One of the most frustrating arguments I encounter when talking about feminism is the various double standards. Women are portrayed as the passive recipients of actions, and yet are the ones who must take responsibility for their marginalization (either by “grow(ing) a pair”, “get(ting) a sense of humour”, or not “dress(ing) like a total whore”). There is rarely the corrolary pressure put on men to moderate their (our) behaviour, at least not by non-feminists. Of course when feminists do say “hey guys, don’t do that”, they (we) get piled on for being a castration-hungry horde of groupthinkers who are just trying to get laid (if you’re a straight man) or who just need to get laid (if you’re not).
Not too long ago, I talked about an experience I had when I was doing undergrad orientation, where the women in my residence were taught a number of ways to safeguard themselves against date rape. Oddly (or, rather, not oddly at all), there were no accompanying instructions for the guys. Safeguarding people from date rape was a ‘victim-only’ responsibility. In that same post, I lauded a program that is seeking to shift the conversation away from that kind of blame-based advice and toward a “personal responsibility” *twitch* model. The idea seems to be picking up steam in some unlikely places.
Hundreds of South Africans have marched in Johannesburg to protest over an assault on two women who were attacked for wearing mini-skirts. Some of those in the crowd wore mini-skirts and carried placards which read: “We love our minis”. The two women were attacked at a Johannesburg rank for minibus taxis in December, allegedly by waiting drivers. The organisers said they wanted to end “patriarchal views still entrenched in parts of South Africa’s society”.
I don’t know how many of you participated in last year’s Slut Walk, but the South African event certainly seems to bear a striking resemblance. It is women refusing to be relegated to a role where they are robbed of their agency but made the victims of discrimination. While Johannesburg is certainly not the epicentre of the worst kinds of misogynistic assault and abuse that South Africa has become known for, it is definitely a place where this kind of movement can gain some real traction. The eyes of the world are fixed on South Africa’s attitudes towards women’s rights, and in that kind of climate a strong pro-feminist statement like this one can have reach that far exceeds something like SlutWalk.
A new government policy in northern Indonesia will enable wives of civil servants to have direct access to their husbands’ salaries, officials say. The Gorontalo provincial government in Sulawesi will be transferring the pay of married civil servants to their wives’ bank accounts from March. The move is aimed at curbing extra-marital affairs, spokesman Rudi Iriawan told the BBC.
One of the hallmarks of patriarchial societies is a climate in which women do not control their own finances. In an egalitarian society, married couples exert joint influence over the household money, regardless of who earns it. That model of marriage is based around the idea that both members* are equal partners and make joint decisions. While each person may have some money that is entirely theirs to dispose of, the point is that decisions that affect both parties must be made by both parties. Societies that are patriarchal (or, alternatively, matriarchal) will see this balance skewed strongly to one sex. This has the consequence (intended or otherwise) of giving more than simple financial power to that sex. By stripping one partner of the ability to exact consequences for breaches of trust, or, to leave the relationship if it becomes abusive, patriarchal systems makes marriage a de facto slavery contract (which, by the way, is what “traditional marriage” really means).
Now I am no fan of Indonesia in general, but I recognize that most of the crazy shit happens in Aceh province as opposed to the country as a whole. By putting financial control in the hands of women, Gorontalo province is helping to counteract the prevailing misogyny in the culture at large. The trick, of course, will be to ensure that men whose wives control the finances don’t enact the same kind of abuse that this policy is intended to counteract. While this policy will empower women, it is not really a step in the direction of promoting egalitarian attitudes. That being said, it may have the positive effect of giving women a louder voice in Indonesian society.
I gotta tell you: I’m enjoying this ‘good news week‘ thing a lot. And I’m not done yet!
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*Assuming, of course, that we are sticking to a two-partner model of marriage.