The problem with Feminism: it’s not radical enough
We all know the issues raised by current feminists: women are paid less then men, social norms reinforce certain stereotypes like dolls for girls and cars for boys which translate into inequality in life choices, leading to women being under-represented in many high level jobs, especially in certain sectors like finance, technology etc.
Most mainstream feminists propose measures such as quotas or fighting the gender stereotypes prevalent throughout society.
But what if they were not radical enough?
One clear area of disappointment is that feminists seldom question what society defines as “high level” or “important” jobs and “worthless” jobs. Why should we have more respect (and pay more) for a CEO than for a nurse?
Let’s carry out a thought experiment to see why this is a problem.
Imagine a man and a women washing ashore a desert island. In order to survive, they would both have to cooperate and work together. For instance, while one would go fishing, the other would look for dry wood and start a fire. Which one would have the right to walk back to camp, sit comfortably into a leaf nest, pop open a beer and turn on the TV claiming that “he/she had the right to rest because he/she has worked hard while the other was merely fooling around playing with twigs or having a casual swim?” Hard to say… And obviously, if one could rightfully claim that he/she has more merit than the other, then the task that person has carried out suddenly becomes more attractive since it gives you more “rights”. So suddenly everyone wants to go fishing and doesn’t want to take care of starting a fire, or the other way around. Pretty shitty situation if you’re fighting for survival. If both go fishing without starting a fire or both start a fire without going fishing, they are unlikely to survive very long…
Now imagine that 500 women and 500 men wash ashore a desert island. They are likely, after an initial period, to set up some “formal” authority (a mini government) to handle some important aspects of life (making sure that violence and theft are investigated and punished by an independent authority) and probably set up some form of currency to facilitate the allocation of the “wealth” produced in order to survive. Otherwise, you would have to set up a “soviet style” central planning where goods and services are allocated based on what the not-so-mini government decides: everyone gets 1 fish, everyone gets 1 tree nest…
Both systems have their shortcomings. The “central planning” one are quite clear: it depends too much on the quality of the decisions made by planners rather than relying on autonomous individuals responding to the “signals” of a free market (offer/demand), and it removes the economic incentive to engage in a task that is highly valued or needed and therefore the system needs to “force” some individuals to carry out certain tasks.
The “free market” type system with private entrepreneurship allows to allocate goods and services based on the “demand”. But again, this makes certain jobs desirable and others not. It also allows for profiteering from arbitrarily distributed competences and traits: for instance, a man who has an exceptional lung capacity and can stay under water longer, can “monopolize” the task of fishing under water, and dictate his conditions on how much he should be “paid” to carry out the task. The “free market” system assumes that the competences of each individual belong to them exclusively (the merit comes from them only) and so the “fruits of their labour” also belongs to them exclusively. Of course, this is clearly a gross over simplification. To a large extent, much of our competences and merit come from either the genetic lottery, the social lottery (your parents, their education background and how “good” they were at educating you) and access to more or less of the common knowledge produced by human society as a whole. For instance, could you say that a person who has grown up next to an ocean and raised as a fisherman has more “merit” than someone that has never even learned to swim because he was raised in-land? Much of what we know is due to the “life lottery”: the socio-economic situation and education level of our parents, access to knowledge and opportunities within our society etc.
Even in a more “anarchic” state of organizing, if we take as an example the brief Spanish anarchic experiment in the 1930s, it can be argued that some sense of organization exists, that a “government” simply continuously pops in and out of existence, as key decisions need to be taken. The only difference is that each decision is thoroughly discussed by all members of the community and collectively enforced (with “exclusion” or excommunication in case of radical disobedience). In any case, an anarchic society can work when it is limited in the number of decisions that need to be taken, and the complexity of life and living is reasonably small. For instance, collectively discuss the production and distribution of basic goods/services, as opposed to agreeing on research across thousands of specialized fields, assessing the ethical, moral, ecological, political implications of all of these… In any case, what is interesting in an “anarchic” system is that since each decision is thoroughly discussed, the roles and the perception of the importance of roles in such a system is the reflection of the collective agreement. And since women are roughly 50% in such a system, if their roles are downplayed, it would be their own doing (which would likely not happen, as in the Spanish society, women’s roles were just as “important” as men).
