According to the only authority with any credibility (Wikipedia), feminism is “a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights for women.” It is supposed to be an encouragement of individuality and an appreciation for the gender, not an encouragement of bigotry against men. Despite its simplicity, however, asserting a feminist perspective is an ever-present struggle.
The other night, I was out for drinks with a friend of mine and we got to talking about the differences between men and women. Though he is always quite nice, generous and sensitive, I was surprised at his firmly-held and old fashioned beliefs that men are more capable, while women are emotionally and physically fragile, valuable for sexual reasons and the ability to bear children. His rationale? Hormones. Apparently, men are naturally and excusably sex-crazed because of their testosterone, and women are emotional and illogical because of estrogen. The problems facing modern conceptions of gender roles became instantly clear: Our school systems have failed to impart a working knowledge of biology to the modern man.
I attempted to defend my gender, as anyone with any pride would – but he could only provide examples of gurls he’d known from the local pub who had proven his stereotypes. Exasperated, I pointed out that there are plenty of other types of people in the world, and it wasn’t fair to paint everyone with the same brush. I conceded, though, that limiting your exposure to only a few types of places will also be limiting your exposure to only a few types of people. I myself have met some men who were fairly shitty, but I try to keep an open mind. I think the real lesson here is that people can suck, no matter what gender.
But, people can also be amazing, of course.
My friend pointed out that it is instinctual nature which drives us to mate and have children. We all have an evolutionary role to play: Women can have babies, while men can’t. A man’s role is to do all those other non-child rearing things, like play video games and drink beer while watching hockey. However, just because we have a uterus doesn’t mean our whole purpose in life is to bear the next generation. And, just because men drink beer and fantasize about women who are out of their league doesn’t mean they can’t be sensitive. Hopefully humankind has gotten past the point of being just animals – at least if we all claim that our society is progressive and civilized. Sometimes I wonder if our brains are actually any bigger than animals,’ but I guess we have done some impressive things in the past (like inventing cell phones, the defining characteristic of any civilized culture), so if we claim that our society is intellectual and enriched, we should be able to create something other than just babies and do something more enriching that watching porn (though there’s a time and place for everything).
Our discussion lasted quite a while, him not budging much on his views, me definitely not going home with him. I felt a responsibility to my entire gender and our entire history to defend women as much as possible. Further, I had a responsibility to speak with my actions. I am not an angry man-hater but I require a little decency and respect before I’ll let a man get close to me.
Despite all this, the discussion was a bit of a stalemate. Obviously gurls aren’t just sexual objects; any intelligent person knows this. So why are some men still treating them like that and gurls allowing themselves to be treated this way? We still have roles for men and women that are traditional and outdated. What would help would be small but decisive actions from women who recognize this struggle.