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T IS SOMETIMES SAID that women have always been oppressed by men that the antagonism between men and women has its origin deep in human psychology or biology and that the way women suffer in our society is nothing but the same old story that has been going on ever since human life began This is such a pessimistic view that it is hard to understand why it is so popular with feminists today If women are put at a disadvantage by human nature itself how can we ever change things Either an all-out war against men could lead to men being forced to change their ways without changing their basically anti-women ideas or a few women could separate themselves off from the rest of society and be free in a sense or the human race could be destroyed by women refusing all co-operation with men None of these conclusions can be very appealing for the majority of women On the other hand the view that women are oppressed simply because men and most women too have the wrong ideas about women can be too optimistic Liberating women is seen as just a matter of persuasion and education of explaining to men that they have got it wrong and that they really should share the housework and the top jobs because it would be more fair History shows that all ideas can change none are so deep-rooted in human nature that nothing can be done about them But they cant be changed by persuasion by the light of reason alone because ideas depend on material relations between human beings The idea that black people are inferior for example belongs to societies that exploit black people either as slaves or as cheap labour To get rid of the idea once and for all we have to get rid of the system that produces the idea This doesnt mean that we cant argue or organise against racism
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