Monday, September 17, 2007

Feminism in Prospect

One of the unremarked national scandals is the rampantly increasing cost of a college education. According to the website, inflation for college tuition has exceeded the rate of general inflation by anywhere from 1.2 to 2.1 times, with rates varying between 6 and 9 percent between 1958 and 2001. With tuition alone amounting to nearly $40,000 per year at some of the more elite campuses, one could be forgiven for daring to ask what type of education students are receiving in return for such an expense.

At Nassau Community College (NCC) in Garden City, New York, students received quite an earful for their $6600.00 (out of state) yearly tuition during Women's History Month this year. Along with a lecture on "Physical Activity as a Feminist Act," the women of NCC could ponder the future of feminism as part of a keynote address by Gloria Steinem. Her March 26th presentation, "
The Progression of Feminism
," pondered the idea that the women's movement is inextricably linked with the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for gay and lesbian "rights" given that each movement waxes and wanes at roughly the same times and each faces the same adversaries. Steinem was quoted as saying that "[t]he restrictions on women and racist structure are intermeshed," adding "I don't think it's possible to fight them separately."

As further proof of her assertion, Ms. Steinem cited the contributions of Fannie Lou Hamer and Shirley Chisholm to both the civil rights and the feminist movements. But as discussed previously, generations of African American women would disagree that feminism has always worked in concert with the black liberation struggle, in as much as feminism has been one of the most elitist and racist social movements in American history.

Of course it is not entirely surprising that Steinem must distort the history of feminism in order to speculate on its future (which according to her will include a rejuvenated movement for "comparable pay" for comparable work and the prospect of men discussing - on Oprah, no less - how they can balance work and family.) As mentioned elsewhere, one of the measures of the appropriateness of a goal is the means by which it must be achieved. Such has always been the case with radical feminism; in as much as it has worked negate the essential nature of both genders, it has sustained itself only by exaggerating both the grievances that it was constituted to address as well as the benefits that it has been able to manifest.

As Ms. Steinem offers up her vision of the future of feminism (as she will be doing tonight in Houston), so in like fashion I would like to speak to my vision for the future of feminism, to wit: The Four Horsewomyn of a Feminist Apocalypse. (H/T: John the Revelator.)

1) Men will be less masculine.

Feminism's critique of the patriarchy has always been that such a system was male-dominated, and thus by definition hierarchical and oppressive. Setting aside the fact the feminism's real grievance against the patriarchy was the fact that it served (momentarily) as a bulwark against the inanities of feminism, it is at least
my sense that men have an instinctual ability to make distinctions between good, better and best, and are able to establish hierarchies based upon one's perceived innate gifts, learned skills and work product in relation to others.

To metaphorize the relationship between hierarchies and the patriarchy, if hierarchies can be seen as ladders, he patriarchy ensured that all ladders were leaning against the same wall. The patriarchy oriented the efforts of all males within a society towards agreed upon behavioral standards that transcended race, class and age. In addition to reinforcing positive male behavior, the patriarchy also provided a framework for male economic success. As long as men were expected to provide for themselves and their families, there were incentives for men to establish their own success trajectories, which included educational and/or professional achievement.

In the absence of the patriarchy, it is abundantly clear that - whether we look at declining male college enrollments (Why aren't feminists concerned about this?), the nature of male participation in the workforce, or increasing androgyny among young males - men are lagging far behind where they were even a generation ago.

More to come...

No comments: