Recently, through various avenues, I’m come across a specific kind of thinking about feminism. To sum it up, it is basically this: Men and women are inherently different. Instead of women wanting to be equal to men, we should embrace these differences.
A specific quote from some meme (but which captures the bothersome message): “Our generation is becoming so busy trying to prove that women can do what men do that women are losing their uniqueness. Women weren’t created to do everything a man can do. Women were created to do everything a man can’t do.”
This bothers me, and the why has been percolating for a few days (in between fevers, snarfling, and producing mucus monsters I’d sooner forget). Herein, I attempt to discuss why I find this message bothersome.
While couched in a sense of empowerment (“Yay women!”), the underlying message feels anti-feminist. Because, ultimately, it begs the question: What are the things a woman can do that a man can’t? Menstruate and have a baby. That’s basically it. Which, when reverse engineered, makes it seem like women should just embrace their ability to have babies. This then ties to the cultural idea that women are natural nurturers.
Not to mention the backhanded insult that women are somehow losing their uniqueness by not embracing this messaging. That somehow by fighting for equality in the workplace, in society, in law, over our own bodies, we are losing ourselves.
I am particularly bothered that it breaks things down by gender, which is perhaps the crux of why this is actually an anti-feminist, anti-equality, a harmful idea, and why it bothers me. When we say women are inherently better at something than men (and let’s be honest, this usually means mothering, although I’ve also heard it spill over into spirituality/Mother Earth/Gaia type of messages), we are not only telling women who aren’t good at those things that they aren’t living up to their woman-ness, we are telling men they don’t have to be good at these things because it’s not in their nature.
I know some men who are better nurturers than me. I know I am a better nurturer than some women. None of this has anything to do with gender, but rather with personality.
When it comes to childrearing, the implications of telling women they should be good at it while giving a pass to men because their nature doesn’t allow them to be good at it, is deeply troubling. It’s not necessarily something I’ll get into here, since most of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the problems in this kind of messaging.
Not only that, but this entire idea—which ultimately, I believe, breaks down uniqueness to biology and having the parts to make or not make babies—completely glosses over trans-identity folks, cutting away at both genders and identities. It dismisses them entirely from the conversation because their biology and identities don’t fit this nostalgic, saccharine, and anti-equality message.
I guess, like the title says, I’m just thinking out loud. I’d welcome any discussion. I realize that this little piece skips over a lot of other BIG things that come up in conversation. Please bring those things up!
Also, happy Saturday!