Thursday, September 17, 2009

No Man’s Land

I think most men today are feeling under siege due to the upheavals in society in the last fifty years or so. And in a way, I think it’s time for everyone to change how he or she reacts to and perceives the opposite sex.

It used to be that, generally, women stayed home with the kids, protecting and nurturing hearth and home, while their men went out to slay the dragon (or protect his family against threats, physical and economic) everyday to bring home the spoils for his family. Everyone had a role and life was simpler because everyone generally knew what their role was.

Of course, nothing stays the same and abuse of authority, whether by governments or individuals, leads to revolutions and rebellions to erase the perceived and/or real inequities.

From the beginning of time, women were viewed a chattels, like a cow or a goat, from which children and service were extracted. Sometimes the chattels were loved and respected and sometimes they weren’t. And then there was always the argument as to gender superiority. Since bigger is ostensibly better (witness all those teenage boys with a penchant for measuring things), women lost out and, it was presumed, declared inferior to men.

The problem is men and women are now so busy pointing fingers at each other to assign blame for everything that we’ve lost sight of what we’re trying to accomplish. I can hardly blame a living man for all the wrong men have done in the history of the world. Just as women cannot be held accountable for all the wrong women have done.

What I don’t understand, and don’t know how to fix, is why do we have to point fingers at all? Why can’t we just work with what we have and do our best? In the past fifties years, the cultural and social pendulum has swung from “Father Knows Best” to “Everyone Loves Raymond”—from benevolent, wise man to idiotic man, while women have gone from brainless doormats to mistresses of their own domain. Just look at the sit-coms. The woman is the smart, insightful character while the man bumbles around and learns something by the end of the show. Have any of these depictions been accurate? No.

I don’t know one man who hasn’t had their head handed to them on a platter because they opened a door for a woman. The woman invariably feels indignant that a man thinks she’s not capable of opening a door. Unless one is disabled, most people are capable of opening doors. So it’s not a reflection on the capability of the woman, but the manners of the man. Hell, if someone opens a door for me I say, “thank you”— I also open doors for other people. Big deal. Why would I get upset over someone opening a door for me? I know I can open the door. He knows I can open the door. But someone taught this man that opening a door for a woman is simple courtesy. So THANK YOU. Any woman who reacts badly to having a door open really needs to take a look at her priorities and possibly go for therapy.

Some women, and I see this all the time, will walk through a door that a man has opened and not even said “thank you” to the guy, not even smile at the guy. These women have really, really poor manners— obviously no one taught them about common courtesy.

But I digress. Sorry, pet peeve.

So, we’re on a pendulum that was stuck on the guys’ end forever and now that swinging bob has swung more onto the gals’ end. And some people think that somehow reverse discrimination should be SOP for righting all the wrongs done to women by men. We have affirmative action programs, not only for women but also for anyone who isn’t a white male.

Well, excuse me, but I am perfectly capable of getting a degree/diploma and a job in a male dominated field all by myself. But really, am I?

Affirmative action programs and the like are part of a massive social engineering experiment. I don’t know about your country, but in Canada in 1965, approximately 65% of men and around 38% of women smoked. The Canadian government knew that smoking cigarettes caused major health problems and death. So they embarked on a massive social engineering experiment to get people to stop smoking or to not start smoking. Forty-four years later, something like 20% of all people in Canada smoke—that’s a huge drop of around one percent per year since 1965. It took nearly half a century to get attitudes towards smoking to change. But change it did.

If I hadn’t been a beneficiary of feminism, I probably would not have ended up with a business degree, and I would probably not have received a diploma in computer science. Nor would I be competing with men, based on merit alone, for jobs in a male-dominated field like information technology. Feminism has allowed me to do things that were not generally approved of for women forty or fifty years ago. Any woman today that says she is not a feminist is a hypocrite, because feminism that has given women choices.

Unfortunately, the way feminism has been proposed and practiced has sort of screwed everyone over and left many of us, okay…me, wondering what my role is. There is this ‘thing’ in feminism that resulted in the Superwoman syndrome. Hey, we’re women, we can have it ALL: we can have an education, careers, kids, a man (but really that’s optional), do all the housework, do all the cooking, nurture and teach your children and still be a sex kitten at night. Are you kidding me?? We’re freaking exhausted trying to have it all, do it all. And men? They don’t know what to do. Feminism has sloppily re-defined what it is to be female but has not held out an olive branch to men at all. Men are the ENEMY.

