Germaine Greer on Equality

block-6-may-2016If equality means entitlement to an equal share of the profits of economic tyranny, it is irreconcilable with liberation. Freedom in an unfree world is merely licence to exploit. Lip-service to feminism in the developed nations is a handy disguise for the masculinization of power and the feminization of poverty in the emerging nations. If you believe, as I do, that to be feminist is to understand that before you are of any race, nationality, religion, party or family, you are a woman, then the collapse in the prestige and economic power of the majority of women in the world as a direct consequence of western hegemony must concern you…It is a chokingly bitter irony that feminism accomplishes most within the confines of the superpower that grinds the life out of the world’s women, makes war on them and starves their children…

The Sex Discrimination Act is so effective a tool for striking down any attempt at reverse discrimination because such attempts have to state their purpose clearly. If you want one level of a carpark to be for women only, you have to say so clearly and obviously, and crash down comes the act. This is anything but an unintended consequence. It is obvious from the wording that all parts of the act applying to sex discrimination against women ‘are to be read as applying equally to the treatment of men,’ that the act was designed to be a protection against any pressure for reverse discrimination…The SDA has been used to prevent the Royal Automobile Club from giving priority to calls from lone female drivers, to prevent the setting up of a firm of all-female taxi drivers, and to outlaw women-only swimming sessions at leisure centers…

It is virtually impossible to separate the idea of equality from the idea of similarity. If we accept that men are not free, and that masculinity is as partial an account of maleness as femininity is of femaleness, then equality must be seen to be a poor substitute for liberation. Arguing in terms of equality or difference permits two kinds of neutralizing of pro-feminist pressure: one cites the concept of equality to women’s disadvantage, as in the notion that women are entitled to equal pay for work “of equal value”–a meaningless concept that serves to enshrine women’s work as permanently subordinate–the other institutionalizes the contrast between men and women…What we find is that when it is in men’s interest to plead equality, they do; when it is in their interest to plead difference, they do. A male soldier who wants the right to wear his hair long pleads equality; a male tennis player who wants to go on being paid twice as much as his mixed doubles partner will plead difference. A man who wants paternity leave will plead equality, a member of the MCC who wants to exclude women will plead difference. Quite the most cynical application of equality rhetoric was made in April 1997 by one of the California clinicians responsible for implanting a fertilized ovum in the treated womb of a woman who as a result gave birth to a baby at the age of sixty-three. ‘Men can become fathers in their fifties, sixties and even beyond,’ he said. ‘So why not women?’ There is in truth no comparison between the way men become fathers at any time of life and the way women become mothers. The passing on of their genes involves men in no risk whatever to their health…The denial of real difference can be as cruel as forcing different-sized feet into a single-size shoe…

In exhorting men who have the right to be cruel to other men to abandon their sexist chivalry and extend their cruelty as unsparingly to women, Pearson shows that equality is an utterly conservative aim. Equality is cruel to women because it requires them to duplicate behaviors they find profoundly alien and disturbing. Men like the masculine world they have built for themselves; if enough men had not enjoyed what they euphemistically call the ‘cut and thrust’–the sanctioned brutalities of corporate life–such behavior would never have been institutionalized and women would not now be struggling with it. In constructing its male elite, masculinist society contrives to be cruel to most men, all women and all children. If women can see no future beyond joining the masculinist elite on its own terms, our civilization will become more destructive than ever. There has to be a better way.

~Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman (1999, Anchor Books)

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