Every Day Is Women’s Day

Posted: March 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

Tom Chivers of The Telegraph wrote a post for International Women’s Day yesterday. But his title said that ‘starting tomorrow it will be 364 men’s days again’.  I don’t agree, Tom. And neither does Hannah Rosin. But more from Hannah in a moment.

According to Chivers, recent research found that  British women are “treated equally”, we declare, because “More than half of British women believe they are treated equally to men” and “four in 10 young women have never ‘personally experienced’ sexist remarks or sexist behaviour”. He points out that whilst over half of British women believe they are treated equally to men, 47% do not.  But if gender inequality is all about how we feel, why weren’t any men asked how they feel about it? Surely that is an inequality in itself, assuming only women are the subjects of unfair treatment by men, and not the other way round?

But Chivers moves quickly in his article onto ‘harder’ statistics. He quotes the well-reported figure, from  ‘the Office for National Statistics,  that even after overtime pay and maternity leave is taken into account, men in Britain earn more than 10 per cent more than women for doing the same jobs.’ But he adds in brackets , that ‘merfcifully that figure is declining every year’.

It also could already have been eradicated. It depends who you ask. According to Catherine Hakim, a scholar in the field of gender and employment, equality legislation has been successful and:

‘these demands [by feminists]  for further change rest on faulty assumptions and outdated or partial evidence. For the latest academic research and cross-national comparative studies show that most of the theories and ideas built up around gender equality in the last few decades are wrong’. http://www.cps.org.uk/cps_catalog/Feminist%20Myths%20and%20Magic%20Medicine.pdf

So quoting isolated statistics about average pay of men and women, for example, does not give the whole picture about gender inequalities in work? That makes sense to me.

I have conducted doctorate research into gender and work in the creative sector which backs up Hakim’s claims. I found that women and men presented their approach to work and particularly the ‘work-life balance’ in different ways. For example, women with children made it clear that they either could not participate fully in the long hours culture of the creative sector, including after hours social networking and unpaid overtime, or they simply did not want to. Discriminating against women for having children is one thing; women actually choosing to behave differently at work due to their childcare commitments is another.  If women want complete ‘equality’ in the workplace they may have to give up their ‘status’ as the chief care giver at home.

The Gender Pay Gap ignores the different fortunes of men and women in different sectors. If we go back to Hannah Rosin, and her talk at the TED conference I have posted above, she makes it clear that in some areas of industry, in America and other ‘Western’ countries, women are outperforming men at all levels. The  sectors which are growing fastest, she says, are mainly women dominated, so women are not only becoming equal to men economically, but over-taking them.

I don’t cite these examples to prove that gender inequality does not exist. Far from it. But rather to show that this simple binary between ‘men’ and ‘women’ that always casts women as a group in the role of ‘victims’ of inequality, just does not wash in 2011. I think issues such as social background and education are far more significant to our career prospects than what we may or may not have dangling between our legs.

But Tom Chivers seems determined to feel sorry for me as a woman, and as a non-feminist woman in particular: ‘What’s particularly sad’ he says  ‘is that only one in five British women nowadays describe themselves as “feminists”’. Maybe that is because many women do not think they are at a disadvantage to men socially or economically? According to Chivers who has er Googled it,  thefreedictionary.com defines feminism as “Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”. But I don’t believe that social, political, or economic equality should be measured along the line of ‘sex’. I think it is the gender binary that oppresses men, women and those who identify as neither, more than any ‘patriarchal’ system.  I also think that this definition does not go anywhere near to describing what feminism actually is in action. In my view many feminists seem to feel that women are superior to men in a lot of ways. They certainly enjoy laying all the blame for their own troubles at men’s doors. This comment on an IWD discussion online yesterday from a feminist to ‘men’ , though extreme in its expression, is not uncommon in its sentiment:

‘admit that you’re just a derailing bunch of shitsucks whose dick-shrinking terror of women is such that you can’t even read about the horrific things women can go through and still be better people than you’.

http://twitter.com/quietriot_girl/status/45197012827770880

http://twitter.com/quietriot_girl/status/45197029772767232

Another example of ‘feminism in action’ I have found especially in online discussions, is that when challenged, feminists just cannot engage in grown-up debate. I am currently ‘blocked’ from communicating either on Twitter or on their blogs, with such eminent feminist activists as Suzanne Moore, Laurie Penny, Melissa McEwan, Clarisse Thorn, Kate Smurthwaite, Johann Hari, Steven Baxter, Sarah Ditum, Dawn Foster and Lisa Ansell.

