Summary: 33rd Gentle Thinkers Debate (Feminism)

Has feminism gone too far? Or not far enough? What important problems does the feminist movement have to face/has it caused today? 

Note: This summary is interpreted from notes taken during the first debate on this topic and may contain errors. It is not a definitive text and should be used a means of sharing and developing ideas. Edits have been made to make this summary easy to read therefore it does not reflect the actual flow of conversation.

If you wish to correct mistakes, be attributed to or contribute content, please contact me or post a comment. More summaries can be found via the Summary Index.

[Editor Note: I didn’t have time to read all the supporting articles linked in this summary so read them at your own peril.]


  • Domestic Violence (this is now socially unacceptable)
  • Women still have roles as a caregiver to the family unit and perform household duties
  • Women also have to balance work and life
  • Workplace issues
  • Pay gaps between genders
  • Under-representation of women in workplaces and government positions
  • Global issues
  • Women own 1% of land
  • They earn 10% of global income but still form a major part of the workforce
  • Most of the group believe feminism has not gone far enough and needs to be advocated so that equality can be established globally. There is still widespread discrimination especially in underdeveloped countries.

  • Feminism is a worldwide issue. It’s seeking female-male equality. There is still a massive disparity between the sexes. We of the Western world need to import our values to other countries from feminism to be successful.

  • The suffragette movement was born out from strong women and a need for equality in society. Great leaps were made during this period. South Australia’s decision to allow women in parliament legitimised male and government support for women.

  • In the 1960’s there was concern that feminism was becoming very narrow as it appeared to accept particular views but not those that were different to the dominant ideas. Some could argue that the 1960’s bought about an artificial form of feminism. In the 1980’s feminism may have lost or ostracised potential members due to its dimorphic attitude.

  • Feminism needs to find its ground by interacting successfully with people who don’t share the dominant view of it. Men might take more notice of the movement if the majority of women identify as feminists. Feminism is still a minor concept upheld by men.

  • Feminism needs to be advocated until political and legal reforms have been established that allow the majority to take notice. Men would benefit from feminism especially by overturning cultural stereotypes of masculinity.

  • Mass narrative (narrative psychology) is fed to you by society and creates a story of who you are. Females may find it difficult to avoid succumbing to it. [Wikipedia article] [Article on Narrative Psychology] [American Psychological Association article]

  • We need to call attention to gender based roles and stereotypes.

  • It’s still difficult for professional women to have a career and care for family especially children. A woman’s earnings decrease when she returns to work after childbirth.

  • Gender stereotypes in the workplace still exist:

  • Gender biases with resumes. Women tend to be pigeonholed for lower paid positions.
  • We should have gender neutral job applications. This may be difficult as employers have limited amount of time to screen applications and may look at half the total number.
  • Assuming a masculine behaviour (e.g. overconfidence) may help land people particular jobs but some people may not be suited to these roles due to their personalities.

  • We may be seducing people into thinking particular roles are for men.

  • There is a pay divide in most occupations and there are very few where competency and experience are factors that matter and gender doesn’t.

  • Do gender pay gaps occur because of gender stereotypes? An employer may overlook a female candidate due to an assumption that she will leave the position due to marriage and childbirth.

  • We should look at people as individuals. This could be problematic when dealing with future employees from a HR perspective.

  • We shouldn’t look at variables that have predictive values.

  • Interviews don’t support the decision making process. We employ people who are like us so we know how they will fit into the group

  • Women in university positions get pushed into teaching roles instead of paper writing because they don’t have the time to devote to research due to having to raise families.

  • Women and men need to have equal roles and rights in the workplace, at home and in society. E.g. parental leave for sexes, equal pay and women in leadership positions.

  • For some our pursuit for equality does appear to diminish the rights of men due to the focus on women.

  • One of the problems of modern feminism is that it’s trying to communicate to people who are operating under unconscious biases (e.g. cultural, biological, psychological and neurological) and who may not be reached via rational discussion.

