Thursday, March 10, 2005

Nuts & Bolts

So, Ikea's getting tapped for its sexist male-only assembly brochures. Living in a place where Jenn and I (yes, that's two women, no men) put together every stick of the copious Ikea furniture in the place, I find the idea of hiding the sexism in furniture manuals by pleading it's about "not offending" people (like Muslims, apparently) to be really stupid.

To be fair to Ikea, the manual I just had for the bed I put together showed a man and a woman assembling it; but yes, there's a default to "man" for the smaller pieces, and you'll never, ever, see two women putting a bed together, no matter how often this actually happens in real life.

And that, perhaps, is my biggest problem with sexism trying to co-opt the language of the "politically correct" for its own purposes: you're trying so hard (in their own words) to not offend somebody's belief that you stop telling the truth. You stop protraying the world as it really is. You start preaching abstinence-only education and filling up textbooks with lies that parade around as politically correct lingo when it fact, it has nothing to do with not offending Christians or Muslims or Athiests (nobody ever seems to care about offending athiests). It has to do with using "liberal, PC" language to reinforce stereotypes and tell lies.

There are a lot of women who spend time putting together Ikea furniture. The fact that Muslims (or whoever) don't believe women should doesn't mean that they don't. And deleting women from history, from life, makes your portrayal of life a lie, a disservice. You start trying to tell people how to live and what to do, so that each new generation of women has to start all over again from scratch, and thinks they're crazy because they're putting together their own furniture, aren't married at 25, and never have children. They think they're nuts until they get older, start digging up feminists texts, start running through blogs, and suddenly find this huge group of people just like them.

The problem, as I see it, is placing somebody else's belief before the way the world actually works; imposing somebody else's worldview on everyone else.

In the real world, both men and women put together furniture. Pretending they don't won't make it any different: it'll only make one subset of people feel better about their place in the world, while oppressing somebody else.

2 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Is it that they don't think women should put furniture together (or put together furniture, together) or is it that they don't think women should be pictured, period? Actually, I was under the impression that fundamentalist Muslims think no living thing should be drawn, that it is idolatry to do so -- but I could well be mistaken about this.

If that's so, though, why would it be more sinful to portray a woman, than a man? 

Posted by SB

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