What has this thought experiment taught us? That the “high level” positions that women seek are mostly arbitrarily defined. Some would say they are the result of “free market” forces, others would say they are the result of a manipulation of the “free market” to exert downward pressure on certain job compensations, and maximize other salaries, or even that such a “focus” on some roles being more important than others serves the perpetuation of a political, economic and ideological system: capitalism itself! It certainly is not in the interest of capitalism to put emphasis on teachers, nurses and mothers in general (arguably, all families are “communist” in nature, since resources are not distributed inside a family based on merit but on needs), but it clearly serves capitalism to shape society in such a way that everyone is chasing after being a CEO, an entrepreneur, an “innovative” scientist, a sophisticated financial expert,… And so it’s important to question where our “preferences” come from, men and women alike. As humans, we will obviously “prefer” to do something that we are rewarded for than something we are punished for.
Some other questions raised by the thought experiment above include the following: how do you think the 999 men and women would treat someone that has unique abilities but refuses to use them unless all the others meet his/her unilateral conditions? For instance: getting the most comfortable nest, have more power, have men/women as sex slaves? I’m pretty sure he or she would be quickly put on a leash and forced to contribute to the best of his/her ability or else… You might think this is unfair or contrary to liberty and freedom. But social and peer pressure is something inherently natural to all species. There is a natural form of control and rules over who gets what based on how much they contribute or based on more important considerations like maintaining positive relationships within a group. Current research into hunter gatherer societies tends to point to highly egalitarian principles within these groups, precisely to avoid the kind of violence or destructive forces that stem from too much inequality/social exclusion.
Therefore the “real” fight that feminists should lead is not to obtain equal access to “high level” positions or jobs, but to call into question why some jobs are perceived as inherently more “useful”, more “prestigious”, more valued or more remunerated in our society then others.
To be provocative, it seems crazy that women are chasing after the job of CEO. Many argue that they work extremely hard, and that is a very fair point. CEOs seldom have a private life and so the job is only cut out for those that are willing to “merge” their profession with their life. Some like Jordan Peterson argue that their power is derived from their competence. Two things have to be mentioned about that. First, if they are truly in power via their competence, then they do not need a “formal” administrative hierarchy to uphold their power since it should be derived from the collective recognition, by workers, of such a competence. To take an example Peterson often refers to, a “dominant male” in a chimp tribe is in power due to the collective acceptance of his remaining in power. That chimp didn’t just speak to a “board of directors” that had very specific ideas of what “competence” means, which brings us to the second point. CEOs are chosen for their competences at what exactly? Maximizing shareholder value? Or creating value for society? Or both? Unfortunately, many examples show that “competence” is not always all that “positive” as one might suspect. Attila was very “competent” at raiding cities… There are moral and ethical considerations which do not make the competences and jobs of CEOs look so good. Looking at recent scandals from the Volkswagen Dieselgate, the Equifax hack, the Yahoo meltdown, the BP deep sea oil leak or even some CEOs of top private financial institutions and their involvement in the financial crisis of 2008, it seems that CEOs are… blood sucking leeches. They rake in an insane amount of money because their position is of “very high responsibility” and other blabla (yes, it is very difficult to run a company in a ruthless capitalist system, how that should be considered a “good” competence is unclear), but when shit hits the fan, they all seem to fizzle out! They will appear on public TV, sometimes say “we’re sorry”, take their golden parachute (several million dollars) and resign, leaving all the other staffers deal with the shit storm. Wow. Actually, I take that back. Being a CEO might be attractive to some. If you do well, you get paid insane amounts of money and enjoy a massive amount of power and a very high social status, if you do badly, you resign with a huge lump of cash and enjoy an early retirement, sitting on enough money to allow you to live on your passive income alone until you die. Plus, given your experience, it is still highly probable that you’ll be contacted to lead another company… On the other hand, take a nurse that has worked all her life in the geriatric department, taking care of the elderly and especially, those at the end of their life. It takes a special set of skills to look death in the eye every day, to smile to some patients that are left there abandoned by their (carer chasing) relatives, to care for those physically incapable to move any more, to wash them, wipe the asses full of shit of some old CEOs in their McMansions when they are incapable of taking a shit all by themselves… The same can be said about teachers. Studies on child development have shown that early life years are crucial for the healthy socialization of children, which influences the likelihood of dropping out of school or being incarcerated. And so for some strange reason, we’re OK with paying pre-school teachers minimum wage, even though they are responsible for shaping the future of entire generations while paying insane amounts of money to individuals who, even though they work very hard, take little to no responsibility for failing. What a crazy world.
