Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is a woman who Accepts Her Life in The Birdcage Sexist

I understand the concept of the birdcage, and how there are many small acts that constitute the birdcage that oppresses women. However, what if a woman enters the birdcage of her own free-will? What if a woman feels that she should be a housewife and cook, clean, etc. Would this woman be a sexist for preferring this kind of treatment. If she thinks that men should open the door women does that make her as bad as the men that commit the act or possibly worse. I feel like the answer to this question would be yes according to Frye. She would be perpetuating a system of oppression toward women. She would be just as responsible as the men in the system.

This idea makes me think back to the argument we had in class that a black person is not a racist if they say something racist against white people. What if a person said something racist about their own race, is this person racist, or is this person exempt. Same thing what if a woman thinks that there are certain tasks men should do, and certain tasks women should do. Is she a sexist?

This thought takes me to my next point. Like I said earlier Frye would say that this woman is possibly a sexist by entering the birdcage of her own freewill. However would Frye say that this woman should not be allowed to make these decisions because they harm the rest of the women. It seems to me that women have at least in small part a choice. They don’t have to be in the birdcage, they can refuse to enter building when a man is opening the door for them, they can pay for their half of the meal, etc. etc. I know there are exceptions like women’s wages in comparison to men’s however not all of it is out of their control. Would Frye say that this person is making an immoral choice by entering the birdcage, and should not make those decisions, can the feminism restrict the choices that women have? I’m trying to argue that Feminism makes it seem like being a homemaker is an occupation a woman should be ashamed to have. That a woman should not make those choices, even if it is something that they really want to do. It seems to me that the philosophy is more trying to gear women toward being like men, rather than having the opportunity to be whatever they want.


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  2. Women are in a birdcage since the day they are born, it might be that there are less bars at first but I don't know if a woman can ever completely break away from being in a birdcage.

    Also, I think that intent behind a woman being a homemaker is very important to consider. If a woman does it because she loves that profession and she isn't forced into doing that because of society then she is not contributing to the oppression of women through she actions. That woman is simply doing what she loves. Philosophy might claim that if a woman was a homemaker only to be submissive to his husband even though she had the option of doing what she actually loved then she would be contributing to the overall oppression of women through her individual act.

  3. I was having trouble understanding the distinction some make between racism and reverse-racism as well. What I've come to think of as the difference between them is the power behind the sentiment in question. White racism towards black people has a much more bloody, powerful history than the other way around. Each is a form of racism, but when a white person discriminates against a minority, they have hundreds of years of undeniable greed and manipulation behind them. It's simply difficult to call both types of racism the same sentiment, when one has so much more history.

    Also, I agree that some women's studies writing does seem like it pushes women to be more like men. That said, when men have all of the power and women have little else to compare themselves to, who else should we be pushed to become?

  4. I agree with Manali that women are born into a birdcage. There are certain things that are inherently dubbed "woman" so its kind of hard to escape from said restrictions. With the recognition of these things that are designated as being acceptably feminine the bars of the birdcage go from opaque to solid.

    Would accepting these things be considered self-sexism? I think that it is merely continuing the cycle of oppression by accepting things as they are.

  5. I don't think that this philosophy is pushing women towards being men. I think that's actually part of the problem: phrasing it in such a question is showing an operation within the sexist tradition. What is it to be a man? What is it about being a man that a woman cannot do? We're not talking here of obviously physical differences, ie, a male usually doesn't have ovaries, and a female usually doesn't have testicles, but then that's not the issue. What the philosophy is doing is trying to raise consciousness about women and men being who they are, not what society has said they should be or have to be.

    The question of accepting the life in the bird cage seems an odd question to me. If, say, a woman decides she wants to be a housewife, does that mean she's accepted her life in the birdcage? I'd say no, as the goal of feminist philosophy isn't to make only men work in the house, or no one at all. But at the same time, if she chooses to be a house wife because "it's what i should be doing," then yes she has given into the birdcage. She is being sexist, in the sense that she is adopting the view that women should be in a certain area...but beyond that she's perpetuating the system that's forcing women to do the same thing. Again, saying that it "pushes women to be men" is a misunderstanding of what's going on here. We're pushing people to be who they are right?

  6. In response to the post and a couple of comments, I think there has been a misunderstanding of what it means to be in the birdcage. It is not a choice that women make whether they decide to be oppressed by society or whether they try to stand against it. Like Menali said, the birdcage is present from day one. There are alot of contributing factors which suppress women. Two of the most important in my opinion are the historical impact and the socialization that occurs from birth. Both of these social constructions help to create the walls of the birdcage. I think it is important to revisit the idea that the norms of our system are sexist, whether we chose to be a part of it or not the walls of the birdcage are still around women.

  7. As we have discussed in class, I think that in order to understand sexism in our society, we cannot focus on individual acts. If one woman makes a choice to do one thing or another during her lifetime makes no difference to the fact that it is a sexist society and culture that we live in. I agree that women cannot choose whether or not to be oppressed or to buy into the system of oppression because we are oppressed simply by being born female.

  8. I think it would helpful to re-present this conversation with the discourse McIntosh uses, and contextualize it in the form of privilege. Women are born into the birdcage because she is born into a society that oppresses her physically and mentally solely due to her facticity as a biologically defined female, clitoris and all. Because the disadvantages to her sex are weaved into the fibers of society, she is operating within a system that privileges her male counterpart in almost every sector of society. Her autonomy is threatened, yet what exactly it taught to little girls about their autonomy? She is historically situated within a system that puts her at a disadvantage from birth, if she isn't given the opportunity to question this disenfranchising authority, how can we expect her to actively fight against sexism?

    I can see why you would believe that this philosophy might seem like it pushes females to be more "like men", because it's not being "like women"--the oppressed sex. But I think this exact use of discourse keeps the conversation constrained by its essential binary and adversarial nature. Its not about "us" being like "them". It's about all individuals breaking free of their gender expectations and doing what he or she, as an autonomous being, wishes to do. This requires some self-reflection and personal questioning of one's own authority. "Why do I dress the way I do?" "Why do I like the things I do?" Act out against the rules. Break the norms. Help blur the lines of feminine and masculine. Woman and man. Girl and boy. These human constructions can easily be deconstructed with individual acts spread among many.

  9. I admit, being more like men is innacurate, i should of said being more like the traditional male role. Here is one of my points though, If a child grows up with a mom that CHOSE to be a housewife of her own freewill, not because she had to or was supposed to, wouldn't the child think that a woman being a housewife is completely normal. Wouldn't this chose perpetuate sexism


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