“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man.
When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”
Women and men are not the same. No matter how we might wish them to be so, or how often we claim to take no account of gender in living our lives, I’m afraid that we all do. You do it, I do it, we all do it. There are basic biological differences between men and women that affect us all, and we cannot simply put these to one side. As this article points out, “the odds of men and women having evolved the exact same emotional psychology are basically zero”. No matter how much I might yearn for equity, I do not want to achieve it by ‘owning’ male words and attitudes, or behaving more like a man. That would not lead us to greater equity, it would just lead to women behaving more like men in order to gain a fairer share of the power. In order to achieve equity, I think we need to accept that there are what we might term ‘feminine and masculine traits’, and then we should value these equally, in both men and women. We need ‘yin and yang’ to create a balance.
In yesterday’s blog, I associated the current discourse of mastery, knowledge, grit and traditionalism with masculinity and force. While “mastery” and “domain” are obviously gendered, some commentators asked why I said the same about these other concepts. Surely it was sexist to suggest that women couldn’t be ‘forceful’? Surely women can be just as ‘gritty’ and ‘intellectual’ as men, on their own terms? Clearly, they can, but if you tune in to the current discourse, this is not what it tells us. Apparently the best way to get “grit” into children is to bring rugby players and soldiers into schools, and to get children to join the cadets. While there is no reason why such activities should be the preserve of men, that is not the point: they are part of a masculine narrative, in which strength, aggression and force are the way to get things done. The ‘knowledge debate’ is dominated by male voices (if you don’t agree, just look at the big name authors, the traditionalist ‘blogrolls’, or the panel line-ups for conferences on the subject). The term “child centered” has become an insult, with the slogan “no excuses” now seen as a compliment. Only the logical, rational and intellectual can lead us to a rigorous truth. A soft, emotional approach is irrational, illogical, and not to be tolerated. Masculine over feminine. “Stop being a big girl’s blouse.”
It’s vital to note that this imbalance impacts as much on men as it does on women; perhaps even more so. While women miss out on leadership roles, men suffer from being pushed to take on traditional gender roles, in other ways. They miss out on spending time with their babies. Consider the most recent statistics on male suicides, or this on gender in the prison population: “The male prison population is 82,001 and the female prison population is 3,891.” Why are men 20 times more likely to be in prison than women? Could it be something to do with the way that we bring them up? Is there something about the way society treats men, and the kind of behaviours and attitudes we value in them? Once again, the language we use shines a light on our values, it influences our thinking even when we think that it does not. And so it is that, while I rarely act much “like a lady”, I most certainly do not want to be demonised for behaving “like a girl”.
“The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl.
The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl.
Being a woman is the ultimate insult.”