Two days ago I ignited a fire storm by mentioning that men and women were different: shaped differently by evolution, shaped differently by gestation.
The funny part there is that this wasn’t even the main point of my post. The main point of my post is that men and women had different wellsprings of strength and gentleness and trying to turn men into women would only break them, not improve them.
I thought the part about men and women not being the same was self evident. Ask any biologist. Yes, there are outliers. Yes, some women are stronger than some men. Some cats are bigger than some dogs, too, but that’s not the way to bet.
Even the most tomboyish of girls is more feminine than 99% of men. Again, statistical distributions – it’s the way it breaks.
But apparently saying this makes me bigoted and a “hater” – I’m rather puzzled at how stating a fact that any biologist will know makes one “bigoted” or who I’m supposed to hate when the fact is rather that I don’t hate men and I do grant them the right to be different.
I find that it’s mostly a lot of reading stuff I did not say that drives people insane – like I’m supposed to be homophobic, because you know, people who are gay think the genders are indistinguishable, and that’s why they are only attracted to one of … Oh, wait, that makes no sense!
Or the gentleman who objected on my facebook that there was sexism against women (of course) and therefore we should stop considering adjectives feminine and masculine. The example he gave was sensitive, which was a bit of a puzzler for me. He says we shouldn’t consider it feminine and since I never have (how many characters have I described with sensitive features or sensitive hands? Go and check how many are female. Probably none.)
And this is going to lead me to tell you something that is probably a real shocker.
I’d almost guarantee if you’re the average person everything you think you know about the relationship between men and women is wrong and most of it comes out of movies, and a lot of it comes from the sixties obsession with rebelling against the fifties.
What am I talking about? Well, about twenty years ago, a friend who was very well educated and also genuinely intelligent was talking about men and women and said men had ways of doing things “because men couldn’t cry in public.”
She was talking about the middle ages…
Now there have been times and places where men couldn’t cry in public (the Romans had issues with certain kinds of crying for males…) but it was not universal and certainly not forbidden in all situations.
In the same way, she was convinced that women never worked except at domestic tasks. This is true, of course, for societies wealthy enough to keep their women immured indoors and busy only about the comfort of the house. I think if you look at the totally of the human experience that might account for oh, 1% of the times and places.
Even in Victorian England most women HAD to work outside the home. It wasn’t a choice or empowerment.
Throughout most of history women and men worked side by side – they had to. There wasn’t enough surplus in the system.
Yes, there were professions reserved for one or the other, usually because it fit the normal man or woman better. Mostly the men did the brutal, dangerous stuff. (Not that housework wasn’t brutal or dangerous by our view. All of it was. But home stuff was COMPARATIVELY less brutal and dangerous. And yeah, most of it was deadly dull.)
But it wasn’t unusual for men or women to take on the other gender’s tasks. I mean, it wasn’t unusual over history. It was unusual – but existed – at any given time. The outliers – all 1% of them – often crossed over. Thus we get a lot of women soldiers, though most of them would inspire no one’s romantic fancy (which was the fly in the ointment of the maiden who goes to war tales. But ah, that makes a better story, and therefore the troubadours do that. Mind you, not being able to inspire anyone’s romantic fancy didn’t mean they didn’t reproduce. Witness how many pirate queens and mercenaries pled the belly.) I don’t know any legends about men who did the equivalent, besides one or two about princess’s maids who… weren’t.
There were certain facts of biology – which science has all but abolished – that dictated treatment of women throughout history. I.e. a man wanted to make sure the children he was rearing were his. What is curious is that in most cases this didn’t lead to systems as restrictive as sharia. Yes, women had to mind whom they talked to and whom they were alone with. Yes, in many societies they were treated as property. In many others, though, they were considered equal with restrictions. Of course men had restrictions, too, but not the same.
To interpret this as men oppressing women is a big piece of folly. Given how much stronger than us they are, they could have made our lives unremitting living hell ALWAYS. (And if you’re going to say it was, keep in mind that the life of the average peasant until two hundred years ago was living h-ll to us, whether the peasant was male or female.
Yes, women were restricted, but if you read even regency romances (and keep in mind that’s the upper class) so were men. At least if the romances are accurate. You could get a bad reputation for very little.
And yet… Read the beginning of Our Bones Are Scattered about the Kanpur massacre. Just at the opening it relates the career of a Victorian lady. Three marriages, children from each marriage, and a thoroughly modern life.
Individuals were still individuals and rebellion ain’t nothing new. I would almost bet you none of even the most restricted Victorian maids fit the pattern – quite.
And now? Now the pill and the ability to genetically test offspring has changed everything. To keep hitting men and screaming “help, help, I’m being oppressed” is not only wrong, it’s a very ungentleman-like trick for people who want to be considered “equal.”And if you want to be equal you should be a gentleman, because those are the virtues for public life.
No good will come of this.
And no good will come of telling those of us who chose to stay home and raise our own kids that we’re gender traitors or – worse – that we’re oppressed.
The funny thing, you know, is that – I was thinking of this yesterday – when we got married we sat down and evaluated our chances for surviving and for one of us, at least, being able to make it in the arts (I wrote. Dan wrote and composed.)
We judged that because he had a much higher earning potential (if we lived here, something we decided for reasons having nothing to do with money and complex enough they’re not worth putting here) I’d stay home with the kids (because what’s the point of having kids for strangers to raise) and pursue writing. (He tried to convince me to do it before kids, and if I knew what I know now I’d have done it. I’d have gotten in before publishing because completely non-functional and we MIGHT have been able to have him quit and pursue his stuff too.
I considered this a gift – He was sacrificing his artistic aspirations, so that we would have three squares, a roof over head, and enough to raise the kids on.
Was it easy? Well, no. I was often – still am – more housekeeper than writer. Days can slide by when I get only an hour or two a day to write. But then his path isn’t easier.
I’m completely puzzled by the dogma that man’s work is better than women’s work. It is different, of course, but I’ve done both: skilled office work and housekeeping and for me, for the way my mind works, I’ll take housekeeping.
You see, it’s brutal but I set my own times, and can approach tasks the way I want. And I can save a few hours to write in. Dan has had jobs where he worked eighteen hours, came home to a colicky baby and volunteered to take over, while I got a couple of hours of sleep. Then he got a couple hours, shaved and went back to work. And even now, he manages the money side of my business, and he works, and he’s rarely “alive” enough to come home and work.
So I thought of being able to stay home and try my hand at making a living from writing as a gift. In fact, I have male friends who were given the same opportunity by their wives, and they too consider it a gift.
Why should I consider it as oppression just because it fits tradition? Why should all “tradition” – and this one very recent – be tossed over? I value questioning everything – I’m American — but surely there is a baby in that bath water. Why should I consider it as oppression because someone else’s doctrine demands it?
Why should I take in account the opinions of people so wholly unconnected with myself? People who think all of history was the Victorian ages and the Fifties?
People who think saying men and women are DIFFERENT and each has different approaches to the world is “hateful” and “bigoted”? People who think adjectives apply only to one gender?
It’s not elegant, and it’s not eloquent, but that’s all I have to say: Pfui.
UPDATE: Different post over at Mad Genius Club.