Thursday, March 9, 2017

We're not all the same

Yesterday was something called International Women's Day, or so they tell me, and as part of the ongoing protests against the inexplicable reality that Donald Trump has yet to be impeached lots of women planned to take the day off of work. That's pretty much impossible when you are a SAHM already, but I'm sure lots of women proved their strong spirit of independence and feminism yesterday by catching up with all the laundry and cleaning their children's rooms in between bursts of Facebook cheerleading to mark the occasion.

The truth is that while I applaud any peaceful protest these days (unlike the kind that ends up with college professors being bashed around by entitled rich kids who want to prove how oppressed they are in the most violent way possible) simply for being peaceful, I tend to find a lot of these vague, nebulous "women's protests" that have sprung up to be somewhat less than compelling. I am never sure exactly what they are protesting: Trump, men generally, women's wages, the fact that a man won "Woman of the Year" last year, the lack of free abortions and/or birth control so they can be freely empowered to let men use them for sex without having to worry about children...oh, wait. Never mind.

The thing is, anytime I see something that starts out "Women today want..." or "A pressing women's issue this year is..." I tend to tune out. The very fact that people still feel free to generalize so much about women, as if we were this monolithic block solely because of our biological sex, is proof that women haven't advanced as much as we like to pretend. Some of us would say that modern feminism is actually a step backward in that it presumptively dismisses all those women out there who don't want abortion to be legal and who don't mind being paid a bit less in exchange for flex time or longer maternity leaves. We're not all on the same page, and we shouldn't have to be.

Can you imagine a giant Men's Protest in Washington, D.C.? Most people I know would not assume that all male people have the same interests, the same goals, the same struggles, the same issues, the same beliefs or the same tastes. And anybody whose knee-jerk reaction to the thought of a Men's Protest is: "What do men have to protest about? They have all the power and all the privilege!" is already guilty of stereotyping: some men have power and privilege, and some do not, and the assumption that all men are better off than all women is one of the things that is jarring about the women's protests that have been going on lately.

It is true that women are also stereotyped a lot. Every woman is supposed to care passionately about the "right" to destroy her own children in utero, without which "right" she is apparently nothing but a slave. Every woman is supposed to demand free birth control. Every woman is supposed to reject traditional roles and demand the right to be a kickboxing female detective regularly chasing down bad guys while wearing stiletto heels and always managing to take down men three times her size (or, at least, every women is supposed to believe such women exist and to aspire to join them, at least symbolically). Every women is supposed to prefer to vote for female political candidates regardless of how much those candidates' views diverge from their own, and every woman--at least, according to marketing agencies--is supposed to have a nearly romantic passion for yogurt.

The truth is that women, just like men, are actual human beings with our own lives and experiences and beliefs and tastes. For every women who thinks slaughtering unborn children in her womb is a terrific idea you will find women who do not. For every woman whose most pressing issue is equal pay you will find a woman who would take a bit less in wages if she could be home when her kids get home from school each day. We're not all the same, and that's before you even start to think about the "International" part of "International Women's Day." In some cultures women would be insulted to think they are assumed to have the same concerns as relatively well-off American elites with left-wing tendencies; they might even think that no decent women wants such things as free abortions and contraceptives in the first place.