Tom goes on to list some gender inequalities across the world, but I don’t think he has done much research into international poverty and development. It is easy to say women ‘suffer more’ and to find statistics to back that up. But in a world where people are dying of starvation, being forced into combat, not getting an education, being exploited in sweatshops, being murdered by family members or rival gangs, suffering unnecessarily from preventable diseases, who are we in the affluent ‘west’ to start saying women and girls suffer more across the globe than boys and men? I find that white middle class women in the UK use this kind of argument to augment their own ‘victim status’ compared to men, not out of real compassion and knowledge of international politics and social welfare. The EQUALS video, that Chivers posted on his Telegraph piece, featuring Daniel Craig, I think is an example of this ‘appropriation’ of victim status by women (such as Judy Dench!) who do not have any experience of the kind of levels of suffering they use in their berating of men.

Chivers ends his article by saying: ‘It’s a shame that we need to have a single day a year to remind us that women are the equals of men. But, for the other 364* days, people do seem to forget’.

Oh, I don’t think so Tom. Go round to Hannah Rosin’s house, join me in my discussions with feminists online, show us a webcam recording of you and your girlfriend in conversation, read The Guardian, listen to Radio Four. I think you will find that the other 364 days of the year are very much women’s days too…


Comments
  1. Great post. I’m curious to hear what you thought on Hanna’s article on the end of men: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/

    • I read that when it came out and found it rather, er ‘macho’ in its tone. I think she is documenting some very important changes in gender relations but I think she is linking those changes too much to a threat to men’s ‘masculinity’ and also kind of presenting women as ‘the new men’. There are some elements of truth in how women have been able to actively show more ‘masculine’ traits, but I don’t think this is a threat to men’s ‘masculinity’. I think Mark posted something about Hannah Rosin too I will see if I can dig it out.

  2. Tina Holmboe says:

    Interesting reply. I find it somewhat confusing, and – of course – inflammatory.

    But what makes me really curious is the bit about the globe. Quote: “… who are we in the affluent ‘west’ to start saying women and girls suffer more across the globe than boys and men?”

    Are you trying to make the point that men, as a group, are as oppressed as women, globally? I doubt any sane person would claim that men AND women are not in equal measure suffering from a multitude of problems, disasters and crimes – but can you point me to a single nation or culture today in which men – as a group, BECAUSE they are men – are denied, for example, the right to drive a car regardless of their ability to actually do so safely?

    Or vote, for that matter?

    Could you clear that up for me?

    • copied from the Telegraph blog:
      My point about westerners – and I know the ‘East/West’ concept is totally reductive- making statements about gender inequality globally is that it involves making value judgements. It involves imposing things we take for granted on other people’s societies and culture. I am not saying we shouldn’t do this at all but we should at least be aware of it.

      To ‘not have the vote’ for example is not of the same significance in every country, due to other deprivations and struggles going on in those countries at the time. Just as having the vote can be of less actual democratic value in some countries than others. Using these broad ways of measuring gender inequality I think is simplistic.

      And when it comes to countries/regions where violence is endemic and widespread, separating gender violence, eg FGM and rape from other forms of violence such as war and terrorism and gang violence, depending on the sex of the victims, I think is wrong. It suggests one kind of ‘victim’ is worse off than another.

    • typhonblue says:

      @ Tina:

      Can you point to me a single nation or culture today in which women–as a group–are expected to defend their family, nationality and religion at the cost of their own safety, sanity and lives?

  3. Yeah he’s kind of the master of dealing with articles like that.

  4. 2020 says:

    “I think it is the gender binary that oppresses men, women and those who identify as neither, more than any ‘patriarchal’ system.”

    I love this quote so much

    As someone who thinks that as we go on we will see an erosion of the gender binary to the point where at some time in the near future we will be looking back on it as some kind of dark age and wondering how we ever got along with it.

