Meg Lee Chin

Feminism has so far failed. Were it to truly succeed, war would be a thing of the past.

As a child I remember teenage boys coming to our door with flowers and chocolates for my older sisters. My sisters were whisked away on "dates" to the movies, the beach and fun fairs. They were wined, dined and treated like princesses. But when it came to careers, they did not get the same opportunities as men.

My generation was characterized by a new era of feminism. The idea was that women would forgo those niceties in exchange for equality in the workplace. Therefore as a teenager, I got no flowers or chocolates. Unfortunately I still did not get the same opportunities as men in my career either.

Women have lost the flowers and chocolates. We are no longer worshipped for our femininity. Yet we still do not have equality in the workplace. How did we do so badly out of the negotiations?

We lost out because feminism failed to take into account the simple fact that ultimately women have and have always had, the stronger negotiating hand. We control the power of reproduction. Yet we willingly gave up our power in order to compete with men on THEIR terms. It's counterproductive for women to try to compete with men in being "emotionally tough" (heartless) and "fearless" (stupid). Why regress? We were already stronger in the first place.

At age 5 I believed that women were more powerful than men. As I watched my sisters run rings around the eager boys who appeared at our front door, I couldn't help but feel bad for those young hopefuls. They never stood a chance against the sheer power of my man-eating sisters with their burgeoning sexuality. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. How did women lose sight of this?

Ironically "Feminism" has become more synonymous with "maleness" than "femaleness". Somehow "female" traits have become undesirable. A "strong woman" is today generally understood as someone who is assertive, competitive, logical and a risk taker. Not that these things are bad in a woman, but what happened to strong women who were kind, sympathetic, intuitive, supportive and loving? I was raised by one of these women. She was a beacon of strength. Are these woman now considered "weak"?

Recently I was berated by a so called "feminist man" for being "overly sensitive". Do to my emotional nature I was labelled "paranoid" and "mentally ill". It's as if the expression of emotion and softness has become taboo. Sensitivity has become a defect.

At a recent debate entitled "Has Feminism Gone too Far" many young women were complaining that employers perceived them as being "averse to risk taking". But HELLO!! What is wrong with being averse to risk taking? Isn't that just being conscientious? Where is the balance?

Our planet is already in dire straits due to too much risk taking, competitiveness and unbridled aggression. These are qualities generally associated with "maleness". What is needed to counter these things are co-operation, empathy and diplomacy. These are things traditionally associated with "femaleness". Had feminism truly succeeded, these "female" traits would be MORE not less prevalent in society.

The problem of lower pay in the workplace is not due to employers unfairly stereotyping women to be passive, indecisive or soft. The problem is in not respecting and valuing co-operation, conscientiousness and kindness. In other words, society does not place enough value on traditionally "female" traits. Therefore women as a group lose out.

Biologically, gender stereotypes have some basis in reality. Male traits appear more often in males and female traits in females. There are characteristics which we associate with maleness and femaleness simply because they tend to be more prominent in one or the other.

But however it is a mistake in logic to then assume that all women are only feminine and all men are only masculine. Instead all traits fall along a continuum and appear in both women and men in varying degrees. Unfortunately this prominence of certain traits in men and women as groups leads incorrectly to stereotyping of the individual and this is not good for society.

But the problem is not a male/female issue. Instead the problem is an issue of stereotyping in general. This tendency of us humans toward stereotyping is the real culprit of not just sexism, but, ageism, racism and all other isms. We are, every single one of us, complex and paradoxical creatures. As such we deserve to be taken as individuals and should not be pigeonholed. We are not two dimensional cardboard cutouts.

Human beings are frustratingly poor at judging others and overly swayed by context. We constantly and unfairly sum others up too quickly by sex, age, class, race, accent or even the way they dress. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book "The Tipping Point". The solution is not to artificially impose either masculinity or femininity. The solution is for all of us to learn to see past the packaging and accurately see the individual. This is a process of mentally separating the individual from their group and seeing the true person.

If the power of femininity were to manifest fully, there would be no more war on Planet Earth. Women as members of the group more capable of sensitivity, love their children and men too much to send them to war. Femininity, love, kindness, sensitivity,emotion, beauty, these are NOT weaknesses. They are the true source of power.

As a species we can do better than this. Just say "NO" to unbridled masculinity. Unleash the power of femininity which is there as a birthright. It is time for the Goddess to put her foot down. Tell the little soldiers to stop fighting and behave. We have the power to do so. There is still time for true feminism to succeed.

Those flowers and chocolates were never token symbols of oppression designed to keep us down. They were an acknowledgement of our power and an attempt to court favor with the holders of the key to reproduction.

I want my flowers and I want my chocolates.