Another Kind of Feminism
The current tone of the gender back and forth feels like a rock in my shoe — she’s abusing men, he’s growling about women. In the gender equality wars, battle trophies aren’t lifting the female-as-female so much as shining us women with the polish of the opposition. Too often, our goal seems to be their style, their m. o., their values, quirks, and mannerisms. Alessandra Malit0, writing for MarketWatch, talks to Suzanne Venker, whose new book The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage comes out soon (Post Hill Press), and Venker illustrates my point: “An ‘alpha woman’ can be defined as a ‘strong-minded, take-charge woman who likes to be in control at all times . . .. She makes her own rules’ ” (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-this-author-believes-working-women-should-do-even-more-at-home-2017-02-13).
It’s also the absence of things uniquely female that irks like a rock in the shoe. Note “the alpha woman” qualities Venker identifies. Why should success as a woman be achieved by pasting the silhouette of some man over our persona or by cultivating his habits and ways of doing things? Do we have to remake ourselves in the male image to be genuinely human? Aren’t we dodging our biology? In so far as we view Venker’s “alpha woman” as an acceptable goal, aren’t we (men and women) arguing that, yes, the specifically female is a deficient category. Maybe it’s time to ask: What’s wrong with this picture?
In his post for February 16, “10 Habits That Change Boys Into Men,” Benjamin P. Hardy cites a sketch of the male profile from Manning Up by Kay Hymowitz: “courage, physical prowess, mastery of necessary skills . . . fortitude, stoicism, courage, and fidelity.” Aren’t these defining traits simply human rather than gender specific? I’m reminded of an issue from the 2016 Presidential debates. Stamina! Does she have it? How’s her energy? Is she well? A leader, male or female, needs stamina, as well as courage, fortitude, and the necessary skills. Ask any mother of toddlers. She’ll be happy to talk to you.
Hardy’s list of “10 Habits” includes other familiar items. He exhorts young males to “Think Beyond Yourself.” Mothers do that, in spades. When Hardy adds item 2, “Stop Playing Video Games,” I have to ask myself, isn’t a mom, more often than not, the gamer’s nemesis? I know. I am such a person. Here’s Hardy’s item 6: “Prayer, Meditation, And Journal Writing.” Aren’t “prayer warriors” usually women, not men? It’s certainly a fact that church pews typically seat more women. At least one day a week, it’s the females who take Hardy’s advice to heart. He also tells young males to “commit fully to someone.” Isn’t bonding like this something women do, almost without thinking? Finally, item 9, where Hardy counsels, “Fall In Love With Learning.” I’m reminded of my mother, who read to me and taught me to read well before I went to first grade. That she had an M.A. when few young women went to college inspired me as I embarked on my own adventures in life-long learning.
So I’m cheering Hardy, Hymowitz, Malito, and Venker, but also wondering: If we women persist in our version of Hardy’s 10-Step Program, will we too change into men? Will the boys turn into mothers? Lol, as they say. I’m stopping just long enough to consider another question: Are we women busily faulting men on one side of our mouths while celebrating their ways of doing things on the other? And what’s all this about a “rape culture”?
Some complain that women don’t rally around each other or support other women. In fact, this was another point made by implication during the 2016 Presidential Campaign, clichéd by Madeleine Albright. Wasn’t the Women’s March on Washington all about solidarity and loyalty to our gender? Yet a major purpose of the march was support for Planned Parenthood. Since when have we gone to that source for a true celebration of the uniquely female? On their egalitarian watch, millions of girl babies, as well as the boys, have been aborted.
Right now, you may be ticking off your own questions about this itinerary. The direction I’m taking may strike you as dead end, even bogus. I’m afraid it’s just getting worse: When was the last time you heard a woman praised for mothering skills? When was the last time you read paragraphs of gender adulation on the subject of giving birth? I won’t belabor the obvious and call it “the agonies of childbirth.” However, like all truisms, even that bit of purple contains a grain of truth. Every human walking around got here because some female was acquainted with those rigors. Men do at times share the experience and good for them. They demonstrate commendable grit, the kind that celebrates motherhood when it’s no longer politically correct. I note that, though it hasn’t happened yet, babies from DNA are anticipated (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4110572/Babies-without-mothers). Rue the day!
To continue: When was the last time you heard a woman congratulated for self-sacrifice, especially for the kids? Unfashionable it may be to mention that, but talk to any single mom. No, don’t. She’ll be too busy to chat; she’ll just to look at you funny. Every female with children is in some senses a single mother. Men don’t see the needs of children the way women do. Perhaps you’re murmuring sexist, sexist. Well, I guess. That’s the point here — to be sexist, to be feminist, to be passionate about holding on to a female domain we’re abandoning in droves . . . to everyone’s loss. In her discussion of The Alpha Woman’s Guide to Men & Marriage, Malito adds, “Venker spoke with MarketWatch about how to drop the ‘alpha woman’ mentality, and why it’s better for your marriage in the long run.” It will probably be better for the children, as well.
Speaking of, how long has it been since you read an op ed piece on breastfeeding? Let me tell you, it’s an area of expertise worth study and mastery, and it ain’t always easy. The topic, even in our wildly explicit culture, seems a sort of obscenity in some quarters. Though women figure it out, even in the context of a career, and though statistics look good (https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding), choosing to breastfeed the babies is hardly mainstream chic. Like babies, it’s probably not much beyond mainstream tolerated. You’d think breasts were only there for the male gazers amongst us, for steamy bedrooms, brassiere market shares, pornoes, and beauty pageants. We’ll talk about legs another time.
To back up: I don’t intend to mock male enjoyment of the female form — something else we should rethink. We’re naturally appreciators of each other, aren’t we? I once asked my mother (way up in her eighties) when she stopped noticing nice-looking men. She smiled and said, “I don’t think you ever do.” The comment lit a spark of self-realization for me. I knew what she was talking about though the current article wasn’t the same attractive man I noticed as a twenty-something. The new points of interest on my landscape of male appreciation had some gray hair . . . like me. The rest seemed like children. And why shouldn’t I enjoy the view? Being loyal to my own gender doesn’t preclude celebrating the other. And yes, I tend to define ’em in terms of two.
The bottom line, at least for me, is beginning to look like this: The war of the sexes, as it used to be called (there’s always been one), is becoming another version of, “Gentlemen, make smoke.” We can’t even see the field of action. Who knows who anybody is anymore?
I enjoy being a girl. Here’s hoping the guys will soon again enjoy being men.