I ended up in a discussion on Facebook about Apple products. The person who originated the discussion believes that Apple is evil. He did concede from a previous debate that they were innovators as well. So in his mind, Apple are evil innovators who just want to get our money. He posted a graphic that ostensibly compared an Asus computer to a 17-inch MacBook Pro. When I asked him for some evidence to support his statement he did not provide any but kept on bashing Apple. I don’t care if someone does not agree with me. However, what kept happening in this ‘discussion’ was a level of condescension that was completely unwarranted. They behaved as though I was stupid because I didn’t agree with them.
I am not going to replay the discussion here because it really does not matter. What is important here is the attitude that is displayed by at least one purportedly enlightened man. This kind of thing happens to me with alarming frequency especially when it comes to discussions about computers. Some men1 seem to look at me and assume that I know nothing about computers. Once we talk for a few minutes usually they come around and stop acting like know-it-all buffoons.
It is in situations like these that we see that women are still struggling to be on equal footing with men. Once we venture into territory they deem is theirs look out because they can’t stand the competition. Instead of treating us like the equals we are out come the assumptions. And this folks is the patriarchy in action.
Patriarchy as defined by Wikipedia:
“is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination.”
We still live in a society where men are still seen as the primary authority figure. We see these systems throughout our society. Because men have control over the reins of power they set up systems that benefit themselves and exclude women. There is still a dearth of women politics and government because the atmosphere of competition is valued and compromise and conciliation is not.
What needs to happen in our society to finally allow women to be equal players? We would need to change the way we value people. Currently those who are white, male, heterosexual and educated are the most privileged people. Doors open easily for them and they can succeed without much effort. One only needs to look at George W. Bush for proof that this happens. Aggressiveness must never be rewarded instead we must seek to educate the next generation to be inclusive of all people regardless of gender, race, creed, religion, colour, sexual orientation and culture. We can all stand up and say: “I’m not a _____!” But how many of us will say yes I have ____ thoughts and this is how I am trying to educate myself. We all must acknowledge our privilege. Our experiences in our predominantly white, Protestant culture is much different than people who are visible minorities. If we can all become more engaged with what is going on around us perhaps we will finally start to see the demise of the patriarchy.
Today on BC Almanac, Mark Forsyth was interviewing an historian. Being one myself my ears always perk up. This woman was talking about a female immigrant to Canada who walked great distances. I didn’t quite catch all of the information but it is not really germane to my issue. As this historian was describing her subject she stated that we have a picture of her so we know she was thin and attractive. I was shocked.
What does her physical appearance have to do with her accomplishments? This focus on appearance as a measure of a woman’s value is the root of all that is wrong with how women are treated in our society. Women are judged, even by other women, on how they look. It does not matter how accomplished we are or what we achieve it is only valid if we are thin and attractive.
This can be taken a step further without too much difficulty. If thin and attractive women are valued more than those women who are not what is the likely outcome? Women who do not meet expectations of thinness and attractiveness can have many problems in our society. These problems can stem from finding a mate, to employment even to credibility when reporting rapes. The focus on outward appearance and its presence in the popular discourse endorses the expectation that is ok to judge women this way.
As an historian, I bristle at the presentism in this historian’s work. It is a faux pas within the discipline of history to apply the values of today to the past. Certainly in the 1800s women were not judged on appearance to the same degree they are today. Women in rugged British Columbia needed to be strong and resourceful. They needed to be able to endure hard winters and work all summer to prepare. Women who were on their own for whatever reason had to look after themselves as there was no social safety net. In fact, the woman she was talking about had walked all the way from the lower mainland to Prince George. She was clearly a survivor and able to look after herself.
Personally, I am sick to death of this stuff. We need to start questioning this focus on the appearance of women as it is this that allows women to be commodities. As women, we must stop judging each other on appearance. We need to change the discourse. Talking about women in positive ways, focusing on accomplishments and personality rather than dress and bra size. Women together are a strong and powerful group. Let’s use our power and see if we can cause change.
We saw an episode of 20/20 on Friday. The big headline was about a woman who didn’t know she was pregnant until she was giving birth. Everyone was marvelling how this could have happened. The woman had 3 children already so how could she not know she was pregnant? Complicating the situation, they revealed that the man had a vasectomy several years ago.
They tell the story about how the woman felt some ‘pressure’ and then all of a sudden she had given birth. Her husband called ambulance which was quite far away and the 9-1-1 operator had to talk her husband through cutting the umbilical cord and making sure everyone was fine. The event traumatized the older children. Eventually the ambulance came and mother and baby were taken away in the ambulance.
Now we can get to what really annoys me about the: “I didn’t know I was pregnant” story lines. Invariably, they start to talk about how shocked and amazed everyone is that the baby was born healthy! Citing a lack of pre-natal care they wonder how the baby could have been born healthy. Hello?!? Women have been having babies without ‘pre-natal care’ for millennia!
The medicalization of childbirth over the last 200 or so years seems to have convinced women that they cannot have babies without interventions. It is clear that pre-natal care has improved outcomes for babies and mothers. Generally if a woman eats a healthy diet and treats her body well she will likely give birth to a healthy baby. In many cases even if a women does not eat a good diet she will likely give birth to a healthy baby. The medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth in western nations, has turned women into health care consumers for very basic functions. Women in third world countries have babies without medical intervention all the time. Why is it so hard to believe that women in North America could do it too?