According to,

“In America, we shy away from defining manhood as if the very subject were taboo. After a long history of unwarranted violence and discrimination, men are being taught from birth that they automatically carry an inheritance of guilt for past sins. We make sure that no male child slips by without taking his share. Each of us is expected to bear the guilt of our forefathers along with a personal stigma for simply being male. We are told in a thousand different ways, either in silence or in the commercial media, that there is something inherently wrong with being a man.

The intent is clear. We do not want today's men repeating the crimes of the past. The hope seems to be that by tearing us from any sense of cultural identity the world can move toward greater harmony. More guilt and less pride make for a calmer species. Women and minorities will be treated better. The demise of Western male dominance might even bring an end to war.

Such conclusions are dangerously simplistic. We cannot excise the cultural identity of half the population like a cancer and replace it with nothing. Doing so sends our entire cultural evolution into a tailspin, leaving a psychic void that can only lead to disaster.

The results are all around us — a population of boys and men searching for who they are and how they fit in. No road map, no gender specific guidelines, no rite-of-passage — not even an articulated goal. Finding no guidance at all, many turn to whatever distraction is available, be it entertainment, business, sports or narcotics. Or they just give up.”

This is no way to run a society, no way to run a world, where half the population is mad about the past and the other half is mad about the present. We need to turn a page in male/female relations. We’re at war with each other. And there are no winners, only losers in this conflict.

And I don’t know how to fix it. The only fix would be to celebrate both the masculine and feminine without referring to the “other” as evil or depraved or stupid or weak or inferior. But people are not perfect, understanding is never perfect, we don’t even understand our motivations and ourselves for the most part. It all stews beneath the surface, waiting for the next inciting incident to tip off the next round of skirmishes.

It plays out on the world stage and on a personal stage every single day. We’ve created an enormous no-man’s land between men and women. Somehow we have to figure out how to bridge this gulf. And we all need to contribute, need to be open to different viewpoints and come up with a happy medium, where everyone compromises.

Yeah, dream on. Sighhhh.


Mickey said...

I came of age in the age of "Mad Men" and even had some jobs in advertising. When the womens movement began I was so happy. Unfortunately, it was years before even a dent was made in the way women were treated in the workplace. Although I agree with many of your points, you've never experienced the way it was before all the advances of the feminist movement. I hate to say it, but if men have some angst about these things, well they ruled for centuries in all parts of the world and in many countries they still do. So I can't feel too bad for the male sex, although I do say thank you when one holds a door open. I feel it's rather touching.
Another thought. Women don't have equality yet and maybe never will because we're slaves to our physical differences. The only way to get past all this is for everyone to acknowledge that the power one has over the other is equal on both sides. Since women have the children, is that possible?

Brooke London said...

Hi Mickey
Thank you for your comments. I wasn't alive in the age of "Mad Men", so I have no first hand knowledge of what it was like for women at that time. I have watched Mad Men on tv and am disturbed with the treatment of women I've seen but I don't know how close to the truth the show is.
My post addressed Western civilization and not cultures where women are currently abused and discriminated against as part of cultural, legal and social mores. As far as I am concerned, there is no justification for abuse of women anywhere on the planet. Those cultures that actively discriminate against women, where discrimination is the law, are too primitive to understand what they are doing is wrong. This does not excuse them. Believe me, I have traveled through some of these countries and I was/am totally disgusted and horrified at the treatment of women.
Men and women are not the same but I would hope for a civil society where woman and men are treated as equal but different. We both bring different things to the table that are equally important - we all have roles to play, whether they are traditional or not.
I feel that men need to be included in the process of feminism, so that we can work together and determine things cooperatively. Maybe what we should be striving for is a brand of humanism where the emphasis is on working together rather than butting heads and demeaning each other. Is that possible? I don' know.

Anonymous said...

This phrase
"...well they ruled for centuries in all parts of the world and in many countries they still do. So I can't feel too bad for the male sex..."
just proves the whole point in this discussion. "They" did this and "they" did that.

Well I never supressed a woman, never will and wouldn't want to even if it was allowed. So please stop telling me what I deserve because of what was wrong before my time. I find myself dealing with this blame on the one side and women telling me to "take more control" or "be a man" on the other side.

I didn't ask to be a man and not a day goes by without me wishing I wasn't. At least I'm beginning to understand that it isn't because something is wrong with me.
Peace! please.

Aqseer said...

i agree completely. its easy to get swept away. i find myself doing that all the time, and screaming at guys who open doors for me. :P never too late to learn though