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December 2, 2019 / Congau

Oppressed by Nature

If women have been oppressed in almost all cultures and at all times, wouldn’t that mean that it is natural? Maybe women are meant to be subordinate to men, and it is against nature to try to tamper with this order?

Well, life is suffering, it is often observed. There is war and disease, quarrel and dandruff, but we do our best to reduce it. Suffering is natural as in “frequently occurring” but not as in “the way it should be”.

Therefore, if we consider the oppression of women as one out of many examples of human suffering, there’s no doubt that it should be resisted. However, many feminists seem to think that the question of women’s rights is at the center of all philosophical inquiry, and that gender identity governs the most essential points of human interaction. If that is so, we must again look closely at gender roles in different cultures and from those observations expect to get a clue about what is natural.

Feminists easily get stuck in the nature versus nurture dilemma. On the one hand all gender differences are artificially enforced through culture, but on the other hand some differences are at the very core of feminine identity and the point from which everything else must be analyzed. How do you know that something belongs to nature if not by looking for what might be reoccurring in all societies regardless of culture?

If our basic premise is that suffering is against nature, it is easy to dismiss the oppression of women (like the oppression of anything) as a violation. But if gender identity is the first premise, we might get entangled in weird reasoning and contradictory conclusions.

If identity overrides everything, the moment an identity is found it can’t be wrong. If women generally identify themselves as submissive beings, they should be treated as such, right? Wrong.

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