Gender War

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A very controversial blog post:  The Gender War of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Made even more controversial by the fact that I’m a guy.  So I would say that I’m a pretty brave fella for taking it on—or incredibly STUPID.  The gender war of this time was primarily a feminist movement (or revolt).  Fed up, women were finally demanding equality both in the workplace and at home.

By the 1970’s everything was on fire.  Everyone thinks that was in the 1960’s, but actually the 60’s was only the ignition point—the 1970’s was the forest fire.  At least where women’s rights was concerned.  Do women deserve equality in our society?  Obviously and ABSOLUTELY.  Without question, exception or equivocation.  Yes, yes and yes.

But.  There’s always a but isn’t there?  But how it came about had disastrous, and unforeseen consequences.  At least for many of us.  Generational upheaval and turmoil doesn’t begin to put the conflict into proper perspective.  I grew up in a traditional family, my dad was the breadwinner and my mom ran the household.  This was in the 1940’s and 50’s and it worked.  The gender roles were clearly defined by society (okay, men I suppose), but it worked.  Divorce was taboo and most families were (and remained) intact.

What happened?  The feminist movement attained critical mass.  And then all hell broke loose.  But why?  My personal opinion focuses on the leadership.  I now think that the call for equality was long overdue, but the execution was ill-conceived.  The agenda, from its outset, was fraught with anger.  Anger of the most primordial origin.  I think the leadership was not only promoting equality, but sameness.  What do I mean by sameness?  I mean exactly that.  This is where it gets really controversial.  My thinking about the Gay/Lesbian community has come 180 degrees—where once I was vocally anti-Gay/Lesbian I now find myself in full support of their equality.

However.  There’s always a however too isn’t there?  As I remember (and it’s possible that I may not remember correctly, or that I have a biased male perspective) women were encouraged (actually harangued might be a better word) to renounce their femininity and traditional roles.  It might be an over generalization (and simplification), but I think its possible that a Lesbian-based agenda might have muddied the waters of the equality issue. Women were often told that to succeed in the male dominated workforce they had to be bigger sons-of-bitches than the men, that dresses were verboten and that family and personal relationships would have to take a backseat to their careers.

Almost overnight men were being held personally accountable for every misfortune a woman ever encountered in her life.  And, frankly, we didn’t know how to handle those accusations and the attendant anger.  And most of us reacted poorly, from a position of fear and confusion.  In many ways it was a male dominated society, and it did need to be changed.  The change was long overdue in point of fact.  But the almost vicious attacks on unsuspecting (ignorant) males:  Sons, husbands and the male population in general exacted a terrible toll on the social fabric of our nation.  In most cases the conscious intent of men was not to control or abuse women, we were merely the products of our own upbringing and education (as taught by both fathers and mothers, men and women).

I think it is now perfectly obvious that the solution was not for women to become men, or men to become women.  Rather the solution was for us to better understand our intrinsic natures, and to come to terms with better ways to understand and treat one another.  We still don’t understand each other very well, and that ignorance causes a lot of strife in both relationships and society.  I do not believe that sameness is the answer.  We are different creatures:  biologically, psychologically and emotionally.  I think we are meant to be more complementary than the same (in very general terms).  Yes we share many traits in common, but we also retain traits that are uniquely masculine and feminine.

I have been criticized so many times for not sharing my feelings, my tears, my every passing thought with my female counterparts.  This doesn’t mean that I am incapable of feeling, it just means that I am not prone to sharing all of those feelings on a regular basis. This is an uniquely masculine trait shared by many, if not most, men.  That it frustrates the majority of women is a given, but that doesn’t make it automatically wrong or bad.  It just makes it different from a woman’s perspective.  Different doesn’t automatically equal wrong or bad.  And in retrospect I think that’s where the  women’s movement got it wrong. To overcome inequality by ignoring our differences, and blaming all men for the woes of society, was shortsighted and misguided I think.  Education, dialogue, positive reinforcement, understanding and compassion might have brought about more meaningful changes, without the rancor, than the militant stance that created the gender war I am referring to.

I look at the modern-day divorce rate, the single-parent families struggling to survive, the distrust and bad behavior between the sexes, the shallow or abusive relationships people get themselves into, the options that have been taken away from women, the health issues that now plague women in the workforce, the confusion amongst my fellow men, the anger that promotes, the generations of emotionally damaged children we create, and I wonder—maybe, in hindsight, we could have accomplished equality with less damage.

I do know that men are just as confused as women these days.  We don’t know who to be or how to act.  We are criticized and disrespected at every turn.  Some women truly believe that children don’t need fathers, and that all male role models are bad.  This is a minority opinion to be sure, but it does exist at some level.  I have been encouraged by women to share my emotions (share my tears), and then roundly criticized by those very same women for being weak.  That is confusing (for anyone, male or female).

