Common sense or not?

Layered within the writings of Antonio Gramsci is the notion of “common sense”. This kind of common sense is not the kind of common sense that means you don’t cross the road when a car is coming, it is the kind of common sense which leads to statements like “communism can never work” “renewables could never provide baseload power” “women shouldn’t be in combat roles” “proportional representation would never work” etc etc etc. The kind of statements that reinforce dominant ideology without any real evidence base; the things we all believe just because “it makes sense.”

These common sense ideas are not mystical revelations that have come to us from on high. They are learned ideas which are reinforced and reinforced through our exposure to ideologically driven notions which are there to reinforce the status quo. They are the kind of assumptions that we, as active citizens and intellectuals, should always question, always challenge, always look for what the dominant social hegemony is that is driving the idea.

That is why articles like this one from the Sydney Morning Herald today about women not supporting other women just drive me insane. It is blatant generalisation dressed up as fact with no questioning as to why this generalisation might have been made in the first place. And more annoying it is written by someone whose writings I usually enjoy. Yes, it is true that some women do not help out or mentor or support other women and might actually actively undermine them. But guess what – that is also true of men! And it is true of men with men! And men with women! Some women, on the other hand, actively support and go out of their way to support other women. But it serves the purposes of patriarchy to consider in general that women are horrible to other women. It reinforces the stereotype that women who succeed have to be brutal and brutalising, mean bitches who care about no one but themselves.

So, while I didn’t really mean this to be a didactic rant, it has certainly turned out this way. So I’ll finish by saying, please please please question the stereotypes, question those ideas which are common sense. Ask for the evidence which goes beyond anecdote and “well, everyone thinks this way.” Otherwise we can never change anyone’s ideas. Ever.