Although feminists will probably come to burn down my house for writing this post, I think this is an important issue to discuss about. However, instead of giving facts regarding the various issues of inequality that may or may not be fixed, I would like to frame this argument completely in terms of critical theory, showing that although men and women may never be truly equal in all experiences, this does not deny that we should continue to fight for equal rights.
Critical theory is a school of thought that stresses the examination and critique of society and culture, identifying the flaws in current society compared to a perceived ideal. Although these critiques are not created necessarily to improve society but merely identify the flaws endemic within, critical theory essentially attempts to identify inequalities and injustices within a system. Taken in the context of feminism, critical theory would imply that not only are there current injustices and inequalities within the system between men and women but that there will always be inequalities no matter how much society improves toward the feminist ideal for equality.
Thus, if we follow a critical theory perspective for feminine equality, we will learn that no matter how hard we try and no matter how hard we work to improve gender equality, there will always be flaws in the resulting society that will prevent true equality among the sexes. This can range from a variety of issues such as paternity leave that will inevitably favor single men over women and married men in the work place given the fact that companies would not need to provided paid paternity leave for single men, that due to innate biological differences between men and women, there will always be differences that prevent men and women from experiencing true equality in society.
This is a pretty dark picture to paint given the fact that what this article is essentially saying is that no matter how hard we try to improve society to promote equality, it will never be truly perfect and thus, men and women will never experience true equality. This may result in us asking then what is the point, if we will never reach a point in time when both men and women will be truly equal then why continue to fight for equality. Should we instead try to outline some basic rights that men and women want to achieve and after achieving those goals, remain satisfied with our achievements and move onto other injustices in society? Even if we choose to accept this frame of mind, society will then need to determine what targets they need to achieve for an “acceptable” level of equality which would be undermined by the fact that not only will there be differing opinions of “acceptable” equality but that critical theory will strike again, critical theorists identifying the flaws in society that show that we failed to meet these targets.
Given the difficulties of achieving equality and the inevitability of never achieving equality according to critical theorists, many supporters of equality may question why they should continue fighting. I would like to support this argument with a simple log graph.
This is a simple log x graph which I would like to use to depict the progression of gender equality, thus showing why despite the inevitability of equality we should keep fighting. For this graph let us assume that the x-axis is the time while the y-axis represents the level of equality between men and women, 1 being the point where men and women are completely equal while the line defines the current level of equality between men and women. According to this log graph, no matter how large x becomes, the line will never reach, let alone pass 1. Similar to the critical theorist’s argument, no matter how much time passes, the line will never reach 1.
However, as seen with the log graph, assuming people continue to work toward gender equality, gender equality increases over time and gets closer toward 1. Thus, as long as people continue to promote gender equality, the line representing the level of equality approaches its goal. As shown in the graph, the rate of growth decreases over time which means that the gains made in gender equality from women’s suffrage in the late 19th Century will always outweigh the gains made in modern times from issues such as equal incomes for corresponding jobs. However, as shown with the graph, although the fight for equality may never end, the fight will always bring improvements in equality over time. Thus, although critical theorists may be correct in that no matter how hard we try to achieve equality we never will, their theory does not deny the fact that as long as we continue to attempt to improve gender equality, we will make gains as a society toward gender equality.
Critical theory is not the bane of gender equality because it outlines the flaws all current and future societies. On the contrary, critical theory is necessary for social improvement since critical theory identifies the flaws and thus the improvements that need to be made to improve society beyond its current framework. Thus, it is true that under critical theory, no matter how hard we try, we will never achieve gender equality. However, critical theory allows us to identify the flaws that result in gender inequality and thus, the longer we work on gender equality, the more gains we make to achieve a more equal and fair society.