“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.”
Written in 1874, it seemed Thomas Hardy was well ahead of his time. And spoken by Bathsheba Everdene, the leading character of the classic novel and seamlessly-adapted film Far From the Madding Crowd, this line resonates with the modern audience still. The collective gasp that follows the line in a theatre audience confirms it. (Though, yes, it was predominately female - ok, completely.) But it is just one of the many lines that translates effortlessly for the modern day. This story has no problem communicating why a woman feels a need for feminism.
“The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men,” Feminism surely is no new topic to bring to the table. And frankly, much of our current culture wouldn’t even exist without it. Our workplaces would work different. Our books would read different. Our music industry would sound different (or, then again, would it?). Our government would look very different. (Not to mention our presidential elections.) Without the endeavors of the females before us, who sought out to be equal participants of society, this nation would be entirely different.
Politics aside - you can’t deny, without a woman’s influence, this world would stand flat and altogether a little dull. It would be absent of a wide array of graces. However, throughout the years, as women have gained more jobs, more voice and more of a place in society, it seems, particularly in the states, as women have gained, perhaps men have lost.
A recent article in The Economist, entitled The Weaker Sex, explores the idea that men are in fact lacking, not only in education and experience (and not entirely in the gentlemanly qualities one might assume I would mention) but are “struggling to find a role in the workplace,” therefore falling short to maintain their leading role in our culture.
Of course from face value, our nation appears to be far from the peaceful equality it has long pursued: Women represent only 18.5 percent of Congress. Women make up only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s. More than 22 million workingwomen do not have sick days. And altogether, women are still paid significantly less on the job compared to men. And few workplaces are the exception. We were even reminded this year, by Academy Award Winner Patritica Arquette (ironically, accepting for the film “Boyhood,”) even Hollywood’s Movie Business “Boy’s Club” has yet to pave the way for female equality in the workforce. The Economist study finds modern-day men do not all quite know how to embrace this idea of feminism. And could some of it be for good reason?
Our world (with feminism) no longer “needs” or “relies” on masculinity. At least it doesn’t think it does. Even prior to the Recession, manufacturing jobs had been on the decline for years in America. Compared to our competitors, international industries approached the dilemma quite differently. When faced with the mix of a recession and manufacturing underperformance, rather than downsizing companies or facing closure, many countries, such as Germany, set out a comprehensive resolve. Employees worked part-time and were retrained the remaining hours to bolster companies’ performance and retain fully staffed manufacturers which in turn would have effected their economy differently, their men differently and the future of their working-class family much differently.
What does this have to do with feminism and masculinity? Maybe more than we realize.
According to The Economist “men who lose jobs in manufacturing often never work again. And men without work find it hard to attract a permanent mate. The result, for low-skilled men, is a poisonous combination of no job, no family and no prospects. ... Hence the unraveling of working-class families.” The combination of our economic crisis and gender role battle may present outcomes of feminism never sought after, much less desired.
In general, where chivalry and common curiosity is concerned, men appear far less likely to do the things that were once considered a cultural norm (a.k.a. those gentlemanly gestures mentioned earlier), though today’s woman seems much less likely to accept them, even if they were offered. As feminism has paved a way, chivalry has seemed to be cleared off the path. Today men must at times walk on eggshells when considering what is appropriate:
Should I open up the door for her, or does she feel strong enough to hold it herself?
Should I pick up my date? Or is that too invasive?
Should I walk on the side of traffic, to guard her? Or is that plain patronizing?
Should I stand up when a women enters a room? Ok, certainly this wouldn’t cross the modern man’s mind.
(Seriously ladies, you must admit - the days before feminism had it’s perks.)
Gauging from experience, or the majority of the male inclination, apparently women would prefer to open the heavy doors themselves. Women would prefer to pay for their own meals even on a “date.” Women would prefer to shiver for 80 minutes at the movies, over a guy offering to get a jacket out of the car or lend his own. Women would prefer to carry an office desktop out off the office and into an Apple store when it needs repair. We would prefer to fix our own flat tires and wait on AAA because “of course we can handle it.” Apparently the modern woman wants just about everything except to be treated like one.
So, who is to blame in this conundrum the sexes face - that make men wonder what would be considered gentlemanly and what just plain demeaning? Feminists can be confusing, and the modern day woman, no less. There may be no simple resolve to the dilemma the society of sexes face.
It’s a fine fix we’ve gotten ourselves into, Ladies … um, I mean, Girlfriend; or is it?