By Karolina Bialkowska
At the risk of making many enemies and few friends, I think we should decrease the public focus on women only events – particularly those that involve business conferences and organizations. Instead, I think it is time to make equality about bringing together equals, not separating entities.
Second-wave feminism shaped our society into what it is today. It was the movement that rigidly defined femininity and established the sexes as two binaries on opposite ends of the spectrum of humanity. Our mothers and grandmothers successfully fought to establish women as members of the workforce, as executives, leaders, and intellectuals. For that I am eternally grateful. But here I will argue the merits of third-wave feminism. When the world itself knew only two strict definitions of gender and sexuality, second-wave feminism was our saviour. Then, the approach of banding together as one and segregating ourselves as women was necessary in order to prove our merit against the oppression of institutionalized patriarchy.
Today, however, I find it unrealistic to segregate ourselves into such strict gender binaries. Our world, our culture, our understanding of the variety of human selves mediates our own identities. In recent years we have begun to understand that self-identity is not a mixture of rigid binaries but instead a fluid spectrum of in-betweens. Why, then, do we still feel it necessary to distinguish ourselves and separate ourselves so severely as to organize ‘women’s only’ business conferences? Is it not more effective to fight for equality by integrating all people under one umbrella, one level playing field?
And, I ask, where do people of ambiguous sex fit in? Where do women of ethnicity fit into the predominantly white, middle – upper class, feminist models of gender equality? Are we missing a whole other side to the narrative by stunting the evolution of feminism? Gay, transsexual, people born with the anatomy of both, and others who find it difficult to fit either mould as male or female will find themselves subject to the same prejudices as women did 30 years ago. Except this time women are the ones closing the doors and refusing them entry.
I still think it is important to recognize the unique roles that women play in society. Social mixers and networking events that propel women to the heights made possible by activists before us are a beautiful way to celebrate our achievements amongst sisters, friends, and mothers.
I am simply cautioning against focusing on binaries, and perhaps thinking about changing our game plan. Inclusion and equality are not synonymous with segregation and elevation of one sex over the other. One cannot be the ‘better’ sex, women cannot be held in higher regard than men, and we must work together to experience true equality. We still have a ways to go.