Sunday, January 8, 2012

In which Chris sees what I see

In September, National Geographic Magazine had an article about machisma, female empowerment, and Brazil's falling birthrate. The article explores the link between increased access to television (and telenovelas) and increased education/lower birthrate as more Brazilians aspire to a middle class lifestyle. It's really quite interesting.

The January issue contains letters from readers in regards to the story. There are only 3 letters printed about this story, but something struck me immediately about them. I handed the magazine to Chris and asked him to read them. Without telling him why.

He saw the same thing I did.

The 3 letters are all written by men. All 3 poo-poo the idea that change is happening or even a good thing. They are full of patriarchal misogyny.

I wish I could find a link to the letters online.

They made me sad. And angry. This is the problem: blatant sexism is easy to recognize; the status quo not so much. People who think things are fine and don't see a reason for them to change, who don't understand that there is a patriarchy and that women should have rights, are hard to convince.

When you hear someone make rude remarks about women staying in the kitchen, it's easy to fight that. And it's easy for others to see how wrong their remarks are.

When someone remarks, in regards to a story like this, that "riches and glamour are the new despots, not ancestral values and gentle reason", they are saying only men can be reasonable. Only men are capable of determining where a country should go and how many kids a woman should have and what kind of lifestyle is appropriate.

And that's what is wrong with these letters. They all imply that the gains women have made, deciding when and how many kids they will have, choosing more education, are unimportant.

I read feminist blogs. I'm aware of little things (although I don't see as many as some feminists). Chris doesn't and he still found those letters disturbing. Now, he has a feminist bent (I wouldn't have married him if he didn't). But he's not as in tune with the issues. And he saw what I saw.

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