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Where Is Feminism Taking Us?

Andrew
November 4, 2012
There is a lot of talk on some of the blogs that I read about the horrors of feminism - from men and women alike. While it might be obvious to some readers, I think others might be surprised to know that I am very much undecided about whether or not I support feminism. The way I see it, there are two possible models for understanding the role of feminism in society, and I have yet to decide which one I subscribe to. Both agree about what feminism is trying to do - namely, homogenize or depolarize the sexes. They disagree strongly, however, about whether or not this is desirable.

Here is how I characterize the two models for understanding feminism's role in society:

Model 1 - Pro Traditional Sex Roles (Conservative in nature)
"The differences between the sexes exist for good reasons. Men by nature assume masculine roles as protector and provider, while women by nature assume feminine roles as child-bearer and nurturer. The two compliment each other well, and harmony is achieved when the two work together. The characteristics of the two are innate and can be denied but not changed."

I will refer to the proponents of this scenario as traditionalists.

Model 2 - Pro Feminism (Progressive in nature)
"The differences between the sexes do not exist for good reasons. While difference does not always equate to inequality, in many cases - especially historically - this has been the case, and women have typically been on the losing end of the disparity. The characteristics of the two sexes are largely socially constructed, or engendered (hence the term "gender," from the Latin "generare" - to bring forth). Because they are engendered, they are also changeable; and we should do what we can to strive for equality."

I will refer to the proponents of this scenario as feminists.

Here is my Pyrrhonistic rationale, which is more a case for the plausibility of the feminist world-view than the traditionalist one, which needs less defense since it has historical precedence:
  • While the traits of both sexes are certainly deeply rooted in the male and female psyche, or perhaps in the fabric of society, it isn't obvious to me that they are necessarily innate or eternal. The obvious difficulties that feminism has introduced could be symptoms of a species trying to bend against its nature, but they could just as well be growing pains on the path towards a better state of affairs.
  • Traditionalists can make a strong argument that there are undeniable biological differences between men and women, and that these differences have far-reaching consequences, making men and women very different. But it is at least thinkable that we could shed these differences through evolution over the coming thousands of years, especially if we begin to conceive children outside of the womb - which technology will almost certainly allow us to do within the next 100 years.
  • There is no question that men are less masculine than they were tens or hundreds of years ago, and women less feminine. But can this trend continue without a backlash or reaction? We are arguably seeing the inklings of this reaction the blogs that I referred to at the start of this post. This reaction could swing things back in the direction of extreme sexual polarity, which could persist, or else cause another reaction reinstating androgyny (at which point the cycle would likely continue ad infinitum).
  • It certainly is difficult to imagine an androgynous society, but it isn't impossible. There is no doubt in my mind that the human race has evolved as quickly as it has due to the intense pleasure of sexual intercourse. But who says sexual intercourse is a permanent fixture in society? As we learn more about the brain and continue to discover mind altering substances (which are being legalized by the places that lead social and political trends worldwide), is it so difficult to envision a scenario in which sexual pleasure is usurped by some other experience? Even if the sexual organs never evolve off of the body, they could simply become insignificant - relics of a previous stage of human development (like the appendix).

To summarize: is isn't clear to me that the feminist "utopia" is impossible or undesirable. Even if it would be arguably a worse situation than the one that the we are in now (or were in traditionally), I don't see why that would mean we couldn't end up there as a species. As far as I can tell, feminism could conceivably achieve its goals.

Now, all that being said, I think there is one important point left to make. It is a point that underlies every word written on this blog: regardless of where feminism may be taking us, there are certain ways that a woman can behave to take advantage of the current social-sexual climate. Changes in social norms occur very gradually, so that you don't need to be concerned about the opposite sex suddenly being unattracted to the things it finds attractive now. Given this, women have two options
  1. Support feminism (and ultimately androgyny) by aligning yourself with its goals: suppress your feminine qualities and emphasize your masculine ones, in an effort to further your career and the feminist cause.
  2. Take advantage of the male-female polarity that (still) exists by allowing your feminine qualities to shine through, since this (still) attracts men.
Ultimately, the point is this: Option 2 attracts men, Option 1 does not. So you can either support feminism in the hope of bettering the state of affairs in the future, or better your life now by finding love. Call me selfish, but it seems like an obvious choice to me...


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1. "The Difference Between" and "The Difference Among"
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3. The Analogy Between Confidence and Beauty

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