The other day in the diner on Facebook we got to talking about whatsherface Emma Watson and her speech to the UN.
There was a picture of her in the ridiculous dress she wore to some award, and the women of course started discussing the dress and the men started discussing her looks and then one of the women – and understand I’m not mad at her, this reaction is by way of being a conditioned reflex among educated women these days – chided that we only cared about a woman’s appearance, more than about her utterances and we never did that for men.
My first reaction – I too am an educated woman – was “yeah, why?” particularly since I never in my life cared much for what women look like and I have only marginal interest in what they wear, unless it’s a meat dress or something else that makes your jaw drop open and makes you go “Is that a cry for help?”
My second reaction was “Wait, that’s built in.”
Recently, and I apologize I’m not going to look for this (for one the study was social sciences and so poppycock, except for where it fit things we all know – hold on to that, it’s important) there was a study that proved that lesbians cared less about their appearance than gay men did.
This is because of one of those things that, unless you make your profession out of being in someone else’s head (a lot of someone else’s heads) convincingly as writers’ do, it’s hard to understand. I know because I’ve told my sons this about a bazillion times, but they don’t fully understand it. And they’re smarter than the average bear.
Here it is, the secret and tragedy of the human race: Man and women aren’t the same. Gender is NOT a social construct, no matter what some madwoman in the seventies came up with to justify her lesbianism (why she needed to justify it is beyond me.) Your gender goes beyond what’s between your legs. It starts with hormone baths early in pregnancy that shape both what’s between your legs and your brain and nervous system.
Note I’m not saying it’s black and white. Older son, whose degree (one of them) is on human biology says that sometimes it’s a miracle humans work at all considering everything that goes infinitesimally off plan every step of the way. Depending on what your mother was eating, and what temperature it was outside and things we can’t even know about, those hormones might be calibrated a little closer to the other side. I tend to test as having a male brain (but I keep it in a jar in my desk and the statute of limitations has run out) on most tests that distinguish that. Considering that I was born very premature, who knows what went wrong there?
But whatever hormones you got that were enough to shape unambiguous genitalia, you can generally guarantee you’re closer to your external gender than to the other one. (Again outliers do happen, but they happen in infinitesimal degrees. I might prefer physics over chemistry, i.e. reasoning over memorization, as the sciences are taught at high school level (I know it’s different further on) but I still have screwed up visual perception, and can’t visualize anything in three dimensions, in which cases I have “extreme female brain.”)
This is not a big deal. Note that “different” doesn’t mean “worse.” If you’re putting that construction on having a female brain, then the problem is yours. For instance, one of the salient characteristics of the female brain is memory, because estrogen helps with memory. (Go figure.) This, gentlemen, is why we remember EXACTLY when you promised to mow the lawn, and why are you on that sofa with that book. (Oh, wait, it’s my book? Never mind.)
But the place where all of this comes to a head, where things for heterosexual (and if that study is right, homosexual) males and females really bifurcates is the things that attract us.
Men are more visual than women. Remember, I didn’t say this was better or worse. Just different. Men’s attraction is mostly predicated on visual signals, and many of them have nothing to do with those faces that women spend so much time fixing up. They spend time fixing them up because women look at faces. And no, this isn’t a crack at men looking at breasts. The signals are more subtle than that. One of the attraction signals, apparently, is the difference in size between waist and hips. So if you wish to attract a guy you’d be better off washing off the makeup and cinching that corset.
This is evolutionary. Men are designed to prowl the world looking for young and fertile women and impregnating them.
Now, we’re not in the caves, so sane men look for other things too, but the signal for attractiveness in females is there, buried in the back brain with “things that make woman have Og’s babies.”
Women’s signals of attraction are harder to quantify. Yes, we care for appearance too, but only insofar as our guy’s appearance will make other women jealous. This is why movie stars, etc. are such powerful attractants: because the media have convinced us everyone wants them.
Other things that are powerful attractants are: success in a field you’re interested in; money; signs of stability and kindness.
This too makes perfect evolutionary sense. The impregnatable woman is looking for signs that Og will not only stick around when she’s pregnant (stability and kindness) but also that he’ll be able to provide much mammoth grease to chew on those cold winter nights.
Of course, we’re also not in the caves, so this mutates to “leader of the band” type signals.
However, no matter how far we’ve come or how far we go yet, humans come from very far. These signals were shaped over tens of thousands of years. They’re buried in our psyches, deep. Compared to these signals, the amount of time humans have been civilized – let alone conscious about “gender equality” – is the blink of an eye.
You can’t completely overcome the deep programing. You can moderate it. Most men I know don’t run around trying to impregnate twenty year olds all their life. They do that for a time then settle down and raise kids and the ability to talk to their wives becomes more important than the waist/hip ratio.
And most women I know don’t run around being groupies for rich and famous guys. They settle down with something they can make a life with.
It’s taken millennia of civilization and conscious education and religious preaching to get us where we are. You want to see countries the males have it all their own way look to the Arab countries. You want to see a place girls rule, look to middle school. Neither are happy places.
However, unless you don’t believe in evolution, you’ll see there are things you can’t combat and which remain. Like, when men look at a woman, no matter whether she’s saying world-saving things, they’re going to first say “Oh, gads, did she have a boob job?”
And when women look at a woman, no matter what she has to say, they’re going to say “Her teeth are like a ferret’s. And where did she get that dress?”
This is because the male back brain is looking at the body FIRST and the female back brain is looking at “signals of potential rival first.”
