Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Well plain old wisdom is common sense and we need no evidence to back it up or unpick that because it just is.

And you've picked up on one of the key things that has bugged me about this debate - in that where I've discussed outcomes in terms of proportions of men and women (and other groups) affected by certain issues, I'm not actually assuming homogenity within the groups in terms of characteristics and preferences.  Therefore I'm not willing to accept 'old wisdom' without verifying and evidencing it.  Where I pointed out previously that reference was being made to socially constructed gender roles - they may not have been referred to as that - but numerous examples given have indeed alluded to it.

So the way that that big ambiguous 'society' I talk about has developed over hundreds of years, gender roles based on old wisdom ie mothers are the best ones to care for their children and women shouldn't go out to work or it should be 'gentle' and not too complex if they do, and men should be the main breadwinners and men fix the cars and do the DIY and women cook and clean and do the laundry - these socially constructed gender roles are still deeply ingrained in society and as Linca has pointed out, they constrain the choices available to people.

Let's take work and childcare.  The men wants to be at home to raise his kids and the woman wants to work. Are they really that free to choose to do that?  Who earns more, or has the greater career prospects and is less likely to find a glass ceiling bashing their head as they try to get a promotion or move to a better job?
Usually (in a middle class household) - the man.  In a working class household where nothing is well paid or secure then the likelihood is both will still need to carry on working.

So when you need a secure income to raise your family and you know that 'women of child bearing age' are more likely to face discrimination at work and less likely to advance (there are stats for that and attitude surveys), and the man already earns slightly more and is more likely to increase that over the next 3 years - what choice is there really?  

And when a woman wants to come back to work on a part time basis, and she ends up doing low paid admin even if she has a degree, that is because employers are inflexible about considering job shares at higher level or reduced hours for higher level and better paid jobs.  A case that went through tribunal a few years ago that was backed by significant research showed that there are very few jobs that cannot realistically be turned into a job share (ie 2 people working part time to fill a full time role).

And things like lack of free childcare and direct discrimination from employers who don't want to hire young women and the more subtle prejudices against women as being less capable, less assertive with clients and just generally not as good as the man standing next to her who is pushing for the same promotion (we go back to our old wisdom and socially constructed gender roles that people still take as the truth)... these are the things that need to be tackled in order to give everybody more choice to do and be whatever they want to be.

Yes, people need to be educated but where, how? At school certainly, in unionised workplaces reps can help to educate but many workplaces are not unionised.  Employers won't change their attitudes for no good reason.  So a programme to educate needs to be backed up by legislation that either encourages or forces employers to give all staff diversity training, or to have fair employment practices.  

Equality is about fairness (and yes the legislation is flawed) but frequently the things that get put in place to minimise discrimination for women, such as flexible working, can be extended to the whole workforce and provides benefits for everybody.  Better access for disabled people means better access for everyone else too.

So how that translates to me not being for freedom for people, I really don't know.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 12th, 2008 at 04:32:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I'm not actually assuming homogenity within the groups in terms of characteristics and preferences.  Therefore I'm not willing to accept 'old wisdom' without verifying and evidencing it."

That's all I cared about all along. When there is discrimination, there is nothing more to add.

As to mother role, judges today leave the child with the mother in a large majority of cases. Even with the best resume, men often don't stand the slightest chance. Being a rational moderate, I don't draw the conclusion that courts are sexist and men discriminated against, but that mothers are acknowledged as best fit to care for the children.

As to a woman's role, it is a fact that women are in general biologically and spiritually more sensitive and in a way weaker, despite many exceptions. On the contrary, by calling all this a constraint you're forcing women to get out there and try tougher jobs (in degree of competitiveness, physical force required - like bin collectors, aggressivity, and so on).
All I say is, let there be fairness. Open the society, but don't vilify categories and don't push people where they are weaker than others and where they don't want to go. You say women go towards certain jobs mostly because of society imprinted roles? I say that they go there anyway. You're not for freedom when you impose quotas, no matter where. Competence, responsibility should be the only criteria to jobs.
You'll see more and more women in many professions as the job requirements change, but not by activist laws.

Caretaking is another built-in role for most women. If you call this an imposed role, I'm sorry, but you exaggerate by far, IMHO. But don't force them either way, just educate people they can do other things as well, and let them choose. Just don't let them break their neck, and don't lower profession standards either.

As to childbearing and parenting, I think it's a heavy responsibility, to be taken carefully and wisely, with the interest of the child first. Personally knowing many working families with child, I am more and more against provided childcare in order for both parents to work. I do believe mothers are best with children, fathers are necessary too, and it is the careers that should go on lower on the priority scale.

Also, you can try to see the business' viewpoint too. They're not there to provide childcare and benefits, but to do business. When you know someone will soon ask more and more flexible hours, and lose a good part of dedication towards work, you tend not to hire them. It is normal behaviour, I understand these companies, as I understand those mothers too.
None should be forced or feel forced into anything, but things put clearly from the beginning and agreement on parttime reached.
In Holland for instance, from what I know, part time is quite widespred and accepted and the society more egalitarian. In France, the view is that part time is a "précarisation", weakening of the worker's condition, because of much lower salaries.

Many women tend to be less assertive, this is common sense. I assure you shy guys have exactly the same problem. You have to be aggressive, dynamic, assertive, to do long hours and be on call. Men too happen to get totally fed up with it, it's what ThatBritGuy was saying.
This is a bigger problem, I do believe excessive competitiveness and run for efficiency in business should be moderated somehow.

Education - mainly at school yes. Business people should be sensibilized too. I know it may sound naive, but this actually does work, just like the Green revolution does, practically without laws. Education is one of the greatest things to the european civilizations, with freedom of thinking and parliamentarism.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 04:43:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you ever been discriminated against?

