One of my absolute favourite images is that of Cary Grant, sharp and dapper with his three-piece suit and fedora, and Grace Kelly in a simple, understatedly-elegant white chiffon gown. That, to me, is the very definition of a man that is a man and a woman that is a woman.
I know what you are thinking: I must be an elderly straight white man melancholic for ‘them olden days’ of women tending to the household and men wearing three-piece suits to the office, the days of Lucy and Ricky, or Darren and Samantha.
I am a female somewhere between a Gen X'er and a Millennial, and here is my pitch: "gender equality" is a contradiction of terms. (Also, men in three piece-suits are classy, and classy is hot. So, yes, please bring them back).
the state of being male or female.
The definition of gender is simple and undisputable: men have a penis, women have a vagina. Period. That is how we ALL come into the world. Anatomy 101.
We ARE different, and we are made that way for a damn good reason: procreation of our species. Regardless of one's religious beliefs, consider the divine beauty that is intrinsic in this arrangement: what makes us different is also what makes us necessary to each other in order for the species to survive.
(That said, I cannot help myself from pointing out one tiiiiny design flaw: procreation only requires the man's orgasm to actually make it happen. The female's pleasure is not required for fertilization. What’s up with that?!?!)
Distinct but complementary.
Anatomical differences naturally bear implicit roles. Mothers (females) are built to nurse their offspring. They are innately caretakers of their children and their immediate environment (home). On the other hand, the male’s built-in instinct is to keep procreating (playahs!) but, he is also historically the hunter, provider of food, shelter and protection. Both male and female are naturally necessary to the well-being of their family unit - they each have a role, and the roles are complementary to each other. They are the ultimate example of a “team”.
I fail to understand why this structure nowadays has a negative connotation, and is challenged as a bad thing, a stereotype that is viewed as demeaning to the female. What is demeaning about fulfilling your role and contributing to the team’s success? How is it not just the very opposite? Why not embrace, and indeed honor the male and female roles in their beauty and simplicity?
And more so, at which point did the notion of women being women and men being men become so uncertain, so questionable, and so unwelcome, even, and why?
In the beginning: Gender versus Necessity, Adaptation and Skill
Somewhere way back when, Caveman John and Cavelady Jane procreate; to speed up the generation cycle, we can safely presume that, given the male instinct, Caveman John is an equal opportunity baby-daddy, and didn’t stop at Jane. Their society therefore grows, and things get a little more complex.
For starters, there can be no genetic guarantee of achieving a one-to-one relation between males and females. With that imbalance, not every female may get a male to mate with (or to stick around after). Without a provider, how does she eat?
Humans, like other species, are amazingly adaptable to their circumstances, especially when under pressure to evolve or perish. Millennia of evolution has proven that fact quite consistently. So, Jane learns to hunt. She learns to fix a leak, change a tire and take out the trash.
Likewise, not every male gets a female to mate with. So here's our boy Caveman John, at home in his cave with a freshly killed dinner, but the carcass ain’t gonna cook itself. John learns to cook. To clean. And (hopefully) do his laundry and keep his dwelling habitable.
Another likely scenario: say that John and Jane meet at the local hunting ground, and they decide to join forces. They are blissfully prolific and multiply, but, one fateful day Jane dies. Their offspring still needs to be fed and raised, and say that there is no other Jane-2.0 that John can shack up with. Again, the male adapts and learns and raises his cub. John, who is a clever little caveman, also pays attention to the cows grazing by, and figures out that the milk is just as good for those like him; undeterred by the...logistic challenges pertaining to distribution of the milk, he invents the baby bottle.
Whilst these innate fundamental roles that are gender-driven are undeniable, there is a very crucial difference between role and skill, or the ability to produce work. The two are not synonyms, and while some skillsets are more likely to develop in one gender rather than the other as a result of that gender’s role, wherever there is no biological imperative that restricts performance, skills are, in my opinion, gender-less.
In other words, while John still needs a Jane and viceversa to further the species, and especially when it comes down to survival, either gender can learn the “other's” skills, albeit within the limits of their biological and physical capabilities.
The boundaries of different but equal: genderless tasks/skills.
Gender-driven physical limitations may seem to be the most obvious: I do not know anyone that would argue that men are universally considered to be stronger than females (aside from some females :)). Although I would rephrase it as “potentially stronger”.
