Gender Appreciation: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See
Recently, I got an audiobook for a gal friend going through a season in her life. The purchase was based on recommendations and reviews I had read from research and online reviews on a good material for the subject. When the audiobook arrived, I decided to give it a listen first and familiarize myself with the material before handing it over to somebody else. Then, my life changed forever.
I had heard much about feminism and thought I understood the gist of it. Turns out I did not. Frankly, if you are a man I do not think you can fully wrap your mind around what it is to be a woman in our world. The experience of life just isn’t the same across genders. Books like the one I listened to can give one a glimpse, but I couldn’t stop wondering what living 24/7 in this world would be like. The gross disparity in social recognition between male and female people is amazing and absurd, and worse is that this discrepancy is only visible through a female eye.
The book was supposed to help and encourage my friend, but it ended up stirring a passion in me with a resolve to engage in the discourse on gender neutrality in our world. What’s intriguing though is that the book isn’t about feminism. It is in fact not targeted at men. Listening to the material gave me an opportunity to explore the world through as a woman. The book offered suggestions to women on how to navigate a society mostly designed for men [another realization about Society I found just as disruptive]. This vicarious experience did more to explain the feminism subject to me than did any book or article dedicated to the topic. I now, in fact, encourage every man I know to get and read or listen to the book; better yet, every person can learn something or two from it. You can find the book here. While written from a clinical perspective, the premise of the book applies to everyday life. This is the society we live in today, and the one we must revise.
Personally, I certainly see more articles on the subject in my writing future. However, while many texts approach the subject of gender equality or neutrality from what feels more like an egalitarian debate over sameness rather than peculiarity, I think that is like comparing apples with oranges and trying to suppose them to be the same simply because both are a fruit. Men and women will never share the same abilities. They do not have to, nor are they meant to be identical. Trying to play both genders for similarities only brings complexity to what is otherwise natural since women and men are innately different. We have to embrace that equal [with men] doesn’t have to mean the same [as men].
A woman may not be able to solve the most complex math equation under the same amount of time as a man, but she may see more useful applications of the equation to the real world than a man will in a lifetime. I guess this draws again into the age-old debate of education and how we evaluate intelligence. We really have to revise the mainly primitive and individualistic measures we use to evaluate people today. Competition has its place, but so do collaboration, community, and the chemistry of combining all those extremes together. This, I believe, is what makes male and female gracefully compatible in all aspects of nature. What if we design a world that isn’t tilted on either side, but instead celebrates the full experience of both masculinity and femininity.
I once held that women should be treated as men, but now realize that as the common misconception. The point is not in treating women as men are treated, it is in recognizing women as men are recognized: in their traits, mannerisms, and essence. We have to cultivate methods that harness the peculiarities of both genders – such as having a system that honors a woman with children in ways that are effective and sensible for her role at that point in time both as a member of society or corporate life. We have to start looking at women with new eyes, and they’ll have to help us on that journey. It is also as important for women to start learning new ways to appreciate their role in the world i.e. their womanliness, beyond being esteemed only for deferential behaviors or showing masculine traits. The world consists of both gender experiences, and it is to our benefit when we enrich ourselves with both gender idiosyncrasies. The good news though is that it’s already begun, and I have faith that, as a race, we will follow through. We often do.