While we have come a long way on the road to building equality, there are still many hurdles that need to be overcome. One of them is understanding the true meaning of words and concepts such as, for example, equality and of sameness, which are often touted as meaning the same thing. For example, in some gender equality discourses, it is understood that men and women are the same.
Of course it doesn’t take much time to determined that men and women are, well, not the same. But unfortunately, it is not considered politically correct to acknowledge the reality of these differences; anyone who does risks being labelled as sexist. This limits the conceptual space available to discuss the real meaning of sexism, which is the use of differences between genders to justify the superiority of one over the other. This also results in a lot of suffering in our day-to-day lives. A woman can both be independent and appreciate when a door is held open for her; but how many times have women shut down a man’s gallant offer on the guise of it being sexist? And what are the long-term repercussion of such an interaction? Such situations are often presented as dichotomies—a woman who lets a man open the door for her is letting the patriarchy win!—but they aren’t.
Furthermore, the dichotomies thus created cast a negative glow on every action. For example, manspreading is seen by some as a sign of the oppression of women by a patriarchy run by callous men. But could it be that a guy is simply manspreading because he’s just not thinking about the consequences of his actions? We live at a time where selfish and self-centered acts are the mainstay (don’t get me started on drivers cutting in or chaotic store aisles); could they not be the cause of manspreading? Has anyone looked at how many men, when asked nicely to stop, are apologetic and immediately address the situation? Has anyone looks at how many women hog space with their purses and bags?
Which brings about a troubling question: how can men and women explore the full strength of their differences and learn to use it to build equality if they are always on the defensive, interpreting each action as a perverse attempt for control?
This is only one small facet of a very complex situation. Women have been put down a lot and it is more than understandable if we see everything as yet another attack on our freedom. But we have to stop seeing evil everywhere; most men are kind and will react well to a frank, honest, but respectful and warm conversation about whatever is bothering us. This is all the more important that men are as vital to the process of building equality as we are. So let’s stop crying wolf and dig deeper to find the real causes of some of our challenges.
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.