Sonntag, 25. Mai 2014

The exceptional woman

I've always tried to counter mainstream gender-essentialism with our daughters.
"Girls like pink!" But my favourite colour is blue.
"Star Wars is for boys!" Hey, I like Star Wars. Your dad doesn't have a clue, though.
"Girls don't want to be knights!" Hun, there's mummy's longsword mounted on the wall.
"Dad can fix that!" Let me look at it, after all it's my toolbox.
One day in one of these conversations my eldest said: "It's OK mum. I understand. You're the exception. You can go on liking dragons and swords and blue."
Suddenly I'd been turned from the feminist rolemodel into a freaky exception. Gender essentialism was saved.
The exceptional woman is a well-know phenomenon that has a tendency to occur especially in more conservative circles. It's what gave us Margret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. I guess the point could be made for the exceptional different minority member as well, but I don't want to talk out of my ass here.

The exceptional woman is well liked for a number of reasons. First of all she never threatens the Status Quo. The majority has long accepted that women can be prime ministers and such, only that they are very rare like those utter geniuses. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Margret Thatcher. Only that the guy-geniuses are outstanding among all humanity while the outstanding women are only outstanding among women while doing things many men do and have done and will do. There's no talk about equal representation when it's clear that only the top 0.000000000001% of women are suitable for something 5% of guys can do, right?

Secondly, the exceptional woman doesn't rock the boat. She doesn't question power dynamics and structures, she simply finds her place in them and many men are happy to make room for her because "she's one of the boys".

Thirdly, she serves as a convenient fig-leaf. How can you claim the Republicans have a problem with racism and misogyny if they have Condoleezza Rice and Sarah Palin? The fact that all the women who gained power within conservative structures did so by decidedly NOT caring about the issues faced by women serves as further evidence that those problems don't exist instead of evidence that you cannot get ahead in politics if you do.

This might also explain the relative lack of exceptional women in more progressive circles. Those groups are ripe with misogynists (and racists, homophobes, transphobes), so when women who are progressive because they care about women's rights are trying to get ahead with a feminist agenda the room the conservative woman gets suddenly disappears. After all, making room for this clearly not so exceptional woman would be tokenism, right?