So in the end, who are current mainstream feminists helping? Not many women… Basically only the women that currently have the aspiration and competence to postulate for high paying jobs, and are either filtered out by macho or misogynist men calling the shots or simply abandon the idea of pursuing a career which requires a day and night dedication to their profession and prevents them from having a family. All the other women, the ones working as nurses, teachers, carers,… they will be just as poorly treated as ever.
Basically, the metaphor of mainstream feminism is the following: imagine the 18th century situation where white men and women were the masters and black men and women were slaves. Mainstream feminism is basically as if the black men and women argued for more “equal” slavery, that is, that at least half of black men/women be masters, and half of white men/women be slaves, instead of questioning the legitimacy of slavery itself. It is chasing after power/money instead of questioning whether the current concentration of power/money is legitimate. This can clearly be seen via the “select” jobs feminists focus on: it’s always about CEOs, boards of big companies or any other high paid or prestigious jobs, but never about plumbers or bricklayers, which are also professions dominated by men.
Now let’s take a real dive into the rabbit hole, because things are about to get complicated.
First, let us carry out another thought experiment: imagine that we lived in a world where there are no gender stereotypes and where the media and everything that we see has been carefully assessed in order to never exert any form of stereotypical message towards men and/or women. A society where we would go as far as to separate children from their parents to ensure that gender stereotypes don’t survive through the private sanctity of the family and the unique relation your father and mother had. Children would be raised by gender neutral robots and depiction of humans doing any task would always be both female and male in perfect balance. In such a world, feminists would claim that we would find the same proportion of men and women in all jobs except those that require brute strength (which is probably the only real difference between men and women that feminists would agree to).
But is it really so simple? Would that really be the case? Unfortunately, we don’t have several parallel universes to test these theories. We can only carry out small experiments and studies in the “real world”, within the limits of what is ethically possible (not confiscating children from their parents…)
In essence, in the scientific community, two opposing views clash: the social constructivists versus the evolutionary psychologists. Social constructivists examine human behaviour predominantly through the lens of nurture, while evolutionary psychologists study human behaviour from the perspective of evolution theory (nature). Most reasonable academics agree that both nature and nurture play a role, however, agreeing on the degrees of influence of each remains extremely difficult.
Be that as it may, the consensus is that women will never be exactly like men, simply because there is a genetic/natural variable that determines our behaviour. The questions still pending is just how much different are we, and what are the implications for principles like equality or freedom? Does this minor (genetic/natural) difference justify differentiated treatment? How does it apply to the workplace?
The following reflections will attempt at answering these questions. While the thought experiments above were meant to show the fallacy of defining equality within a fundamentally unequal and unjust system which arbitrarily assigns value to certain activities/jobs/positions and not to others, we now need to address inequalities that may arise from differentiated behaviours between women and men, regardless of systemic biases.
In the image above, you can see an illustration of what it would probably look like if we could pin point “natural”, statistically observed differences between women and men in a fully “neutral” environment, and plotted them along two “poles”, one representing “typical male” behaviours/traits, another representing “typical female” behaviours/traits. Notice that you would never get a homogeneous, compact distribution. You always have a number of males that are closer to female behaviours/traits and vice versa. The problem is that in our societies, we tend to generalize and attempt at creating a system on top of such generalizations. For instance, it is absolutely certain that you will find, among the human species, a number of females (some minor proportion) that are physically stronger then males. Yet our society, our norms, our expectations and the depictions of gender roles in the media and all around us never accounts for this minority. It’s even worse as a matter of fact. A man who is weaker than a women will be ridiculed and a women stronger than a man will be stigmatized, simply for falling short of the “norm”.
And so you have two types of societal pressures on all men and women, based on certain ideological preconceptions. Feminists, radical social constructivists and other tenants of delusional equality, will try to push both poles into a middle where men and women are indistinguishable. Conservatives, traditionalists and some radical evolutionary psychologists, will tend to push all men or women back to the “typical”, statistically significant, poles of behaviour refusing to recognize the outliers, or those in the statistical minority.
