As you may have noticed it already, I am kinda interested in gender issues. This means quite a few things, “gender issues”. Sounds trendy, fashionable, LGBT-compliant, gently feminist, etc. Dunno, it is just end of any form of sexism for me. In “gender issues”, there is gender = not only women, not only men, but both.
Anyway. I am not intending to write a crash course on gender studies here. Although, honestly, after what will follow, I think some people should urgently take one. For the context: I was attending an one-day seminar where I presented an international workgroup I will chair and which will focus on encouraging women in science. As this is a long story, I’ll skip it here and come back to it later.
So, the context, was I saying: at this seminar, as at any seminar or conference, there are brochures, leaflets and stuff presenting various initiatives. I always take them all to read them calmly once I am home and have time. This time, no exceptions: I got back home with nearly a kilogram of brochures that I read from page 1 to the end. The part #mylife stops here. I wanted to tell you about one of them which definitely got my attention. It is a… surprising reading.
This is a report without name written by some people at the ARI Institute. In case we forget, the website url is stamped on every page. My guess is it is a direct print-out from a PDF because it seems to contain links as references, links notified nowhere and of course not clickable since it is paper… No notes on the bottom of a page, no references list at the end. Automatically, no reference supporting any of the assertions is available: extremely frustrating. And, with all due respect, a sign of a certain amateurism.
But ok, an adage in French says that the cloth doesn’t make the monk, meaning one shouldn’t make up an opinion on something/someone only based on external and superficial characters. So, the rigid scientist in me jumping on her feet was politely asked to calm down and read forward :) The content announces that a big part of the present report (3 pages out of 13) will focus on the topic “Women Suffer the Most from the Crisis”. I was curious: my knowledge in economics is beyond any reasonable level, I mean, really, I am ashamed to have gaps in my general culture when it comes to economics. And even though I try to fill them, miracles don’t always happen in one night. This is just to say that I was curious and pleased of the perspective to read a small report on how economical crisis impacts women. The latter are more often unemployed or, if they have a job, it is more often a part-time one; and I am not even bringing the question on the pay gap. Thus, having an opinion integrating all these points – as I thought I would read – was a nice expectation.
Yes but no. It begins with a quote from Dag Detter’s piece for the Huffington Post, cool. The second paragraph made my eyes become as pancakes:
This is not intended as a feminist piece. Honestly. However, as waves of crises repeatedly sweep over us, we may want to reflect on whether letting men ‘play their games’ all these years is the reason why everything around us is falling apart. Maybe in between the football, video games, and fishing, we should have directed them toward something more purposeful, something that would contribute to humanity, that they could look back on with pride.
I don’t know what you think, but I am definitely reading a huge poisonous dose of sexism and, more particularly, of man-hating (nicely referred to as "misandrie" in French). So what: if we were living in a matriarcal society, this would never happen? And if… well, if my aunt had family jewels, it would be my uncle. And what many people around proudly citing as "role models" a few women in powerful positions such as IMF head Christine Lagarde? Honestly, very disappointing entry of this report.
I turn the page and under the title "Increased Inequality Between Genders", I read the following:
Globalization has exacerbated inequality in many Western countries, especially in America. The news is even worse for the woman sewing t-shirts or making trainers. She is the collateral damage of globalization. She did all that was asked of her: worked hard, paid her taxes, and saw her children off to school each day. It is not her fault that millions of $1-per-day Chinese workers were more than willing to compete with her, and that Walmart snapped up their products, triggering a massive shift of wealth from the U.S. to China and from producers to consumers.
