regardless. Until the power struggle turns forceful or violent, that is.
Holding up a study or statistics in the national press to ‘prove’ something is pointless, as we are never told the sample selection criteria, the sample size or the methodology. For all we know, the evidence for Mr Willett’s study could be from a sample of Male Members of Parliament or women over seventy-five. Similarly, we are never told the actual finding; the report we read is often a third hand biased opinion on something much more neutral.
The Daily Telegraph headline ‘feminism has held back working men’ suggests that somehow the positioning of feminists as a vulnerable group has been reversed, and now ambitious working class men must fight against discrimination. Mr Willetts was commenting on social mobility, and the Telegraph appears to have got caught in another bear-trap of reporting science as accurate so as to separate it from opinion: generalisation. Extrapolating findings to ‘women’ or indeed ‘men’ is a huge step from one government minister’s opinion on statistical finding on five years of employment figures.
It’s not worth delving into the rights and wrongs of sex and gender discrimination, save to say that it’s never about women being equal to men; this would assume that men were somehow ‘better’ in the first place. Equality is about respecting difference and about being able to choose what you do in life regardless of sex and gender, be it housework, rocket science or an MP.
When I read the article and it’s many and varied responses, I felt a warmth in my heart. For all this report has sparked a discussion around feminism and it’s opponents and how we should be living our live, I have recently observed women and men working in difficult circumstances to get to university, whilst looking after children, and taking a second job to pay for it. Women and men gritting who help other women who are victims of domestic violence gritting their teeth through ‘the cuts’ as women’s services disappear, wanting to walk away and do their hoovering and dusting all day, but staying (often on lower pay) because they want to help those who are disadvantaged by a still-present inequality in society.
Women and men who will carry on regardless of their opponents, and the implicit hegemony present in society kept alive by articles such as the one in the Telegraph, to live a life they choose, an ethical life based on respect for others; this is the whole point of feminism. We do it anyway.