Being Busy & Being Ungrateful

Being Busy & Being Ungrateful October 31, 2012

Ack, I’d meant to post more this month. But this month turned into moving (which involved a multi-state roadtrip to accomplish family and furniture goals all in one go), plus facing the academic job market, plus traveling to New Orleans for the American Folklore Society’s annual meeting (which was a blast, as expected).

So I’ve been busy.

But I’ve also been thinking about where we stop, where we set our goals, where we declare ourselves complacent. For me, as a feminist, that’s a touchy issue; I don’t know if we’ll ever satisfactorily determine the extent to which men and women are different or the same. Nature and nurture are notoriously difficult to entangle. So part of the issue is: when should feminists stop demanding equal rights for women? What if we find out that there are, in fact, ways in which men and women are substantially different so we can’t really aspire to equality in certain sectors to begin with?

I don’t tend to take that argument very far, as I think we can aspire to a ton of equal rights sorts of things while core similarities/differences remain unresolved. Such as, ya know, eliminating sexual violence and rape and lack of access to contraceptive rights. Basic stuff.

However, Laurie Penny’s post on feminism and gratitude really resonated with me. She writes about how

Women have made enormous strides in the past hundred years, yes, of course we have, but let’s get beyond this idea that we’re supposed to be grateful that some of us are now permitted a warped sort of equality in a fundamentally unequal labour market. We have no reason to be grateful. We have every right to want more. We have a right to want everything, including not being morally and financially attacked by bigots in government with a business agenda every time they want to distract attention from their own fuckups. We have every right to demand more than this.

Yes, yes, and yes. Being told to be grateful for how far we’ve come is a derailing tactic, as well as an implicit threat. I am cheerfully ungrateful in the face of everything we have left to accomplish.

This, I suppose, is a nice lead-in to the harvest holiday season. I spent most of yesterday talking about Halloween with my folklore class, but we also discussed the wheel of the year and how seasonal change affected (and continues to affect) agricultural societies. Harvest holidays are especially prominent and widespread, because people use them to mark the time of the year when they have enough to eat, and have to work hard to pull in the last of the crops before the winter comes.

So gratitude has been very much on my mind lately, between folklore topics and personal ones (we live in a nice place; we have food; we have supportive friends and family).

But I refuse to be bullied into being “grateful” for how far women have come. The day when someone can legitimately pull that is a long way off in my view, unfortunately.

In the meantime… yay for autumn and colored leaves and pumpkins!

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  • There is no stop. Like the cleaning of a house, it never ends. Unless you move, then it’s someone else’s problem.