Thursday, September 10, 2009

Equal But Different

Lately some conversations have brought me back to thinking about roles in marriage, and gender roles in general. A child development and crisis book I'm reading (from the early 90's) talks a lot about sexism issues and gender bias, but the more I read, the more I'm convinced they're missing the big picture. It seems that in our push to swing the pendulum away from the fiercely patriarchal and misogynistic culture of times past, feminists and other liberators have teetered over the brink of delusion toward uniformity.

Let me illustrate this logical fallacy. We believe women are equally as valuable as men. Therefore we feel that women should have the same opportunities as men. Since we want to ensure women have the same opportunities as men, we insist that women are the same as men - and we skew job standards to gender, to support this assertion. So female candidates for a police officer position have one set of criteria they must fulfil, and male candidates have another. And, since there are more women then men, the composition of the police force must reflect the same demographics. Does anyone see a problem with this?

I think we all will agree that some women are physically larger and stronger than some (even most) men. However, on average, women are physically smaller and have less brute strength then men. Now let's look at the flip side. Some men are very intuitive and emotionally sensitive (like my husband), and have excellent communication skills. On average, however, women are far more intuitive and have a greater capacity for communication. Do either of these facts have any bearing on the capability or value to society of men or women? No.

So why do gender-equality buffs insist that there be no difference between men and women? In the study of education we have learned that people have different learning styles - some are auditory/visual, and do great in a traditional classroom setting, while some are physical/kinesthetic, and do well in co-op or internship placements. We know that these are not indicators of differing levels of intelligence, but rather different kinds of intelligence. Don't you think this applies equally to gender differences?

It is no shame to recognize women as the more emotional, relational, and nurturing gender, and to recognize men as the physically stronger and more technically proficient gender, while allowing for individual differences, strengths and weaknesses. It is not a form of denigration to see women setting aside academic or career concerns to focus on mothering their children, while their husbands go to work and provide for the family. We should each do what we are, by nature, best suited to do - and most women do have an undeniable "mothering" instinct. Does that make us somehow of less value? I hardly think so! As a mother, I am an expert on raising children - much more than any man I know; and besides, I am involved in shaping young minds into mature adults - something that is beyond the capacity of most psychologists. I dare anyone to tell me I am a lesser party to this wonderful husband and wife team we call a family.

So, my point is this. Let's celebrate our differences, not deny them. Start valuing the different and complementary contributions of men and women to society. We weren't made to compete, but to cooperate!

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