Here’s a situation that’s been making waves in the news for a couple of days now. And since the world “feminist” is right in the title of this blog, it’s probably about time I talk about it.
So the background is that the Pew Center released a report showing a marked increase in the number of female “breadwinners” in families with children; women are now the breadwinners in 40% of those households with kids (1). The oh-so-progressive programming folks over at Fox News decided that it would discuss the story in a panel format…a panel made up entirely of MEN. They then decided to pretty much deride the whole situation as bad for the country and for our children, and then went on to spout a lot of patriarchal, sexist bullshit that sounds a lot more at home around in a 1950’s office than on a 21st century news program. (1) Among my personal favorite highlights of this drivel is Lou Dobbs attempting to use “science” to defend his sexist views:
“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.”
Now, as a scientist, this is like nails of a chalk board. I have to grit my teeth to not scream every time I hear or read the sentence. I had trouble even deciding where to START pulling apart this pile of verbal scat. Firstly, stating that males are typically dominant is just factually incorrect. In our two closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, females larges control the social structure on the individual groups or tribes. The entirety of lion society is controlled by females, particularly the social structure. This is even more pronounced in elephants, where males are generally forced to live well-apart from the complex social framework of elephant society. Female golden eagles are notably larger than their male counterparts, and have been more sought out for falconry for hundreds of years. Female spiders are often much larger males, and often eaten them during mating. The female anglerfish is many times larger than the male and physically absorbs his body at the time of copulation. But beyond being wrong about nature, Dobbs is making an incorrect connection. Humans are humans (I know, shocker, right?). We are not chimps, bonobos, or orangutans. Nor are we lions, elephants, or hamsters. And we are certainly not eagles, seahorses, spiders, or anglerfish. My point is…to compare anything about human behavior involving sex and gender to any other animals is absurd. It’s a false equivalency, plain and simple. Most trouble to me, however, is Dobbs’ re-entrenching of the idea that anything involving gender roles is some how natural or biological. Gender roles are a construct of the society in which we live in, that’s all. Over the many millenia of human existence, gender roles among human beings have been as varied as the cultures that have existed. Dobbs (and his compatriots who were quick to agree with his schlock) are clinging to the dying concept of men in control of society because they can’t handle the idea of their power and privilege bring eroded our evolving modern society. And it makes them look like sad, dated fools.
So much, in fact, that not one but TWO of their female colleagues on the network were appalled enough to publically deride the commentary. Megyn Kelly took the airwaves and dismantled Erick Erickson (another of the panelists), asking him “What makes you dominant and me submissive and who died and made you scientist in chief?. She continued her tirade against him on several other programs, ulimately leaving Erickson looking extraordinarily foolish, and trying like hell to walk back the statements. Greta Van Sustren was only slightly less outraged, and took to her twitter to account to say: “Have these men lost their minds?” While I OFTEN disagree with what both of these ladies spout off during their segments on Fox News, I have to applaud them for willingness to take their own people to task for this completely disgusting display of sexism. Thank you ladies, for taking these guys to task.