I consider myself to be an egalitarian, but, the events of life have given me food for thought on the nature of gender, and how its varying inequities may not be entirely arbitrary. Gender equality, I am finding, does not necessarily require gender homogeneity.
I would, before getting too deep into the subject, like to elaborate on my personal, idealistic view of equality. Women’s rights have made great strides in the last century, especially in the United States. That is something I wholeheartedly endorse, and I hope to see the trend continue. I believe in complete equality with regards to fair pay (if a man and a woman are equally capable of performing the same job, they should command the same wage), and equal opportunity in running for public office. In matters of the law and being criminally victimized, all people should be protected equally regardless of gender. I am a total advocate for complete fairness in matters of marriage, divorce, and other domestic affairs.
So if I believe in all of those things, why am I even writing this? Well, much like training for a new job, everything you see in the classroom does not exactly translate well to reality. Though great progress has made been made, sexism against still women is still a problem in many circles. On the other hand, there are also new issues for men, that, while not always necessarily sexist, are definitely cause for concern. I realize those are fairly blanketing statements, so I will try to elaborate.
On the first point, sexism against women. It unfortunately does still exist, and it is particularly damning in the spheres of influence I am part of: Video games, comic books, and other nerdy subjects which have been dominated by men for decades. Women who take an interest in such things are subjected to a lot of unfair ridicule. They are either accused of being “fake geeks” who are just pretending to be into geekdom to find guys to sleep with, or are subjected to absurdly unwelcome and unwarranted sexual advances. The things I’ve heard other “guys” (I use quotes because these are mostly boys and not men) say to girls in online games are amazingly disgusting, inane, and repulsive.
The other oddity I’ve noticed in male sexism toward women is in regard to sexuality. Though this latest generation of Americans is significantly more sexually liberated than its predecessors, there is still a very strange double standard about sex. Men who are sexually promiscuous are still commonly championed as heroes among their peers, yet a woman who engages in the same behavior is branded as a slut. Speaking strictly for myself, I am very monogamous at heart, and as a single man these last 18 months, my few dips in the pool of sexual activity without a relationship attached to it have been more than enough to last a lifetime for me. But if that’s what makes other people, men or women alike, happy, then more power to them! As long as they aren’t wrecking homes or destroying marriages (and of course practicing safe sex), then who cares? I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman who has a healthy sexual appetite, and who isn’t afraid to exercise it. If a woman wants to get her own version of Captain Kirk or James Bond on, who am I to say it’s inherently wrong?
So what about sexism against men? It does exist, but because of the differences in the way men and women behave, and the different social expectations placed upon them, it tends to manifest more subtly. My writing about this point was partly inspired by this post I read by fellow blogger TK: http://chaptertk.com/2014/04/24/when-men-stand-up-against-sexism/
For those men who do espouse true equality, being compared to a knight in shining armor, or other typical male stereotypes, is at best grating. In my first relationship, I was sometimes called one of those, and, because of some of the love of stories she and I had in common, such as Dragon Age and Final Fantasy, it worked in that context. Outside of that, I would probably resent the comparison, just like the guy in TK’s post. Just because I stand up to a bully in a woman’s defense, it doesn’t mean that I am doing it to have sex with her.
In fact, the whole connotation that everything I do with or for a woman is working toward sex is absolutely grating. Men, hell, human beings in general, are very sexual creatures. We are supposed to be! It doesn’t matter whether you believe in evolution, creationism, or something else, the fact remains that sex is a biological imperative. It also doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, bi, transgender, or if you never have kids in your whole life: the vast majority of us humans require sexual release. It is hard coded into our DNA as a priority. Whether by nature’s evolution or the intention of a divine being, we have a strong drive to reproduce, or to at least trick our bodies into thinking we are reproducing. It is part of our collective survival instinct.
As a generality, men tend to be more direct in their sexuality than women. What I have noticed, and I have observed this about myself as well, is that men tend to be more sensualist with regards to sex. We are more strongly driven by direct sensations: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. We are affected by sexual ideas and fantasies of course, but sensory input is still in many ways the deciding factor. That’s why there is so much more pornography, pin-up art, visual erotica, etc., for men than women, because we are so strongly motivated by sensory input. I have noticed that women tend to be more viscerally motivated in sexual matters by ideas and concepts, which explains why so much of non-visual erotic literature, like romance novels, is obviously marketed more toward women. This is also why otherwise homophobic males will seek out media relating to lesbians, because on a purely visual level it is very stimulating for them.
I resent being judged as a “pig” just because someone assumes that any “chivalry” on my part, is either being misogynist, or an active effort to get into their pants. I have a very healthy appreciation of women on a sexual level, but I know how to separate that from treating a woman with dignity and respect. I have, and continue to, work with and for women who I can say on an objective level are attractive, but I keep that appreciation distinctly separate, from my affording them the respect they deserve. Men and women who find each other attractive can indeed be friends and co-workers. You can look at someone and say, “yes, they’re handsome or they’re pretty, but that doesn’t mean I want to do anything with them.”
Related to this, I do think that there is an important distinction between art and porn. I feel it also important to understand that porn and erotica alike, not to mention modern media in general (especially in the age of the Internet), have created unhealthy sexual expectations from young men about women in general. Women are not supposed to look like Barbie dolls, nor are they objects whose sole purpose is for the sexual satisfaction of the male.
The conclusion which I have drawn from my armchair studies of human sexuality, and gender relations, is the following: While I still wholeheartedly believe that men and women should have an equal playing field in life, and that ALL humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, I also believe that nature (whether that takes the form of natural selection, or the will of a god to you) has made the genders different for a reason. This is of course a generalization, but men tend to be physically bulkier, and think more linearly, for a reason. Women are built differently and think differently, for other reasons. There are always exceptions to those generalizations, and no one should be judged for being an exception either. Masculinity and femininity exist on a spectrum, and I don’t think it’s right to judge anyone for falling in any particular section of it. An epiphany I have experienced in life, is that we, as men, women, and everything between or outside them, should be celebrating our differences, not damning them.
“Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.”