It’s interesting how the three women who are on this blog can have such individual viewpoints on the relationships between men and women. Since Donna and Meg have weighed in on the question of whether men and women will ever see eye-to-eye, I figured I’d add my two cents.
Are men and women more alike than different, or are we more different than alike?
Much as I’d like that to be a black-and-white issue, it’s not. If I’m being honest, then I’d say it’s a gray area. Sometimes we’re more alike, sometimes more different. Well, that makes gender politics messy, doesn’t it?
But let’s face the facts: All human beings share some very important things in common. We’re all born vulnerable. We all die someday. We all get sick and we all suffer in some way, although the specific ways we suffer may be as diverse as the types of birds or fish in the world. We all have some desire to be loved and appreciated. We all have some desire to have our needs met. These things make it possible for us to have compassion and make connections with others of every gender, race, religion, and so on.
On the other hand, though, there are some basic differences between men and women that are hard, if not impossible, for the opposite gender to understand. I haven’t met the man yet who fully gets how damned annoying it can be to have a monthly period. And sure, a man is involved in the creation of a child and he experiences the pregnancy in his own way, but he doesn’t experience having another human being inside him for nine months, and he doesn’t physically deal with the issues relating from the changing hormones, the placenta doing its thing, and all that. It’s not something a man ever experiences firsthand, so he’ll never understand it firsthand.
To be fair, I’ll never have to understand firsthand how damned annoying it must be to get an erection at a really inconvenient time, in a really inconvenient place. To have your body betray you like that must be frustrating. And possibly physically painful. At least uncomfortable, right? And embarrassing? I’m guessing. But I’m not sure. Because I’ve never lived with that.
Do men see women as being a little lesser than them?
Well, historically, the answer to this question has largely been yes, though probably not always so. However, I’d point out that the real issue here is not a function of gender.
It’s a function of power, control, and fear.
If humanity has an inherent vice out of which most other vices stem, it’s probably this delusion of control that we have. We want to be in control of our lives. We want to be in control of the environment that surrounds us. And when you want to be IN control, that means that you’ll fight to take control AWAY from others…because when others have control, it means they can do things you don’t like.
The desire for control can produce truly insidious evil, or it can be rather subtle and even somewhat benign. Think about it: If it really matters to you where you eat tonight, you might try to control the decision-making process of you and your friends/family, so that you end up eating where you want to eat. If no one else cares much, your desire to control the restaurant choice is no biggie.
But many times, this desire for control becomes destructive because it hurts others. It can cause us to hurt others physically – beating them or abusing them into obedience. It can cause us to be emotionally or mentally or verbally abusive. It can lead to wars and violence.
Shocker here: It can even lead to societal structures in which everyone believes that the people in power are more “capable” than those without power. That’s the basis for why some people call strong men leaders, while strong women are bitches. It’s also the basis for why white Europeans felt they had a right to colonize and rule over Africa and India. It’s also the basis for the genocide that happened in Rwanda. And it provokes the powerless groups to fight back, sometimes violently so, leading to race riots and so on.
So, the problem is not gender. It’s our need for power and control, together with our fear of losing power and being out of control, that lead to so many gender issues. So, while I believe that not all men think of women as lesser beings, I also believe that a lot of them do think that way, at least subconsciously. And with enough men thinking that way and being in positions of influence politically and economically, it sure as hell can feel like women often get the short end of the stick.
How do we solve this problem?
Honestly, I just don’t know if we can. I’ve never seen so many people get so abused for expressing a difference of opinion on anything as I see these days on the Internet. It doesn’t matter what the topic is: liberal vs conservative, Republican vs Democrat, American vs international, capitalist vs socialist, straight vs homosexual, black vs white vs other ethnicity, men vs women… You can’t have a discussion these days about anything, because people get so angry about everything. If I have to tell the truth, I’m sick of it.
But if we really are going to create more of a sense of gender equality in the world, we’re all going to have to jettison our need to have our way and let go of our conviction that we know what’s “right” (while the rest of “you” are “wrong”). Instead, we’ll all have to agree to humble ourselves, start really listening to each other, extend a hell of a lot more mercy and compassion, stand up to evil, and commit to protecting those who are in harm’s way, even if it means getting out of our comfort zones.
I’m willing to do my part by having these kinds of discussions and posting on it. I feel that Meg and Donna are willing to do their part too, since they’re also blogging on these issues. Are you doing your part too? Because for things to get better for all of us, we need to work together…men and women both of us.