We Don’t Own Women
Many of you will read this headline and think – of course we don’t own women. We’ve settled all that and women are equal under the law. Sure we know there is sexism and some women are harassed and we’ve heard all about the glass ceiling, but women aren’t property.
Except of course that in North America there are many examples where women are treated as property of men or of the state. We cling to cultural norms that strip women of their identities. Governments pass laws the restrict a woman’s bodily autonomy in ways not required of men. Political leaders argue that women should not be allowed to make decisions without parental consent.
Women Don’t Owe Men Sex
There are men out there who believe that women owe them sex and that some of the violence we see perpetrated by men could be stopped if women would just have sex with them. This view has most recently been highlighted by Jordan Peterson – a psychology professor who has made a name for himself as an old man shouting at the clouds. He used to be a regular guest on a public affairs show that I watch and I thought his insights were useful. Then someone suggested we should use people’s preferred pronouns and his brain snapped. Now he is a high priest of the straight, white, cis, heterosexual patriarchy.
Peterson says that the reason that men like the one who recently mowed down a couple dozen people with a van in Toronto commit violence is that they don’t have sexual partners. This notion requires an all caps response. THIS IS A BULLSHIT EXCUSE AND A MASSIVE SOCIAL FAILURE.
I had no idea that this subculture of men who focus on being rejected by women existed until this van attack took place. This is basically the violent outgrowth of the same ideas that form the foundation of school dress codes requiring girls to wear shirts that cover their bra straps. The idea is that boys and men are so unable to control their sexual urges that the mere sight of a stray bra strap or of flesh above the knee will lead them to such distraction that they will be unable to focus on their studies. The extreme violent version of this is that men are so unable to control their sexual urges that when women won’t have sex with them their brain explodes in violent rage.
This notion is demeaning to everyone. 1) It assumes an entirely heterosexual binary where all men are straight and cis-gendered. 2) It subjugates women to the status of sex dolls. 3) It suggests that people with a penis are so under the control of the idea of sex that they are incapable of any other thoughts.
We, as a society have developed this version of masculinity that is dangerous. It starts out in schools with girls being sent home for wearing tank tops on a hot day, and boys being beaten up and teased for appearing effeminate or expressing an interest in people of the same gender, then progresses to people thinking they can stick their penis into any vagina they might encounter, regardless of what the owner of that vagina might think, and guys driving down the street killing women with a van. There is of course all kinds of verbal abuse and twitter harassment along the way. There are a spectrum of activities and behaviours along this path that lead to violence and they all start with the foundational idea that people who look like women exist for the pleasure of people who identify as male.
Apparently half of Americans surveyed believe that women should be required by law to take their husband’s last name after marriage. Here in Canada it seems that the trend is shifting back to women taking their husband’s last name after marriage. The reason is apparently a desire to share a last name as a married couple. There is little discussion in society about the man taking the woman’s last name in a heterosexual marriage.
We expect women to subsume their pre-marriage identities to their new married life. Many believe it undermines a man’s masculinity to take their wife’s last name. This is ridiculous. If we are to move forward in re-creating marriage as an equal partnership we need to drop the idea that only women ought to change their names. We need to get over the notion that it somehow diminishes marriage or men if women choose not to change their name or if the common name chosen is the woman’s last name. Masculinity is a made-up concept and a name change has zero impact on that box of things that supposedly defines a man.
I get the desire for a common last name to represent the new relationship status after marriage. My partner and I opted for a common last name, however it isn’t my last name or her last name, it is both. We didn’t hyphenate or make one name a middle name. We both use, and our kids use, both last names. Depending on circumstances we might opt to use just one or the other. Our kids are free to choose to keep the double-barrelled name, drop one or drop both if they choose to marry.
My partner comes from a family of strong, well-educated men and women, dating back generations, and her family history is as important as mine. There was no reason that she should have had to give that up. I was not going to give mine up because I am proud of where my family has come from and wanted to maintain the connection through the name. So, we use both.
Parental Ownership of Daughter’s Bodies
Dads Against Daughters Dating
Recently I walked into a store selling Dads Against Daughters Dating sweatshirts. I strongly dislike this entire concept and message. The idea stems from the notion that dads are somehow in charge of their daughters’ bodies and relationships. It is an archaic idea that needs to be dropped. Women are not chattel. Women and girls are not owned by their fathers until such time as they are traded off to their husbands. It is time to put an end to this concept.
As a dad, it is my job to make sure I provide my daughters with as much information as I can that will help them to make informed decisions about their own lives.
Parents need to trust their kids’ decision-making and challenge them if we feel those decisions are poor ones. Everyone will have relationships in their lives that are positive and others that fail or are negative experiences. Using the threat of confinement or physical violence against their potential partners is a terrible way to demonstrate trust in our kids or empower them to make decisions about their own relationships. Their bodies are not ours to control.
Abortion and Medical Consent
Here in Ontario, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (Doug Ford) has suggested that girls should be required to get parental consent before being allowed to get an abortion.
The thing is – abortion is a medical procedure and in Ontario kids are able to make their own decisions about the health care they receive without parental consent as soon as a physician determines that the child is competent enough to understand the information they are provided, the risks involved and make an informed decision. That is as true for having tonsils out as it is for abortion.
Ford is suggesting that girls are not capable of making decisions about their own bodies and as such we should strip them of the right to make those decisions in spite of our laws related to competence and medical consent.Jordan Peterson is wrong, dads against daughters dating are wrong and legislators seeking to control women's bodies are definitely wrong. Women are not property. Click To Tweet
Afraid of Equality?
I am one of those white, straight cis-gendered, heterosexual males who have benefitted from sexist, racist, heterosexist social structures that are currently being challenged by everyone else. Amazingly I have not felt the need to take away the rights of, or lives of, anyone pushing for greater equality for those less privileged than I am.
I am enriched by the people I live and work with. I am a better person when I learn from others. I find I am not in fact driven by sexual needs (including the five years as a single person in my early 20’s).
We, people identifying as male, have no reason to fear greater equality among all people, regardless of gender, skin colour and sexual orientation. We make our lives and our societies better by lending our voices, actions and privileges to help raise up people who have traditionally been marginalized. We are not owed anything by anyone. We do not have the right to suppress others by taking away their rights. We must do better.