Firstly… Hello! I am entirely new to this sort of thing, so any feedback would be really welcome (as long as it’s all totally positive and fawning and all…)

Now. To the point.

There was an incident in the past few weeks that caused me to reflect upon tradition as an argument against change. During a seminar, a young woman claimed that it is instinct for a woman to nurture, and that it follows that women belong in the home. A minor kerfuffle ensued, leaving me fuming, and desperate to respond in some way other than being very, very red. This it it, I guess.

It is generally accepted that, as human beings, we are able to transcend our base instincts. This is how we are distinguished from animals. It must always be kept in mind that ‘tradition’ does not equal ‘natural’. It is tradition in some countries to mutilate the clitoris. This is not natural. Obviously this is a horrific example, but because it is so extreme it illustrates that enforced gender roles are just that – enforced, not natural. The young woman of my seminar claimed that nurturing on the part of the woman is natural, and breadwinning by the man is the same. Leaving aside the fact that she and I are currently studying the Renaissance (widely acknowledged by our tutors to be the period in which early modern gender roles were formed) we can look at nature itself. Female mammals give birth, and feed their offspring. Both sexes are involved in protecting the young from predators. Once the offspring are weaned, they’re on their own. Exactly how does this compare to our elaborate nurturing rituals? Answer: it doesn’t. These are as constructed as gender roles: roles that exist by tradition, not nature.

Further, even if it is instinct for a woman to nurture, there is no evidence that this is right. Again, we are humans and have a sense of morality. Animals instinctively have sex for procreation – there isn’t a whole lot of choice involved. Humans have choice – we have sex for recreation as well as procreation. If someone ‘instinctively’ tried to have sex with me, this would be rape. They couldn’t justify their actions by saying they were doing what was natural, and therefore right. It would be immoral, because we have a choice to not follow our instincts.

Lastly, and more childishly, because I’m still angry: if you feel so strongly that women belong in the home, my tradition-loving friend, why on earth are you at university? Get back in that damn kitchen where you NATURALLY belong.

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