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December 21

Miista reviews: What Next for Feminism?

By Oriana Kubinska

I was flying back from NY to London with a strong intention to read:
"The Organised Mind - Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload".

But forget it. It did not quite make the cut. The moment I've opened the book Laura (Oh, I forgot to mention, so I was flying back from New York with Laura - Miista's founder) said:

"Ori, I found this great documentary about feminism."

I don't know if I'll be able to articulate this properly but I've always liked the sort of ironic take on feminism. To be perfectly honest, never in my life I've seen myself as a part of the contemporary feminist movement. I've probably even cringed at the sound of the F-word while this scary picture popped into my head:
feminism

Anyways, I'm glad that I've overcame my initial bias because it switched something in my head. And now I have an opinion to share.


Please watch it now to avoid the spoilers!
In form of the podcast or video:


I'm not here to praise uncritically all the people that joined the panel, but it gathered a rather impressive set of speakers:

1. Amanda Foreman, award-winning historian and presenter of the recent BBC documentary series The Ascent of Woman, which charts the role of women in society over 10,000 years.
2. Daniel Glaser, neuroscientist and broadcaster.
3. Afua HirschSky News social affairs editor.
4. Helena Cronin, Darwinian philosopher and leading expert on the evolutionary understanding of sex differences
5. Anne-Marie Slaughter, The first female Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department

and Jenni Russell as a panel moderator.
She's a writer, broadcaster, and columnist for The Times, The Sunday Times and the Evening Standard. 

For an hour they've all examined what real equality might look like for both men and women. They asked questions like:
Is gender equality a matter of women ‘leaning in’ harder in their careers?
Do we all need to fundamentally rethink the roles we assign ourselves, so that both sexes can break free from traditional gender stereotypes?

From the beginning I found it  a very insightful and nuanced talk with a bunch of different and interesting viewpoints. I really enjoyed challenges of opinions, and passionate opposing views. But thanks to Helena Cronin and Afua Hirsch I've actually learned something.

Starting from what Helena's pointed out: 
"Men and women … will make different decisions about what they want to do if they’re freely allowed to make those decisions."
As a rational person she backed it up with a reason and evidence based approach. She does not try to find One-size-fits-all solution. She focuses on what might females prefer if they have chance to choose. Her example:
Women in societies of the biggest child-care support (largely Scandinavian ones: Norway, Sweden, Denmark) actually don't want to go back to work full time and they are happier that way. For me it means: We don't have to be the same to be equal. Men and women are definitely different. And statistics show that when women have a real chance to choose, they'll do so: differently from men. 
I think If we don’t start from this, we'll get nowhere.
On the other hand I'd like to nitpick some fragments as well, this is what Ann-Marie Slaughter said:
"My boys assume it's the natural state of the world that girls are smarter than they are, which the feminist in me loves but the mother does not." 
Before I'll go on a rant how harmful and cliche this statement is, let me point out that I do appreciate her personal examples. But "the feminist in me loves" promotes the idea of women being superior (not equal) to males, even superior to her own sons. This wave of feminism isn't fighting for equality, it's fighting for superiority and sounds like cheap propaganda. How can ANY PART of you "love" the fact that your own children assume they are inferior? This is not equal or balanced or healthy.
Helena (who by this time is my favourite speaker) backs up my opinion with:

"You’re conflating ‘equality’ with ‘sameness’.It’s absolutely ridiculous to assume that all behaviours are neutral for both sexes. Why should “male” priorities (the pursuit to the top for money and power) be the sole yardstick?"
Ma'am you hit the nail on the head.
Afua Hirsch brings up another aspect. Feminism these days is not inclusive.
Feminism will never achieve its goals if it's going to be a white privilege woman talking to another white privilege woman. Not every female face the same problem, we shouldn't try to push a general speech without taking in consideration:
1. Class 
2. Race
3. Sexuality.
Today these minorities to be heard, not the same people of 50 years ago. 

Sorry to ignore Amanda Foreman in this review but she would not add anything to the discussion. Same for Daniel Glaser who at least entertains us with picturing the status quo of women in society. He demonstrates the McGurk Illusion/Effect, which highlights a cognitive error that can arise when auditory and visual information conflict with each other. This is obviously biology at work (brain, neurology, etc). He uses this as a launching pad to make assertions about how women are perceived differently. Well, at least there is one male in this panel about equity of BOTH genders.
Dear miistas I'm going to give this video a fair shot. This was a great discussion. It really highlighted some extreme differences of views that identify with feminism. Personally, this is what I find so contentious about the term feminism. In short feminism is about the ideal of empowering women, the problem is this means different things to different people and everyone has a different idea of how their view should be achieved. What concerns me about the latest expression of feminism is how quickly we are prepared to throw straight white men under the bus; treating them as second class citizens while what we should do is to consciously and proactively keep all biases muted as much as we can. And that's my answer for what's next for Feminism.
Tell me what you think: oriana@miista.com
xx miistas
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