Re: PCT and Feminisms: asking again...
Tue, 21 May 1996 11:43:12 EST

Ana Catina writes:

>I do think that a PCP stance might be helpful in undestanding
>and implementing a new construct about women. According to
>PCP, we can assume that the theoretical problem might be: society
>said!) share a construct about the social roles of women that does not
>correspond to the reality anymore. In my imagination, the social
>construing can represent a sort of commonality of construing of a certain
>group or culture, ie results from a sort of synthesis between individual
>construing. Is this true? Let say it is. Then:
>The practical question can be: how to change this social
>construct about women? Shall we not go back to try to change individuals'
>construing about us? The process begins at home: brothers, fathers,
>friend, spouses. If we can not prove them that we are a different kind of
>women than those they are traditionnally construing (I underline prove and
>oppose it to persuade), we probably have less chances to change the
>construing of the group they represent. Feminism is in this way an
>individual task first. I heard from my clients a lot of "my husband does
>not understand or allow me to...". Whose problem is this? His or hers?
>If she is not able to negotiate a change in his construct about her
>properly, she has to make a
>new option and not blame him for lack of understanding, hasn't she. But
>do all women want to change something in their status, or is there still
>a large part being afraid of the implications of such changes?

As stated by Ana, it is important to hold individuals accountable for
changes that must occur in their lives. It is indeed a unfortunate
shortcoming of the left that it has often failed to articulate a
convincingly clear role for individual initiative in fostering social change.

Having said this, I find the ideas that "feminism begins at home" or
"Feminism is an individual task first" to be extremely problematic. The
problem is that these statements presume an individualism that does not
acknowledge the social embeddedness of the problem. There is a need for
*systemic social change* that simply cannot be reduced to the collective
behavior of individuals. Society is more than, as Margaret Thatcher used to
say, simply the result of groups of individuals.

Is it the responsibility of individual African women and girls to
prove their status to men and women in cultures that practice female
genital mutilation? Is it the individual females' responsibility to
forestall this practice in her family?

Is it the responsiblity of individual Western women to convince
individual Western men and women to compensate women at the same rate of
pay as men are compensated?

Is it the responsibility of individual females to convince their
spouses to take on an equal responsibility in childrearing, work, domestic
responsibilities, etc, in the context of an entire history and culture that
works against her?

Is it the responsibility of individual poor teenagers to convince men
in their twenties to control their sexual relations with young women? Is
it the responsibilities of poor women ensure that men fulfill their
responsibilities to the children they father? Is it the responsibility of
women to ensure that they do not become divorced and thus see their
standard of living fall while male standard of living rises?

All of these problems, and many many more, reflect the workings of
a social, economic, and cultural system that is much larger than individual
men and women. Isn't it stacking the deck a bit to make individuals
responsible for changing such structures?

Mike Mascolo