Why We Need to Care About Feminism

If I were to ask you to name a ‘job’, any job, what would you think of? Doctor, Teacher, Plumber, Lawyer, Sales Assistant, Banker, Hairdresser, Engineer? The list of careers goes on and on. Right?

What if I were to ask you to name a ‘man’s job’ or ‘woman’s job’ though? What would you say? Essentially I have asked you the same question, yet your mind starts to think in a different way and for some reason the meaning of the word ‘job’ shifts from careers to something else.

In a world where we all think (or like to think) that careers don’t hold gender assignments to their capabilities, it is incredibly startling to know that subconsciously, the notion of a ‘woman’s job’ or ‘man’s job’ exists in a realm in which the singular word ‘job’ does not. And I have a big problem with that. Especially considering that the popular family game show ‘Family Feud’ demonstrated this exact issue with guns blazing just a few weeks ago. Yes, this is (another) story about sexism rampant in our media.

Most of the answers for ‘woman’s job’ were different chores around the house, not careers. The three careers were hairdressing, secretary, and nursing.

As a notorious feminist, I feel completely exhausted with these stories and attitudes re-appearing again and again. But I will emerge from my hairy, hippie, lesbian, conspiracy cave to let you all know why I think both men and women should care about sexism in society and in the media (oh, by the way I’m straight, a Liberal, and shave. Not that it matters).

A few weeks ago, the show posed two questions that sparked some moderate backlash: ‘Name a woman’s job’ and ‘Name a man’s job’. The top surveyed responses for a woman’s job were cooking (28%), cleaning (17), nursing (13), hairdressing (7), domestic duties (5), dishes (4), receptionist (4) and washing clothes (3).

Now clearly, this list is not only grossly uncreative, but it’s incredibly sexist as well; which reveals a lot about society’s perceptions of gender aligned jobs, and gender roles, which appear to still be steeped in patriarchal norms that aren’t even based in fact. Whilst there has naturally been a lot of backlash against the network for including these questions in the show, I have personally seen a lot of belligerent, ‘anti-feminist’ responses as well, which goes to prove how far we still need to progress in terms of achieving gender equality.

Many people have said ‘who cares?’ Towards this, whilst others (including host Grant Denyer) have expressed that it is not Channel 10’s fault, but rather the Australian public. So why should the Ten network hold responsibility, and more importantly, why should we still care about these issues? How does this slip up show that feminism is still relevant to women AND men?

Firstly, network Ten should be ashamed for including such offensive questions on their show, but also for forcing the contestants to try and guess the answers in order to win the money; non-response was not an option. For a show that is supposed to be promoting so called ‘family values’, it fails quite dismally by making people watch contestants try and guess the top ten most ignorant answers about gender roles.

As a popular media outlet, the network has responsibilities, but also choices in the messages they portray to the public through their programming. It is no wonder that we toss gender inequality aside if this is what we view on a daily basis. Not to mention the money the network has made from their sexist ‘slip up’. (The studies into heightened sexism in the media and its effect on our perceptions of gender is extensive and insightful, so I would recommend reading more about it!)

Feminism is relevant to men because it does not want men to feel shamed for being a nurse, or a hairdresser, because these are not shameful careers.

Secondly, and more importantly though, why should we care about a silly game show? These questions were just for fun right? Get over it!

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the patriarchy. It still exists, and apparently still dictates our careers. Whilst this might seem on the surface a simple game show slip up, what it reveals about society and our approaches to gender is what is concerning. For one, most of the answers for ‘woman’s job’ were different chores around the house, not careers. The three careers were hairdressing, secretary, and nursing. What has happened to our interpretation of the word ‘job’ when we have added the word ‘woman’ in front of it?

All of a sudden, a job is not a career, but something to do in the house. The ‘man’s job’ answers were no more creative, but they included at least a few more careers. Is a woman’s worth still only determined by her subservience to a man? Can women not dominate or dictate their own careers? This gender discourse is prevalent everywhere if we open our eyes to look; it is the reason we have words such as ‘check-out chick’.

It’s the reason men feel driven away from careers in nursing because apparently the ability to care for the sick is determined by chromosomes. It’s the reason we have to offer scholarships to women to study engineering. It’s the reason a man’s history and motives are questioned when applying for jobs in childcare.

What many people forget in this debate is the relevance this all has for men as well as women. The patriarchal norms that make people think a woman’s job is cooking and cleaning is the exact same attitude that tells men that their worth is determined by their physical prowess. The answers to the men’s question involved various forms of physical labour jobs, which is just as concerning and restrictive. This discussion is not about hating or neglecting men and nor has it ever been; it is about empowering individuals to push beyond repressive gender roles.

Feminism is relevant to men because it does not want men to feel shamed for being a nurse, or a hairdresser, because these are not shameful careers. It is relevant for all of us who wish upon ourselves a society in which jobs are jobs, and where a television network will not stoop so low as to force contestants to participate in such an exercise.

So why should we care about a silly game show? The answer is simple: because gender equality begins at home. It begins when men and women are both part of the conversation. It begins when feminism is not seen as a divisive force, but as a way to free individuals from arbitrary gender roles, and empower them with choice. It begins when we stop pushing aside the views of ‘society’ when we are the society.

It begins when if someone asks you to ‘name a woman’s job’, you can’t.

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