A great, big, terrible idea.

In the late 1960s, Blue Mink wrote a song called Melting Pot, which yearned for a world where there were no differences between us:

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it’s got

And keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee coloured people by the score.

I’ve been thinking about this song a lot lately, and I actually think it’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Why on earth would we want to eradicate all our differences and have everyone the same?

Of course, this song was about racial harmony, but I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of gender equality.

For it seems that in today’s equality obsessed society we are trying very hard to make everyone the same. In all facets or life—gender roles, parenting, education, career, lifestyle choices—we are gradually working towards equality of outcomes for all. This is something different to equal opportunities, which is a reasonable and sensible goal. This goes one step further by claiming that our differences are socially constructed and thus can be broken down with corrective social measures.

For this radical movement to succeed, a significant amount of social engineering is required and it is well underway. A good place to start to examine this phenomenon is the family unit. When we look at parenting trends today, the issue of gender stereotyping features prominently. Modern thought asserts that social conditioning by parents and society is largely responsible for any differences we see between girls and boys, rather than any innate qualities and characteristics specific to gender. The idea that we possibly limit our children’s options by, say, only offering them gender specific toys to play with—Barbie for girls and Meccano for boys—has developed to include the belief that gender is wholly a social construct and biological makeup is irrelevant. When parents start talking about ‘what people think a child’s anatomy means,’ (Bringing up ‘theyby’, at Essential Baby) something is surely awry. For not only can I tell you what that anatomy means, I can tell you what it does. It is one thing to live your life without reference to society’s gender ‘rules,’ or even to choose a way of life that aligns more closely with a gender that differs to what you were born with, but to say that gender is meaningless and is based purely on lived experience is really pushing the envelope.

At its zenith, the new trend of ‘genderless parenting’ would see humans unallocated into any category at all. No gender distinction. But isn’t there an argument that says we humans want to belong to tribes? Surely the human tribe is too big to operate en masse and needs to be ordered into smaller units, through the institutes of family, school and work, to name a few important ones. But the way our society is going, there’s to be none of that. Each human will be interchangeable with another. All will work full time. All will be considered physically equal despite genetics; none stronger or weaker than another. Perhaps in time we will all be assigned duties, too, ala The Handmaid’s Tale, except that none will bear any correlation to our gender, skills or interests.

When it comes to education, there have been great strides towards equal opportunities for girls in traditionally male dominated subjects, such as STEM. Giving female students the choice and encouragement to pursue what they are interested in is a positive outcome. However, we should also be careful that when pushing encouraging them into STEM, we are not simultaneously denigrating other, so-called traditional female vocations, such as nursing or teaching, and thereby discouraging girls from choosing those paths. For if we are not careful, we risk once again limiting girls’ choices in life.

Last year, teachers in the UK were asked to stop calling female students girls as it “reminds them of their gender,” which is patronising and not at all helpful, apparently. Is this to say that being a girl is a bad thing? And that gender is a social construct that has little or no bearing on how a woman might choose to live her life? This message is driven home to girls after schooling, too, with feminist dogma telling them that they should pursue a career with vigour but reserve the job of raising a family as a sideline.

Indeed, the way society now steers girls towards the traditionally male path has an unfortunate undercurrent message: everything that makes you what you are and makes you different to boys and allows you to create and carry/nurture human life is to be minimised or ignored. Being female and raising children is not to take precedence over who you are as an individual.

Girls are no longer told that getting married and raising a family is a valid life choice. In fact, the opposite. If you do choose this lifestyle, you are pretty much ridiculed by the feminist tribe. And they refuse to accept your choice as legitimate. They reason that it must be to do with you being so privileged that you don’t need the money that a job provides, or that you are not very ambitious; you’ll hear the working mothers’ mantra “I’d go crazy at home” or “it must be so boring”. They are effectively delegitimising this choice for women. Feminism is supposed to encompass choice for women, but to stay in the fold, you have to make the right choice.

On balance, then, I think, no. We don’t need a great big melting pot. And do you know why? Because we should celebrate our differences rather than trying to make everyone the same.

If we are all directed down the same road in life, the road less travelled will feel mighty deserted.

 

About Sonia Bowditch

Writer on society and culture in Australia. And short stories.

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