Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's over there...

...on the other side of gender?

I teach classes in women's studies and sports studies and I am always talking about race and gender (and class and sexuality and (dis)ability and a host of other identity markers) and thus I frequently hear sentiments such as this: "we shouldn't look at the color of a person; we should look at the person" and "we don't need feminism anymore; women are equal."

This editorial out of Colorado kind of combines these sentiments. The author, a mother of two youngish children says her kids don't see gender. I hate to break it to you--but unless you are visually impaired, you see gender--and race and a host of other things.
Here's an exercise I learned in grad school in a critical race theory class:
Close your eyes. [Just humor me and do it.] Now recall a person you met in the past couple of weeks. Someone who you met in passing, someone whose name you might not even be able to immediately recall. Now can you identify that person's gender and race? I bet you can. If you cannot there might have been an ambiguous presentation and if there was, you probably thought about that as you tried--however subconsciously--to place that person in a group. This isn't a judgment. It happens to everyone. We see these things. And what is more, we interpret these things.
So, I know that what the editorialist meant was not that her kids don't know the difference between a man and woman. They don't judge based on gender, she is saying.
Wouldn't that be nice. Her argument that her kids don't think it is unusual to have female coaches doesn't exactly support her point. Women in the 60s didn't think it was unusual to have female coaches either--that's because around 98 percent of coaches of female athletics were women. Today it's less then 50 percent at the intercollegiate level. I hope her kids find it unusual that women coach girls but don't coach boys even as male coaches can move easily between coaching boys and girls. I hope they find it unusual that no one questions this.
But I am doubtful given the author's own statement that her children are "blissfully oblivious to the idea that any "movement" [for gender equality] was required at all."
She does say that her daughters have started to notice certain inequities. So it seems like the period of blissful oblivion is nearing its end. I hope mom has "the talk" with her soon. The one about the 70s and activism and Title IX and all the people that set out--and continue to make it their mission--to impede equality.


Diane said...

I am continually stunned by this notion that we "won the war" and need to go away. As 2nd Wave activists, we are now being called paleofeminists, and a professional victims. I even saw a blog post saying that the "hip" generations are waiting for us all to die so that the "victim mentality" will die with us.

This is beyond denial--there must be another word for it. The same women who are saying this are still going to be paid less than their male counterparts. They are still going to live in a culture of rape and sexual assault. They will still be insulted when they walk down the street, and called names if they are not "feminine" enough. As I write this, pharmacists are deciding whether they can control their own reproductive health, and drug companies are poisoning them.

As for race...after Katrina, a group of "liberal" and "progressive" individuals was shown photos of hurricane victims, as well as suggested financial benefits. Without fail, the groups that had only Caucasian people in them were voted as "deserving" more money than the people in the other photos.

Diane said...

I read Duff's essay, and then I felt compelled to write to her. Good grief.