Friday, May 03, 2013

Part time Philogyny

Most of the men I meet are only really part time philogynists, and sometimes only really part time philanthropists.

They have a finite number of women that they think should be treated equally under the law, and the rest can fend for themselves. Of course they choose the women that deserve equality, and that inclusion in the protected few can be changed at any time.

This selective equality in everyday life means that selective equality for anyone not identifying or identified as male in law, religion and society is not widely acknowledged, or worse, it is openly tolerated when it is made visible.

Expecting equality and respect for the people you love, and not granting it to everyone else, is a key reason inequality is still rampant in our world. And this applies to everyone, regardless of gender identity.

I am going to start with a discussion of young women and their male role models, because I think this is an important area of collision between philogyny, misogyny and the effect misguided love has on setting the tone of an entire life. How male role models treat girls growing into women is very important.

Item One: An uncle who took the opportunity of catching his niece studying at her house to speak for an hour over the cups of tea she made him on the disgust he felt at her choosing the useless Arts Units she was studying with great delight and success at University. The particular History unit that, once mentioned mid-rant, provoked his ire, sharpened his attack and left an otherwise cheerful 19 year old crying? Women in the Middle Ages.

As a Historian myself, I have many problems with this attitude that HIStory is not also HERstory or THEIRstory. But beyond my interest in History escaping the Great Man History model, this man attacked History as a subject that was not worth studying despite his niece’s skill and interest in the topic.

I find the idea of an adult belittling the study interests and growing skills of young people to be an insidious act anyway. But to explicitly state they were doing it along gender grounds to someone of that gender’s face? Not an awesome lesson to give your niece and goddaughter about her right to expect equality in the world.

Item Two: A father who after an otherwise sterling two decades of treating all his children equally when it came to intellectual pursuits, telling his mid-twenties daughter that although she was now schooled and traveled and living out of his house, it was time for her to get a job until she got married and then stay home and look after her children.

It must have been a strange moment for her to be given the same respect and support as her brothers for so long, and then to have it suddenly withdrawn and her life reduced to fulfilling expectations only placed on her because she could give birth children and her brothers could not.

Having being raised the same as her brothers, she respected their skills, and presumed they too could get married, stay home and look after their children. She agreed with her father that children benefited from a parent at home, and it was clearly a very important job because he respected her mother immensely for staying home herself, but surely his sons had been raised to be able to do it also?

Item Three: A father who had spent an hour discussing his mentors and who he mentored (all men, all wonderful, all teaching him so much about being a man), was then asked who were his daughter’s mentors. He looked surprised and his first reply was ‘Me, I hope’, followed up, to his credit, by ‘I don’t know who her female mentors are’ as it dawned on him that his daughter was not a son.

For a man who spent his whole life leading and mentoring and supporting and speaking out for men’s mental health, it must have been quite a moment to realize that he was uniquely ill-equipped to lead, mentor, support and speak to his daughter because he had concentrated so much on his own gender to the detriment of working with hers, or anyone who was not identifying as male.

The lessons I take from these examples?

Lesson one: Knowledge and Inquiry, Achievement and Teaching is not gendered. Standing in front of anyone and valuing them for interest in one subject because you approve, and dismissing them because you don’t approve of another subject, is only being a part time Philanthropist. Surely their skills and interests are not yours to use for conditional equality and respect?

Lesson two: Partnership and Love, Children and Family is not gendered. It should not be gendered. Standing in front of a woman and expecting that her potential to successfully complete the dangerous task of carrying and birthing a child means she will change the path of her life is only being a part time Philogynist. Surely her reproductive potential is not yours to use for conditional equality and respect?

Lesson three: Connection and Understanding, Support and Acceptance is not gendered. It should not be gendered. As humans we interact with seven or more gender identities all the time. Concentrating on understanding one (especially if it is your own) and treating all others as the same is only being a part time Philanthropist. Surely how people identify is their decision only, and cannot be used for conditional equality and respect?

Witnessing selective equality in the home, from people you love and who love you is destructive for both young men and young women.

Part time Philogyny teaches young men to value women differently to men, to value their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, wives and lovers as lesser than other men. Part time Philanthrophy teaches them to accept injustice towards other people, including men, without challenge, discussion or protest.

Part time Philogyny from men towards the women of their family negates any claim to love they want to make. You don’t love someone if you willfully discriminate against them, or if you willfully discriminate against someone like them. Once you discriminate against someone else’s mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife and lover, you are showing tolerance towards the same injustice being shown towards the women of your family.

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