Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What do we Want?

NOTE to self: Wednesday: celebrate the right of women to be treated as equal to men; Thursday: cheer for the right for women to be treated differently; Friday: sort through conflicting messages scattered about by modern feminists on what women want.
Some weeks just leave you exhausted. On Wednesday, all the talk was about equality for women in the home. Pru Goward, the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, said we needed a national conversation to drag men back into the home, to cook, clean and care for children and elderly parents. Women are doing a triple shift, said Goward, and this "cold war going on in private time" was damaging families and women's careers. Equality at home is the answer, apparently.
Then, on Thursday, the talk was all about treating women differently because, well, women are different. Unions are trying to secure 12 days' menstrual leave per year for female Toyota workers in addition to the 10 sick days available to all workers.
So what's the problem with women darting between two agendas? Apart from showing the philosophical inconsistency that afflicts feminism -- do we want to be treated equally or differently -- the danger is that going too far down either route may ultimately lead women where we don't want to go.Socially engineering a world where men and women work equal shifts at home and at work ignores the fact that many mothers with young children do not want to work full-time. Let me reveal some more secret women's business. Women regularly gather in playgrounds with coffee, cake and children in tow, promising never to tell the menfolk quite how much they enjoy being at home. Many of us have a selfish need to be with children. So if we are going to have a national conversation about inequality, let's not forget why some women refuse to hand over the reins at home.
Those pushing too far down the "difference" route have also got it wrong. Demanding menstrual leave is the usual union-driven ambit bid with unintended consequences. Not so long ago, talk about differences invariably translated into women being weak. If we regulate more and more on the basis of biological differences, doing so according to emotional and hormonal differences may not be far behind, giving employers the ammunition to use monthly moodiness and hormone swings as excuses to keep women away from stressful jobs. Again, it's a case of being careful where this road takes you. Encouraging employers to employ fewer women does nothing to secure women's choices, which, after all, should be the anchor of modern feminism. te may ultimately lead women to places they don't want to go.
Navigating the feminist road, working out how far to go down the equality route or the difference route is hard enough. It is made even harder if those who take part in this national conversation refuse to talk about some issues when it doesn't suit them.


Blogger No_Newz said...

We chick are complicated aren't we?! :P
Lois Lane

8:59 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Worse than a Rubicks cube Lois!

4:33 PM  

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