Monday, July 17, 2006

What Can I Say?

People live in different realities. Just check this Doonesbury cartoon from Sunday (courtesy of Carty), which makes the happy point that feminism is no longer at all necessary and also perpetuates the old bra-burning myth (incorrect).

What can I say about it? Other than the whole contents of this blog for the last three years? Well, I could point out that someone not knowing who draws Doonesbury would have had no trouble guessing that it's a man, because it's much easier to assume that feminism is no longer necessary if you don't need it. Or I could point out that the cartoon is pretty much America-centered, ignoring the state of the majority of women in this world. I could even remind people of the post a few posts down where "Susan" worries about women who go to college and elaborates on the idea that women can never be autonomous, and this in the United States of America. Her story is just one example of the new attack by the fundamentalists against feminism.

But then I should mention that he also has a point, and that is the fact that progress has taken place over the last few decades in the West. A lot of progress. Still, the progress is not complete and the victories of feminism are not permanently safeguarded, and this means that the conclusions of the cartoon are wrong.

I once tried writing a piece about the differences in the average male and female perceptions of sex discrimination, but I couldn't find the metaphors for explaining what I meant. One metaphor I played with was about being stung by mosquitoes, over and over again, day in and day out. Suppose that happened to you but your best friend didn't even see the mosquitoes and was never bothered by them. He'd wonder why you keep scratching like mad and why you are always talking about mosquitoes when he didn't see any. And one day you might explode after yet another mosquito bite and wreck your office or room in front of him. Then he would decide that you are crazy, to react like that to one little mosquito bite.

Another metaphor someone suggested: Suppose that you go to a supermarket for your food and every time you go there the automatic door fails to work, so you pull and you push and you tug like mad. But the door works just fine for other people, so when you try to explain what you don't like about the supermarket experience they find you odd.

These stories convey some of the minor aspects of sex discrimination, but they fail to cover the major ones, and so far I haven't found a story that would translate well. But the correct story is not the one in the cartoon, though of course I would love it to be the final one.