  • With the first wave of feminism, the goals were laid out clearly e.g. reproductive rights, equal pay etc. The goals of contemporary feminism appear to be amorphous and it is difficult to know where it is going or what it wants. We need to redirect where feminism is heading. Some forms of feminism go in the wrong direction.

  • There is no “one” form of feminism. There is intellectual feminism and political feminism. Aside from Marxism, feminism has been the movement to incite worldwide change the most.

  • There is a lot of simplification of feminism. E.g. A movement for the rights of women

  • Feminism still has a long way to go especially in the developing world. Most countries don’t have a strong middle class so feminism can’t happen until this develops.

  • Equality is not about men versus women, it’s about us against the elite. We will never be part of the elite. We are fighting amongst ourselves so we can get emotive and not shift the paradigm. We are arguing over the crumbs. We have legitimate grips with society but they are symptoms and not causes.

  • An individual woman doesn’t necessarily carry all the characteristics of her population. You can’t judge a person by the sum of what they are or group they are part of.

  • There are some differences between averages of groups and those that are exceptional. For example, not all women have better skills in language or are all men better at 3D manipulation.

  • It’s easy to look at the type of society when it comes to men. E.g. Men form a large percentage of the homeless or more men have mental illnesses. Are these statistics only applicable to Western Society?

  • We have to look at both ends of society (the elite and below the poverty lines) to get clear ideas about people.

  • IQ is a cultural construct and is not neutral. One could argue that it is a middle class form of measuring people.

  • There are innate biological differences between males and females. For intellectual tasks there are differences between genders.

  • Feminism doesn’t have a place until it becomes part of the mainstream. Until we have discourse about women being equal to men, we can’t have feminism or equality.

  • Feminism risks alienating people who don’t share the commonly held values. We risk pushing people into particular situations and devalue what we want to promote.

  • Culture may determine belief and gender stereotypes and values start from birth. We need to educate in the home and throughout society to break gender stereotypes.

  • People don’t question how positions and biases arise, learning about how these ideas developed and entered into the norm may be useful in teaching us how to identify fallacies, problems and develop solutions to systemic issues.

  • We ignore science (e.g. neurology, biology) to our peril. We group and compartmentalise information and people because we are lazy and it is very easy for us to do so. It would be very difficult for people to break out of these patterns.

  • Lots of parts of the human brain aren’t highly plastic which may affect how we can change our minds. [Wikipedia article on neuroplasticity]

  • Women still get called ladies but men aren’t called gentlemen. Women get put on pedestals by such language and the reciprocating behaviour.

  • Nursing can be a lucrative job for some people in some countries. It is a very physically demanding role and might be a worthwhile career for men.

  • We have a society where particular people want to stay in power. In masculine societies there are people who are trying to capture income when they don’t deserve it. It is who you know, not what you know in large public corporations. E.g. BP and Rio Tinto.

  • “More confident and not more competent” seems to be the rule for these people. It’s not skills set, it’s charisma that drives very influential people.

  • Two generations ago, we could survive on a single income. We can’t do this anymore. If most of us don’t work for a few weeks, we can’t live. How we came to such economic positions and why this is culturally acceptable is up for debate.

  • We can’t solve problems by talking about them but we could fix the small ones.

  • There are some examples of communities that have gender roles that differ from our own like some tribal societies where men look after the children or in Africa were traditionally women produce food rather than men.

  • There are people who can’t exercise their free will.

  • There are women who can’t make equitable choices because they aren’t able to break the cultural norms to leave the societies that enforce them. These societies exist in developed and developing countries.

  • Feminism should lead people to break out of negative cultures with no repercussions.

  • We aren’t a society of equals until the oppressed can rise up. When we live out the ideas set by culture, things get complicated

  • Depending on our intellectual ability, we can go with the herd or against it.

  • There may be some entities and people that can trick others into thinking what they want and giving them the illusion of free will.

  • We don’t know what all the solutions are to achieve total equality.

  • There are many people who don’t live in ideal conditions but can rise above them.

  • One could argue children of previous generations were insulated against negative value systems but these days they are confronted with them.

