A study just surfaced that proposes a potential explanation for the “Feminist Paradox” whereby feminists purport to speak for all women, while relatively few women are feminists.
The study basically says that it’s because the organizers of feminist movements are more masculine than most women, and thus are more annoyed than the general population of women at existing conditions.
From the abstract:
The feminist paradox might thus to some extent be explained by biological differences between women in general and the activist women who formulate the feminist agenda.
The method used to measure masculinity was a digit ratio test and a psychological test:
We measured the 2D:4D digit ratios (collected from both hands) and a personality trait known as dominance (measured with the Directiveness scale) in a sample of women attending a feminist conference. The sample exhibited significantly more masculine 2D:4D and higher dominance ratings than comparison samples representative of women in general, and these variables were furthermore positively correlated for both hands.
I find this fascinating for a number of reasons. First, I’m quite confident that there is some truth to this. I’m not sure, of course. A smart reader of this site could point out that the authors are well-known mysoginists who’ve never done anything respected by their peers. So I’ll wait for the other shoe on that one, but I’m inclined to agree with it because it agrees with many other vectors I’ve observed over time.
I’m also quite confident that it’s not the answer to…well, anything. I think it’s a data point. I think it’s probably true. But it isn’t a model on its own. It’s just a facet of one.
Finally, I think studies like these play into an invisible and specious false dilemma, i.e., that either this study is true or women really do continue to face discrimination that needs to be addressed.
It’s not one or the other.
This study is likely spot on. And women do continue to face unjust discrimination across many areas in the world. They are not mutually exclusive.
As with many data points, all we’ve learned is that the extremes are incorrect.
One extreme—that women are completely equal and everything’s fine, is wrong. Another extreme, that feminists are just men in women’s bodies, and that they should be ignored, is wrong. Another extreme, that all women want absolute equality with men, and that any desire not to have this must be falsely injected by an evil society or men, is also wrong.
So we know what’s wrong. Now, what’s right?
I have a tentative set of givens to start from:
- Mistreatment of women due to conservative adherence to traditional roles absolutely exists.
- Equal treatment of the genders should be a primary goal.
- Some women genuinely enjoy having a traditionally feminine role, even if that comes with certain tradeoffs in treatment that are repulsive to other women (and men).
- We will, as a society, have to figure out how to square a perfect, equality-based paradigm with one that includes the preferences of many women to fall into traditional, non-equal roles.
The difficulty comes in figuring out how to distinguish between a woman’s genuine desire to be treated differently, in line with traditional roles, from a poisonous culture pushed upon her as a child that makes her think she wants it.
In extremist Muslim cultures, for example, you can interview many women who will tell you all day long that they’re happy walking behind their men, being beaten for talking to a man outside the family, etc.
They’ll tell you that’s just fine. It’s what they want.
Similarly perhaps, a little American girl raised on pink and makeup and Barbies may grow up aspiring to be a subservient wife who willingly forfeits a number of types of equality as a matter of preference.
In both cases, you have to think that you’re really getting the programming there, not a natural opinion.
But this is not without problems.
At some point, if you want to respect women, you have to actually listen to them when they say they don’t want to work, that they want to stay home, that they prefer the man to make the money, etc., etc.
At some point, not listening to women when they tell you that becomes…well, disrespectful of womens’ opinions.
Anyway, I’m still forming my opinion on all of this, and I look forward to input from others.
- Image by Jared Rodriguez.