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Gender relations at Summit’s center

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Click the link above to listen to the audio version of this column

Commentary by Joe Skoog ’13

Photo by Kevin Valenzuela '13 - Students will tackle the issue of gender relations during upcoming Summit.
Photo by Kevin Valenzuela '13 - Students will tackle the issue of gender relations during upcoming Summit.

This year’s Summit on Human Dignity focuses on gender and raises many questions regarding an important facet of gender: gender relations.

Gender relations are the way that males and females interact amongst each other and cohabitate.

Masculine ideas of the relations of gender must be restructured for real social change to occur.

This can be seen through many things, even as small as things like domestic roles and the place of child-rearing, to larger issues such as international relations.

As Ann Tickner, professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California states in her book “Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post-Cold War Era,” “Deep structures, upheld by the public/private divide, have continued to keep women in positions of subordination, even after the acquisition of the vote or other legal gains; despite the fact that women have always participated in the public sphere as workers, they do not have the same civil standing as men in most societies. For example, in twentieth-century welfare laws in the West, men have generally been defined as breadwinners and women as dependents; likewise, immigration laws and rules governing refugees define women as dependents with negative implications for their legal status.”

Her findings show that even in our own democratic ideals, masculinity and the roles of gender in our society are still prevalent and spur decision making at the highest levels of governance.

This is at the core of gender relations.  The way males and females relate to one another and construct identities shapes the realities we create.

The stakes are quite high, as there have been many examples of flawed gender relations in our modern times.

Even in the commercials we watch, we can see these bad relations.  Using women’s bodies to showcase or advertise commodifies and uses their bodies for a purpose, instead of accepting women as equal human beings.

Examples such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prove these points, where overly aggressive views of other countries and their actions, inherently male traits, have allowed for violence to occur against the people, with disproportionate numbers of women being affected.

As Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Chris Cuomo says, “For any feminism that aims to resist oppression and create alternative social and political options, crisis-based ethics and politics are problematic because they distract attention from the need for sustained resistance to the enmeshed, omnipresent systems of domination and oppression that so often function as givens in most people’s lives. Neglecting the omnipresence of militarism allows the false belief that the absence of declared armed conflicts is peace, the polar opposite of war.”

Militarism is just one of the many symptoms of flawed gender relations that pervade our society currently.

Even in our lives as students, we should not allow masculinity to dominate our thinking.  Such acts like aggressive behavior towards women or treating women as mere objects to use are examples of flawed gender relations.

Rejecting these flawed masculine assumptions that subjugate women must occur before we can allow better things to occur.


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