(There is a way to short circuit that, btw. If you’re matronly and middle aged, those signals do not come up first, UNLESS you’re something special in the way of ugly, like Helen Thomas. This is probably because, judging by our nearest primate relatives, our brain has a setting for “matriarch of the band.” And those aren’t judged on appearance though they might be judged on the size of their family.)
Do we do the same for men? Not nearly. But that’s because of the evolutionary choosing mechanism. What men look like doesn’t matter as much as what they say, because men are judged on power and ability to support.
Is this unfair?
Oh, of course it is. Life is unfair. We’re a dual species, in which only one gender bears the burden of carrying the babies, while the other gender in civilized circumstances has to bear the burden of a partner whose movement and health is diminished while bearing the babies. This might not seem like much for women in present day, but imagine being very pregnant and having to trek between summer and winter camps, hundreds or thousands of miles, with dangerous animals on the way.
Was the man’s caring for you as onerous as your pregnant-trek? In some places probably. But here’s the important thing: it was never about fairness. Evolution doesn’t care about fairness. G-d, if you believe in Him, also doesn’t. Obviously He doesn’t or we’d all be alike with equal chances and equipment for salvation.
Fairness is not only a human value but possibly a human handicap.
And we weren’t designed by humans. We might be in the process of taming ourselves, but we’re early in that process.
What I mean is, when we get that first impulse to judge a woman on looks? Normal. Everyone is like that.
The quick correction, the quick guilt of “I shouldn’t be doing that” is wrong. Humans are humans.
“But Sarah, you said we’d tamed ourselves. Shouldn’t we tame ourselves too to listen to a woman first, before looking at her?”
Yeah? There’s one way to do that. It’s called a radio. And even then, men will listen for sexiness and women for social status.
Look, what I’m trying to say is this – we humans can overcome our instincts. Obviously. But there was something for the caveman in looking for the one (or two if he was a really good hunter) woman who had his babies. As humans’ maturation became a longer and longer process, which allowed for more and more information to be passed on to the new generation, so did the “expense” of raising them. For that man to pass his genes on, he needed to make sure the woman didn’t starve. This was evolutionarily sound. A change in strategy, but sound.
OTOH what good is there to berating a man for looking at a woman first, instead of listening to her?
There is a good, or entire institutions wouldn’t be built on this concept of “making men and women not act according to their instinctive response.”
I’ll tell you. The merchants of fairness – not at the street level, where it’s just people like me who learned it in college – are playing for very high stakes indeed. They think they can remake humans.
You see, their system requires perfectly unselfish humans who work for ‘the community’ and this requires perfect fairness, a value never found in nature. On the way there, they have to get in your head and change every instinctive reaction, every thought.
The added bonus for those who know you can’t actually rebuild humans that quickly (it would take millennia and perfect selection ability) it has the advantage of making everyone feel guilty All the time. Which lends credence to the cries of victimhood and injustice. All the time.
You look at an actress delivering a speech to the UN (and why was she picked? It certainly wasn’t for her brain. What is she famous for? Right, her looks and the ability to emote on camera. Um…) and you think “that dress is awful, and why did she do that to her hair.” And, male or female, you immediately feel guilty of sexism. And then when the merchants of equality come around and berate you on patriarchy, you feel guilty, and you know that sexism is indeed rampant. You know it instinctively.
Is sexism rampant? Not in the US. There is a difference between your instinctive evaluation and the back brain and hiring decisions. That’s a conscious thing, and most sane people try to make it from learned principles which include fairness.
BUT you can’t suppress your immediate, instinctive response. At most you can deny it. And because you’re denying it, you feel compelled to preach to others to deny it to and to work for those people who say they can suppress it.
This “remaking of mankind” is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy in the social sense is pretending to be better than you are – but you don’t have to deny who you are. Not internally.
This is more of the spreading of a low-grade neurosis over all of society. It’s intentionally making people feel guilty for being people.
It is a lever for those who scream that society must be “fair”. And yet they create neo-feudal dystopias when given their head, note, because someone must be there to continuously ensure fairness, and it certainly can’t be you, you sexist pig.
We need to understand two things “life isn’t fair. Kindergarten is.”
“Every human is different.” Yes, women are physically weaker than men. And I can tan, and my husband can’t (though weirdly, he doesn’t burn either.) And he can think in quadratic equations, and I need paper to do long division. And I can remember complex events from history, and he needs to be reminded what appointment he has on Wednesday.
This doesn’t make him better or me better. We’re just different.
And he’s going to look any comely female over. And I’m going to snark her dress or hair (actually I usually snark her word choice. I’m not visual at all.)
Try to be the best you can for your fellow men, but stop berating yourself for not being perfect. Stop feeling guilty. Stop making others feel guilty.
This project of turning humans into perfectly equal automatons was doomed from the beginning. It has filled 100 million graves and it has created societies in which normal people are watched continually by power-hungry loons (Have you watched The Lives of Others? No? You should.)
It has created societies like Cuba in which, with the wide ocean filled with seafood all around, they starve and the agents of their government, instead of doing something about it, search people’s shopping bags every so often, to make sure they’re not getting more shrimp than anyone else.
We are not equal. We weren’t designed to be equal. It could be argued that’s what makes life worth living.
Enjoy who you are. Enjoy who others are.
And stop with the guilt over what you could never be.
Next time you start feeling guilty for looking a woman over or for making fun of another woman’s attire, remember it’s evolutionary.
Why give anyone permission to remake humanity in their own, neurotic image?