Whoa, buddy. It’s been a long semester, despite all the random snow breaks that cut into the curriculum. But now that it’s finally (maybe?) spring-ish weather, it’s time to wrap up the year.
Last week Ashley began the “Visions for the Future” lecture with a thought that I’d been thinking for weeks on end: a lot of sociological discussion can seem like the world is so concrete and set in its ways to the point that it’s out of our own control. As bleak and kind of pessimistic as it is, it’s sometimes hard to hear about all the things essentially “wrong” with society and go out and face it after our 75-minute class periods are over. Gender inequality and sexism and prejudice and institutional discrimination are everywhere. And what are we gonna do about it?
Well, I’ll tell you. Or at least, I’ll tell you from the perspective I’ve gained this semester and through the examples of our readings this week.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we can’t talk about gender inequality without mentioning the disparity in power between men and women. And that disparity often translate to those with and without power, or those being oppressed and the oppressors. But after we’ve discussed the varying problems with these concepts, it’s important to recognize that it’s not a discussion solely about the problem and the cause. Because we’re all a part of the problem, but likewise, can all be a part of the solution.
RW Connell explains in his article how gender issues often translates to women’s issues in the minds of many, but that in fact gender is everyone’s issue. And men especially have a huge stake in the matter. He says that since they are the population that generally has a lot of power in current social context, they can act as gatekeepers for change. If a lot of the problems arise from the foundations of a patriarchal society, then doesn’t it make sense to begin change with the power held by men? These issues are generally brought up by women first, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take the whole village to do something about it.
It’s important, then, to recognize that feminism doesn’t mean anti-masculinity. It’s just that it’s not working out with how it’s structured today. If women aren’t given the same holding as men in society, that’s putting power in the hands of less than half the population. What happens to all that untapped potential in women who are then told that their role in society is inferior to men? Well, that potential dwindles, and the social perspective becomes skewed to fit only a segment of the population.
It’s also important to recognize that there still exists inequality among men. Connell brings up an interesting point in saying that oftentimes, the people with the most resources aren’t the ones who pay the higher price.
In our second article, Allan Johnson kind of addresses this in his explanation of the gender knot. He says that to a certain degree, it’s up to the individual to be aware of the circumstance and be open to action. It can seem futile as an individual to instigate any kind of movement, but then again, it’s the individual that can call for a collective to take action. In saying this, Connell’s recognition of the imbalance of power and willingness to change can be overturned with the consistent call for addressing the issue.
In general, it’s all about being aware of the issue and doing what you can to make a difference. It starts at the core with the singular individual. After all, that’s what eventually forms interpersonal and up to institutional cohesion. The myths that society has always been this way, and that it will continue to be this way, is an easy way out. It generalizes that humankind isn’t susceptible to change. Given what we’ve been able to accomplish so far, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Jackson Katz, Phd, does a good job summarizing these points in his TEDxTalks presentation. Be aware. Be open. Be the change. It doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom if you don’t want it to be. It’s going to take time, but what good thing doesn’t require a little time and effort?