Oh my! So, poor white American and West-European unemployed/jobless/underpaid ladies: there is nothing wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with the system. It is all the fault of the Chinese! This unbearable never-exhaustible victimization. I found it very funny that the authors of this … "study" mention Wal-Mart and accuse Chinese workers (no mention of their gender) of stealing jobs, but say absolutely nothing about the Wal-Mart sexism case. Remember this story? It was not that long ago, there was a group of 6 women filing a complaint for discrimination based on their gender: these employees were accusing Wal-Mart of not promoting them in favor of male colleagues. And the plaintifs were declaring that this type of sexist and thus discriminatory practices were systematic accross all America’s Wal-Mart stores. All in all, this case — qualified as the "largest sex discrimination lawsuit in American history" by the BBC – was concerning more than half a million women and was brought before the US Supreme Court in March 2011. But I guess, it is all the fault of the Chinese again…
Reading further. Well, it tells about violence against women, about "rape camps" and how rape is used as a weapon. I am not astonished to read the total blank on male rape. Because males are not subject to violence, of course, they are the bad ones who — when it is not the Chinese, and between the football, the video games and the fishing — rape and kill. For the record, here are some statistics (from Will Storr’s piece in the Guardian):
In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.
I keep on reading, this is so much fun… And, oh, this is talking about Bulgaria :) Ok, it is not because this is my country that I am an expert on it but still, I may happen to be aware of some issues:
In Bulgaria, the main causes of the development of trafficking continue to be illiteracy, the collapse of moral values, racism, ethnic discrimination, poverty, unemployment and the ailing economy…
I don’t want to disappoint you, dear ARI Institute people, but… Have a look at these numbers:
So, is this the illiteracy? And what is this "collapse of moral values" referring to? Great amalgame.
But… the best is to come! So, I found the text I was commenting above on the website of the ARI Institute: actually, "Women Suffer the Most from the Crisis" is the title of the piece. This is absolutely unclear from the written document. And — unfortunaly for you who are reading this up to down here ;) — the remaining part is not there. So, it tells about men, women and natural laws! Please read this:
Forces of nature are never equal to one another, but rather complement each other perfectly. This is the only way to measure the correct balance between them. Our generation must understand that the complementary aspects of their female-male relationship serve a single common goal — the improvement of mankind. The outcomes of this discovery will bring about significant changes for everyone on the planet.
OMG. Here we come with the essentialism stuff, with all this nonsense pseudo-scientific blahblah about how Mother Nature or God or who/whatsoever has made women different from men. (And of course, all the genders that are not these two ones just don’t exist.) And here we go with the "Laws of Nature". Since I am kinda lazy, I took a pic of how these "Laws" are presented with respect to men and women:
Nice, huh? Sure you like it. And what naturally ;) follows is "the family unit"! And this groundbreaking assertion:
As the family unit gradually lost its power, society began losing its value.
Of course, the "family unit" is the mandatory heterosexual couple of a woman and a man, these two so perfectly complementing natural powers…
Follows the portentous section title "Ascending to a New Stage of Humanity". So, the authors discuss how "proper cooperation between the genders will provide us all with a better future":
Two parts of nature, men and women, are equal and completely opposite to one another. The woman’s natural system is totally tied to nature and that is why we see that it si precisely the woman who brings new life into the world and who is responsible for the hierarchical order in the home and children’s education.
Ahem. And it continues:
Man is simply a reflexive reflection of women’s desires. No man can move a finger without a woman pushing him from behind. There is validity of the adage "behind every great man stands a great woman".
Do you really think I need to comment further on such nonsense…? This is self-demonstrative stupidity, I guess.
And — finally… *sigh* — the conclusion comes. With a few perls, of course, with a great dose of drama:
This is precisely the point in time, the very next moment, here and now, that the woman’s role is vital to the continuation of our species on this planet, to life itself. Men by nature would be happy to continue playing in the very sick sandbox of our time; [...]
Women are known to be more practical, closer to nature, seeking security, able to multi-task, and the source of life that brings children into the world; they must be the operational part of the new times, of the new world. It is safe to assume that men will not make the transition easy, and not give up their names so readily. Therefore, as the crisis deepens, the world will become more and more dependent on women’s determination to save and enhance the general situation of the quality of our lives.
You liked patriarchy? You will love matriarchy! (And LGBT people will go to hell anyway.)