Men, Women, Feminism, Gender Roles And Other Random Thoughts
Guess I know who wears the pants in your family. – comment made to me on Facebook
Men say they love independence in a woman, but they don’t waste a second demolishing it brick by brick. – Candice Bergen
Yesterday, Lisa and I took Miriam to a medical consultation. While getting some history from Miriam, the doctor also disguised finding out about Miriam’s home life as small talk in to who she and I are, professions, education, and ow we interacted with Miriam. It was clever, disarming, and overall a success on his part, I think.
He was impressed, I think, with the arrangement Lisa and I have: Our life together centers on her ministry and where it leads her. Me, I’ll take what I can get as far as work is concerned, happy enough to define myself primarily as a husband and father rather than by profession. The doctor turned to me and said, “You know, that makes you a great feminist.” I’m always uncomfortable with labels; that one in particular, when applied to men, troubles me even more. I know he meant it as a compliment. While sympathetic with feminism, I believe the first duty of such men is to make sure we aren’t hijacking a name, a movement, a cause, for our own ends. While feminism benefits all society, it is always strongest when women are out front.
Which general observation, and the specifics of the life Lisa and I have made, often make me wonder about men such as the one quoted above as epigraph. I’m quite sure he thought he was insulting me. For my part, I’m not even sure what such comments mean anymore. Do some – perhaps many! – men believe I and others such as I are weak? Do some men believe our wives or significant others are controlling, emasculating crones, loveless and sexless? Do some men see women in positions of authority and, like “journalist” Tucker Carlson’s stated reaction to Sec. Clinton, want to cross their legs, fearing how such women will make them less “men”?
These questions, of course, lead me to wonder about the fragility of the male ego. Are men so afraid of women that, at the mere hint that a woman has power and authority greater than his might well show up just how weak and frightened they are? Of course, I see the hateful, violent rhetoric so many men (and not a few women) direct at women who demonstrate excellence, exercise authority, and refuse to cower in the face of male onslaught. It’s ugly. It makes me both angry and sad. I’m far more interested, however, in the source of such rage. My understanding is that rage, particularly violent rage, is a reaction to deep-seated fears of weakness, powerlessness; impotence in the face of power directed at an individual. And no word causes men more fear than the word impotence.
Violence against women is endemic around the world. The specific instances and reasons offered may vary; the result, however, is the same, with girls and women beaten, violated, tortured, sold in to slavery, and killed. There is no one solution, however. In Saudi Arabia, where girls as young as 9 or ten are “married” to older men. In India, women are gang-raped and left to die. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other central Asian nations, “honor killings” are legal when women commit adultery, marry outside the Muslim faith, or perhaps just refuse to show dutiful respect to male authority figures. If not killed, sometimes they are tortured, have their faces disfigured by acid to send the message not to show their faces outside the home. When women are treated as little more than property, adornments for men, or baby factories, the result seems to be the same: Whole societies lost their collective minds at the very thought a woman might well be a person.
While women have made visible gains socially and culturally, there is still so much further to go. Women continue to make only about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. A generation ago, it was 74 cents. Women continue to face onslaughts of hate-filled rhetoric and threats of violence for the simple act of being a woman in a position of authority or prominence. Consider the hateful words directed, for example, at Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus for refusing to adhere to patterns of behavior others insist they should. Recently, a woman who happens to be a corporate CEO, removed an entire thread on social networking site Reddit because it was dedicated to insulting her. She was called a Nazi. With Sec. Clinton the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for President, many both in the mainstream media and the far right seem dedicated to one simple end: Destroying her by any means necessary.
Finally, I’m amused when I read men write that they “support real feminism” but do not like “man-hating feminism”. The latter doesn’t exist, except perhaps in the fever swamps of cringing, cowardly man-boys who fear women so much they can only feel like “men” when they degrade women. If a person supports feminism, then that person supports women’s equal social, political, and economic rights tout court. Otherwise, you’re just making excuses to cover your fear that a woman might actually show how much better she is than you at, well, pretty much anything.