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Ear to the Ground

There’s Just No Way Patriarchy’s Dead

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Posted on Sep 14, 2013
ClarissaLeon (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Writer Hanna Rosin’s new epilogue to the recently released paperback edition of her 2012 book “The End of Men,” claims that misogyny is defunct and begs feminists to accept this supposed fact, because obviously things have improved enough. Women are increasingly gaining political and economic power, as well as more sexual freedom; we are now living in an era of “female dominance” where believing sexism still exists, and fighting for equality, is an “outdated compulsion.” In other words, quit your whining women and get with the program: Feminism is futile now and is just a poor excuse to make men suffer. Roxane Gay explains in a piece for Salon on Friday how ill-conceived Rosin’s argument is, while providing hard evidence that sexism is still in full thrust.

The patriarchy, if that’s what we’re calling it today, is alive and well. The tech industry is consistently embroiled in one misogyny-related controversy or another. At TechCrunch’s Disrupt, two programmers shared the TitStare app, which is exactly what you think it is. Something so puerile is hardly worth anyone’s time or energy but it’s one more example of the cultural stupidity that is fueled by misogyny. Harvard recently introduced Riptide, a project that will examine how the journalism industry collapsed under the pressure of digital advances. Unfortunately, most of the people interviewed for the project are white men, offering, as usual, a narrow perspective on an issue that would benefit from a more diverse set of voices. Fix the Family, a conservative, Catholic family values organization, offers a list of reasons why families should not send their daughters to college. The list is not satirical. I could go on but you can simply read the news, on any given day, for yourself.

These are relatively small things, though — symptoms, not the disease. These situations are irritants that pale in comparison to the more significant issues women face both in the United States and around the world. We could talk about the restriction of reproductive freedom in North Carolina and Texas and Ohio or we could marshal statistics on domestic and sexual violence or women living in poverty. If the patriarchy is dead, the numbers have not gotten the memo.

Rosin suggests that feminists are holding onto a grudge, that feminists are willfully clinging to this notion of patriarchal dominance as if we would be unable to function if we weren’t suffering. I’m only one feminist but I’m confident we’d be just fine if all were right with the world. She writes, “The closer women get to real power, the more they cling to the idea that they are powerless. To rejoice about feminist victories these days counts as betrayal.”  The flaw here is the same as the flaw in “The End of Men”—an all or nothing outlook, and an unwillingness to consider nuance. Some women being empowered does not prove the patriarchy is dead. It proves that some of us are lucky.

It is far more important to discuss power than to exhaustively regurgitate the harmful cultural effects of power structures where women are consistently marginalized. We already know the effects. We live them and try to overcome them. But let’s talk about power. There are bright shining stars like Marissa Meyer and the other twenty women who are CEOs of the Fortune 500—a whopping four percent. In the updated epilogue, Rosin blithely references this number as if to say, “Leave me within my delusion. I am busy.” We can also talk about how no woman has ever been president of the United States and how there are only nineteen female presidents and prime ministers throughout the entire world.

Gay concludes by explaining that feminists do not harbor delusional anger nor are they holding on needlessly to a grudge, as Rosin indicates. The movement simply acknowledges progress toward equality has been made but refuses to ignore how much remains to be done. And although Rosin may believe the growing numbers of successful women are proof feminists’ work is over and done with, the disproportionately low figures are evidence to the contrary.

To read more reactions to Rosin’s declaration, click here.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

 

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