The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, February 07, 2005

Men and women

all right--controversy time again.  Last week we concentrated on tribal issues--the question of black and white and yellow.  I laid out my thoughts on race relations and privilege, and we went around and around (as if we were going to resolve THAT one in a week!).  This week, thoughts on gender.
To me, men and women are two halves of the same organism, inseparable.  We fulfill different biological functions (women are the ones who get pregnant) and have differing advantages and disadvantages by nature.  Society over-emphasizes those differences, perhaps, and at times men take advantage of their overt 'over-structure" power to dominate women.  Of course, women use every advantage they have, as well.  I remember during the slasher movie era, all of the emphasis was on how these movies placed women in peril.  Well, duh.  The reason is that NO ONE CARES if you put men in jeopardy.  If a slasher kills a man, the audience damned near cheered.  If the slob can't fight back, to hell with him!  But if a woman was placed in jeopardy, the entire audience was reacting with "save that poor woman!"  I saw movies in which two women died, six men died, and NO ONE REMEMBERED the men's deaths. It just didn't register. 
Any culture that doesn't produce a certain number of crazy, aggressive over-confident young warrior males will die unless it is protected by natural barriers: atop a mountain, on an island, out in the desert, etc.  Check out all the listings of the "peaceful" cultures--they can't compete with the warlike ones.  Cultures become warlike BECAUSE IT IS SUCCESSFUL.  If we want to evolve as a species, we'd better understand this, so that we can develop what I would call TRUE warrior cultures: capable of defense, but committed to peace. 
In order to convince these young males to march off and die in defense, a culture creates a mythology about how this is just peachy.  Just wonderful.  And women collaborate in this, you bet your butt.  In my entire life, I have NEVER heard a man criticise a woman for her lack of courage.  I don't doubt it happens, but I've never heard it.  Both men and women have contempt for men who will not place themselves at risk.  Remember: young males will do anything to have access to sex.  The most "beautiful" (I understand how subjective that term is, but please don't nit-pick) women in almost any culture go to the most aggressive and powerful males (thank goodness that in our culture intelligence is starting to be considered powerful!).  So young males are trained to be aggressive, to embrace their testosterone.  Other males encourage them too, of course--I only emphasize the women because of the number of women who have been callous enough to suggest that it is appropriate for men to die in war because they are the ones who start them.  That's like saying it is appropriate for women to have full and sole responsibility for raising children because they are the ones who get pregnant.  WE CREATE THIS WORLD TOGETHER, male and female, and the patterns that we see are those which were most successful in allowing a culture to increase population and pass their cultural memes along. 
What exactly are the differences between men and women?  Where do they originate?  How malleable are their natures? This is fodder for countless stories.  I have presented my basic position above, but it can be enlarged on endlessly.  We'll play with it a bit more, but remember: to me, men and women are almost exactly the same, with some leetle teeny differences that have been over-emphasized.  In my experience, the less successful people are with sustaining relationships, the vaster they tend to think these differences are.  What do you think? 

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