Friday, October 21, 2005

When will Italy grow up?

Equal rights for men and women is a fundamental concept that I think all civilized people can support wholeheartedly. In most of the Western world women have virtually achieved equal rights and this is something to be celebrated (see here for a look at the UK; here and here for the US). Having said this, much of the feminist movement, which in the past has wrought important and laudable reform and changes in attitude, has morphed into a radical group that advocates "gender feminism" (see a critique from "equity feminist" Wendy McElroy, who is the editor of
As is explained thoroughly in Who Stole Feminism? an excellent book by Christina Hoff Sommers, the radical feminist movement has caused significant damage to the cause of equal rights and to society in general. Just a few examples of the absurd excesses:
The Swedish Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a 39-year old Swedish man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple has to pay child support for their three children. Three sons were born to the lesbian couple between 1992 and 1996. The man had donated his sperm to the couple on condition that he would play no role in the children’s upbringing and that the two women would be their parents. He had signed a document, however, in which he acknowledged to be the children’s biological father.
When the lesbian couple “divorced” the biological mother demanded that the man pay for his sons’ upbringing. He refused and took the case to court, losing in the district court and the appeals courts and finally before the Supreme Court in Stockholm, which upheld the previous rulings stating that biological parents are required to pay child support for their offspring.
Norwegian corporations will have to make significant changes to their governing boards or face liquidation by the hands of the Norwegian state. Sound scary? Wait for the really scary part: By July 1 of this year, the law mandates that companies must have a governing board made up of at least 40 percent women.
The requirement to have women on corporate boards will weaken corporate governance in Norway. A large number of women will be put on boards without the skills needed to be good governors. This will marginalize both skilled and unskilled female board members, because the good ones have to work even harder to prove that they are equipped for the job. The collectivist feminists have given successful women another burden to carry when they passed the equal opportunity regulation of corporate governance.
A good friend of mine works in investment banking, and though she is often the only woman at meetings, she insists there is no trace of discrimination - there are simply not that many women interested in the subject.
The gender feminists' attitudes have (negatively) influenced the education of children:
The trouble, of course, is that despite all the indoctrination, boys will still be boys. As a result, many educators today regard the normal play of little boys with disapproval--and some ban it outright. Carol Kennedy, the principal of a school in Missouri, told the Washington Post, "We do take away a lot of opportunity to do things boys like to do. That is be rowdy, run and jump, and roll around. We don't allow that."
Unfortunately, Kennedy is far from alone in her thinking. In 1998, Atlanta eliminated recess, with all its rowdiness, in all its elementary schools. In Philadelphia, school officials replaced traditional recess with "socialized recesses," in which the children are assigned structured activities and carefully monitored. No unstructured running and jumping allowed. It's against the rules to be a boy, at least behaviorally.
They have caused problems in science education and even sports:
So what happens when, as Gelernter says, some of affirmative action's goals aren't reached because they can't be reached? Well, Gavora's book has shown us what has happened in the sports realm -- when getting enough women to play sports isn't possible, cut men's programs.
Think something similar won't happen in the hard sciences? The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights already has the ball rolling. They released a report in 1997 titled "Equal Education Opportunity and Nondiscrimination for Girls in Advanced Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education: Federal Enforcement of Title IX."
Do read the whole article. Thankfully not everyone has lost their sense of humour.
Having said all this, it is befuddling to observe the situation in Italy, where a proposal for female quotas was recently rejected by Parliament:
The Italian parliament was branded "misogynistic" on Thursday after the defeat of a reform proposal which would have guaranteed more seats for women in parliament .
The proposal - known as the 'pink quota' - was presented as an amendment to the centre-right government's controversial electoral reform bill designed to return Italy to an entirely proportional system .
Put forward by the governing coalition, the amendment would have forced parties to candidate one female for every three males with stiff penalties for parties which failed to comply .
The measure was crushed in a secret House vote on Wednesday by 452 votes to 140, meaning lawmakers on both sides of the political divide voted it down.
Though I find it ridiculous that MPs should be able to vote in secret, one of the reasons given for voting down this amendment seems justified:
But Minister for Relations with Parliament Carlo Giovanardi, a member of the centrist, Catholic UDC party, said that "the 'pink quota' is anti-constitutional. The real problem is that very few women are active in politics." UDC MP Emerenzio Barbieri said that "either women are good politicians or they're not - it's got nothing to do with sex and if they're good, they will emerge."
Nonetheless, real problems persist in many Italians' attitude towards women. Examples of this range from the general tolerance and even amusement in the face of the breathtakingly crass comments the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, consistently makes (see this infuriating article in Italian), to the attitude men have toward family and fatherhood:
Italian men become fathers at a later age than any other nationality, and do little or nothing to help their wives once their babies are born, statistics office Istat said on Thursday.
Italian men have their first child at an average age of 33, against less than 31 for fathers in Spain, France and Finland, Istat said.
Part of the problem was that many Italian men lived with their parents for longer than elsewhere in the world, with 40 percent of 30-34 year-old Italian males still staying at home.
Though these trends are terrible, I doubt state intervention could improve the situation. Maybe, in the face of the mounting problems my fellow countrymen will grow up a little:
To compound all these problems, Italy faces the most serious demographic crisis of all the EU economies. By 2050, according to the United Nations, more than a third of Italians will be 65 or older, roughly double the current proportion. Increased longevity and the recent collapse in Italian fertility are the prime culprits.
Cherish those memories of Italy as a country of narcissistic young Lotharios, buxom Mamas and multitudes of bambini. The Italy of the future is an old folks' home.
I, for one, hope we get our acts together before then.

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