+Helena Handbaskit asks:
“[A]re women oppressed in the western world, and if no, was there ever a time when they were, and if yes to that, when did it change and what changed it?”
I claim that they are not more or less oppressed than any man is or has been.
This is how I’ve come to my conclusion.
How we answer the question depends entirely on the meaning of the word “oppressed.” http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/ gives us the relevant bits. (Feel free to use other dictionaries.)
1. Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority
2. The state of being subject to oppressive treatment
3. Mental pressure or distress (figurative)
What is “prolonged?” “Continuing for a long time or longer than usual; lengthy”
What is “cruel?” “Wilfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it”
What is “unjust?” “Not based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.”
What is “authority?” “The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience”
What is “oppressive?” “Inflicting harsh and authoritarian treatment”
What is “inflicting?” “Cause (something unpleasant or painful) to be suffered by someone or something”
What is “harsh?” “Unpleasantly rough or jarring to the senses”
What is “authoritarian?” “Favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom” or “Showing a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others; dictatorial:”
So, using Oxford’s terms, oppression is the prolonged, unjust, willful causing of pain or suffering, or lack of caring thereof, by someone who has the power to enforce obedience (usually “men” or “the system”.)
Feminist claim that “women” experience this. This is their ideology’s foundational claim.
Does this sound like the average Western woman’s experience to you? One rarely hears a Feminist claim that they need Feminism because sub-group SG of country C experience, what essentially sounds like torturous slavery to me. We hear that “women” experience this. Let’s be generous and say that “women” is 50.1% of all women. Does this sound like what one-quarter of the world experiences regularly? Does this resemble general reality in any way?
This sounds like child soldiers in Sierra Leon. It sounds like some sex-slaves in the Philippines. It sounds like any man or woman during the Rwandan genocide. It sound like Jews in a Nazi concentration camp. It does not sound like the life of the typical university student who writes blogs and tries to shut down men’s therapy groups. It does not sound like any woman who expresses herself without fear for her life.
The claim is pure hyperbole, accepted as reality, because people are too lazy to look words up and think about them. And because such hyperbole is an excellent tool for inflaming the easily influenced into repeating the claims, or of raising money, or for scrabbling for a sense of moral superiority to brow-beat well-intentioned people into acquiescing to demands.
Do some women experience this? Without a doubt. So do, without a doubt, some men. Are there enough to justify that we say that a minimum of one-quarter of the world’s population experiences this?
People bandy this hyperbole, broadening the scope of a word until it loses all reality-based anchoring and has the simple, strong and naïve emotional impact of a taboo. These definitions point to severe conditions. The way that the word is currently used is to use a diluted version of the weakest version. “The office’s atmosphere was oppressive,” meaning “unpleasant.” The reason is simple: propaganda. We already have the instinct to protect women, as we would children.
There is arguably a hierarchy of care in our species: infants, babies, small children, children, young women, older women, young boys, men, older men. The further down the scale, the less we care, the less we do about. This is a constant in our species, across history, geography and cultures. We do not start willy-nilly sacrificing lives until we reach the level of young boys.
Was there a time in our history where women as a class were limited in their participation in the public sphere? There was. Were the reasons cruel and capricious? They weren’t. If we look at the reasons, the conditions and the intended outcomes what we’re likely to see is good intentions that worked well in certain contexts, and as contexts started changing, the behaviours became less relevant. Remember that all trends in history are curves not abrupt start-stops.
Was there a time when women were kept, fed, housed and provided for, but denied access to education or a voice in politics. Yes. Was this oppression? No. It was not cruel, nor capricious, nor malicious, nor, even intentional. Were women “owned?” Other than those who were explicitly slaves, no. Slaves of all races were (and are) of both sexes and all races. Were they cloistered? In a great many cases, surely. They were cloistered in the way that one safeguards one’s most precious asset. Men had the job of protecting women. How does a mother protect children? She supervises them, limits their environmental reach and sets rules so that she can perform her duty of protection. People, male and female, can be overprotective and beyond it’s need.
What Feminists call “oppression” was men having accepted their roles as providers and protectors even after we had created such a secure and wealthy environment that women no longer needed individual men’s protection, she could benefit from men’s collective protection and provision. We have no wild animals to contend with, a rigorous police force, and social programs aplenty.
A woman only needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle because men have created a near-ideal circumstance for the fish to flourish, unassisted, supported by his work, invisible in its aggregate. What Feminists are calling “oppression” today, is merely having to experience real-life, the princess complaining that there are too few mattresses over the pea.
Depictions of sexually appealing women in video games? “Man spreading?” Tweets as harassment? Please.
This is what I advocate: adult women should be treated as are adult men. They should be expected to handle life’s joys and rough edges just as a man would. Women, during the emancipation movement sought the freedom to have control over their own lives, not to have control over others’. She should expect no treatment that is beyond or below that which men receive. Having the right to freedom in the most advanced, the safest, the best-fed society the world has ever known, she should endure the same minor discomforts of living that men do. These are the simple duties for which the rights that are granted to all of us exist.
Does this deny a woman her power to voice her concerns? Not in the least bit. All citizens in our society are granted this right, and that’s all women are: citizens who happen to be female.
The only way that “women are oppressed” in the Western World, and I would claim in most of the world is if the term is completely redefined to mean “subject to the same nuisances and inconveniences as are men.”