Gender difference, equality, power, representation and social problem solving

Did you hear about the brouhaha in Tasmania over the short-lived appointment of a man to be women’s officer of the Tasmanian University Union? Here’s one article that argues strongly against the appointment.


Gender equality, equivalence, discriminiation and representation

It’s an odd area of political life in Australia. On the one hand there are strong forces to argue for equality and even equivalence. Gender should not influence social relationships, working realtionships, sexual behaviour etc. All these things are constructed and fluid.

But in practice, feminism wants to defend and empower women as women. Women in many contexts suffer and miss out. To redress this, requires women to be defined distinctly and defended uniquely. And this is best done when women represent women. It’s a discrimination for the goal of equality. And so it creates a strange tension.

Of course power and male privilege is deceptive and manipulative and ubiquitous. So we need to counteract that, to ensure genuine female empowerment. But does this doom us to never achieve equality? Will there come a day when it’s not needed? And will the means, of distinct female representation inevitably mean there will be equivalence - not that this is necessarily a bad thing? It’s always the problem of affirmative action, isn’t it?


Gender difference and male privilege

I definitely think there is more to be gained for women by seeing women as different than men, and then seeking to support and empower them given those differences. But this is tricky. Because ‘difference’ can so quickly lead to discrimination and disempowerment.

And it’s tricky if MEN talk about the difference. Because how can we be sure that men aren’t using it, whether intentionally or pre-reflectively to reinforce their male privilege

But to be real, genuine gender difference must be objective. And if it is objective, it must, in principle, be acacessible to both men and women. And if we are too suspicious of power, and especially male power, then genuine difference cannot be actually affirmed, because it cannot be talked about by everyone.


Gender difference, problem solving and unique experiences of life

I fear that looking for a ‘solution’ to women’s experience in the world, is that we seek to change differences inherent in a woman’s experience in the world and so ‘solve’ the ‘problems’ of women’s experience in the world. 

Is there not a way to ‘understsanding’ and ‘embrace’ women’s experiences in their differentness. Not to restrict women, but to empower them within these experiences. So the fact that children, or the possibliity of children can give women’s lives and careers an episodic quality is not a ‘problem’. Nor is the fact that their relationships with men will always involve the reality and or possilbity of sexual desire is not a ‘problem’. And women being in general less physically strong than men is not a ‘problem’.

These things can cretae massive problems: unimaginitive lack of flexibility and opportunity in the workforce, sexual objectification and harrassmanet, domestic violence, respectively. And we should guard against these. But the experiences in the previous paragraph are not ‘problems’ themselves. But they are also realities that need to be lived through, embraced even, as a uniquely female experience of the world.

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