Home > Musings > International Foot-in-Mouth Day

International Foot-in-Mouth Day


Today is International Women’s Day. A day designed to celebrate the accomplishments of women and raise awareness of inequality where it exists. I dared to challenge on Twitter how people seem to mark the occasion and clearly my first tweet on the subject was too tongue-in-cheek and the point lost. So, I’ll make it as clearly as I can and hope for the best. I absolutely support, applaud and salute International Women’s Day. Gender inequality is very much still rife and apparent in all institutions, despite the progress made. I’ve seen it in action and it disgusts me. That is not what I was disputing. My issue is that a vast amount of people use the occasion counter-productively, perpetrating resentment and division.

If you search the #iwd string on Twitter, it won’t be long before you come across it being used as a stick to beat with. The “heated discussions” I then had unfortunately furthered my point. There is nothing I like more than a healthy debate, and if I’m made to look like an ignorant twat then I’ll stick my white flag up and pray for mercy. What I will not accept is people chastising me for a point I was not making, and painting me as a misogynist. The issue that seemed to crop up more than most is that of ‘unexamined privilege’. This is the single-most counter-productive attitude to have towards equality. Basically, I was told (and you can search my @mentions) that because men predominantly still write the rules, I have received privilege my entire life and that I should take that into account in everything I’ve achieved in my life. So, in an argument about equality, people made assumptions over how and what I have achieved in my life, because society made it that way. It’s inconceivable, apparently, that I may have deserved everything I have received.  If I have got the wrong end of the stick, I gave one person in particular plenty of room to correct me. They chose not to. And if I even think about saying that I have earned my accomplishments, then I am denying I have been privileged, which is akin to denying the holocaust (I hope that’s not Godwin’s Law, just an apt analogy), that I don’t “get it” and that I think any woman trying to argue with me is a feminist.

One example of the unexamined privilege afforded me, which I had highlighted to me a couple of times, is that of employment rights when it comes to maternity. Women DO repeatedly get screwed over when it comes to maternity, no matter what governments try to do to protect them. My argument there was that men are still, by a long way, portrayed and viewed as a lesser parent. But this argument is indicative of the problem. We engage in gender one-upmanship, even if we subscribe to the overall message this day is supposed to convey, which I do, and that could create a bigger divide. Men come out of the argument as oppressors after trying to justify their existence. What good is that in trying to rectify equality??

Rather than maybe slam all the good work the day does in my face, they amplified the original issue I had. This day would be better spent bringing people together in the cause rather than be used as a tool to create divides.

 

Bloody women*…

 

 

 

*This is a JOKE but probably confirms that I have privilege by the fact I can make it.

  1. Chris
    March 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    “This is a JOKE but probably confirms that I have privilege by the fact I can make it”

    Probably not – the fact you feel the need to qualify it with a disclaimer speaks volumes. I’ve never tried to count the amount of times things I do followed with a comment like “bloody men” from the missus!

    But then that’s not too different from the fact that hitting a woman is quite rightly vilified, whereas a kick in the balls is considered comedy. Rape is one of the worst things in the world, whereas many seem to consider male rape in prison to be OK because “he deserved it” (if reading comments on the Mail website is anything to go by).

    It’s a strange world we live in – and you’ve hit the nail on the head with the comment about gender one-upmanship. Christ, I’ve even done it myself here – it’s hard to hear someone talk about their own gender being oppressed without instantly drawing a comparison with something that happens to your own sex that you consider to be just as bad. Then the debate turns into you both thinking the other is a sexist hypocrite.

    Although all that stuff about privilege due to sex – I call bullshit. I’ve had hard moments in my life, while watching female friends around me succeed and not once did I ever try and put it down to sex. If you’re going to blame every shortcoming in your life on your gender, you’re helping to promote the segregation that keeps sexism rife (and you’ll grow up with a 3 tonne chip on your shoulder).

  2. March 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I think every so often it is fair enough to say ‘bloody women’! Or at least ‘bloody feminists’… how many times have you heard a woman sighing to her friend and saying ‘Men!’ with full entitlement?

    And why not say it on Bloody International Women’s Day? seems as good a time as any.

    Bloody women.

  3. March 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Basically, I was told (and you can search my @mentions) that because men predominantly still write the rules, I have received privilege my entire life and that I should take that into account in everything I’ve achieved in my life.

    Correct.

    What’s your issue with this? You’ve claimed you get that women still get screwed over. Why is it so impossible for you to understand that you experienced privilege by not getting screwed over in any of the multiple ways in which women get screwed over?

    It’s inconceivable, apparently, that I may have deserved everything I have received.

    Do you really think that you are so much better than all of the women you know that you deserved not to get screwed over the way they did, while what happened to them was just fully merited and only what they should expect?

    • March 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Did I say I was better than any woman?? How about what I had achieved related to me, and me alone?? Why does there have to be an external factor in everything?

      • MattWBP
        March 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm

        Yonmei’s viewpoint seems to exist in a world where all men treat women as less than equals and where no men suffer gender based disadvantages.

        The world isn’t so black and white, there is unfairness on both sides of the gender divide though, I would agree – statistically this is a man’s world. Today is a day for drawing attention to issues which, if properly addressed can move towards the bigger picture of equality for everyone.

        Feminism is supposed to encompass that outlook, focusing only on women’s rights because the problem as a whole is too large for one movement to address. Let’s not forget that bigger picture exists, hm?

      • March 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        Did I say I was better than any woman??

        Yes.

        Why does there have to be an external factor in everything?

        Because you don’t exist in a vacuum, but in a patriarchal society which benefits men disproportionately to women. Men who claim that they didn’t benefit by their male privilege but only by their own unaided hard work are arguing in effect that women who worked just as hard as they did and didn’t benefit as much, are inferior to men – why else wouldn’t their hard work have brought them to your level?

        If this confuses you, suggest you read FAQ: What is male privilege? from Finally, A Feminism 101.

    • summerteeth
      March 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      I don’t believe Paul said anything about being better than women, or more deserving. He did not state his deserving what he had gained in life in relation to anyone or anything else.

      To make a non-gender related comparison, does the fact that I was an academically inclined and very driven child mean that I did not deserve my qualifications at school or university, because other people may have been disadvantaged in their upbringing which may have affected their schooling? Does it mean that I didn’t work hard for those things?

      Do me a favour, love.*

      I don’t wish to speak for Paul, but I think this is maybe what he’s getting at which you seem to have misinterpreted, and I agree with him. Society may place him at certain advantages because he is a man, but it doesn’t mean that he hasn’t worked for what he has.

      *(this is also a joke, by the way.)

    • March 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      Yonmei, you’ve swallowed some feminist theory whole and you’re under the illusion that as a consequence you’re an authority on human history and society everywhere.

      This whole nonsense about the “patriarchy” (doesn’t mean anything, ignore) is one interpretation of social structures that USED to exist*, that we now think of in a different light. The interpretation is useful political rhetoric for a political movement that wants a better deal for women, and can’t afford to talk about a fair deal for men.

      It’s one propagandist version of history, pretending to be scholarship. But you swallow it anyway. Let me guess, do you go for the “misogynist society” argument as well by any chance?

      *more and more of what feminists say is along the lines of “Do you realise they used to do this/ this was still legal in 1991″

  4. March 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    There’s some valid concern in what you write, Paul, but I don’t think you can brush away the complaint about ‘unexamined privilege’ quite so easily. As I understand it, as men in a male-dominated society, we can’t actually know whether you or I “deserved everything [we] have received” or even “earned [our] accomplishments”. We didn’t earn them in an equal society, so we haven’t been tested on an equal footing. So there’s no point bleating that we deserve our jobs, pay, whatever because “we worked bloody hard for it”, as many men undoubtedly do, because for every man who works “bloody hard” for their good job, nice house, comfortable salary or whatever, there’s at least one woman working just as hard to keep the rent paid on her terrace with the two cleaning jobs she holds down in between getting the kids to and from school.

