Thursday, February 28, 2008

Feminism is just so last century!

Poneke has produced a very thoughtful piece looking at women role models in New Zealand.
Poneke's worthy read says New Zealand has just gone through a ‘Golden Age’ with women in top positions such as Prime Minister, Speaker, chief of the judiciary, etc, etc.
And he laments what role models might remain for his two daughters in the near future, a time what I will call the ‘Post-Clark era’.
Well, I would hardly call Dear Leader and the Sisterhood ‘role models’ but I find Poneke’s neo-feminism so last century.
I am sure as a fellow journalist, Poneke has come across many, many women in top jobs in newsrooms, as much as men.
In fact, at present, I answer to as many women editors as men.
For me, women in power is nothing special.
I grew up in Britain when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, so having a woman in charge hardly seems novel.
Thus, when I arrived in New Zealand permanently, having Jenny Shipley in office, followed by Dear Leader was no big deal either.
Ditto with Theresa Gattung as the boss of Telecom, one of New Zealand’s largest corporates.
I think Poneke is right in seeing a ‘Golden Age’ for such career women, truth that equality has arrived, with other countries quickly coming up the rear.
I am sure over the Tasman, Julia Gillard will be doing her bit to depose Kevin Rudd, as others on the right sometimes claim/ fear. The US could well be led by Hillary Clinton.
But he need not fear its end. I doubt there are glass ceilings anymore. They have been well and truly shattered.
But what caused this?
Cactus Kate, in response, sees economic necessity as the big driver in women entering the workforce and Dear Leader as a money-grabbing socialist, a poor role model.
Cactus credits Sir Roger Douglas as the Godfather of New Zealand feminism.

Under the realities he raised, people learnt it was no longer possible for families to live solely on a man’s wage. Two wages were now needed to pay the mortgage.
In a similar vein, I could probably count Margaret Thatcher as a similar economic handmaiden to change.
The economies of many industrialised nations underwent severe adjustment during the 1970s and 1980s.
Many old well-paid jobs in manufacturing, or mining, jobs involving physical labour disappeared.Office-based service jobs appeared in their place. Jobs that were more likely suited to women.
As women left the kitchens and flooded the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s, they took the jobs that might have been taken by men.
Thus, unemployment soared and wages stagnated.It took years for labour markets to absorb a near doubling of the workforce.
Now, that might sound sexist, but looking in the newsroom, you might wonder that if that woman editor was at home raising babies, then you might be editor in place of her.
A mere generation ago, a male would have progressed further due to less competition.
Indeed, having a better job would have made you a better catch, more in a position to ‘keep’ a woman. But feminism and workplace equality has thus undermined the provider role for New Zealand and Western Man.
Nowadays, the feminists could well be right when they say a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. They can be big earners and breadwinners too.
Indeed, Cactus rightfully points to a UK survey showing 39% of British women earn more than their partners. My brother is a police inspector in Yorkshire, but his wife as an HR manager for an insurance giant earns even more than he does. And their twin daughters probably earn as much, if not more, than their boyfriends.
I don’t think Poneke need worry about role models for his daughters.I’d perhaps be more concerned about role models if he has any sons.
Recent years appear to show more emphasis on the teaching of girls at the expense of boys, and it is the underachievement of boys that seems New Zealand’s greatest problem.
We see media obsessed with knowing how well-placed women are on the National Party list, etc, lamenting the demise of Katharine Rich when she decided politics was not for her, when really if you can’t hack it as politician, or anything, then do something else.
I have written articles on ‘women in business’ or seen my colleagues work on similar ‘women in technology’ features. But what is special about women in the workforce? They don’t need special help. They have made it to the top and can hack it as well as the guys. Such feminist promotion of women seems so terribly prejudiced, patronizing and old-fashioned. It undermines their success, their position at or near the top, which one hopes would have been achieved by their own efforts, on merit.
Barriers, be they class, sexual, race and otherwise have broken down.
Business has learnt it does not profit to discriminate; and money, success and promotion chases the talented. Capitalism is the greatest destroyer of discrimination than anything else around.
Now, Britain, for example, has once more decided in its ‘classless’ society that it is again safe for the Tory party to be led by privately educated Oxbridge boys like Dave Cameron.
Likewise in the post-Clark era, New Zealand will decide it is safe again to have a man in charge, be it John Key, Phil Goff or David Cunliffe.
Should they want it too, there is nothing stopping Poneke's daughters running the Beehive or any of our largest corporations, well nothing but themselves.
And that’s the way it should be.
UPDATE: Poneke follows up his piece, noting other responses on the blogosphere.