    Until then though I fell there is still a lot of work to be done, the gender binary isn’t going to go down without a fight and there are people who are going to be openly hostile to this new environment that both you and Hannah Rosin talk about and want to maintain those current systems of control at all cost. The question for then at least is how do we make this transition easier on them, maybe feminism can be of some help there?

    Or maybe I’m just being naive, oh well great peace anyway goanna have to read more on Hannah Rosin.

  5. relevantmatters says:

    Re: the gender wage gap

    In the U.S., no legislation yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action, not diversity, not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission….. Nor would the Paycheck Fairness Act have worked.

    That’s because pay-equity advocates continue to overlook the effects of this female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN August 2008 report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. This may or may not reflect a higher percentage of women staying at home than in the previous decade. But if the percentage is higher, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs, and so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they’re supported by their husband.

    If millions of wives can accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives can accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/45ecy7p) — all of which lower women’s average pay. They can do this because they are supported by a husband who must earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry — which is how MEN help create the wage gap. (If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.)

    See “A Response to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at http://tinyurl.com/pvbrcu

    By the way, the next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020. The year 2020 is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone.

  6. Clarence says:

    QRG:

    You know I like and respect you or I wouldn’t comment here. But to my knowlege you haven’t been outright banned from Clarisse Thorns blog, as far as I can tell from the relevent threads (and forgive me if something has happened in email I’m not aware of) you have decided she moderates unfairly and do not want the extra attention and so you feel you are no longer welcome there. That may be so, but she specifically has said she would like to have you stick around, so I don’t see how this is a ban in the normal sense of the word. I’m just trying to defend Clarisse who is one of all of maybe 5 feminists with online presence I respect (and two of the others are Wendy McElroy and Camille Paglia), and I think you do her a disservice by lumping her in with those others like that.

    As for Melissa McEwan, she’d ban her own mother if her mother said one thing she disagreed with. She’s probably banned half the feminists on the web, as well as every MRA, mra sympathizer, equalist, or just plain regular male who has said anything other than “how high?” when she says to jump. Don’t feel bad about that: I could probably make a good living if I sold teeshirts saying “I’ve been banned at Shakesville”.

    • I know what you are saying Clarence but Clarisse basically said I couldnt carry on contributing there unless I changed my ways and I can’t change who I am so basically she was telling me to piss off in a ‘polite’ or rather ‘politick’ manner. she also posts on Feministe and told me to stop commenting on her post there.

      I think I am justified in including her in this list.

  7. Clarence says:

    QRG:
    She asked you to change your style of argumentation on her blog, not to argue something you don’t believe, but to be more respectful in your tone. It’s your choice as to how you interpret that; I’ve had no trouble when I’ve disagreed with her. And remember, she has more power on her blog than on Feministe

    As for the feministe thread, yes, in that case you were thread banned, though I suspect that’s because the threads there are less tolerant of dissent in general as it is a feminist space and she probably has a “rep” to maintain. That doesn’t mean y ou did anything wrong in that thread..so I guess you do have a legitimate compalint; but that’s why I don’t comment on Feministe.

  8. Clarence says:

    Fine, QRG.
    I had nothing more to say anyway, I was merely trying to get your take on things and see if I could understand it. I think I came to a partial understanding and in any case, I’ve made no demands. You don’t have to “crack the whip” on me, so to speak, though that might be fun in other situations…

  9. Tim says:

    I am reading the paper you linked in your post about femist myths and found this wonderful quote:

    “These expectations are prompted in part by a refusal to accept that the policy goal is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. ”

    This is a wonderful formulation. I will make sure to put this to good use one day :)

  10. Cassandra says:

    Silly Tom’s blog had one saving grace – it alerted me to your superb site, Elly. Love it. And is that a Morrissey link I spy? Swoons……

    Kisses

  11. elissa says:

    I think Emily Dickinson got it pretty good – comparing “sufferings” is a mugs game.