I worked as a physical chemist for a long time and was used to working in a male dominated environment, I was comfortable there too. It was only when I started to try to progress in my career that I understood for the first time what all these hysterical extremist feminists that you loathe so much had been going on about.  That was my lightbulb moment, and I'm ashamed it didn't happen sooner.

The glass ceiling is real. Institutional discrimination is real.  But it is very difficult to see, especially when you have not been on the receiving end of it, causing you personal disadvantage.

And still, you keep referring to socially constructed gender stereotypes as if you don't need to question them. It is exactly this practice that perpetuates the societal discrimination that you are so adamant doesn't exist.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:09:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Listen, I got that from the very beginning, the other thread already.
That said, I am still giving my citizen opinion (which is I dare say quite informed) - while I'm still allowed. By the way I wonder if disability laws should be made by the disabled alone, or anti-racial laws by blacks alone. We're all entitled to an opinion. I understood your viewpoint, I know glass ceilings exist. Some say there is institutional racism in France, and all media make a lot of education about it, yet no one thinks of cancelling the race-neutral laws.

It is not that I don't need to question gender stereotypes. What I really question though is the compulsion to systematically question preconstructed roles. Let us stop and think a bit before demanding companies to address gender discrepancies only based on number monitoring.

Women doing housework or child care taking can also be because women are much better at it. Your reasoning leads to putting cleaning ladies to carry and empty bins, just because you want to enforce egalitarianism at all cost.
They should be given the possibility, but not pushed into it by quota laws and feminist activist discourse, which is just another kind of that societal pressure you denounce.

Like I said, most professions value involvement and dedication. Companies and managers are thus not discriminating per se, but acting in accordance to their business interest, which is just as valid for the society. I agree one should not take precedence over the other and push the other side behind a glass wall.

Difference in pay is a consequence of involvement. Period. If a woman involves more than I, I am all for her earning more.
Pay should be function of competence, involvement and responsibility, not social engineering. You should not mix this with what happens on personal and family level.
You can work so that both spouses support the other (by "educating" them) but not force "equality" by law.
Like I said, it works perfectly for the ecological stuff.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 05:32:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women doing housework or child care taking can also be because women are much better at it. Your reasoning leads to putting cleaning ladies to carry and empty bins, just because you want to enforce egalitarianism at all cost.

In that particular example I explicitly said that it wasn't about making men be cleaners and making women be bin collectors, it was about ensuring they are paid equally since the jobs and roles have been rated as being equivalent.

Where I discuss things such as male dominated areas of work - it is about making those environments more accessible for women so that thos ewho want to go there, can. eg I know of a fire station that has no female changing facilities - is that acceptable? Is that going to make women feel comfortable about going into that profession or working in that station?

I worked as an accountant in a garage once - the owner thought it was ok to open up a magazine full of pornographic images and show them to me.  There were no female sanitary facilities there. Would any female mechanics want to work in that environment every day? But maybe they'd like to be mechanics, but don't want to put themselves in those situations.

I pointed out in another post that I worked as a physical chemist and have no problem per se working in a male environment, but as soon as I realised that I would never be taken seriously as a young woman, then I knew I could never reach my potential there. Those attitudes that Linca has mentioned - that women will have kids and they will be the ones to look after the children - these assumptions about a woman's intentions, whether correct or not, put barriers in her way.  

I worked in a place where I repeatedly tried to get myself more responsibility, better and more challenging projects and my manager wouldn't give me anything more than monkey work. All the good work went to a colleague who initially had the same job spec as me, who was the same age, with almost identical qualifications but I had more experience than him and was equally capable of doing the work he was given. So I never had a chance to prove myself or progress, and in the space of months he got promotion after promotion until his salary was 10k more than mine.  This is the kind of thing I am talking about.  It was nothing to do with my inability to negotiate a better contract, it was down to my manager preferring to give the good work to a man and this is not a one off, rare example. It happens repeatedly to women. It happens to black people and disabled people too, and it comes down to prejudice, even if not conscious.

Where I talk about higher profile action to get more women involved, I am referring to the places where it is important to have a more representative or at least a higher proportion of women involved - key decision making and policy making roles, political representative roles.  

The absence of women there is damaging to our societies.  I don't like the fact that we need quotas and call them artificial if you like but they create change.  If there was nothing to say 'you must increase the proportion of women in X' then nobody will make the effort to look into why women are not getting to those positions, and nobody will try to remove those barriers and encourage women in. It isn't about creating a disadvantage for men or forcing women to do things they do not want to do, but it is about making these options available in a way they haven't been before and making people think about these things rather than ignoring it and saying 'women don't want to do it'.

This 'acting in business interests' is not just as valid for society because it is this practice that sees women overwhelmingly ending up in low skilled and low paid jobs, which affects how they can care for their children, which affects the social problems that we end up with in society. We aren't only looking at number monitoring, we are looking at research, attitude surveys, things that tell us why and how the imbalance occurs and whether it is an important one that needs to be tackled.

You make the point that disability laws for example should involve non-disabled people and not be made by disabled people alone (as if that would ever happen) but the reality here is that disabled people are barely involved in feeding into consultation on developing such laws, let alone being represented at the top decision making levels. It isn't like they are not trying to get there. Do you see the significance of that?

One more thing - going back to stereotypes around disability and gender - I got written off from the start.  My brother and sister were given a private education.  I was not. Because what is the point in investing money in a deaf kid who is never going to be able to achieve anything?  

This attitude is the same one that works against girls, against black kids, against disabled kids, against kids from working class families.  It affects their life chances from the day they are born.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 06:08:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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