So, I was watching the news recently with my kids (a pastime I don’t often engage in for obvious reasons. I’d rather watch a horror film, at least that’s not real) and the headline story was about the refugee crisis in Syria that is currently sweeping Europe. The summary of what was being said was that an initial criteria for taking in refugees will be first the weak and vulnerable (as is repeatedly the case in displacements as grave as this).
Great! I would want that, any normal thinking human being will understand that. Yes please, take in the vulnerable, help them first, they are the ones who can’t help themselves, they are defenseless, frail, of course… Everything makes perfect and empathic sense until the word vulnerable is described/explained to be women and children???
It’s interesting because my son immediately said what about the men? Aren’t they vulnerable too?
Why are women always being classed as vulnerable? And why are women not fighting this stereotype, this representation of us as weak/vulnerable more vigorously.
Why does it seem as if we pick and choose when to be equal? We will not tolerate to be labelled vulnerable or weak within a work space (as we should) but say nothing, or accept this label in crisis. In war or crisis such we become complacent and seem to identify ourselves with a label we detest at peace times.
I put this question across to several men who work in the media and their response was that women are said to be vulnerable because they are susceptible to be raped, so they need protecting.
But by who? From the times of the Duchess of Malfi to our present day societies the word vulnerable or weak is attributed to women, often by men, or institutions largely driven by men. The word denotes/connotes a group of people, or persons who need looking after, who need protecting, who need guiding through their lives; persons who don’t necessarily know what’s good for them.
Look through history and you will find that the word vulnerable is used in attempts to control women; in the Greco-Roman world women were prevented from choosing their partners or speaking on issues of the state because our bodies and brains are weak, vulnerable…
Imagine the disruption this will bring to a young girl growing up in a world (her world) surrounded by strong independent women, unintimidated by circumstances, able to deal with situations with strength and courage, imagine now this young girl being confronted with the disquieting classification of women as weak or vulnerable.
Where are the feminists? Why aren’t we correcting this patriarchal notion that chooses to portray women as less able to cope in certain situations than men? Why aren’t we saying more about equal pay in Tennis or football? Why are Divas in WWE games portrayed as weak and vulnerable, or as the younger crowd will say it – lame? Surely if a woman decides to go into wrestling, she should be allowed the full experience. These are all popular sports with global appeal, and if sentiments such as these are allowed to thrive within these sports, they will invariably spill out to everyday life.
Admonitions like ‘don’t lay your hands on a girl’, instead of ‘don’t put your hands on anybody’ or ‘ladies first’ are all patronizing constructs of patriarchal societies with the underpinning idea of reaffirming or affirming male superiority; a man’s ability to handle stuff, pain or defense.
Feminist have more serious battles to fight than the ones some seem to want to fight. Some feminist latch on to the ism of the word, like a car sticker that means nothing. Some of them just want to belong.
Why can’t my dad for example – who if following the broad definition of feminism, i.e. equal rights and opportunities for women and men – call himself a feminist? The women in rural areas, do they know this word? And if they do, do they even understand it? And if they understand it do they feel like they belong?
Feminism at its barest – stripped of all militancy or pomp – is at its most compelling. It is at its purest, it’s truest when it has climbed off some of its high horses, stripped itself of some of the accoutrements that burden it. Down at this basic level, having achieved this elemental form, it is then able to empower the mass of womanhood unto the universal truth – freewill: the choice to be whatever they want to be, no matter what that ‘whatever’ maybe.