Monday, April 09, 2012

The Belief That Women Are Not Different From One Another is a Distinctive Difference of Women

One of the hallmarks of difference feminism is that women tend to make different choices than men do, and this is fine. Equality of opportunity for women and men is not likely to lead to the same outcome.

Egalitarian feminism, by contrast, tends to see any difference in outcome between men and women - a difference in the proportion of CEOs of large corporations, for example, or of average pay - as evidence of discrimination against women. They are committed to the idea that women are essentially the same as one another, as well as the same in essence as men, so inequality among women is also evidence that something is wrong.

The belief that women are essentially the same as one another, and that justice means keeping equality among women is, Deborah Tannen has found, one of the distinctive hallmarks of women's communication and relations with one another.

The belief by egalitarian feminist women that women are the same is one of the women's differences that difference feminism accepts.


John said...

With all due respect, this is a false dilemma. It can be the case that different women make different, and more importantly just, choices that society does not value. Leaving the workforce to raise a child may not be valued by a company, but it could be argued ought to be valued as a public good. Said differently, diiference of outcome vs difference of opportunity ignores difference of upbringing and station.

I enjoy reading your blog.

Gruntled said...

I agree with you that "Leaving the workforce to raise a child may not be valued by a company, but it could be argued ought to be valued as a public good."

Indeed, I think it is valued as a public good - that is why we pay such high honor to motherhood that the status is almost sacred.

My argument is with those who see that choice as either a betrayal of (egalitarian) feminism, or as on its face evidence of sex discrimination.

Anonymous said...

To John:

I think you would be surprised by the number of women who are actually told by their employers (often explicitly) that they are expected to leave the workforce to raise children.

Women are when the position needs to be filled by someone who will work hard and then go off on "mommy track" and not threaten the boss's position in the company. Men are hired when they need someone who will climb the corporate ladder so that they can eventually retire.

I am less shocked by this reality than by the number of times I have heard it discussed openly in front of me (a woman lawyer).

Alex said...

One thing women do have in common --

No matter what choices we make, someone criticizes those choices.

Men do not face the same level of criticism for their life choices. Period.

Gruntled said...


In general I agree - women are likely to criticize themselves for their life choices, if no one else does.

One choice that men do get more criticism for, though: not supporting their families. Women can "opt out"; men, in a similar situation, are "lazy."