DISCLAIMER: All generalisations made relate to the “average” straight woman and “average” straight man are purely exemplary
Society is bound together by a set of rules that essentially stop us from passing on disease and/or killing each other. What the creators, or should I say “maintainers”, of society fail to realise is that it doesn’t necessarily work. For the most part, we’ve learned the difference between “right” and “wrong” and use this as the basis for our moral compasses (compae?); however, we are still passing on disease and killing each other regardless. Interesting. There is anger to be borne of repression. To be naughty is somehow delicious.
The problem with rules is that they’re open to interpretation. As with everything, from the law to personal moral code, the boundaries of each precept blurs into the boundaries of others and sometimes into grey areas you’ve never even considered. We have solicitors – that’s the law sorted. But one person’s guilty non-compliance can be another person’s norm.
Men are bigger and stronger than women, as a general rule. But just how much stronger are they? We are sold this idea, right from the start of our lives: boys are big and strong and girls are little and delicate, boys like getting dirty and girls like to clean, boys like blue and girls like pink, boys climb trees and girls play with dolls &c. Forget the fact that some men are short and may have a subconscious issue with this (otherwise known as the Napoleon Complex, which can cause anxiety and aggression). Forget the fact that if a woman is naturally larger, she’ll probably feel hung-up on it for life; starve herself and binge in equal measure, causing nothing but unhappiness and self loathing. What happens if a man’s muscle tone isn’t naturally as firm as he’s told it should be? Does that mean he’s less of a man? If he has pronounced hips, does that make him too feminine? What if a woman has a grip like a vice and a kick like a donkey? If her thighs are hard and muscular should she be considered too masculine? What I’m trying to get at is that, yes, one is a man or one is a woman, but there are varying degrees of the male/female distinction. As with all things, to take the divide at its face value of black and white would be ignorant. Take those who consider themselves to be in the wrong body: technically one thing, emotionally another. Society does not make allowances for disparity. Maybe it’s more a case of there being numerous different sexes that we coarsely split into two categories in order to slot people into this over-simplified civilisation of ours.
Because western culture dictates that men are strong and women are weak, the average man does everything he can to be the big, brawny male and the average woman just plain doesn’t try to be physically powerful. Why should she need to be? Of course, a woman may exercise, but she does that to be thin, surely. What we end up with is the stronger entity becoming even stronger and the weaker entity becoming even weaker. Men carry bags, men drive HGVs, men open jars, men change tyres, men put up shelves and why? Because women don’t believe they can do it; they think, because they have been wrongly indoctrinated to believe, that they need a man to do that. Almost, that it’s a man’s duty to do these things. And more than that, the majority of straight women genuinely lust after big, strong men who can take control and protect them when, in actual fact, they are quite capable of protecting themselves.
Of course, it’s easier to hand a jar over to a man than attempt to get the lid off yourself. I struggle with my bathroom light, for example, which conks out an inordinate amount and which I can’t reach unless I stand on the bath and lean over to it. Unfortunately, the landlord chose a heavy, glass light shade of the sort usually found in public toilets and, given the angle of approach (which involves hanging onto the shower-curtain rail) combined with the weight of said light shade, it’s rather difficult to unscrew with one hand. Being a short-arse is not something I can help. In times gone by I have showered in the dark until someone tall came round. I v.much begrudge letting a man change a light bulb on my behalf, but I have had no idea from whom to borrow a stepladders long enough to do the job and have no room for a set of my own. Conundrum…
It’s amazing how much a mental block can affect your physical ability. As a runner, I know that any self doubt can cause an inhibition in performance, especially following a period of rehabilitation. The minute I think: “I can’t get up that hill” or “I can’t go that extra mile,” I’m doomed. If I allow myself to walk once in a run, I will allow myself to walk twice, then three times and so on. So it’s perfectly understandable that if women have been told all their lives that they’re not strong enough to do something quite simple or that they’ll get dirty if they attempt it and are advised to pass the task to a man, then that’s precisely what they’ll do. And precisely the advice that they’ll pass on to their children. Of course, I’m not saying I could take on a man in combat (I’m not denying the natural physicality here) but I have no necessity for men in order to live, nor does any woman. It is the ultimate ideal, the deeply embedded paradigm, of the nuclear family that makes a woman feel it necessary to have a man around and it is this that often makes a woman feel inadequate if she doesn’t.
Women, have a clue! It’s all in your heads where it was planted by society generations ago. We are strong! Stronger than you could ever believe. Do the job yourself; you are more than capable. If you don’t know how to – learn! And in a world where violence is rife, it’s downright dangerous to allow yourself to be weakened to the point where you must rely on somebody else to protect you. Join a self-defence class, bench press, do weights, tone your core… do everything you can to enhance your natural ability. And don’t forget that your arse and legs are powerful tools!