I’ve had enough war and confrontation in my life, so I’ve elected to withdraw from warfare altogether:  No more Vietnam’s, no more political wars, no more corporate wars and certainly no more gender wars.  The years I have remaining will be spent in peace as a man, whatever that means and entails.  I have promised myself that I will not be defined by society or by a woman.  I will not feel guilty for exhibiting the traits of my intrinsic nature (which is masculine).  I will not allow the judgements of others to negate my sense of self-worth.  I will try daily to treat individuals with kindness and respect, but I will not change who I am to placate their sense of who I should be.  Do I hate women?  No, of course not.  I do hate the actions of some women, and I do hate how I’ve been treated by some women.  But many women feel the very same way about men.  I readily admit that I don’t fully understand women.

I do know that I don’t have the energy, desire or inclination to work that hard anymore.  And relationships are hard work.  I just don’t have an ounce of compromise left in me—so I will conserve my energy for those things that bring me pleasure and satisfaction in life.  Oddly enough (maybe not so odd) I have encountered many, many women who share that same mindset.  They are finally comfortable in their own skins, and don’t feel the need to compromise any longer.  And all I can say is hooray for you (I say that sincerely and not sarcastically).  Maybe that’s what aging is all about—finally being comfortable with who we are, and not feeling the need to compromise any longer.  I am Man hear me roar—oops, I think I plagiarized that.

This is a very short post about a very big subject, and I could go on and on.  Please don’t misconstrue any of my thoughts as attacks on the Gay/Lesbian community (because nothing could be further from the truth), or the opposite sex (in general).  I love women—you are interesting, intelligent, mysterious, beautiful and frustrating.  And I miss you in my life.  And I know that many of you share these same feelings about us men (we frustrate the hell out of you).  I just seem to have run out of energy and patience, and it’s much easier to remain alone at this point in my life.  Maybe men and women have always been at war, but the gender war of the 1960’s, 70’s and beyond, seems have intensified the polarity of masculine and feminine.  But nature (God) intended that the whole be comprised of the duality, and the natural tension that the duality brings to the whole.  Viva la difference.  SFD    

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5 responses to “Gender War

  1. My husband and I have had those clearly defined roles that you spoke of…he being the bread winner and me taking care of the children and home…(It didn’t start out that way, but shortly after we married, I felt inspired to stay home.) However, probably partially due to the feminist movement and also due to my husband always giving me great love and respect, I never felt anything other than equal.

    I also question if how the feminist movement took place was really the best way for that to happen… but I am grateful that our society is such that whatever someone wants to do, male or female, they can pretty much do it!

    I have heard that those who believe in reincarnation also believe that sometimes we come in as women and sometimes we come in as men…If this is true, I wonder how different we truly are?

    • It’s really nice that you had the option. A lot of women didn’t. Because of economic conditions, or an absentee husband, they had to work outside of the home and missed an opportunity. The feminist movement accomplished a lot of positive things, but it also negated some positive, traditional values … such as stay-at-home moms. I always appreciate your sunny perspective on my posts LL. Wish we could spend more time visiting in person. I miss your smile and laughter. Love ya.

  2. I feel the same way that you do Steve. I have female friends who occasionally circulate men-bashing jokes and my response is: “I refuse to be drafted into this gender war”. They think it is harmless but I don’t. I also find that the feminist movement (or at least its outcome so far) seems to be a trading of roles to some extent. How many sit-coms are based on the dumb father/smart mother dynamic or women ogling bare-chested men (plus blatant references to other male body parts)? What about equal respect and just plain decent behavior towards each other?

    And as for relationships – I’ve reconciled myself to being alone and happy. 🙂 I have male friends now and no more of the heart-wrenching emotional dramas that come with lovers. Sometimes I am wistful for the romance of the past but it comes at too high a price for this time of my life.

    • Doris, you and I are on the same page about so many things. And I love the phrases you use to express yourself. For instance “I refuse to be drafted into this gender war.” The trading of roles you mention is a valid point … I for one am not domestic in the sense of housework (except cooking … I love to cook). I have no problem paying for that kind of work to be done for me, but I hate to clean house. The women in my life have always refused (for whatever reason) my bringing in help for the house, but then criticized me often for not sharing the tasks. I didn’t expect them to do it (they were working outside of the home like me), but I knew I didn’t want to do it … the same with the yard, pool, etc. But if I didn’t do it myself it was perceived that I didn’t love them enough to give of myself. And I love your word wistful relative to relationships. I have those feelings too, but then I remember the reality of “Heart-wrenching emotional dramas that come with lovers.” I love that you get it, you completely understand what I’m saying. It is just easier to live with the wistfulness and occasional nostalgic regret, than to put up with the emotional turmoil and drama. I guess it will just be me and my old gal Tilley for the long haul. Thank you for your comments my friend.

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