We’re not turning into each other, we’re just chilling out
If dedicating yourself to a job and having a complete lack of elegance is manly, well then - call me Bruce.
Josephine Asher has plenty of support for her argument that men are becoming less manly and women less womanly. Gender is getting bendier. But is that a bad thing?
Once upon a time men and women had much more well-defined roles. Man works. Woman does housey-type stuff. Now such simplicity is only seen in detergent commercials.
Those stereotypes serve a purpose of sorts. They are a quick and easy way to sketch out an idea. But they are ultimately misleading.
Because, as some bright spark once observed, there is greater variation within any human group than there is between them.
In many places in the world poverty, culture, history or religion dictate very different roles for men and women. Religion particularly has played a large role in maintaining a male dominance left over from prehistoric times when muscle was king so man was boss.
But, in most Australian societies, the chains that bind some traits to men and some to women are loosening, if not broken. Not to sound all postmodern, but the neat little gender boxes have been opened, and the
contents strewn around.
Women haven’t become more like men. Men are not becoming more like women. In a more free society, both are just free (er) to be themselves without having to satisfy preconceived ideas of what it
takes to be a bloke or a lady.
One of my favourite shows this year, in a car-crash-trash-can’t-take-my-eyes-off-it kind of way, was Ladette to Lady.
It was so wrong. Disturbingly feral chicks urinating in gutters and flashing their bits at strangers, taken into a British finishing school to become ladies.
They went from wrong to wrong (er). Learning to make bland small talk, sit with their ankles crossed, to make dainty cakes to keep men of dubiously regal lineage happy. That was success.
It was hugely entertaining, but hideous because it implied that it was a male prerogative to drink too much and act like a dimwit, while it’s a female’s place to simper and sip tea.
Damn it, women have earned the right to fall over drunk without having their female-ness questioned, surely. And men like tea, too.
Feminism – which some rail against as a strident denial of the feminine - started as a way to right a wrong. And it did. But now it has mostly mellowed and become a broader, less well defined idea, which blends at the edges with more general arguments about human rights and fairness and freedom.
The residual notion is, or should be, about equal opportunities. Not triumphalism or adversarial gender politics. Just a fair shake of the sauce bottle.
To say that women need to be like men to be equal with them is a gross oversimplification. Not least because no one is perfectly equal.
Equality is a sort of Platonic ideal, an unreachable but noble and worthwhile goal. The idea of equal implies a race with a strict starting point and a definitive end point. That’s not how life works.
In my world, I go out drinking while Bloke cooks dinner. Sometimes. Sometimes he watches soccer while I cook, and sometimes I get the takeaway on the way home from my soccer training.
He takes out the rubbish bins because I’m shit scared of the spiders that lurk around the handles. I’m tougher than him when it comes to chilli and horror films. Is that equality?
It’s a new world, and we’ve been released from the strictures of our biology in many ways. With that freedom comes new angst, new dilemmas, new challenges, and we’re still working our way through those. A surfeit of choice brings
its own difficulties.
But to seek safety and comfort by retreating to stereotypes is tedious and meaningless. There is no point clinging to past ideas of what women or men were. We are, tautologically, what we are now.
Anyway, must dash. Got to shave my legs and pluck my eyebrows before soccer. Wouldn’t want my femininity questioned. Cheerio!
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