Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, declared the end of something else yesterday in her article on Slate:
The Patriarchy Is Dead
Feminists, accept it.
The immediate response to Rosin’s claim was sarcasm. Al Jazeera America did a nice round up of people mocking the article. The push back around the web also featured a classic issue in feminism: People often signal the progress of women in developed countries or of “privileged” women (don’t forget to Lean In everyone!) as progress for all.
This desire to leapfrog forward and ignore a more nuanced reality is common in other areas, too. When America elected Barack Obama, many rushed to suggest that the US was now a post-racial society. The New York Times headline the day after Election Day 2008, claimed: “Obama: Racial Barrier Falls in Decisive Victory.” Obama’s election was absolutely momentous, but America is still not post-racial.
Nor are we past the divides for gender or sexual orientation. 2012 was a big year. More women ran for Congress than ever before, and the 113th Congress has the highest percentage of women ever. Last year and 2013 also saw notable advances for same-sex marriage, as well as issues surrounding immigration and tax claims for same-sex couples.
Each victory for any marginalized community is absolutely laudable, but it doesn’t put an end to anything.
Rosin sees these victories for women as the end of deep-seated inequality. But each victory is progress on a very long road, not the final destination.
Barriers related to race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on don’t change overnight. These elements are woven into our personal identity and our national identity so tightly and deeply that the good, the bad, and the ugly of them are part of who we are. Advancing change at such an ingrained level takes incremental progress to move us along the continuum spanning from inequality to equality.
The slow, but persistent crawl is encouraging and arduous. Each step of progress is a hard-fought victory, and that’s why a mistake in Rosin’s article is particularly frustrating.
Rosin wrote the following:
The 2012 elections inspired a similar reactionary response in some quarters. A record number of women were elected to Congress, bringing their number to a third of the membership, the level many sociologists cite as a tipping point when a minority becomes normalized and starts to enter the mainstream. In other words, it’s no longer big news when a woman gets elected; it’s the expected.
Yes, as stated, a record number of women were elected, but it was nowhere near a third. Rather, just over 18% of the 113th Congress is female. A number that is both a historic high, and almost half of Rosin’s supposed 33% figure.
That Rosin did not know this and that the mistake has yet to be corrected as of this posting is ridiculous. Furthermore, that she uses this incorrect figure to claim that we have reached a tipping point and that it is “expected” that women will win is claiming progress that the US is far from making. By claiming success we have yet to achieve, you obscure the work that needs to be done.
The 112th Congress was 16.8% female and the 113th is 18.3%. That’s an increase of 1.5%. If we continue to advance at this rate, it will take approximately 10 election cycles to reach 33%. That means we are decades away from the tipping point, and keep in mind that 2012 was a historic year so future elections may not see such relatively large growth.
We have come along way, but we have a long way to go. Nothing is dead.