Over at Feministe, Jill posts a sad lament from a reader. See, she has this friend. And he's great. But he doesn't get feminism. He doesn't believe there's a patriarchy. It makes her cry tears of frustration when they argue about it. And she wants some advice.
I think we've all struggled with people like this in our lives. I've asked myself many times what type of argument works best with such an individual.
If he's pro-choice, he might consider laws that enforce "waiting periods" on women requesting abortions. When was the last time the state told him he wasn't fit to make a medical decision without thinking it over just a few more times? Does he believe a government composed of equal numbers of women and men would pass such laws?
And speaking of government, if there is no longer a patriarchy, how come less than 20 percent of Congress is made up of women in 2007? How come we still haven't had a woman president? Isn't our democracy supposed to be representative, meaning that it reflects the population at large? How can our government fairly create laws affecting women's lives when it is made up of so few women?
But maybe this guy believes women choose to stay at home instead of pursuing high profile careers. And that's okay, because domestic work is wonderful. It's uplifting. Somebody has to do it, and it's only natural women should be the ones. After all, women get pregnant. And pregnancy leads directly to doing other people's laundry and all the vacuuming.
You might want to point out to him the ways in which this ideology constrains his own choices. If housework and childcare are so exalted, how come so few men are doing them? And if he, as a man, does decide to take time off to be with his family or work from home, how come he would be in such a minority? Why is so much of his worth wrapped up in his title at work, his income, and other traditionally masculine measures of status? Why does he feel pressure to pay at dinner, even if his date makes more money?
And speaking of money, how come auto workers are unionized, but house cleaners and hair dressers aren't? How come research continues to show that even when we control for maternity leave, time off of work, and different levels of education, women still make only 70 cents on the male dollar?
And if there isn't a patriarchy, why did the Supreme Court, on which only one woman sits, decide last spring that women and people of color should be severly limited in filing complaints against such pay discrimination? Congress, led by a woman, had to overrule that decision.
Feminism is necessary.
But do you think facts can ever convince a skeptic?