Sep 25, 2007

Gender Dynamics: Are Women Being Held to Lower Standards?


My esteemed and brilliant girlfriend, who is, by the way, quite analytical and logical in her predominant style of thinking, asked me what I thought about a piece by one of her writer girlfriends that addresses some issues of gender dynamics. To read the post--brace yourself--in a right-wing site called "Family Security Matters"--check here. I could not help but write a rejoinder. (There was nowhere on Family Security to comment, so I'm countering here.) What do you think?

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Oh, Pamela Meister's post is reasonably balanced, all right, reasonably balanced right-wing pabulum. I take special exception to this paragraph:

“Men and women are different, both physically and temperamentally. While there are many exceptions to every rule, men tend generally to be stronger, more logical and analytical. They also tend to be more focused on goals and problem solving. They are also more combative and territorial. Women tend to be physically weaker, and often rely on their intuition and a wider range of feelings when dealing with issues. Women are also more often concerned with the journey than the destination, and prefer to talk about how they feel, as opposed to looking for the quickest fix to their problems. And so traditionally, men have been more successful in areas where leadership and strength are assets, and women have been more successful in roles that require nurturing and thoughtfulness.”

Where did the writer get that, straight out of a fourth-grade textbook written in the 1950s? Earth to Ms. Meister, come in, quick, before your brain falls out.

More analytical and logical? Har! I analyze and logic my way through all my writing--every smidge of it. No path in writing goes without either of these highly-valued skills, as well as smatterings or larger helpings of emotion and intuition.

What females do better than males cognitively, I have to differ with her about, because I studied psychology and worked for a professor who specialized in gender differences and have a sister who specializes in gender discrimination (and yes, I prefer to use the technically incorrect word, "gender" because the correct word, "sex" is so jarring)--what we women do better is not just intuit or stay better in touch with our emotions. Now are we lacking one iota in any analytical or logical abilities? Hardly, as has been proven in much noisy research. Nope. What we do emphatically better than men is switch between the two hemispheres more easily, more flexibly than males, who have, neurological research has shown, a narrower corpus callosum, the nerve bundle that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Women's brains have the thicker bundle and we switch back and forth like butter. We are in close communication with our analytical, logical, verbal side (the left hemisphere) as well as our intuiting, emotional side (which also, by the way, houses numbers, spatial perception, and musical ability).

Journey versus destination? Where does she get off on that? My four-year-old is more interested in the journey than the destination. Because she has little or no concept of the destination, usually, and does her best to entertain herself within her limited realm of power at any given moment. Plus, she doesn't have any responsibility for the safety of anyone around her to force her into destination-mode centrics. My yoga teacher, who is a guru of the highest level regarding all things spiritual, is also more interested in the journey than the destination. Remarkably, he studied with one of the most famous yoga-guru-spiritual leaders in the world and has fully learned to embrace the "power of now," as taught in the book by the same name, and as is taught in many other variations in Zen and other Buddhist teachings.

“Men have been more successful in areas where leadership and strength are assets, and women have been more successful in roles that require nurturing and thoughtfulness.”

Does anyone recognize this as the feeble, illogical repetition of a right-wing tenet that it is? Since when have women not been leaders and relied on their strength--physical and mental and emotional--in their homes? And other than the last couple of hundred years, in which much supposed power has been dominated by the western world, traditionally, historically, there have been lengthy periods in which women have been dominant politically and otherwise. Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Joan of Arc, Catherine de Medici, Victoria of England, Catherine the Great, Tzu-hsi, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi.

By the way, great leadership does include nurturing and thoughtfulness, or the great leader would likely be thrown out on his or her great arse by a great number of his or her unhappily ignored constituents.

Ms. Meister has clearly got her mind munged with a long line of women-as-the-lesser-sex thinking. Doubt there's much that can be done to snap her out of it. It's a crying shame, though, as a logical, analytical, strong, leading mind that is more interested in the destination than the journey and is quickly able to switch back to the emotional, intuitive side is a terrible thing to waste.

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