Many people perceive the feminist quest as finding its ultimate success in complete equality between men and women, but this is quite easily disproved. Consider the following marital situations as a simple example:

  1. The husband and wife each have the exact same job, and earn the exact same pay. They both do an equal amount of dishes, an equal amount of vacuuming, an equal amount of yard work, etc. Each parent spends identical lengths of time with their children contributing in equal fashion in every aspect of their development. Each duty, household and career-oriented, are identical for each partner to promote total equality.
  2. The husband works as a police officer and the wife works as a nurse. The wife does the dishes, vacuums the carpets, and makes dinner while the husband mows the lawn, takes care of financial obligations, and maintains the family vehicle. The wife is responsible for prepping the children for school in the morning while the husband takes them to their extra-curricular activities. This could be considered the equal-but-different model.
  3. The wife works as the head of a large corporation while the husband stays at home. The husband does most of the childcare, while the wife provides financially for the family. The husband does most of the household chores as well because the wife frequently works long hours, though she does help out around the house on weekends when she has the time. This would be considered a reversal of traditional roles.

Which of these is considered the most feminist? The first is absurd. It’s like calculating the pennies when splitting up the cheque at a restaurant. No one ought to care that much. The second, though equality could be argued, is not feminist because it is representative of conformity to rigid gender roles. The last, though the relationship is unequal in its distribution of wealth dependency and household responsibilities, is the most feminist because it is clear that each partner in that relationship was not pressured to conform by outside social norms. Their roles are a definitive choice.

Feminism, therefore, is clearly not about equality but about the abolition of gender roles. If there were no roles forcing individuals into certain lifestyles, then presumably women and men would naturally navigate freely toward their own preferred choices. The distribution of pay and household responsibilities would become arbitrary since each family would have different motivations and goals.

Feminism is about each gender’s freedom to choose the life they want to live. Some might argue that it is equal opportunity that is necessary for this freedom to exist, but gender roles are the obstacle that must be overcome before equal opportunity can even exist. We must first believe that women and girls are capable of becoming doctors and lawyers or that men are capable of becoming nurses or homemakers before we give them the opportunity to do so.

Advertisements