Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some Thoughts On Feminism…

This from my last DBQ follow-up…
I chose to read the link on Judith Sargent Murray, a radical feminist of the 18th century. The article mentions some of Murray's at-the-time radical ideas, which are now more or less taken for granted, mostly having to do with the psychological and mental equality between men and women. She was an advocate of equal education, and of the breaking down of unjust cultural restrictions. 
Feminism is always a touchy subject, one which has seen a great amount of evolution in the last few hundred years of history. I think the best way the argument for feminism can be put forward is as, not one of radical subversions of social constructions, but one of common sense. Take this quote from the article as an example: "many people also held the belief that women were incapable of logic and that mental exercise harmed their physical ability to bear children". Here, male society is literally treating women as a subspecies. This may be the work of the corruption of ancient gender roles, but primarily it is caused by a lack of common sense. When all can realize that women and men were created equal, it seems, then sense will be restored to civilization. 
But that's where the difficulty comes in. As I've said before, we humans don't like to settle for any less than the extremes. And the extreme of feminism, as well as many other doctrines, has been playing out in modern history with disturbing results. You see, people often mistake equal for the same. But as any child could tell you, men and women are far from the same. In fact, it is our very differences that make us the most of who we are. Equality without difference is like…well, it's like nothing at all. Imagine a world full of seven billion clones of the same person…sure they're equal, but they've lost any reason to want to be equal. No difference, no need. What I'm trying to say is that, the search for equality isn't about trying to erase all differences, but about seeking the liberty to effectively incorporate your differences into the organism that is the human race. Another example: imagine your hands and feet needing to work together as equals–if they didn't, your body would be uncoordinated and ineffective. But imagine if your hands and feet were to erase their differences–you'd have to walk on a pair hands, or hold a glass with a pair of feet. 
One more point I would like to make is about the concluding quote of the article: "grant that their minds are by nature equal, yet who shall wonder at the apparent superiority, if indeed custom becomes second nature." I had never stopped to think about where the term "second nature" comes from, but now it makes sense–something repeated enough that it seems the natural thing to do; an environmental adaption masquerading as a second set of genes. This seems to be what history has led us to…the belief that, if repeated enough times, anything is natural. Men two hundred years ago used this belief against women, and had been using it for centuries before… But have things changed so much? In a culture where a third of the population is murdered before it sees the light of day, can we say we have accepted the natural order of things? Throughout history we always seem to find a way to mess with our identities, as well as those of our fellow humans…we need to watch out what we make second nature.