The most intelligent person I’ve ever met once said to me, at the time a self identified libertarian, “what are we even on this earth for anyway?” Is it to contribute to the economy, or the GDP? Is it to go to work and do your bit making some business person another buck? Hey, if you’re a teacher or a doctor or you absolutely love what you do, great! That’s not what I’m talking about here and you should understand that’s not most people. I’m talking about women worrying that they are not setting a good example for their kids unless they are out working, even if it’s not personally satisfying work. We’re talking just leaving the house in order to be exploited.
At this point in our development as a society, we have not reached equality. It’s not because men are still calling the shots. It’s not because women aren’t represented in our legislatures, nor the boardrooms. Instead, its because we still believe these people can save us. We still count on those who have reached these top positions to give us this thing called equality.
The journey to the top is a rough road. You have to be tough, you have to be resilient, you have to be determined. You have to make it your top priority. In truth, you have to be willing to sell your grandmother down the river if it comes to it.
Those who make it to the top, they are not the ones who looked at their infant and felt the tug to stay nearby for as long as needed. They are not the ones who noticed a distance in their partners eyes and so dropped everything to spend more time at home helping. They are not the ones who take a step back and realise everything this system is based on is unjust. They are believers in the system. They say things like, “but that’s just the way it is,” and “in order to change things you have to get there first.” But then they get there and they don’t change anything, or they tinker around at the edges and stay clear away from the big problem and root causes.
So most anyone who gets a top influential position, regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, nationality, race, they do not represent us. They represent the establishment and they will uphold the establishment first. There’s Bernie and Jeremy of course and I hope they are a promise of a change coming. There are enough of us who want it, but we’ll need to be a tidal wave for that to happen.
Discussing Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, bell hooks says in a Feminist Wire piece:
It should surprise no one that women and men who advocate feminist politics were stunned to hear Sandberg promoting her trickle- down theory: the assumption that having more women at the top of corporate hierarchies would make the work world better for all women, including women on the bottom. Taken at face value, this seem a naive hope given that the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal corporate world Sandberg wants women to lean into encourages competition over cooperation.
The only way to really change things for the better is to organise and insist that everyone acknowledge that every human is worthy of respect, whether they work outside the home, inside the home or not at all. Perhaps if we had universal basic income, we might come to that conclusion as a society a bit quicker? You can see my post 10 Feminist Reasons to Love Universal Basic Income for more on that.
It is not the message we get from most female politicians, that is certainly not the message we get from female CEO’s, so I refuse to accept that they represent me. There are exceptions, Elizabeth Warren for one, but not many of the political or business persuasion. They tend to be in academia more often: Kathy Dettwyler, bell hooks, Maya Angelou.
In fact, I kind of think we should put academia in charge of our government instead of patriarchal popularity contest winners, but that idea is for another post!