It’s the year 2008. Most girls go to college. Some girls grow up to be physicists, lawyers, doctors, politicians. Some girls want careers; others want to be moms; some want both. This period in the history of western civilization has been one of the best for a woman to live in, given all of the choices she has that were, just mere decades ago, not even open to her. Equality can only get better. The march moves onward.
Yet, despite all the changes in gender equality, one thing remains always the same: the male ego.I came to this conclusion after an email discussion with a liberal guy friend of mine. I mention that he’s liberal because I usually give liberal men the benefit of the doubt. I mean, many of the issues the liberals support are truly feminist causes–pro-choice, equal wages, gender equality. Many liberals are also atheist or agnostic, not pinned into gender roles specified in the Bible. So, I guess, I just assume all liberal men have had the Neanderthal loved out of them by important women in their lives who have raised them to be more than the “manly man.” (As opposed to my stereotype of the Bible-thumping, country-loving, traditionalist conservative.)
Well, I learned once again what happens when one ASSumes. My liberal guy friend, in a discussion about the types of qualities we look for in a potential mate, explained to me that he wanted a “professional” woman but not someone who made more money than him. He said he had “traditional values” and that some part of him felt it was right that the man be the breadwinner of the marriage. Now, this is a guy who does not want children. So why the heck, I ask you, should it matter if the woman makes more money than he does? And, look at the duality of his request: he wants a professional woman–which he later defined as a career-minded woman who had a better job than, say, working at a pagoda in the mall–and yet, at the same time, she can’t make more money than him.
Good luck, dude, in finding that nice balance between a career-minded woman with the lower salary. I mean, heaven forbid she actually rise in rank as she works her way through the male-dominated business world and, during the course of your relationship, ends up pulling in a higher salary. Then, what? Are you going to have to elevate your skills, climb the corporate ladder yourself, to ensure you always stay one step ahead of her? How mature!
I just don’t get where these ideas come from. I mean, geesh. Is there some deep seeded need in a man to take care of a woman? Even when she doesn’t need to be taken care of? It makes me sick to my stomach to consider this entire cycle of logic. It makes me wonder how many guys out there with whom I interact on a daily basis have a Neanderthal living just beneath the surface of their skin… Do they think less of me because I have boobs and a vagina? Is that all I’m good for to them, a pretty little sex toy to be bought and shown off to impress the other Neanderthals?
I totally reject and disdain the “manly man.” It is utterly ridiculous to me, in this day and age when people are getting married much later in life and, thus after establishing themselves, for a guy to assume this age-old protector role in a relationship. Haven’t we gotten past this cave man mentality yet? If I was perfectly fine in my life–safe and all–before I got involved in the relationship, I sure don’t need a man to keep me safe in his cave while he brings the food and the money for the household. I’m independent, I can hunter-gather all on my own.
A good relationship is based on a 50/50 share of responsibilities. It’s like the yin and the yang of Zen Buddhism: you are weak where he is strong, you are strong where he is weak, and the two of you use your applied skills to battle the downs and sail the ups of life together. It shouldn’t matter who makes more money in the relationship because all the money is going to the same place. The woman should be proud if her husband makes a good living; likewise, the man should be proud if his wife is the one bringing in the higher income. It’s a team effort here, not a competition.
Any man who derives his identity and sense of self-worth from his ability to bring home the prize bacon in his household is, to me, pathetic. This is the new millennium. Men can also hold their heads high in choosing to be house husbands. I praise any man who gives up his career to raise the children, as I would any woman who would make such a choice. I, too, am a traditionalist in that I think someone should stay home to raise the kids full time, at least in their crucial first years. This society has suffered greatly from the lack of input from the father in child-rearing (which fortunately was not the case in my upbringing). Do we really want to continue the traditional role where the father remains aloof in the child-rearing process–the “Cat’s in the Cradle” mentality that turns out children who as adults yearn for a relationship with their father?
It irks me endlessly that men have no problem taking part in the process to make a baby, but then, when it comes to child rearing, they like to back off with their hands in the air, saying, “Well, you women are better at nurturing than we are.”
Bull pucky! The reason men are not innately better at nurturing is because society has supported this “manly man” image and the “manly man” image dictates that showing too much affection for a child is not manly. A man is just as capable as a woman in providing care for a child and the child will still turn out “normal.” Any suggestion otherwise is strictly environment over chemical wiring. I think society’s voice is louder than any chemical/genetic wiring as far as the gender roles are concerned.
It must be really hard to be a man. Men seem constantly ready to produce proof against other men that suggests that they are less manly. To live up to this “manly man” ideal against all your male peers and family members must be a tremendous burden. I can at least be thankful that women do not seem to carry so much of an image burden, except perhaps, when we have to deal with the “too butchy” versus “high maintenance” contradictions. In my experience, I’ve felt pressure to balance myself between being down to earth enough that I enjoy getting my hands dirty with the guys, but still having to be feminine enough to look pretty and presentable in society. Some guys call this “being a lady.”
For the most part in my life, I’ve avoided allowing myself to be defined either way. I am admittedly a tomboy, certainly a feminist, and I do like to get my hands dirty. In fact, I’m more comfortable drinking beer around the campfire than I am attending some formal event in a gown and makeup. I do don makeup once in awhile and I enjoy wearing nice clothes to work or other events, but on an every day basis I prefer to not wear makeup (and I mostly don’t because I will end up rubbing it off, even at my desk job, because I have a habit of rubbing my eyes and face when I’m thinking). I used to try to look nice to impress, but now I generally think, “This is how I am, like it or leave it, because I will not change myself to please anyone else.”
So when I come up against the male ego and all of its required goading, I just get annoyed. Why can’t the male ego adjust itself to this brave new world? What is it about the male ego that demands so much power over everything else? Why do men feel this need to protect and covet their lovers like a possession? And, lastly, why do men buckle when it is suggested by another man that something they are doing is not manly? Why can’t they just say, “Hey. I know my wife makes more money than me and I’m damned proud of her accomplishments.” Why would anything any other man says to you affect how you choose to live your life?I like a man who doesn’t need to prove himself or his sexuality because he knows who and what he is. My husband and I used to call this new creature the Liberated Man. (Maybe that’s why I assumed all liberals were not Neanderthals.)