Both pressures are wrong. What we should start reflecting about is, given what we know about human behaviour from both sides (social constructivists and evolutionary psychologists), how can we create a system/society which manages to achieve certain ideals like freedom to be faithful to one’s unique identity, one’s aspirations and goals without being punished for it, which brings us to the second ideal, equality.
The real tragedy feminists fail to recognize and fight against, is that both men and women are punished in our society for following certain life choices, especially in their private or professional life. A women or man who aspires to become a nurse will be working hard with little compensation for it. A women or man who wants to spend more time with his/her kids and family will be economically dependent on his/her partner and vulnerable to abuse (domestic violence…) or societal pressure (mockery for not being a “real” man…). On the other hand, other life choices are disproportionately rewarded such as becoming a CEO or any other high status, high paying job. You may object that “disproportionately rewarded” is a value judgement, but never forget that your pay is just a matter of balance of power between various market players, as the graphic below, looking at union membership and salary shows. If tomorrow all nurses could afford to stop working (by going on a prolonged strike), they would easily negotiate a higher pay. The fact of the matter is that automation, delocalization and the steady break up of unions and worker solidarity is directly correlated with falling wages for a majority of jobs and an increase in top earners jobs. The “market” isn’t some magic, mysterious actor, it’s simply a number of players, each with their own interest, trying to pull the blanket to themselves using whatever power and strategy they have, and the majority of middle income and bottom income earners have been losing at this game for the last half century.
But that’s not all. These high status, high paying jobs come in short supply. Not everyone can become a CEO! This means that even if all women and men decided tomorrow to go into business school or engineering, following blindly societal expectations and feminist recommendations, only the “crème de la crème” among them will effectively get those high paying jobs. The rest will be stuck in jobs below their level of qualification with inadequate pay. So let us not be naïve: there are the jobs that people would want to do, and there are the jobs that are in demand. And so based on your level of qualification and competence (as assessed by the recruiting staff), your contacts, your social circle, you will either get what you want, or be forced to do whatever is left. This is how the labour market and more generally, our economic system works, this is how you get people to pick up trash even though probably no one would ever want to do those jobs. In order to survive, you need money, in order to get money, you need a job, and so if no one is willing to give you the job you want for whatever reason (there are people more competent, or someone played their connections…), you just go down the ladder of the jobs that you would hate least until you get accepted. It’s a “do or die” alternative. The labour market is unforgiving. It’s like a marathon in a race. You might be the 4th best runner out of a thousand or ten thousand, if there are only 3 places on the podium, being 4th or last is the same: you don’t get any medal for it, even though objectively, you are still a very, very good runner by any reasonable standard!
It is also very interesting to examine how other systems have managed to “resolve” the problem of reconciling what people want to do and what needs to be done. Take Communism for instance: it must really hurt today’s capitalists to recognize that the USSR did a much better job at gender equality than our modern “free” societies. In the 1960s, 40% of all chemistry PhDs were awarded to women in the USSR. At the same period, it was 5% in the US and currently stands at about 35%. But there are other things worth noting: first, not everyone could do whatever they wanted to do. If there was a shortage of agro-engineers for instance, then some people (women or men alike) were forced to study that topic and work in that field regardless of their interests. Salary wise, the gap between the lowest paying job and the most paying job was reasonably set and so no one was truly “punished” for choosing a particular career, except if there was a shortage of certain jobs, then some people were “forced” into doing one job or another, but for a reasonable compensation (as opposed to capitalism where the jobs you’re forced to do out of necessity are nearly always underpaid). The second thing to note, is that while women and men were pretty much equal in many areas of the labour market, there was one clear exception: there were a lot less women in politics/the communist party! And so what is interesting, is that as jobs and professional positions were no longer an indication of a higher “social status” for men, the discrimination and inequality moved to positions of “power”, which men monopolized for themselves.
Now here is where evolutionary psychology kicks in and really heats up the debate about equality. By combining a few key findings from evolutionary psychology, it would seem that achieving “equality” between women and men is not only infeasible, it is not even suitable. Here is one of those findings that has a very important impact: the fact that women are naturally more “choosy” then men regarding their mating preferences because of the higher reproductive costs (carrying a child, fertility window narrower than men…). Several pieces of research carried out by the likes of Gad Saad show some interesting insight into the difference between women and men in mating choices and its societal implications: for instance, in the case of women, showing the man in a different context suggesting higher or lower social status affected how they rated that man’s attractiveness. For men, they found women equally attractive regardless of contextual cues of higher or lower social status.
