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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Another Chicken and Egg Problem

Have seen a bunch of articles on feminism and why it hurts men lately. I have also seen a spate of memes in which it is suggested that if girls would act like ladies men would be gentlemen. My favorite image is this one which was attached to some Dr. Laura pages. On the surface this is a little kitschy, a bit clever and thought provoking. The thought that it provoked in me was this:

What comes first the gentleman or the lady? Is a woman a lady because a man is a gent? Is a man a gent because a woman is a lady? It really is a bit of a chicken and an egg question. But then something else was provoked.... anger.
How very 50s. How very Stepford. How very typical to make a Woman's behavior the crux of the issue. At least that seems to be what this picture and its text are saying. Why not the reverse? Why not wonder if men would be willing to be gentlemen, more women would feel challenged to be ladies?
Feminism exits as a backlash against centuries of oppression and repression. You can be a lady and have an education. Unless you live in most Middle Eastern countries today, Asian and Pacific Rim countries a few decades back, Victorian England and Industrial America. South America and Africa have not been forgotten. I know little about my southern neighbors and all I know about Africa is too grizzly to think about beyond Oprah opening a few schools so girls can have an education.
You an be a lady and cast a vote based on either an educated or uneducated opinion, the same as every man. It is foolish to think that because a man could vote, he was smarter. There are idiots of each gender and those idiots have valid voter IDs. Until the early 1900s, the only idiots who were allowed to vote were men.
You can be lady-like and study religion. Throughout most of recorded history after Roman conquest the only religious authority given  woman was what she could get away with and not be called a witch.... until a man got mad. Hildegard of Bingen, Joan of Arc to name but two.
You can be a lady and be a scientist.

You can be a lady and be in business for yourself or in the upper echelons of major corporations.
You can be a lady and a lawyer, barrister for our friends in the UK.
You can be a lady and be anything you want to be....
... if a man gives you permission.

And that is oppression. The idea that a man can do what he will because he is a man is idiotic, as we have proven over an over again. The contribution of women in the economic sector during WWII is evidence of that. Was every woman who entered the workforce perfect at it? No. But then not every man who worked was perfect at his job either. Hence the Quality Control departments. Was every woman who worked through the war cut out to keep it up when her man got home? Of course not. But there are a lot of men who seem to think they don't have to perform to the same standards as their counterparts. And they kept their jobs. To this day many a man is rewarded for slacking off, under producing and is allowed to keep his job because... well it's his. Not saying chicks don't get away with it. I experience that first hand.

The problem isn't men versus women.
The problem is a systematic rewarding of mediocrity in both genders. The problem is that we give lip service to feminism when we give it service at all. Girls can do whatever they want, whatever they imagine... just like boys. But when the kids of either gender won't step up to the work load either in education or work, and cry until they are rewarded for the weakest of contributions instead of being encouraged first to dig in and find the wherewithal to compete, or find the field in which their ability and interests match to inspire participation and competition, the whole fabric of society is weakened.

Your top level producers, unless motivated by greed or intense gain, cease to strive as hard. If everyone is rewarded equally and does not produce equally there is no incentive. Communism failed in Cold War Russian on this leg of its principles. Mediocre producers who struggle to keep up either due to disinterest or poorly matched skills set to job stop producing all together. Teachers see this in classrooms. I see this in the work force. Instead of getting rid of the weakest link, we dumb down entire production systems to appease the poorer producers.

Why be a gentlemen if you don't have to?
Why be a lady if you don't have to?

If you can be a rowdy jackass, a douche frat boy, a lazy bit of white trash, as ghetto as ghetto gets and still get everything you want, why would you do more? It is the rarest of human beings for which self improvement is a motivating factor. Very few people look at what they have done in one day and said, "I will strive until I can do more everyday." For those who's motivation is to compete with themselves it matters very little what reward the rest of the world gets. And you can imagine how many of those people there are out there.

Competition for resource is the largest motivating factor in humanity with rare exception. So when the standards are lowered the entire system slowly grinds to a halt.

From my perspective I ask a few questions:
  • Why should I invest in over priced make-up and expensive and mildly affective hair products if men aren't going to do the same?
  • Why should I invest in it at all? I am pretty enough without the extra garbage. Why isn't that good enough?
  • Why should I wear high heels, and impractical clothing to do my job when a man is allowed to be as comfortable as safety allows to do his?
  • Why must I wear a dress around the house when a. I find them uncomfortable most of the time, b. they get in the way, c. they lack a certain practicality for most household chores if a man is going to wear jeans & tees all the time?
  • Why must I be demure and polite and ask for something four billion times before I get it but a man can make a single demand before he starts swinging his fists at my face?
  • Why must I keep my opinions to myself when a man is allowed to spout off whatever he feels?
  • Why must I be lady-like when a man is pig-like?
  • Why must I hide my assets (physical attributes) while a man is allowed to strut his?
  • Why is my property communal while a man may horde what he likes?
I ask those questions in part from past experience, in part from a survey regarding ones' status as privileges and found myself lacking. Severely lacking. And in part because of the classic arguments between respect and repression. I have lived my entire life, all 44 years of it, listening to men claim supremacy by virtue of gender. One would think that I live in the deep, deep, deep south. But I don't. When the gender card lacks sufficient trump, the religion card is played.