  • Perceptions about ourselves are narrowing. E.g. I’m not pretty enough, I’m not manly enough.

  • Communist feminism will pay you differently based on its leader. Marxism says “each according to their need” where as Maoism says “each according to their production capacity”.

  • There is a big difference between what we can do legally and what we can do culturally.

  • People like the way they are and inciting change is difficult.

  • There are also societies that are gender neutral like some Scandinavian countries that offer parental leave for both parents [Sydney Morning Herald article] and some self sustaining communities who operate without gender specific roles.

  • Some values that are pushed by cultural means, in Western society we seem to emphasise ones based on income. We need to find ways of valuing people outside of income or them being on the brink of existence.

  • We don’t value disabled people in the same way as we do active people.

  • We have vastly inflated notions of what is normal especially when compared to previous generations. Despite suffering from an obesity epidemic, we still live longer than our ancestors.

  • We don’t know what happiness is and we might be pursuing ill conceived ideals of happiness. Some research indicates that the happier a society gets, the higher the suicide rates are. [Science Daily article] [Freakonomics post]

There may also be some research that suggests that high IQs and likelihoods of developing a mental health disorder are linked. [SENG article] [PsychCentral article]

Interesting questions posed by the group

Are gender stereotypes part of women’s’ attitudes towards themselves or a cultural bias?

What is the end goal of feminism?

What did the waves of feminism want and achieve?

What is fact and conspiracy theory?

Do men have a more positive sense of self?

Do more men have mental illness than women?

Is feminism not a mainstream topic?

Can equality be achieved via education?

Will feminism show us where all the systematic problems lie?

Should we have employment quotes? E.g. Hire x amount of people who match certain qualities

Is the view that men and women’s brains are wired differently outdated? [University of Cambridge article] [Penn Medicine article] [Scientific America article] [The Telegraph article] [The Conversation article]

Do men think women as worthless or worth less than a man in domestic violent situations? What about when it’s the men being abused?

Are their occupations where men and women are better suited than the other? E.g. Women may be better suited as health practitioners while men are better at investment banking.

Would it make sense to have equal representation in some jobs? Women aren’t as physically strong as men so would it make sense for women to pursue a physically demanding job?

How much non-merited income goes to men and women?

How can we quantify skills? Can we?

Are we deluded into living beyond our means? Have we been deluded into thinking particular lifestyles are better than others?

Does feminism cause problems?

Is raising children an important part of life?

Who benefits from people living as the 99%?

Would having more female leaders improve our quality of life?

Why are young females recoiling when they hear the word “feminism”?

Is it a cultural problem that we don’t value women?

Would we be happier if we structured our family units with one person devoted to raising the children and the other financially supporting them?

How do we measure the usefulness of a person? In contemporary Western society, it appears we measure by income.

Have we lost sight of our values baring the economic ones? E.g. Women and men should be paid for raising children

How would we express value of a person? How do we value people’s contributions to society?

Are people biased towards things with numbers?

Do we value the work done by income earners? Do our employers value the work done by employees? What about in corporate situations?

Is corporate culture synonymous with masculinity? Are skills like cooperation feminine?

Work flexibility – Is this an economic culturalisation?

Are there non-economical ways of valuing people?

Are gender roles a bad thing? Should we judge ourselves by measures that aren’t income based?

A one size fits all society is something we want to get away from or is it?

Is tribalism testosterone based?

Is the problem of inequality derived from specific groups protecting their own interests?

Do hormones affect people’s behaviour?

Is the “nature versus nurture” an outdated debate?

What drives capitalism?

Are there qualities that can be identified as masculine and feminine?

Is this a debate about quality?

Who makes cultural biases?

Are mores [] occurring because of consumerism and cultures?

When did women start smoking cigarettes?

Do the ideas espoused by culture originate from a small group of people?

Do we still want a one-size fits all society?

What leads to desire?

How complacent are we?

Does money buy you freedom?

Are we conditioning people to focus on their deficits? E.g. a woman’s worth is measured by the fact that she has a child

Are we still running a female cattle market?