What are the implications of this? Simply that men have to “prove” themselves “worthy” of being a suitable partner much more so than women. This has been eroding somewhat thanks in part to the entry of women into the labour market. As the research from the Scottish IPPR think tank suggests, women are now less inclined to marry “up” (someone with higher social status) then before, but still marry older men. One consequence of this is, paradoxically, lower social mobility and intergenerational transmission of poverty! Since “poor” women don’t manage to “seduce” rich guys, they are so to speak “stuck” with the guy that is just as poor as they are. And the research about the odds of children from lower socio-economic backgrounds to “climb” their way up the social ladder is quite clear: most of them will stay poor.
Another interesting study was about toy preferences among boys and girls in more “gender neutral” societies like Sweden. The research showed that across 50.000 children, the toy preferences matched those of more “gender stereotypical” societies, which would suggest that there is some form of biological determinism at play. Obviously, we will never know for sure, because the ideal conditions for making the experiment will never be met (raising children in a lab with a gender neutral robot and asking them to choose between various toys without being exposed to any marketing, or parental roles via their parents etc…) It is nevertheless interesting to consider the possibility that these preferences are somewhat biologically determined because it forces us to rethink how equality between women and men could be achieved if this were true.
So what would be the implications of this research on policy and on equality between women and men?
Some “radical” evolutionary psychologists will say that there is nothing that can be done. A majority of women will be more interested in being mothers than CEOs, scientists or artists, a majority of women will seek men that are high achievers to “increase” the chances that their offspring have in succeeding in life, and so inequalities are simply the result of biological determinism. Oh, and for the “statistical outliers”, well, we won’t “transform” a society that works for the majority just so a few stay at home, nurturing men and workaholic, careerist women feel less at odds with the “norm”. Men will always need to be “better” then women or at least perceived as “better” (via higher pay, higher social status, higher “power”, bigger physical strength…) in order to “seduce” or convince women to accept to disproportionately carry the burden of reproduction. This insight might explain why certain “stereotypes” refuse to die, like the fact that a man losing to a women is “humiliating”. If there really is no difference between women and men, then men should not feel any worse for losing to a women than losing to a man. But the research above provides an explanation: a man losing to another man simply means that he is now “lower” in the mating suitability/hierarchy. A man losing to a women might be interpreted as simply that he doesn’t even deserve to reproduce! By the way, the huge and growing inequalities in our society in light of evolutionary psychology could explains the current torrent of accusations of sexual harassment, assault and even rape of men in very high positions (either of power or social status). As Trump so eloquently said himself: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything… grab them by the pussy.” As “outrageous” as such a statement might sound, it actually carries some very deep significance. It’s almost as if a sliver back gorilla had the ability to speak and said: “all women in my tribe are part of my personal harem and they are at my sexual disposal simply because I’m the ‘dominant alpha’ male”. This could be a further argument to limit inequalities period, not just between women and men. Positions of power or very high social status almost acts as a brain disease on men, who think that it confers them “special” privileges, including a “privileged access” to women…
Conclusion: what should be the “real” basis for feminism?
To finish, here is my modest contribution as to what a more “radical” feminism should advocate for.
First, it should recognize that both the social constructivist vision of the blank slate and the evolutionary psychologist deterministic vision are wrong. What we should be pursuing relentlessly is liberate the individual and find ways to increase individual freedom without taking away other individual’s freedom. What does this mean in practice? To ensure that women and men are not disproportionally punished or rewarded arbitrarily by a system (be it communism, capitalism or anarchism) based on the life choices they make.
One simple policy that could greatly help in putting this into practice is Universal Basic Income. I have written about this topic already, so feel free to explore my previous articles. Universal Basic Income has the potential to dilute the pressures on people to pursue whatever “career” or life choice suits a specific system at any given time. For instance, what capitalism’s “needs” are, is always changing as a function of time and space. At times, what it needed is numerous unskilled docile workers(during the industrial revolution of the 18th century, or today in developing countries), at others, it was rather highly skilled and highly educated workers providing high added value and disruptive innovation to gain competitive edge over competitors. Tomorrow, it might only need a few very highly skilled labour and an army of robots, and having no clue what to do with the rest. Perhaps put them at the personal service (premium massage, exceptional hair dressing, escort service, prostitution…) of the richest individuals as some cynical economists argue.