I rather resent that. Christian men, read your Bible more closely. Better yet, study your apologetics more closely. It was only a select group of gossiping women in Corinth who were told to keep their trap shut. Paul didn't mean the entire gender. If he did then the letter he wrote to Timothy explaining what the value and character of a deaconis (Greek for priestess) would not exist. After all, if a woman is not allowed to speak in a church, she can't very well lead a mass. And for all of you men who want a Proverbs 31 woman to keep your house, read exactly what proverbs 31 says. It commands a woman to work in and out of the home, to run a business, to educate the children.... TO LEAD while all you guys have to do is sit on your haunches while your girth spreads.

The Bible entreats us all to treat each other with respect. Husbands are to value their wives in the same way we read how women are to worship their husbands in a Christian ceremony. It's just that we almost never hear that part. Read all of the Love Chapter.... the whole thing.

The problem with every argument for male supremacy and against feminine equality is the tendency for males to abuse the power that they claim and the false belief that a wife is property. A demure lady makes a good punching bag. A woman with the spitfire to fight back makes a guy think twice about hitting her. a demure lady is easily cowed into thinking that she is deficient in every way that counts and is easily emotionally abused. Emotional abuse leaves no scares on her, but in many cases puts a bullet in him. She is the one who gets into legal trouble. But no one does anything about the man in those situations until he is a corpse. A demure lady may be enticed into giving up her assets because the world is a big scary place. That kind of financial abuse leaves no physical marks until ruin throws them out onto the streets (worst case scenario of course). Financial abuse lets a man have as much freedom as can be debauched when he lacks solid moral character while a woman is left defenseless at home. You might think that I speak of Victorian era issues. But it still happens today. The newest gadgets come into the home to entertain the man while the basics leave a woman without a phone for emergencies, trash piling up in the house because the garbage service was cut off or with no utilities until he decides he is cold enough to pay the heat. I lived it. Don't tell me it doesn't still happen.

Beyond that, men who act like asshats make it 1000 times more difficult for those who don't. I have a wonderful new boyfriend who wants to hold open doors, who wants to open the car door for me. I'd love to wear dresses more often. And when we get to live together perhaps I will. He is the kind of guy who likes to get things done and will help do them. So I won't be in jeans doing all the work all the time. But I grew up with two gentlemen who were mocked for being gentlemen. They were mocked by asshats. And I see where men of a lesser constitution would cease to be gentlemen under that kind of bullying. I've lived with and dated men who could not be bothered to be helpful, men who liked to get in the way and demean other people's accomplishments. The effect on my life is that I hardly am able to imagine my boyfriend is for real. The effect on society is that there are fewer men like my boyfriend.

And that is your biggest problem. It isn't girls who wear what they like, it isn't the girls who throw themselves at men from the TV screen or in person. The biggest problem that men have are the asshats who dominate everyone else. Men who run the music industry tell men what they want; tell women what men want and collect the money from all those dumb enough to believe that the scantily clad, boozy, stupid hot messes are what they are supposed to want. Men who tell other men that being a gentlemen makes them a sap are the problem. Men who tell women that they can do whatever demeaning things they want to do and then use fists, cash, status to back up that statement are the problem. The men who mock the British Gents slowly taking over the hearts and minds of American women are the problem.

Men who mock kindness, generosity, peace are the problem.
Men who mock the quiet, strong silent types are the problem.
Men who solve problems with theirs fists, a gun or any other weapon are the problem.
Men who mock hard work, dedication and devotion as weakness or stupidity are the problem.
Men who can not stand up for what they know is right are the problem.

In a world where these men are in control it is little wonder that the tools most used to survive by women and weak spirited men are capitulation and submission. The will to survive will always trump logic and reason until we are all a little more enlightened.

For myself, I have no doubts that I have a boyfriend of strong character who will value me as he was meant to, who will care about me as a person and not as a possession. It is still a strange enough experience for me to find it a miracle. I have a boyfriend of estimable merit whose behavior as a gentleman is not dependent upon my behavior as a lady. That said, the more he treats me like a human being, a precious part of his life an himself, the less defensive I am and the more willing I am to go beyond myself for him.

That is the way it should be.

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