    And that’s the bigger problem. Your argument, and the much more indigant version that is trotted out by men who simply do not understand or support the idea of even one day being focussed fleetingly on sexism, is based on some idea that it is even meaningful, in the current society we live in, to talk about our life chances and our accomplishments in terms of being things which can be “deserved” or “undeserved” at all. And I suspect that’s wrong too, on a fundamental level, and it leads this debate into the kind of gender one-upmanship you are pointing to.

    The problem with the executives at RBS pocketing a billion pounds a year in bonuses in a society which can’t afford to maintain basic social housing, school books or hospital wards isn’t that the bonuses are not deserved. It’s that they’re not moral, not justifiable in any sense. It wouldn’t matter how hard those people worked, their innate humanity would be no more deserving of luxury cars, country estates and world cruises than anyone else’s. If it’s possible to talk in terms of some people ‘deserving’ a life of luxury and riches, does that mean it is also possible to consider some others to be deserving of grinding poverty, starvation and misery? There’s certainly far more people in the world actually getting those ‘accomplishments’ so does this mean that a large share of humanity deserve such things, even if in some individual cases, some people undeservingly get luxury or poverty by mistake, or fraud, or fortune?

    No, none of us are ‘deserving’ of accomplishments or the lack of them, in any objective sense, that’s just a game played to justify the extremes of wealth and poverty that exist all around us. And if there’s no deserving or undeserving about it, then arguing over whether certain men deserve what they’ve got, or certain women deserve more, is seen as the futile sideshow it really is. What matters is whether we choose to create a more equal society or accommodate to the status quo, and thus help to prop it up.

  5. Steve Hudson
    March 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Women should be ashamed of their female ancestors. The repeatedly allowed men to walk all over them, they could have stood up for themselves but never did. Women don’t deserve equality.

  6. Jen
    March 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Yonmei :
    It’s inconceivable, apparently, that I may have deserved everything I have received.
    Do you really think that you are so much better than all of the women you know that you deserved not to get screwed over the way they did, while what happened to them was just fully merited and only what they should expect?

    This doesn’t make sense, you’re clearly taking that too far. Paul says he deserves his achievements. That is all. He’s not saying that women do not deserve the same opportunity to achieve the things he has been able to. He’s simply saying that just because he didn’t have any of the barriers to his achievements that women often have, it doesn’t make him any more or less deserving of them.

  7. @darkenedwealth
    March 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    What a storm in a teacup, life’s what you make it whether you’re a man or a woman; all sorts of people you come across have suffered hardship or inequality in some way. Whether you’re ginger, you wore glasses, braces, you’re black, from a council estate, and to make the assumption that all women feel they have suffered hardship is quite frankly insulting.

    Life is inequal, it doesn’t judge us fairly on our own merits and dish out crap accordingly. Do I think myself inequal because I was looked over for promotion? No, because I fairly told them I was planning to have another baby as soon as nature intended. Women can’t have it all, no one can, and you know what? Maybe some of us thought life was probably easier when both men and women had more gender-specific roles and expectations. When women were fighting so that we could have it all, I wish they’d asked if I wanted it, because I for one am exhausted and don’t mind admitting it. That’s where the fight for equality has got us, when actually we were always in charge, like the cinematographer who runs the whole show from behind the scenes.

  8. March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    A good post, Paul, but it’s a thorny issue for many people as you have undoubtedly noticed. I agree with your viewpoint, incidentally; equality can’t come about while we still make a conscious effort to segregate ourselves by saying “This is a day for the oppressed people!” What about the other 364 days of the year? Shouldn’t every day be a day when people are focused on equality?

    As a male who has been unemployed for nearly a year now (and not through lack of trying to get a job), I’m not feeling much in the way of “privilege”. Some things that have happened to me (good and bad) I’ve deserved. Others (good and bad) I haven’t deserved, either. And I have female friends who have the same situation. So it’s not a gender thing in my instance.