Second, feminism should recognize that most of the problems our societies face are the inherent contradictions between evolutionary traits that humans have in common, hard-wired due to the evolutionary advantage it conferred our species somewhere in our “hunter gatherer” times, and the fast pace of innovation and technological progress that our societies have gone through in a couple of centuries. For instance, it no longer makes evolutionary sense for women to have their periods at age 10 or 11! If biology had caught up with our current society, women should only start having their periods around the age of 20 or more! It also makes no evolutionary sense to still keep men’s physical strength as an important “criteria” for ideal mate selection as in today’s society, an individual’s IQ is a much better predictor of future success in life than brute strength. Think about the radical change that birth control brought about, or paternity tests! Women don’t need to be so prudish anymore since they can enjoy sex without the fear of becoming pregnant and carrying the offspring of a mate they didn’t want to reproduce with. Men don’t need to be so scared about paternity uncertainty and control women’s sexuality since they can easily check if their offspring is really theirs. The purpose of socialization and social constructivism is therefore to try to mitigate evolutionary traits which are irrelevant or even counter productive in our current societies, all the while understanding that these traits will act as a “default” or “reset button” in case our current society breaks apart and recognizing that far from “ignoring” the effect biology has on behaviour, it is on the contrary by understanding it better that humans will be able to better exert some form of “conscious control” over them, in other words, boosting the “power” of our “free will” by enhancing the abilities of our pre-frontal cortex to inhibit certain “natural” behaviours that are no longer relevant in our modern societies. Here are some hard questions that we have yet to find concrete answers to: should we recognize that men will always need to feel that they are “better” than women in order to prove their worth as partners and the tendency for women to be more choosy? If so, can we restrict inequality in a way which does not limit women’s choices or doesn’t disproportionately affect them? Or perhaps can we eliminate this tendency in men and women via socialization? My current opinion on the matter is that we need to “mimic” Nature’s strategy when facing the “unknown”. The truth is we have no idea what future challenges our species is going to face, and therefore, what will be the “traits” that ensure the highest rates of survivability for your offspring, both in terms of socialization or genetics. Who knows! Maybe tomorrow an alien race will drop down from the sky, and for some obscure reason, red heads will have some mysterious genetic advantage which makes invulnerable while other humans drop like flies. In the face of the “unknown”, Nature’s strategy has always been the same: diversity, which gives Nature that many chances at ensuring that among the wide diversity inside the same species, some subset of individuals will have what it takes to survive. And this is true for genetics as much as for social traits. Whatever made humans successful, other humans tried to mimic it to the best of their ability, in essence, spreading “key” competences like mastering fire, creating tools or even, speaking a language. As Jordan Peterson has argued, mythological characters in various religions embody the “ideal” human, that which has all the best “social” traits to tackle the challenges societies faced in their historical context. Just to be clear, I am not advocating for diversity in the same sense as some “social justice warriors” are, where diversity is a way to defend ideologies or religions which instead of valuing diversity covertly seek homogeneity and uniformity. The kind of diversity I am advocating for is probably the hardest to cultivate. It involves the recognition that this “natural” phenomenon of mimicking “successful” behaviour works within groups that adhere to radically opposite ideologies and manage to take over a large part of society. For instance, as feminism takes more and more control over part of a society, then other women can “mimic” or adopt the feminist discourse which will “lift” them up the social ladder within the feminist sub-group. They will now be part of a community where they will be encouraged, praised, given a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning, possibly even be successful by reaching a higher social status thanks to their connections and support within the group… The same holds true for “conservative” women. Adhering to the idea that women are natural care givers and should take care of children/family also opens you the “door” to a community, a group, in which you will find the exact same rewards as adhering to feminism. The problem is that all of these are “artificial” in the sense that they are “man made”. It is not as if an exogenous factor, like a new disease, gave an “edge” or an evolutionary advantage to one group as opposed to another, it is a group of humans that shape reality in order to create artificial “hoops” through which other humans need to jump in order to “prove” they are worthy and reap the rewards (belonging to the group, enjoy success within the group). How do you become a top anchor at Fox News? By adhering to their underlying ideology. How do you become an anchor at CNN? The same way. And so cultivating diversity “artificially” without a clear exogenous obstacle or challenge is extremely difficult and deserves it’s own article, if not it’s own book.
