Re-Reading Gender Issues

February 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Ramblings | Leave a comment
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I recently re-read a great book called Travels, by the late intellectual novelist, Michael Crichton. In it, he discusses many of his travels throughout the globe during his writing days; his lifestyle is one I can only dream of: writing to finance your travels (you know, schlacking off a bit, but really getting to know yourself). He has one chapter that sticks out as being very didactic, and that chapter is on gender. My views on the subject are basically the same as his (with minor alterations), as he discusses how things have changed since the ‘Sexual Revolution.’

First, a little history: this shift in weltanschauung (or ‘world-view’ for those of you who don’t speak snob) didn’t happen without warning, as some would contend. It had been brewing for decades, and some argue centuries. Examples of it go back to the death of Christian morality during the Enlightenment, the falling out of vogue of Victorian era squeamishness in the late 19th century, and the Roaring Twenties and the advent of Flapper girls.

The culmination of it all was in the 1960s, when women were no longer beholden to their traditional sexual role of submissiveness. It has had palpable effects on American and first-world culture in general: pre-marital sex is now the norm, not an aberration; extra-marital sex, while still painful, is no longer taboo. Contraceptives and prophylactics are used with great frequency to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and when those fail, the termination of that pregnancy through abortion is now an easily exercised option. In light of all this, I present to you that while both genders are now considered equal, men have become the romantics, and women have become the pragmatists.

Crichton stated that men are the ones who want love, who want babies. Men are the ones who need to give women flowers and gifts and sweet cards, and it’s women who want respect and attention, and flowers and gifts and sweet cards are gestures of that. He wasn’t saying that women can’t be romantic, but what he was saying is that we men are the ones who need it.

Let me speak from a personal point of view. I see where Crichton is going with this. Most (I stress most, not all) of my unattached male friends want to be with someone. In fact, they wouldn’t mind if the next girl they dated were the last, as in, they marry them. Some of them would drop what they were doing career-wise right now to be with someone they fell in love with. But most of my unattached female friends, while not opposed to romance or sex by any means, are just not that into that idea. They wouldn’t dream of altering their lives that drastically for a man; they’re too busy with their lives and careers. This is obviously a ‘man-on-horseback’ view of the situation, and not meant to be scientific or judgmental.

Think about it.

I’m not talking about 14 year old boys who just found out what their penises can do (that may or may not be from personal experience; I was a late bloomer, shut up). And I’m not talking about little girls who grow up dreaming of their dream wedding. I’m talking about men who are out in the working world, who are currently attaining, or have attained, a sense of self-worth through accomplishment. I’m talking about women who are allowed to operate as men do, and that means they not having to worry about if the guy’s going to respect them in the morning; that means taking control of the situation sexually and getting what they want or need without attachments. Much like men are considered to do colloquially.

I believe it comes down to physiology, and women are far more aware of it than men. Men can have careers and a family at the same time with little complications. Women, on the other hand, are acutely aware of their role in family matters, and biologically, they know that is quite taxing on future career developments. Can it be said that romance (or rather, romance’s eventual outcome) is the enemy of a working woman’s career? It may sound extreme, but it is not unwarranted. In today’s world, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

So why do we believe that women are the romantics and men are the pragmatists?  Let’s turn to Crichton again for the answer: we project ourselves onto the other gender. Men think women need romance, so we give it to them. Women think men are cold and callous, so they accept that. That’s why we make sweeping statements about the opposite sex (like I’m doing right now, but juxtaposed). They are so chauvinistic, or they are so clingy. It begs the question: what is the best way to view the opposite sex, then? The simplest answer is to treat them like you would want to be treated, i.e. the Golden Rule. Men shouldn’t objectify women as needing romance or needing to be taken care of, nor should women objectify men as creatures that are just going to use them for their own enjoyment and leave. Certainly there are examples or needy women and caustic men, which further the stereotype, but I believe they are the exceptions, not the norm.

Stereotypes are simply exaggerations based on observations. This stereotype is the opposite of the accepted norm, but in knowing that, I understand that women want to be treated just like men want to be treated. And personally, I don’t think that it’s so much to ask. Everyone has their own proclivities, but at the end of the day, respect and attention, which is what romance is all about anyways, is something most people can get in on, don’t you think?

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