    “The fashions of the cross” indeed

    I measure every Grief I meet
    I wonder if They bore it long
    I wonder if it hurts to live
    I note that Some – gone patient long

    I wonder if when Years have piled
    Or would they go on aching still
    The Grieved – are many – I am told
    There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold
    And though I may not guess the kind
    To note the fashions – of the Cross

  12. McDuff says:

    It is easy to say women ‘suffer more’ and to find statistics to back that up. But in a world where people are dying of starvation, being forced into combat, not getting an education, being exploited in sweatshops, being murdered by family members or rival gangs, suffering unnecessarily from preventable diseases, who are we in the affluent ‘west’ to start saying women and girls suffer more across the globe than boys and men?

    I really, really don’t get your perspective here. You seem to be saying, not for the first time, that you only get one kind of disadvantage in your life.

    For a 200 year old example, if slavery exists this somehow cancels out gender inequality, so we shouldn’t try and say who is “worse off” between male slaves and female slaves. Somehow, this is true even if women’s lower status makes them more vulnerable to violence even within communities of slaves. We shouldn’t pay attention to the impact of gender on social status and the negative impact on quality of life because they’re all slaves; what does it matter anyway who’s a “worse off” slave? This is, at least, how I interpret what you’re saying.

    Low social status is a pretty decent predictor to exposure to risk of violence, poverty, all those good things. In societies where gender is used as a status metric where women are believed, for whatever reason, to be inferior to men, when all other things are equal the woman will be at greater risk. This is not a hugely dissimilar statement from saying that those of a lower caste or darker skin will be more at risk in places where those things are used to define status. And, of course, it’s not a reach to suggest that those things stack, nor to point out that our experience shows prejudice is a stratified thing, with even people at the “bottom” of the social status pecking order seeking ways to enforce their position within their proscribed subculture and finding populations to despise just like they have been despised.

    I don’t really see that any of the above paragraph is at all controversial, although you’re welcome to disagree. But if you don’t disagree, I don’t really see how it makes sense to hold the position that we can’t say “women are disproportionately at risk of X” because everybody is at risk of X to a greater degree than we pampered westerners.

    • what I am saying is how we place value on suffering is dodgy. eg feminists would have us believe that sexual assault or FGM or not having the vote are worse than going to war and being killed in the process. or being encouraged to become a terrorist, a suicide bomber. Or starving to death. I am not saying we shouldn’t look at gender inequality but that to look at it as only ‘women’s’ suffering is totally wrong imo.

  13. Steven Smith says:

    Really great article. Balanced, based on facts and very well argued. More please.

  14. An opressed Male thingy says:

    I love you !

    • ha thanks! nice to hear that today when I have been getting some stick elsewhere!

      • An opressed Male thingy says:

        So nice to hear a female talk out against these wretched Misandrists. (notice how that words is not in my spell checker on any of my programs but Misogyny is?) What so many women today seem oblivious to is the fact that Feminism has little to do with “equality” and more to do with male-bashing and inequality favoured usually towards lesbians, Marxists feminists or just plain old “damaged goods”.

        If a woman comes near me with that sort of rattle my boot will firmly go up her backside. The only western women I have any respect for are those who speak against this sort of drivel, get on with it and don’t expect any false privileges or positive discrimination. In short I base everything on MERIT and if they have the Merit then I am all for equality wherever it is realistically possible.

  15. McDuff says:

    How come people don’t consider that saying “I will respond to slurs against men with threats of physical violence” might somewhat undermine their point?

  16. well its not so much a threat McDuff as a reference to physical violence. But I know what you mean.

    An Opressed Male Thingy is sounding a bit aggressive in his approach to women he doesn’t agree with.

  17. McDuff says:

    I’m sure that OMT is actually pretty unlikely to immediately kick a woman who disagrees with him. But there is a certain irony in the construction of the argument “women are totally equal now, and if they don’t agree with me I will hurt them.”

  18. […] first came across TED when I saw a video of a talk by Hanna Rosin, on gender and women’s continuing march forwards (and over men?).  I criticised the content […]

  19. zooey says:

    Oh, cool! Attacks against straw-feminism, defining all of feminism based on thefreedictionary.com, and a “shut up, that’s why!” (re: gender inequalities? How about poverty/disease/conflict? Let’s solve all of the world’s problems, one at a time, in order of severity) argument all in one post! Neat.

  20. […] is all borne from the best of intentions, though it is not without its critics, who ask: if the day is indeed devoted to gender equality, why is dedicated solely to women? Why […]

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