Third, there is clearly an implication as to the media and freedom of speech. While the research on toy preferences concluded that even a more “gender neutral” society didn’t affect toy preferences, it says nothing about other unintended consequences of a more “gender stereotypical” society. Evolutionary psychologists like to compare humans to apes, which are our closest “relatives” in the evolutionary tree. Well, in their “natural” habitat and environments, there are no “labels” for what elements of that environment are “for males” or “for females”. There are no signs or other cues on branches, or rocks that send some form of message to apes saying “this is a swinging branch for mister” and “this is a rock for madam”. In other words, Nature or the environment around apes is gender neutral, and the activities or actions apes engage in are thus based purely on the mix of socialisation inside the group and their genetic predispositions. Thus even if creating a “gender neutral” society might not completely change women’s and men’s preferences, at least it won’t gloss over the natural diversity that exists between women and men. Obviously, this would be a very hard idea to implement. It would require some for of “neutral” packaging and marketing, it would involve some control over how the media depicts gender roles… Again, I don’t think there is an easy answer to this problem, but it is worth reflecting on it, given the influence the media has on society. For instance, it has been argued that the increased presence of “gay” characters in various series helped fight against their stigmatisation in our society. But this wasn’t the result of the “policing” of the media but a gradual influence of certain elements inside the media that brought about this change (producers, actors, directors,…) The same can be said about series like “Mad Men” which brings to light the sexist professional environment that women experienced in the 1960s. The key, here, again, is cultivating diversity inside the media, making sure that funding and business models for the media are as diversified as possible, to make sure that they reflect the diversity that exists within each society. Sadly, at present, instead of diversity, the media seems to reflect the battles for ideological supremacy, that is, the growing “clash” between radically contradictory ideologies seeking hegemony over how society “should” be, applied to all individuals: conservatives (among which the “alt right”) vs. progressives (among which the so called “regressive left” or “social justice warriors”). Both are seeking to use a central authority to “impose” certain sets of values and principles to the other camp, and both pretending that they are doing so in the name of “freedom”.
Fourth, there are areas in which some of current feminist ideas should be implemented. For instance, the idea of quotas is ridiculous when applied to the private sector when considering all that has been discussed above, but quotas in the public sector and in politics makes perfect sense. Politics and control over a central authority (namely government) is not only a question of competence, but also a question of representation. I have been an advocate for reforming our governments by combining competence and representation by creating a two chamber parliament, one which would be elected by sorting (like juries in trials) and the other by election. In order to pass law, both chambers would need to agree in consensus. This means that in the chamber elected by sorting, you will naturally find the diversity in population of that society/country. It is as if you had “mini” referendums on each set of legislation.
Finally, and this is something that should be applied by any ideologue, it is worth investigating whether the grievances that you and your group have experienced are really best addressed via restricting other people’s freedoms. For instance, would it really “free” all women if tomorrow the “third wave” feminists could wave a magic wand and put in place all of the measures that they dream about? Would it really “free” transgender people if we could suddenly force all society to adopt a non-binary gender language? While the suffering and discrimination that many women, transgender, black, latino, disabled, elderly… people have experienced and are still experiencing are real, the question of how best to address such issues and prevent people from suffering in the future is by no means easy. In all likelihood, it will be a difficult and slow process, unless we can find a way to design laws that can successfully “force” people to be “nice” to each other. Far from edging down the dangerous road of cultural relativism or post-modernism, we should reflect on how to use the power of any central authority to balance individual freedoms and enhance people’s life choices, as well as to identify when an issue is best dealt with at the “macro” or the “micro” level. Perhaps weakening central authorities is part of the answer! So long as there will be a central authority, it will provide an incentive for any sub-group to try to gain control over it and impose it’s norms to all society.
As pointed above, implementing some seemingly unrelated policies like Universal Basic Income could already help a great deal, by removing the perception of a “winner takes it all” competition for the right to live, or making it easier to move between various life choices without “locking you in” (for instance, a “stay-at-home” mother locked into staying one for lack of financial resources).