And men… get over yourselves – you’re not all heroes and it’s a mystery to me why we all seem to want you to be.
Women are known for being in touch with their emotions. We cry easily, we have compassion, we are nurturing and maternal… I, of course, don’t include Margaret Thatcher in this. What happens when a mother doesn’t feel that infamous connection with her newborn baby? It’s written off as post-natal depression because no sane woman would ever spurn her own child. Every woman is maternal, as far as society is concerned, and if she’s not, there must be something wrong with her. It is her role, her duty to want and care for babbits simply because she is the one who has them. She must, therefore, be maternal by nature. She must be caring and loving and because of this adorable trait, she lives on her emotions and therefore, cannot be expected to think logically with her little lady brain. Leave that to the men.
Maybe I’m being a tad unfair here. I had PMT enough times, back in the days before Implanon, to know that for no apparent reason, I would suddenly find myself screaming and shouting, ranting and railing and bursting into tears over nothing. It often took me a while to think: “Hm… when was my last period?” The guru, Germaine Greer, believes this anger and upset is caused by the stigma that has been placed on the menstrual cycle over the decades. Well, maybe – I’m not ruling it out – but I can honestly say that the PMT always hit me before the realisation of the lunar phase did. So maybe, in addition to being naturally smaller and slightly weaker (notice the word “slightly”) we are also naturally slightly more emotional. But these organic attributes have been grasped upon and blown out of all proportion and now we’re in the rut, it’s damned hard to climb back out again and admit that the way we implant convictions in the mind from an early age is not necessarily in the best interest of humankind.
Hormones aside, it is still considered the case that if a man sheds a glistening tear, he could be considered sensitive. But if he cries like a baby, he’s just plain wet. Whereas for a woman to cry in times of trauma, relief, happiness – well, that’s just to be expected. We’re allowed, nay expected, as women, to break down and flap in the face of turmoil, whereas men are expected to take charge. Which is ridiculous. It’s natural to cry when emotions are running high – for both men and women*. It is also possible for both groups to pull themselves together, consider a situation logically and act accordingly.
As with the gender split, maybe it’s more of a case of individual levels of emotion. To give you another example: I’m not much of a crier (although, I used to be), but my last two partners were both major criers. I don’t think for a second that I’m less sensitive than your average woman – I just have a v.long fuse and like to ensure that I fully grasp a situation and have considered all options before I react. Of course, when I flip (and don’t we all at some point?), I really fly off the bloody handle, but I usually get a grip pretty quickly. As I get older, the flips are less frequent and when they do happen, the red mist clears faster. Life becomes harder to compartmentalise the older you get and accepting that allows me to consider every side of a situation. Of course, I’m far from perfect and not every conclusion is correct, but doesn’t the fact that I, as a woman, deal with things analytically enhance my point about basing opinions on individuals and not purely on gender?
It is because of this caring nature we’re all supposed to have that women are expected to maintain the momentum of a relationship. You rarely see relationship self-help books aimed at men – How to Get and Keep Your Woman…? Women are taught from an early age to build close monogamous couplings and you often see little girls hand in hand with their best friend. The problems arise when one of the little girls finds another little girl that she considers to be her best friend and thus sets the other one off in a flurry of frustrated tears until she finds herself another best friend. Sound familiar? In the same way that women are not wont to aim for physical strength, men are not inclined to strive for emotional alliances. And if they do erupt with emotion, it usually manifests itself as aggression. This imbalance creates frustration on both sides of the coin and liability in couplings always lies with the woman. Woman will almost certainly do anything to reach the inevitable marriage and man will do anything to put her off. So when a relationship breaks down, it is the woman who is to blame – woman could not maintain her relationship, woman didn’t care enough, woman smothered man, woman “stole” man from other woman, woman drove man away… At no point does anyone say: “You know, you really can’t help the way you do or don’t feel about someone. Maybe we should just all be honest about how we feel…” because all the women in any given relationship situation are too enraged at the other women involved to look at the bigger picture. It’s all down to a sense of possession, which I won’t touch upon right now as there are no room for tangents** in this blog. But women try to possess men just as much as men try to possess women in the straight world; it’s just that one group of people physically possess and the other emotionally and that’s down to sheer programming.
We are as emotionally strong as we are physically and, once that’s something we all acknowledge, once we stop playing to our set of precedents, the battle of the sexes may well come to a standstill… well maybe not, but it would be a start, at least.
* To some degree. But that is just the initial reaction, not the solution and it will not solve any problem. Cry, by all means; give yourself a moment. Then wipe the tears away and get on with it!
** Meaning my extensive rant about marriage