    Sometimes you work hard for things and you get what you deserve. Sometimes you’re a shit and it catches up with you, and you get what you deserve. But sometimes, still, shit happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    I firmly believe there should be equality between men and women and personally speaking, I have never once treated a woman as an “inferior” in any way — I was brought up better than that, the thought is, to me, completely inconceivable. But I’m aware that inequality does exist — and surely there must be a better way to tackle it than simply trying to pull a “reverse discrimination” day?

    • summerteeth
      March 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      I think perhaps the point is that the best way to address issues of gender inequality would be to take a day like this and actually look at it – what it really looks like, what people’s experiences really are, all the nuances behind it – instead of sliding into these pre-conceived (and often very black-and-white, one-sided) notions of what sexism and gender inequality are. And to do so without jumping down other people’s throats because they disgaree.

  9. March 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    oh well yonmei you can comfort yourself with the fact that despite his great mass of privileges, as a man Paul is much more likely to die younger than a woman, and much more likely to not receive adequate treatment should he suffer from depression and some other illnesses during his lifetime. He is also more likely to be murdered than a woman, or to be mugged on the street. If he has children he will not have full parental rights unless he is married to the mother of his children. If they should split up he will have a struggle on his hands if he wants custody or even adequate access to see his kids, but will still be expected to pay for their upkeep. Lucky, privileged him!

  10. Patatronic
    March 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Yonmei :
    Did I say I was better than any woman??
    Yes.

    Sorry, I can’t resist.

    Where did Paul say he was better than any woman?

  11. Jen
    March 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    International Women’s Day is important, and is not about reverse discrimination. It is a day in which we remember the sacrifices made by women that have lead directly to a more equal society. We’re not equal yet, but we’re getting there. Today should be a celebration of the progress made, and a time to highlight the areas outstanding. I’m a feminist. I know men who are feminists. And I fully believe men shouldn’t be disadvantaged due to gender either. Being pro-women does not mean being anti-men.

    There is also an International Men’s Day. November 19th. I will be celebrating that as well.

  12. March 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Yonmei :
    Did I say I was better than any woman??
    Yes.
    No he didn’t. You merely imply it, which is not the same thing.
    Why does there have to be an external factor in everything?
    Because you don’t exist in a vacuum, but in a patriarchal society which benefits men disproportionately to women. Men who claim that they didn’t benefit by their male privilege but only by their own unaided hard work are arguing in effect that women who worked just as hard as they did and didn’t benefit as much, are inferior to men
    They are not arguing any such thing, again, only by implication are they suggesting this, and I would strongly disagree. Just because you say it and reference it, doesn’t necessarily make it so.
    – why else wouldn’t their hard work have brought them to your level?
    If this confuses you, suggest you read FAQ: What is male privilege? from Finally, A Feminism 101.

  13. March 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    The whole point here is you can one-up each other til the cows (or bulls) come home and it’ll all be irrelevant. I can’t understand people’s incessant desire to hide behind some sort of badge, then claim everyone else not wearing that badge had some sort of advantage, while ignoring any advantages their own badge had.
    I happen to work in an industry that remains fairly male-dominated, but if I wanted to be a teacher (for example) I would probably find that a disadvantage. Also, I am monumentally under-qualified so was at a massive disadvantage to everyone else, fortunately I’m good at interviews and speak 4 languages so I snuck in that way. Should I apologise, on a graduate intake with 10 women and 7 men?Politics is very male-dominated BUT if you join it now you’ll be better off as a woman due to the quotas and other measures to redress the balance.

    Just do the best you can as an individual, stop whining about some pereceived slight due to your gender/colour/creed/religion/whatever and man or woman up.

  14. 1nothingspecial
    March 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    This post, with the comments, has made me think about the “positive discrimination” argument.

    There is no doubt in my mind that men and women have different issues in life, and are given different perks throughout. To be crude, I can’t imagine a man getting a day off work to go for a smear test, or a woman booking a doctor’s appointment to get a lump on her testicle checked (these are mere examples, I don’t need to be told of rare occurences that meet these conditions).

    Basically, men and women will always be treated differently in positive ways. If they didn’t we’d all be treated like shit. What needs to be done is to stop the ways both are negatively treated, and that to me is what International Women’s Day (and Man’s day) should be all about.

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