5 SEPTEMBER 2007
THIS MONTH'S FEATURES
LITERATURE AND LITERACY
FACES OF CHANGE AND CHANGELESS PLACES
i R E P O R T — I A M W O E , M A N
WITHOUT THE baggage of a patriarchal mindset, it was therefore not difficult for me to shun men's mythical superiority over women both at home and in the workplace. Decision-making is a shared responsibility between me and Mira in our partnership as husband and wife, as well as father and mother to our two daughters. Never did it bother me that my superiors at the PCIJ were females, even if they were more aggressive, more driven and competitive, some more adept at high-level mathematical abstractions than most men, including myself.
Not that I am an underachieving PCIJ staff (I've had my modest share of recognitions as one). But the old cultural assumptions of male superiority are simply out of touch with present-day realities. It has to be acknowledged that women, particularly in this day and age, can be as capable as men, or even better. In the same way that men can be as sensitive or nurturing as women, or probably even better.
It's not surprising that to this day male superiority is still explained away as something natural, alluding to the differences between men and women that favor masculine attributes and denigrate the feminine. But studies have argued that men and women are not necessarily different as the differences rather vary from individual to individual. Whatever differences there are, researches have shown, are not absolute (save for the sex organs) and have more to do with biology. Men tend to be more aggressive because they generally have larger, stronger muscles. With this biological structure comes more muscle tension, which needs to be released in terms of activity. In comparison, female sensitivity and responsiveness to human situations are thought of as built-in feminine characteristics because they arise from this apparent absence of hormone and muscle tension that explains aggressiveness in men.
What women lack in aggressive behavior, they are said to compensate with the ability to engage in sustained activity — a behavior rooted in their distinct biological rhythms that in turn originated from the prehistoric division of labor that assigned the hunting task to men and the gathering to women. That probably explains the workaholic bent among women, particularly as I've been witness to at the PCIJ, and, well, maybe the “slave-driving” when they become bosses.
This just goes to show that even “enlightened” men still encounter rough sailing in the seas of estrogen that they have to navigate every day. In the main, it's less stressful if you just roll along with the “givens” that have to do with other biological differences. Like when they have their monthly periods and the lunar influence is strongest, and so you just become their object of hate for no apparent reason (at least to me). There is also the midlife/menopausal phase to prepare for, although we’re now being told men go through menopause as well, and suffer midlife crises of their own.
I will not deny though that there were instances in the past when I felt a sense of being left out simply because I am male. Added to the fact that I was not part of the power structure then, I often wound up blissfully uninformed and uninvolved in whatever was being cooked up by the cabal of women around me. Even today, it is inevitable that I will get outvoted in many instances (yes, doing this piece was one of those). Thankfully, my collection of females at home gang up on me more to tease me, like exchanging whispers in my presence because they know I resent that.
Anyway, when all seems too unbearable in the land of women, there are enduring standards for male behavior that men can always resort to: strength and silence. I, however, take more to the latter. Not because I am a stereotypical man of few words. It’s just that women find it annoying.
Email us your comments about this article, or post them in our blog.