Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Don't Want Women to be *This* Equal!!!

It was only 15 years ago when the media first heard the name Aileen Wuornos, reportedly the first woman known to fit the FBI profile of a random serial killer (i.e. a woman without no personal relationship to her victims before the murder, even though she clearly was not the first woman to actually *be* a serial killer). It was only a few years ago that we heard our first whisperings of female suicide bombers. And only six months ago when we first heard that women were in charge of a sex operation enslaving young girls, an otherwise depressingly common occurrence in the underworld right here in the United States.

Today's news brings us this: the first report of a female disgruntled postal worker. A woman who yesterday returned to her former place of employment in Goleta and killed six of her former colleagues before killing herself.

Goddamnit. I don't want to be this equal to men.

Has the fight for women's equality now become the right to equally oppress and kill, gender details a mere blip in the otherwise normal normalcy of random violence?

Of course, there are those who would call themselves feminist who would not be especially troubled by such reports and might indeed contend that in an equal world, these things are to be expected. After all, there is no reason to believe, at least superficially, that there should be any difference, all the so-called science that deemed women "less violent by nature" having been thoroughly debunked at this point. But I guess I am a dinosaur. The voices of women have, to me, in my lifetime, have most often been the voices of peace. The voices of communication, compromise, and caring. Stereotypes that have a real downside if overapplied, but nonetheless some of the few stereotypes that are actually positive. When Carol Gilligan argued that women's moral development was trained in a different, more positive way in her seminal work A Different Voice, I believed her. My experience of the world, even with full knowlegde of women's strength throughout history, bore out Gilligan's theories in a way that was never refuted. Not even by folks who put a lot of energy into trying to do just that, like the late Larry Kohlberg her former colleague and ethical theory nemesis. And definitely not the self-labeled feminist Christina Hoff Summers -- who despite having once held a view of feminism that was aligned with first wave feminism, jettisoned all shred of scholarly credibility the minute she accepted blood money from rabid conservative think tanks and used it to write a deeply flawed, unscholarly, broad-brush polemic attacking feminism as merely a "war on boys".

The tension between women seeking "equality" and women seeking "equity" has been a real tension, in feminist discourse, in relationships, in the law, and in social science. It is difficult to know where to sit, as a womanist. I see no evidence that women of color have ever wanted much more than to be acknowledged for being the Rock they already were - strong, powerful, capable, yet grounded in their families, loving, and forgiving - with an acknowledgment that they were still, despite being Rocks, still Real Women. These are inherently different goals than those originally and currently pressed by mainstream feminism, which started by necessity from a place where women were put on a lifelong pedastal of isolation and oppression that women of color were neither invited to stand on nor given the luxury to choose because we had to be, far too many times, the end all and be all of our communities' survival. And currently finds itself fighting against the return of those same women to the pedastal prisons they just escaped from.

In other words, the womanist fight arguably has been the fight to show that we are really women, not men in disguise. The feminist fight during times of its history and present has often been the opposite - to show that they are men's equals. That divergence in approach may well explain why when I read stories like today's about the Goleta postal worker, I cringe *because* it was a woman in addition to cringing because it is death. If I have expectations that are different for women, does that make me sexist? Mainstream feminists would likely say yes, if sexism is defined as holding one gender to a different standard than another, such that a woman's resort to violence holds more cultural meaning than a man's. Perhaps that is true. But under a womanist view, it seems to me that we wish to disguish the strength of our gender to rise above such things as random murder, the one place where it is hard for most people to argue that someone had "good reasons" for killing someone. If that has not been our history as women, I don't want it to be our present or future, either.

And if it means saying that I don't want to be equal to men in this type of thing, because as a woman I'm better than that, so be it. I guess.


At 3:48 PM, Blogger Carla R. Jenkins said...

Girl, I don't want to be either!

At 3:59 AM, Blogger serenasdream said...

Just my meager half a cent, but I don't think it's a desire equality with men so much as it is women (and men) lost in the tangle of patriarchy. The system is the root of the ugliness; when we buy into the inherent inequality of patriarchy or any other "archy" the result is a loss for all of us.

At 4:17 AM, Blogger serenasdream said...

...and I don't want to be in that club either!


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