Feminists: Pick Your Battles

Dear  feminists  of  Jezebel  and  Daily  Life  etc.  –  Let’s  straighten  a  few  things  out.  Beyonce’s  tight  bodysuits  are  not  responsible  for  sex  trafficking  (‘An  Open  letter  to  Michelle  Obama:  Beyonce  is  Not  a  Role  Model,’  Rakhi  Kumar,  HuffingtonPost).  Colin  ‘God  of  Sex’  Thistle  from  Love  Actually  is  not,  actually  the  harbinger  of  the  patriarchal  apocalypse  (‘I  Rewatched  Love  Actually  and  Am  Here  to  Ruin  It  for  All  of  You,’  Lindy  West,  Jezebel).  That  guy  at  the  party  who  isn’t  into  you  because  of  your  enlightened  career  in  politics  is  not  a  spokesperson  for  all  of  mankind;  he’s  probably  just  not  that  into  politics.  It is  not  any  more  shallow  or  sexist  to  watch  porn  than  it  is  to  read  50  Shades  of  Grey.  Ironic  sexism  is  by  definition  the  opposite  of  sexism.  (‘The  Age  of  Hipster  Sexism,’  Alissa  Quart,  NYMag). And  finally,  no,  sadly  for  all  of  us,  there  are  no  conspiratorial  phalluses  drawn  into  your  almond  milk  latte  froth.

Despite the  way  mainstream  feminist  journalism  glorifies  these  irrational  but  impassioned  polemics  against  pop  divas,  Christmas  chick  flicks,  irony  and  sexuality,  it  is  pretty  evident  to  me  that  these  things  do  not  explain  why  women  are  still  not  enjoying  perfect  equality  with  men.

 

Furthermore, and  despite  the  same  fixation  on  these  (admittedly  much  less  trivial)  things,  it’s  not  quotas,  it’s  not  Tony  Abbott,  its  not  unpaid  maternity  leave,  and  it’s  not  abortion.  All  of  these  are  distracting  from  the  real  issue.

 

As  far  as  I’m  concerned,  almost  the  only  feminist  issue  really  worth  taking  seriously  is  shared  parenting.  There  cannot  be  equality  for  women  in  the  workplace  until  men  have  equality  in  the  home. If men are just as likely to go home early to pick up the kids as their female colleagues, sexism will have nothing left to hide behind and will die a natural death in most other areas of life. More men at home means more women who are both freer and more inclined to pursue the promotions we keep getting told they don’t go for. More women in positions of power makes sexist behaviour even less acceptable.

 

There  are  two  basic reasons why I think shared parenting is such an important issue:

1. You  cannot  ‘have  it  all’

2. It’s  emasculating  to  take  paternity  leave

We  continue  to  pretend  that  it’s  possible,  healthy  and  admirable  for  women  to  ‘have  it  all’  and  persistently  encourage  industrial  reform  to  reflect  this  belief.  Whoever came up  with  this  clearly  didn’t  sleep  or  socialise  and  probably  had  a  cocaine  habit.  This notion devalues  parenting  and,  in  a  deeply  ironic  twist,  creates  a  massive  double  standard  where  women  have  to  do  significantly  more  than  men  to  achieve  professional  and  personal  success.  In practical  terms,  under  the  status  quo,  encouraging  women  to  have  it  all  will  mean  woman  continue  to  spend  their  precious  moments  not  in  the  office  looking  after  the  home,  and  fatherhood  will  continue  to  be  treated  like  a  hobby.

Good parenting  probably  comes  somewhere  between  the  unrealistically  high  standard  for  good  mothering  and  the  pathetically  low  standard  for  good  fathering.  Either way,  you  cannot  effectively  parent  between  the  hours  of  7pm  and  7am.  You have  to  choose  between  letting  you  career  take  a  hit  but  being  there  in  the  car  on  the  way  home  from  school  to  hear  your  children  talking  about their  day,  or  staying  on the corporate ladder  but  missing  out  on  a  number  of  wonderful  parenting  experiences  that  take  place  during  work  hours.

If you  and  your  partner  want  children,  be  real  about  what  the  costs  to  both  of  you. Neither  of  you  can  ‘have  it  all.’

This brings  me  to  my  second  point.  Feminism has  not  yet  satisfactorily  addressed  the  pressures  on  men  to  choose  work  over  parenting.  Full-time fatherhood and  earning  less  than  your  wife  are  seen  as  emasculating  by  both  genders.  Sadly, addressing the social  pressures  that  oppress  and  shape  men’s  choices  is  not  a  favourite  topic  of  Daily  Life.    But  it’s  totally  stupid  to  ignore  this  pressure.  Without  addressing  it,  neither  gender  is  encouraged  to  invest  in  the  family  home.  Staying  home  with  the  kids  will  be  an  invalid  choice  for  everyone  and  women  will  simply  have  to  add  ‘career’  to  the  list  of  things  on  their  list  of  house  chores.

In  the  same  way  that  women  haven’t  historically  been  given  the  choice  to  work,  men  haven’t  historically  been  given  the  choice  to  parent.  Just  as  up  until  recently  it  was  unfeminine  to  choose  work  over  parenting,  the  reverse  is  true  for  men.  Liberate  men  to  choose  parenting  and  you  liberate  women  to  choose  work.

 

Much  like  a  rewarding  career,  parenting  is  an  important  and  enriching  life  choice.  By  judging  women  for  choosing  it,  we  make  it  even  harder  for  men  to.

 

Daily  Life  recently  panned  Susan  Sarandon  for  saying  she  had  decided  to  ditch  the  label  ‘feminist’  in  favour  of  ‘humanist.’  After years  of  campaigning  for  women’s  rights,  Sarandon  claimed  that  feminism  had  become  ‘a  bit  of  an  old-fashioned  word’  that  can  be  ‘used  more  in  a  way  to  minimise  you.’

 

Daily  Life  accused  Sarandon  of  being  ‘unenlightened.’  Daily  Life  should  stop  calling  life-long  feminists  who  have  been  alienated  from  their  brand  of  ‘pop’  feminism  ‘unenlightened’  and  start  reflecting  on  why  it  is  they  have  lost  their  appeal  to  so  many  intelligent  and  thoughtful  men  and  women.