For those boys out there whose eyebrow just went up, stay with me: let’s take Johnny couch-potato, who is skinny-fat at a buck fifty -tops. Jane elite-athlete walks around at, say, 145 lbs. Yet, Johnny can barely lift his Coors Light, while Jane pulls three plates. So, can a female be stronger than a male physically? Yep.
But, let’s say that Johnny also decides to hit the gym. With the same exact training (and assuming no health issues, genetic anomalies, etc. etc., meaning with conditions all being equal with the exception of gender) will their strength end up matching? Most likely, no – Johnny’s male physiology will prove superior and he will end up with a 4-5 plate deadlift (or 6 or more, depending on how much he decides to bro out).
As max physical potential is physiologically dependent on gender, one cannot argue with the beginning statement (men are stronger than women), but that statement must be framed into the appropriate context and not blindly applied as dogma to any and all circumstances in which men and women are required to perform a physical task.
Let’s say, for example, we have a situation in which some physical performance standards are established. Assume you have to complete a 3 mile run in no more than X minutes, and do no less than X crunches or pull ups in 2 minutes in order to qualify for a certain job that has no gender-prerequisite: in other words, it does not require the use of a penis, or a vagina, nor does it require reaching the limits of human physiological performance, like a max-deadlift type situation - we are talking about meeting a minimum threshold for fitness required to perform tasks involved in that job.
Here is what is shocking: that “X” standard is all too often different for men and women - for the same exact job! [mentally picture my 'wtf' face here]. Which immediately takes the notion of a “standard” and throws it out of the window. It is the most appallingly obvious and hypocritical of paradoxes, the ultimate exhibition of unfairness cloaked under the cover of “fairness”. If the female cannot meet that minimum requirement, then she should go apply for another job. Period. Not for you, lady. Not to mention that plenty of men cannot meet that minimum requirement either, but I do not see any of them screaming for ‘fairness’ for the underperforming male.
Why? Because the very notion that the “standards” are not, in fact, standard across the sexes establishes a legitimized and institutionalized lower expectation for women’s performance. This, aside from being inherently offensive to us women-folk, it is also incredibly stupid and counterproductive: a unit of people required to perform the same job that is composed of both men and women that were held to different minimum requirements will inevitably not be evenly trained and will therefore not perform consistently, effectively and successfully, as a unit. The consequences of failure may vary in degree, but regardless, the team will be more likely to fail to accomplish their objectives.
Furthermore, the men will end up having to compensate, which is not fair to them, and will inevitably (and completely understandably) also end up resenting women for being there in the first place and not contribute equally.
Women, on the other hand, will continue to be evangelized to the fact that they are not required to perform to the same standard, and that it is not only permitted and legitimate - it is “the way it is”; becoming complacent, they will never actually learn what they can do and contribute in a context where the job or task being performed is exactly the same.
This level of thinking has taken root like a multi-centennial redwood, and spread through society’s mores like deadly virus, until, sadly, it evolved into a self-fulfilling prophecy, believed into existence, with absolutely no benefit to either men nor women. Zero, zilch, zip to gain from it on either side of the anatomy.
Even more appalling is any sort of variation in minimum requirements or performance expectations between men and women for any task, skill or job that does not have a physical component to it at all.
Physiology is nowhere in this situation, and therefore, any notion that it is legitimate to not only require less, but to expect less output from a woman (or that it is ok for a woman to think that she does not have to produce the same as a man in the same exact circumstance) is so absurd and without any logical merit that it should never even be a topic of discussion.
Genderless tasks (which require skills that are completely independent of one’s physiology and anatomy) are therefore the ONLY context where the term “equality” for men and women is acceptable and should be not only embraced, but fiercely enforced.
The real and only question is, can you do the job? If so, your gender is irrelevant.
Confusing gender-less skills with gender roles.
The problem arises when the concept of gender equality is extended past the context of performing a job, producing an output, or having a gender-irrelevant skill, and into human relationships.
And here, I am afraid the ladies tend to fall short.
Armed with the bravado of “I can DO the same thing men can do” (sometimes legitimately, where equal standards were applied, and sometimes artificially, where standards and expectations were lowered for women), we march the streets burning bras(*), we are offended when doors are opened for us by a man, we are horrified when our dinner is paid for. [And yet, we have no issues batting our eyelashes and accepting the ‘May I buy you a drink?’ pickup line, so long as the dude is a solid 7 or above. Ok, maybe an 8…<eyeroll>].
