Next semester I’ll be teaching for the first time a new BA elective, ‘Gender Studies (in English.’ This might be my only chance since, if Minister Wert’s reform of the BA degrees proceeds, we might lose altogether the fourth year and with it the electives. Anyway, I’m paying even more attention than usual to gender issues, which is why I came across the Tumblr space opened in 2013, ‘Women Against Feminism’ (https://womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com/).
Rightly, this should be called ‘Young Women Against Feminism’ for a classic problem of feminism is its generational split. I recall a round table on SF and feminism a few years ago in Madrid. My three colleagues and myself were protesting against the ghettoisation of SF women writers, using by no means a radical feminist discourse. To my horror and consternation, a twenty-something girl in the audience told me ‘I don’t know what your problem may be, but in my generation we have solved them all.’ Well, if that were the case I would be happy but it is not –something you learn as you age. “I don’t need feminism because equality of opportunity already exists,” a young girl writes on Tumblr, and my question is “where?” Because if it is only in your own personal life and you don’t see beyond it, then this is a very callous attitude that disregards the reality of many women’s lives around the world.
I went myself through an acute anti-feminist phase twenty years ago, as a doctoral student. I rationalize it thus today: when a woman is young, starting her career and has not come across crude discrimination yet, feminism’s insistence on women’s victimization is annoying and frustrating. It feels disempowering. Besides, radical feminism can be deeply androphobic. This is something that young women going through the process of establishing long-lasting romantic relationships often find incompatible with their being in love. At the end of an angry androphobic conference panel I asked the leading androphobe, a married woman, how she managed to communicate with her husband at all. She was stunned. So was I at my own question… That was a turning point for me. The misogyny that feminism exposes makes me very angry, and this is hard to cope with. Sometimes it is mild anger that my partner sees no dirty dishes to wash, sometimes it is wholesale anger against men because one has killed his wife or raped a little girl. So, yes, there is that.
From what I read in Tumblr many young women think that feminism can be best defined as ‘androphobia’ (i.e. hatred of men). This, however, is just radical feminism, much less abundant anyway than misogyny. For me feminism is best defined as ‘the search of justice for women,’ that is to say, the struggle to ensure that nobody is discriminated against or hurt just for being a woman. If you’re one of the happy few women who have never met any obstacle or aggression in life because of your gender, then congratulations. What you need to do next, as a feminist, is to make sure that all the other women in the world enjoy the same beautiful life.
I have set for myself a target here, which is finding ten reasons why the happy young women writing in Tumblr might want to join the feminist fight for justice and equality in education, job opportunities and personal development. I’ll refer only to Spain, a Western country and a European Union member –paradise, in short. The figures are for 2013:
*women killed by ex-partners or current partners: 54, and this is the lowest figure in 10 years. Current figures for August 2014: 39.
*women who denounced psychological and physical abuse by partners and ex-partners: 124,894. More than 63,000 remain under police surveillance for fear they might be attacked. None really knows how much abuse goes unreported.
*number of rapes reported to the police in 2013: 1,298 (at least 60% are not reported out of the victim’s fear and shame).
*average salary difference for men and women doing the same job: around 20% (16’4% for the whole European Union).
*(un)employment: rates are slightly higher for women than for men and bad for all. 52’3% of women under 25 are unemployed, 23’6% of women above 25. Yet note: 75% of part-time contracts correspond to female workers. Only 75’5% of all employed women have full-time contracts, the figure is 93’4% for men.
*paternity leave: 13 days, as opposed to 16 weeks for the mother. Up to 40% new fathers only take the mandatory 2-day leave. 90% Norwegian fathers take paternity leave (which is months long).
*excess hours women spend per week doing household chores (in relation to their male partners): 6 (which the partners enjoy as free time)
*percentage of women members of Parliament and Senators: 37% (same as the European Parliament). But remember that women are 52% of the population and this was achieved because PSOE introduced a quota system. We have seen so far no woman President of the Government (yes, I remember Maggie Thatcher…).
*percentage of women members in Boards of Directors (for the 35 top Spanish companies): 10’9%. This is where business power lies…
*percentage of women professors (‘catedráticas’): 20% (but percentage of women graduates 54%). So… what happens to women when they start an academic career?
I need only compare myself to my mother to see how privileged I am on the professional and the personal fronts, often thanks to the efforts of feminist women in the 1970s and 1980s, whose names I don’t even know. And men, for let’s not forget that all-male Parliaments and Governments have often legislated in favour of women. Now think of women in less fortunate countries.
If you want to rename ‘feminism’ and call it ‘gender equality’ that’s fine by me. Whatever you call it, we certainly need it.
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