I was minding my own business on a lazy Saturday afternoon when I stumbled upon this blog post, which blew up on Twitter. As a feminist, I have a lot on my mind and can’t help but disagree on a lot of what she has to say. But here goes:
It’s unfair to put down an entire movement because you had a few disagreements with some feminists on social media. Generalizing feminists as “ladies who are angry, bitter and scary” is a narrow-minded remark and isn’t a constructive criticism on the movement at all. There are many different types of feminists and feminism, to box an entire movement up just shows that you haven’t done any research on the movement and what this movement has done to contribute to society, to you and your rights (From the lobbying of anti domestic violence, to the suffragettes fighting for women’s rights to vote) You were looking at this global and influential movement through a narrow tunnel of when you were “attacked” for your opinion on Twitter.
Yes, you have been criticized, condemned and shamed for your opinion. But essentially, when you have put an opinion out there, by practicing your free speech, you have agreed to let others chime into your intellectual discourse. How do you expect to start a dialogue on an issue if you could barely take criticisms and comments from other readers (Regardless whether feminists or not)?
Also, there’s nothing wrong with bringing up your experiences and anecdotes when you talk about how patriarchy isn’t a big deal. But, you have to remember that many women have suffered the plights of patriarchy. So it may not be a big deal to you, but making a bold and insensitive statement like that sidelines all the hardships faced by women all around the world. Just a few days ago, China has smuggled in many young girls across the border to Vietnam to be child wives and many male rape victims to this day still remain silent and these rapes go unreported. If you have never faced any of these hardships, and have no problem with the patriarchal society, then you have privilege. This is the privilege you have, and by asking you to “check” it means to ask you to step inside someone else’s shoes to understand how incredibly repugnant patriarchy can be. You are probably asking why do these matter? “I’m just talking about doing chores in a domestic context, no need to babble on about global issues or anything else.” That’s probably what you’re thinking about right now. That’s the problem. Patriarchy is just that – a systemic concept which inherently continues to drive women and men apart, perpetuating an unequal stand between both genders.
Patriarchy isn’t just about ironing your husband’s clothes or being a loving wife. If anything, go ahead and be a good wife if you want to be a good wife. Make sure that choice was yours and you weren’t coerced into it. Patriarchy as a whole, is a toxic issue, to both men and women. Patriarchy perpetuates hypermasculinity, which subjects men to unachievable and unrealistic goals to be masculine, which led to many unreported rapes, unreported domestic violence and suicides due to societal pressure. Patriarchy also does harm to women, where in your case, might not seem like very much of a big deal but patriarchy is capable of making women lead a lifestyle where it caters to men or their husbands. This includes sexual gratification, domestic chores and the objectification of the female body.
If anything, your post isn’t about patriarchy at all. I understand the importance of wifely duties and the role of a caretaker in a domestic context. However, these can be done through compromise and negotiations in a healthy domestic relationship. Patriarchy is when a woman is coerced or having to sacrifice her life, career and goals in order to cater to men and take on an assumed role of the caretaker.
Ironically, in your post, you mentioned about wanting equal pay. The wage gap is actually a myth – but it doesn’t end there. Yes, there is a pay gap and women in America earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, but that gap isn’t because a woman is a woman and a man is a man. (I would also like to acknowledge that despite the wage gap is a myth, glass ceilings in the workplace are not.) The wage gap exists because of this patriarchal household you claim to support so much. Women make certain choices which led them to this wage gap, however these certain choices may not truly be free. For instance, a woman would be more likely to choose family-friendly jobs (such as being a teacher) over a demanding one which pays better but has less flexibility because they have taken on an assumed role as a caretaker.
The more uncomfortable truth that leads to the pay gap is childbirth. This is what the Chartered Management Institute call the “motherhood penalty”. No wage gap exists between the age of 18-25 for most women. But a pay gap begins to widen as a woman gets pregnant, because they would more likely be given less internal promotions or will be given softer roles which pay less. This is due to the employers knowing that these mothers will have less flexibility or would not be able to take on a work role due to their motherly duties that are all assumed and culturally stereotyped. However, it is important to note that there is no pay gap between women who has the same job and qualifications as their male counterparts. However, if those women have had been pregnant before, they have broken the glass ceiling and it has taken them longer to get to where they should be.Yes, this means that if women decided to have a family, they will be earning a lot less than their male counterparts. This is unfair surely, because we can’t help our biological nature because we are the ones pushing the babies out. Why should we compromise our financial income to want to have a happy family? This is systemic patriarchy at work. An easy solution would have been to close the gap for women after maternity leave but oh no, that would be a matriarchal society but we don’t live in a world like that. However, if a happy family is what fulfills and empower a woman, that’s what she should go for. No one should tell anyone what to want to choose in their life.
And what irks me about your blog post is that you’re doing just that. Imposing your values as to what a wife’s duty should be and guilt-tripping women into these choices that could lead women to be at the losing end in terms of funding themselves financially. You may say “These are choices women have made because they want to take care of their family. It’s a free choice!” Good on them, that is their choice. But for you to post something about how patriarchy is “not a big deal” , and that women should submit to their wifely duties and be a good wife, you’re forgetting the women who want to excel and succeed for themselves competitively in the workplace, women who want to pursue something more other than a family life. So, now do you realize how this “fair chance and opportunity” you speak of for women can be impeded by cultural stereotypes? Stereotypes that you and the patriarchal society seem to be pushing on. You probably do not realize that you have been imposing your values and perpetuating this stereotype, but when you stated that “Women (especially working moms) are not perfect beings. We may scowl, wear a frown at times, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we need to do.”, that’s the problem. We don’t need to do all those duties. We have a choice, you imposing your values onto what a woman’s duties are is what lead to pay gaps like these. If everyone has the same mentality as you, there will be no woman who does what fulfills her as a human being. All feminists are asking for is free choice. You can be this and you can be that, you don’t need to hold yourself responsible for any role because that role is not only limited to us.
I would also like to note that disrespecting your husbands is not a feminist culture. Essentially, feminists fight the patriarchy, not men. They fight for vulnerable women and men’s rights, not at the expense of men. They speak up against misogyny because who else would speak up for them? Especially since now more and more women seem to be intimidated of the movement itself.
So I say, let’s be strong women and be aware of the choices made by women are what would make themselves happy and fulfilled, not what society wants them to be. And most importantly, never perpetuate the patriarchal system it or fight the movement that is fighting for you and not with you. Because in the end, you’re just biting the hand that feeds you.