(*PS: Do y’all have any idea how expensive bras are??? And how uncomfortable it is to walk around without one? Why on earth would women have chosen that particular display of protest?? It’s idiotic.)
When the distinction needs to be so desperately made between a task and a role, we forget that one thing is to DO something, and an entirely different thing is to BE something. Being a woman and being a man should always remain true to the natural role they were intended for, especially when interacting with each other on a personal level.
Why is a man's gallantry perceived as dominance on part of the man, and demeaning to the woman? Of course I can open my own door, and pay for my own dinner. But a man doing it for me says, ‘let me take care of you, not because you're weak but because you're precious to me and I want to show you’. It is a man’s way to honor his mate or prospective mate, and show respect and affection. There is not one damn thing wrong with that. In fact, you better.
Likewise, why is being caring and attentive to her man perceived as submissive for the woman? Men are perfectly capable of doing their own laundry, of pushing around a vacuum cleaner, and microwave some garbage food. (Unless the man is a chef. Ever noticed how the most successful chefs in the world are men? huh. So much for a woman belonging in the kitchen… But anyway…) A woman taking care of her man’s house (willingly), tending to his needs and wants, is not an archaic anachronism, it is, rather, the same exact display of love, care and respect.
An additional word of caution should be spent on how embracing a gender’s role may also be carried into the ugly realm of behavioral gender stereotypes.
Women are cast into the role of the ‘emotional’ ones, busting out the kleenex at each crack of a fingernail. Men, on the other hand, are cast into the stoic, rational 'superman', not even batting an eyelash at a basket of puppies. This is also a ridiculous "overplaying" of the natural roles.
As a woman, be woman enough to control your emotions. Emotional strength is not a physical attribute, so get a hold of yourself and your drama! And remember, chocolate fixes all hurt, from a broken nail to a broken heart.
As a man, be man enough to embrace your emotions - you know you have them, and nobody is going to blame you if you shed a tear at the end of a good movie. Unless it's Titanic. If you cry to that, you have issues my friend. Plus, that bitch should have scooted over, there was plenty room enough for two, for pete’s sake. Sheesh.
A personal relationship between a man and a woman is about roles, not tasks. It is about give and take, yin and yang, teamwork, support, appreciation for each other's role and contribution. It is a glorious celebration of their differences, the fulfillment of their very essence, rather than a condemnation of them.
The absurdity of Identity Politics.
The confusion of skills vs. roles in the context of gender has had dramatic and absurd consequences. Diversity is something to be celebrated, appreciated and respected, an opportunity to learn and understand the other’s side. Yet, it has morphed into something divisive, an excuse to demonize those that are different, place blame, and forcefully drive a scapegoat narrative that does nothing but mask the real issue: a general lack of accountability and honesty for one’s own shortcomings.
And before you know it, the “diversity confusion” in both skills (where it is not a relevant variable to begin with) and roles (where it is such a natural variable, it should not even merit discussion), becomes something that somehow needs be institutionalized and legislated. Not only that, but everything about it becomes subject to formal regulation.
From a skills perspective, common sense alone would dictate that there is no need to establish laws that ‘protect’ those that are different. If we accept that the only question at play is, “Can you do the job?”, then it follows that having any sort of law or form that either asks for your gender (and, for that matter, race, creed or sexual orientation, none of which have any bearing on your ability to produce the work required), OR that specifically prohibits you from asking, should be completely unnecessary by definition.
From a roles perspective, the desire to regulate how roles interact with each other is also laughable. As mentioned before, gender roles come into play in human relationships, which are by definition between two people, and two people only, at any given time. With the only exception of circumstances in which the interaction - of whichever nature - causes harm to either or both parties, (which is the only situation in which I can justify legislative intervention - see previous posts on the fundamental human right to pursue happiness unless it's at the expense of another), then what happens in the privacy of two people’s relationship is nobody’s business but their own, and there is absolutely no grounds for it to become a topic of social concern, to be discussed or worse, disparaged.
This, of course, applies to ANY private relationship - regardless of the combination of the two parties at play, whether it is same-gender, interracial, or whatever the flavor. A relationship is a private matter (and, by the way, a relationship is not only about sexual preference. Inter-gender sex is a whole topic for a whole other discussion), and it is absolutely irrelevant to public discourse, much less legal code.
So, it's all really quite simple. Let men BE men and let women BE women. And let both of them DO what they are capable of doing for the same standard set of requirements involved in the work to be produced.