Does the concept of a biological clock constrain women? Is the biological clock an illusion?

How can we accommodate the professionals who want to have children? Could we allow them to defer their degrees and work until they return?

Should there be a parent devoted to raising the children regardless of gender? Do gay parents provide the best examples of this kind of family unit? Are we valorising them because they passionately desire children and because they aren’t the norm?

We still have remnants of old values so are we still trying to get over them?

Are we fighting numerous systems for equality?

Is consumerism changing our views of ourselves? E.g. Sexualisation of bodies

Is there a lack of opinion of feminism in some people?

Are some ideas more fashionable?

Would destroying gender roles destroy the family unit?

Is the nuclear family obsolete?

How influential is feminism? It has been fairly influential in the West.

Is feminism a Western concept? Does it exist in other countries like China and South America? Is feminism universal?

Have the values of each generation or what they value changed to be focused on money?

Do divorce rates indicate that more people are dissolving unhappy relationships?

Who gets more in divorce settlements? It appears that both sexes are afraid of being left behind by the breadwinner who takes everything in the settlement (house, children and money).

Is the media raising our children?

As parents, can we control what our children do?

What makes an ideal domestic situation?

What is the ideal way to raise children?

Is the education of a child out of our control once they enter school or pass a certain age?

Can we blame society on our ills?

Are the demands of the workplace constraining or changing gender roles? Do social norms do the same?

Do we think our choices are limited by society? Is the notion of choice problematic?

Is the world going downhill? Are things getting better?

Is income for individuals getting better? (Income in this instance is the ability to purchase material goods)

Are we happier now than we were 50 years ago?

Should feminism be called feminism anymore? Should we relabel it as equality?

Is feminism something that should be imposed? Or does it come from the (female) population demanding change?

Is feminism anti-male? Where does this perception come from? Is it from the backlash towards feminism?

Does feminism work for transgender people? Are they part of mainstream feminism?

Did post-modern feminism start with Madonna?

Has sexual objectification caused problems for feminism’s image? E.g. Is it able to accept people who want to live within the cultural norms?

Are men expendable under feminism?

Are men losing their value?

Are we asking men to roll over and accept what feminism is doing?

Are both sexes losing their value?

Does the presence of the state cause us to lose value? E.g. The state raising abandoned children or the state providing welfare? Is everyone better off with welfare?

What is the difference between current happiness and long term happiness? [TED talk] [BBC News article]

Are feminists happy?

How many people identify as a feminist?

How do we identify and measure depression?

Additional Content

Female CEOs and workplaces that endeavour to diminish disparities between genders

Assignations of Malcolm X and JFK as indicators of the pervasiveness of shadow governments

1960’s feminist activist Gloria Steinem [Gloria Steinem’s official website] [Wikipedia article] and Betty Friedan [New Yorker article] [Wikipedia article]

What makes a good CEO? Howard Gardner [strategy + business article] [Harvard Business Review article] and Peter Drucker [Bloomberg Business week article] [Forbes article] weigh in.

Gender specific toys [Little girl weighs in on gender marketing of toys – YouTube video] [The Guardian article] [New York Times article] [ABC’s The Checkout on Gendered Marketing – YouTube video]

Food production and waste [TED video] [ABC Fact Check article] [ infographic and article] [ABC Radio National article]

Edward Bernays [Wikipedia article] and his book “Propaganda” [Full book available here]

The 1% conspiracy


Hot desking [Sydney Morning Herald] [Business Insider Australia article]

Free Will

Research indicating that gender stereotypes are false [The Conversation article]
[Editor Note: I have yet to find information to indicate if there is sufficient research into this concept so I will only leave this article to spark reader’s interest]

Sexual orientation of mice can be affected by hormones [Neurorexia article] [edge on the Net article]

Child labour

Rates of domestic violence [Wikipedia article] [Domestic Violence Prevention Centre article] [Sydney Morning Herald article]

Female soldiers

Female drivers in Saudi Arabia

Quality of life [Wikipedia article]

More summaries can be found via the Summary Index.

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