Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Genderstanding

In which I over generalize female male relationship problems

I was talking to my son recently. He is 35. We were having one of those discussions that you finally get to have with your children once you both start to lower role barriers. I was trying to explain why women tend to feel inferior to men.

In the course of the discussion I learned a few things. First, he was surprised to hear that I could not buy a house when I left his Father in 1969. He found it difficult to believe that it was legal for financial institutions to discriminate in lending based on gender.

As we discussed other mile stones in the 20th century advances in women’s rights he still resisted accepting how I might have felt when at 13 my seventh grade teacher (male – science – coach ) informed me that I should not pursue my interest in physics because the field was “not for girls”. He explained that while the teacher was wrong to tell me that, I should have not accepted his judgment.

When I tried to point out how the bible puts women in a second class state, how historically women were treated as property, how women had to pose as males to get their writings published, or how women had their writings stolen by prominent male authors, he continued to resist the idea that women have been and continue to be oppressed in the world or in American society.

He just does not buy it. The “legal” equality of men and women is his reality. However, what he sees is that women always seem to have the upper hand when it comes to relationships. He sees the women’s liberation movement as a problem instead of a solution. In many ways it was evident to me that he feels he is in a bind when it comes to relationships with women. The objective facts of continuing wage disparity, the corporate glass ceiling, and inadequate child care for example are not important to his frame of reference.

I also have an internet acquaintance. He is in his early twenties and searching for a mate. He basically says the same thing. He has perpetual complaints about how he feels used and abused emotionally by women that he is interested in.

This started me thinking about why this is.

In nature females are more valuable than males. Only females have the equipment to actually produce offspring. In animal species males live pretty hard lives where most die early and few even mate much less pass on their genes to a new generation. I understand the concept of the selfish gene. While I appreciate what Dawkins presented in his theory I really think that he was putting too much emphasis on the reproductive angle of it. For me, nature is much more messy, random, and chaotic. Things that are messy, random, and chaotic more frequently end up with useful mutations.

Perhaps I missed something but I doubt that this phenomenon has intention built in. Animals for the most part wish to copulate more than they wish to be involved with offspring. This is biological. If males did not rush to copulate with any willing female they can find, the continuation of their species might be in doubt. This is clearly evident in animal species and I think that it is also true (as a generalization) in human species as well.

Men of course, make dynamite Fathers. The question of whether this is biological or our ascendancy over our biology is unknown. Women too, can overcome their feelings of inadequacy, or of being incomplete males.

It seems intuitive to me that monogamy benefits males more than females. A male choosing to permanently associate himself with a female provides himself with copulation opportunity. Serial monogamy is even more perfect to provide more copulation opportunities.

In this desire for sex, the human male has it worst of all. He can come to see himself as just a repository for sperm with a nice delivery system or someone who is perpetually denied his reason for being. This extends to all social systems in some way. And instead of fixing what is wrong with our society he will turn on the one thing in his life he wishes that he had some control over.

He has been led to believe that women are to blame for all the troubles in the world. The bible tells him so for example. It was Adam’s sin to choose his wife’s advice over God’s. (And Eve probably thought that after all Adam did not have to eat that silly apple.) If he is not Christian, he has some other rationale for the myth of superiority. And this really does get at something profound in the way that we see each other as oppressors. How ironic. Of course this is not a conscious decision for we are tied to our mythology more than we are willing to admit.

Women do manipulate men. We sometimes turn on those men that we love as representative of the elite structures that contribute to our ‘lot’ in life. We demean our lovers, thrust them away when we know they need closeness, and deliberately bewilder them with excuses for our erratic behavior as having to do with ‘our cycles’, which men can not experience and are therefore never knowable. Do we do this in part because of denied political and economic power? I am not certain but someone must have thought that sometime.

Payback for males is to question our ability to reason because everyone knows that women are emotional. I always felt amused that in debates with male friends they often would claim that I simply was not logical when they were losing an argument. None of them had ever taken a class in logic while I had several under my belt. Men tend to think that logic is inherent and beyond the ability of any woman to appreciate. No wonder we feel patronized much of the time. We are frequently reminded that our observations of history or politics are somehow illegitimate.

And this is why the women’s movement is attacked at all levels. Men simply do not see that this in any way helps liberate them not just us. They tend to see it as a struggle for supremacy. Any victory that women make is seen as male loss. It does not matter how it is explained. There is a barrier erected that prevents even looking at the arguments.

Will we ever be able to value, honor, and respect each other for our unique gender qualities? The older I get the less hope I have.


Postscript:

I asked my friend who I mention in the article to read it and comment. Here are his words verbatim.


"Educating a beautiful woman is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch: everything stops."
- Kurt Vonnegut

Women are inferior. Women have strength in reproduction, but are ultimately weaker.
They whine, bleat and look pretty. They attempt to assert control through manipulation.

They are sacred, essential to the continuation of the race.

There in lies the problem. They are a desired commodity, and so we can not trust that they will remain faithful.

Women are sacred, but always doubted.

I don’t know about education, but attempting to make men and women "equal" is like pouring honey into the social dynamic of society, everything stops.


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