Monday, December 14, 2015

Modern medieval maidens

Even through the few years of my existence, I have been witness to a phenomenal change--for the better--in the treatment of women.  From a grandmother, who was condemned to live a life of widowhood from the age of eighteen to her death at 67; to a mother and aunts who graduated high school and went to live in cities far away from the old village; to a sister and cousin sisters and schoolmates who went to college not only for an undergrad but also for graduate and professional degrees; to a daughter and niece and other young women whose professional accomplishments are so stratospheric that even most men cannot dream of ...

Yet another reason why I cannot ever agree with people who talk about the good old days, when the old days were good only to the fewest of few males somewhere.

Against such a background, I have been increasingly troubled by the recent uptick in American colleges and universities to "protect" young women.  Of course, we need all the education about good practices like treating genders equally and not harassing women, for instance.  But, we seem to be going way overboard to such an extent that the system seems to want treat young women as helpless maidens in some medieval literature.  The more I listen to the chatter, the more I am amazed at the prevailing sentiment to equate women with damsels in distress..

It is a shame that young women seem to be characterized that way.  Even the female students in my classes are such a contrast to all that.  Most women in my classes seem a lot more together, confident, and purposeful, compared to the typical male student who comes across as an overgrown adolescent.

Of course, I am not the only one who is upset these days about how the system is caricaturing young women as ones who need all the parental guidance.  My favorite feminist, Camille Paglia, says that and more with her usual blunt talk.
I am continually shocked and dismayed by the nearly Victorian notions promulgated by today’s feminists about the fragility of women and their naïve helplessness in asserting control over their own dating lives. Female undergraduates incapable of negotiating the oafish pleasures and perils of campus fraternity parties are hardly prepared to win leadership positions in business or government in the future.
Now, that is some criticism, eh!

Paglia takes it up another notch:
If today’s young women want to be passive wards of the state, then that is their self-stultifying choice.

I have complained enough (like here) that young women and men seem to want a lot more rules and not fewer rules.  And even more bizarre that they seem to be all too eager to obey those rules.  Paglia's phrase of "passive wards of the state" can equally apply to young men too.  But, our interest in this post is about feminism and young women.  So, what would Paglia like to see happen?
Too many people, both men and women, have foolishly conflated their personal identities with their jobs. It’s a bourgeois trap and a distortion of the ultimate meaning of life.
The childless Gloria Steinem, who was unmarried until she was 66, has never been sympathetic to the problems faced by women who want both children and a job. Stay-at-home moms have been arrogantly disdained by orthodox feminism. This is a primary reason for the lack of respect that a majority of mainstream citizens has for feminism, which is addicted to juvenile male-bashing and has elevated abortion to sacramental status. While I firmly support unrestricted reproductive rights (on the grounds that nature gives every individual total control over his or her body), I think that the near-hysterical obsession with abortion has damaged feminism by making it seem morally obtuse.
I want universities to create more flexible, extended-study options for young women who choose to have earlier (and thus safer) pregnancies, and I want more public and private resources devoted to childcare facilities for working parents of every social class.

I have no disagreement there.  Well, I don't have the cojones to disagree with Camille Paglia ;)


Ramesh said...

Oh come on. Fair maidens are indeed damsels in distress. What else would chivalrous men do if that were not the case.

Welcome back to blogging. A week without a post from you is like a year of absence !

Sriram Khé said...

When you comment like that, how can I ever stay away from blogging! ;)

Anne in Salem said...

Indeed, welcome back. Been a quiet week with no debates and no raised blood pressure over what you wrote! :))

I have always resisted the term feminist because so many feminists seem content to bash and blame men while producing little productive that helps women. Feminism should be about promoting women and supporting women in their choices, whether work or home, parent or not. Women who shattered glass ceilings not by cutting down men but by being of superior ability should be celebrated. Patronizing women or promoting/hiring them simply because they are women, as is frequently required in government contracts, is not helpful to anyone and is more often harmful to the "cause". I wish we could get past all the gender silliness and judge people on ability. Life would be simpler.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes ... the male-bashing-all-the-time feminism does not appeal to me either. One of the many reasons I love Paglia's feminism is that her focus is on female empowerment. And she is one heck of a tough woman herself.

I mildly disagree with your take on "promoting/hiring them simply because they are women" though this might trigger an increase in your BP! There are plenty of professions even now that are notoriously anti-women in practice even though they have highfalutin talk about equal treatment. In these, from the outside it might "seem" like the hires are all based on abilities but in reality they are skewed against women. We have made substantial progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done before we can get to that stage of "life would be simpler."

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