7 comments:

The ex-expat said...

One small hole in your arguement, capitalism has been around a lot longer than feminisim. But I do agree that you can't have political and social freedom without having economic freedom as well.

Thus I think what feminism has contributed to Capitalism is that wealth generation is not exclusively a male enterprise. Which is why women are still portrayed in the media in that manner, we need women to participate in the market.

In terms of postive rolemodels for sons, I would be worried about how little dads are portrayed as taking advantage of their parental leave and being responsible for the care of children. It is something that should be celebrated but we hear very little about.

Infact your comments "that if that woman editor was at home raising babies, then you might be editor in place of her" just reinforce the need for that to happen.

Poneke said...

I have written articles on ‘women in business’ or seen my colleagues work on similar ‘women in technology’ features. But what is special about women in the workforce? ... Such feminist promotion of women seems so terribly prejudiced, patronizing and old-fashioned.

During my journalism career, I have written about women in careers when they make breakthroughs into new careers. This has happened a lot in my working lifetime. For example I have written about the first woman helicopter pilot, women 747 pilots and woman Navy commanders.

Before my time in journalism, but not that long before, women were barred from many jobs, often by male unions. For example until the late 1970s women were not allowed to drive buses or be firefighters or jockeys. They had to fight to get the right to do these jobs.

I don't think many of the articles I have written over the years about women achieving in previously male areas demeaned women at all, and I certainly wasn't writing from any consciously feminist angle.

Things are different in New Zealand today, very different, from only 20 years ago. For the better.

Sean said...

Under the realities he [Roger Douglas] raised, people learnt it was no longer possible for families to live solely on a man’s wage. Two wages were now needed to pay the mortgage.

Hell FFM, I can only assume that is not intended to be a compliment..?!

Sean said...

"One small hole in your arguement, capitalism has been around a lot longer than feminisim."

I disagree Ex-expat. FFM is right. The problem is capitalism has been hindered by social forces in this regard. In your next sentence you referred to political, social and economic freedom, well none of them are mutually exclusive of the others. In a pure form capitalism does as FFM suggests (great destroyer of discrimination), but in reality it is not pure (anywhere), which is also a good thing in other respects but that's another argument.

Sean said...

This is the money quote of the post:

But what is special about women in the workforce? They don’t need special help. They have made it to the top and can hack it as well as the guys. Such feminist promotion of women seems so terribly prejudiced, patronizing and old-fashioned. It undermines their success, their position at or near the top, which one hopes would have been achieved by their own efforts, on merit.

Exactly. What is the big deal anymore? Time to move on, but the media and others still make a big deal about it. Eg: Hillary Clinton - well I don't like her because she is the Hollow Woman of US politics. Bill II, hypocritical, negative tactics, desperate. (PS she also has a cackly voice and has wrinkles (umm, thanks for that lovely pic the other day FFM) so maybe she is a witch but am I sexist in saying that? No just having a go.)

Actually after 20+ years since the so-called feminist era, I think most women and men don't care about the position (or lack thereof) of a woman in any aspect of society. It should always be given to the best person for the job. However there is still a vocal minority of feminists but methinks their voice is diminishing as less and less people listen.

One more thing - today we still hear of the wage gap and number of women in certain levels. Well absolute numbers mean nothing. There are many other factors at play such as biological and societal (not forced but by choice). Also there are many environments where women dominate in roles (healthcare, education) and others where men dominate (labour, manufacturing) but these so-called studies only focus on where it suits its objective - that where women are less prevalent. So next time an article comes along lamenting the gaps, it would pay to take a closer look.

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Exactly Sean. I think we are starting to see that analysys and explanation of pay gap stories too.
In addition, there is also a swing away from feminism. In the UK I saw articles about the Nigella generation, younger women who want to devote more time as Kitchen Goddesses.
Well, if they can afford it, why not?
The role of motherhood and looking after the family has been unappreciated for too long.
The issue is about choice. By all means have both parents working, but what is the impact on the kids. One mate in England resolved this by being a househusband as his wife had the better paid job.

Sean said...

"The role of motherhood and looking after the family has been unappreciated for too long."

Indeed, and if it is the father that decides to stay at home then so what? Point is that if the mother (as is still the dominant scenario) decides to stay home to raise the children (for whatever period) then good on her. This is not so much about roles in society as it is about bringing up a family. Screw society I say, my family is more important!