Short Shrift – A Rant

by Ian Jade

Picture the scene: 5 a.m., 3000-odd words completed, still vividly experiencing the memories I have been transcribing and somewhat relieved that I can now start the process of forgetting.

Not fiction, though. Instead of writing about people having fun and fucking each other silly, I was documenting what happens when silly people fuck each other over. In other words, I was lodging an official complaint about conditions at my place of work. Telling anyone who’d listen how my voice was ignored; how I was insulted, forced to work beyond my capabilities, made to choose between my health and my job. Telling how I was discriminated against because of my gender. Telling how there is a culture of mistreating and taking advantage of male employees by both male and female managers.

I saved (three times, just to be sure!), logged off and turned out the light. As I lay back in bed to grab a few hours’ sleep, I checked Twitter one last time…

“Women are stronger than men in all the ways that matter.”

Are you kidding me? Seriously?

Is this what passes for inspirational “girl power” feminism these days?

Women are strong, yes. I have no problem with that idea. They can be as strong as men, or stronger, in any number of ways. It’s not a rule, of course; just an observation of their capabilities. And by extension, of our own. But “are stronger than men” makes me sigh, and despair once again for the unhelpful nature of generalisations.

My “generalisations” argument generally goes like this:

THEM: X are Y!
ME: That isn’t actually true.
THEM: So you think X are NOT Y? Crazy!
ME: No, I think you can’t make sweeping generalisa. . .
THEM: I’ve seen them myself! Xs being Y! You can’t deny it.
ME: But some X aren’t . . .

Et c., et c., and so on, and so forth. It’s a pretty fair bet that if I come up against a strong opinion from either end of the political or social spectrum I’ll end up arguing against it on the grounds that such simplistic dogma is pretty much always wrong. It has to be. Life, the world, people, are too complex and complicated to pin down so totally. There are always exceptions, and those can tell you more about the issues you’re really facing than all the clear-cut textbook examples you care to name. So I hate generalisations.

But it was that last part that really made me fume, and still does; “in all the ways that matter.”

Any chance the author had to qualify that first statement helpfully, to reflect the complex realities of the situation and make a meaningful statement about the qualities men and women possess and aspire to, was wasted on hate.

That line is a powerful one-two punch. It’s beautifully written, short and very snappy. Easy to remember and easy to quote, with just a slight sneer overlaying what sounds like a broadly positive statement. But it’s hateful and subversive. It begins by asserting female superiority, not equality or objective power; only comparisons with men matter to this writer. The sting in the tail is the concession that men might, in some fields, be stronger than women. How does the author deal with this? By dismissing an entire gender out of hand. If a man is better able to do something than a woman, that thing implicitly has no value. Men’s strengths are worthless and pointless.

I’ve experienced this attitude in real life for too long now to let people get away with blithely passing on messages reinforcing this kind of harmful stereotype.

Men have value as people, and their various strengths have worth.

So do women, and their strengths.

Can we please stop trying to give ourselves a little lift by pushing others down?