Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Today's Echidne Thought

Echidne thoughts are thoughts which I get, as it were, from outer space, suddenly, and usually this means that Echidne stuck them into my hat. After suitable censoring (no, sheep shears are not the new fashion accessory for women everywhere) I either jot them down for further digestion or let them loose here. This one is of the latter kind.

You know how the media discusses something controversial by picking some people from each end of the opinion-line to fight each other, bare-fisted and ready-fanged, in front of us all? That's in theory, of course, and even then the approach has a problem, because the most correct opinion might lie in the middle of that long opinion-line. Broccoli is not necessarily greater than Viagra-for-angels or worse than Dick Cheney's wet dreams. It may just be a vegetable.

Where was I? Oh yes: The second problem with this approach is that the representatives for the extreme opinions are selected oddly. Far too often I see the end-points defined by a rabid right-winger yelling and screaming at a Mr. or Ms. Milquetoast-Middle-of-the-Road (think of Hannity and Colmes). But there's a second odd selection criteria, and that's the topic of today's Echidne Thought:

Think of the way we debate gender roles. The two end-points are often seen as someone with Talibanesque views on women on one side and someone who'd let women go out and run for the President of the United States, sure (as long as the dinner is still on the table when the hubby comes home). Well, perhaps not quite, but you get the point: There's nary a radical feminist anywhere in sight.

More importantly, the two end-points of this opinion line are seen as 'Kirche, Küche und Kinder' for women, at one end, and 'legal equality of the sexes' at the other end. Or 'men should dominate' vs. 'everybody is equal'. Note what's missing there, as is missing from all the other debates about women's essential nature or whatnot?

The symmetrical end-point to the view 'men should dominate'. The effect of this one is to make 'compromise' appear something inbetween full equality and absolute male domination, and the effect is also to make someone like me come across as an extremist, when in fact arguing for equality should be the middle position. Don't you think?