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The one thing that really strikes me with your comments is that you seem to be convinced of the validity of socially constructed gender roles (ie a socially conservative view).  

There are really strong associations for people that limit aspirations and ambitions or push people into a particular direction or role in life eg men are good at maths and women are good at arts and humanities.  That kind of assumption in my view is as dangerous as your view of the change that activists try to create in society.  

There are some differences between men and women which manifest themselves in different ways but these are not set in stone and have plenty of exceptions.  The problem with laying gender roles or assumptions onto people or groups is that these exceptions to the rule then do not have have the full choice that should be available to them to live and work in the way that they want to.

Assuming that women as a group prefer to fit a particular role and not another, because they are women, is the very reason why women are put at a disadvantage when it comes to advancing their careers or taking up 'atypical' jobs.  It is part of the reason why women doing the same jobs as men or work of equal value are persistently paid less than their male colleagues.  Because these assumptions exist about gender roles and what women prefer or should do and therefore what women are capable of and what their worth in society is.  I don't in any way at all devalue the worth or role of women who want to stay at home and bring up their children.  But neither would I make the assumption that that is what women are 'meant' to do and that all women would want to do.

My type of activism is about breaking down those assumptions and not forcing gender roles on people.  Where proportions are unbalanced in certain job roles  we aren't making an automatic assumption that discrimination is the cause but we research to find out what possible causes there could be and discrimination in various forms comes up as a factor.

It usually is not direct and deliberate discrimination but more subtle indirect or institutional discrimination and it becomes much more complex to tackle.  Again and again the research is showing that there is discrimination involved where there are big imbalances.

And to go back to the example I gave of teaching, it is important to encourage more men to teach (not with quotas) because it has been proven to be of great benefit to boys to have male teachers and male role models in their lives.  There are these kind of examples where it matters to try to improve the proportions.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 05:03:12 AM EST
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