Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

The Difference

A couple of weeks ago, gender differences were all over LJ. I had some things I wanted to say about the topic, and didn't. Maybe because it didn't seem worth the trouble of writing down, maybe because everyone else seemed to have said it all, already.

Except that I never did read some of the things I most wanted to say, so maybe it hadn't all been said.

Some of what I saw a few weeks ago felt like it was aimed at making men feel ashamed for being male.

That bothered me. A lot.

I've always considered myself a feminist, in the sense of thinking "all humans are created equal and should be treated accordingly by law and society". In the sense that biology is not destiny, and that individuals should be judged by their abilities and actions, not their gender. That's what "feminist" meant to me as a kid: that women and men are equals. Maybe not "identical", but generally worth treating similarly in the absence of any other distinguishing information.

I don't know what "feminist" means to other people. To some it seems to mean "one who believes that women are victims of male oppression" or "one who thinks there's an evil conspiracy by the patriarchy to dominate women" or "one who thinks women are better than men". I don't think any of those things. (At least, not about modern American society. In some other cultures "male oppression" is a lot more applicable.) If that's what you think feminist means, then I'm not one.

I don't feel oppressed. I don't feel like a victim. I never have.

I'm not saying prejudice isn't out there, or that it doesn't affect other women in negative ways. Or even that it hasn't affected me. I don't feel it and I don't think about it, and that makes it less real to me but not less real.

At the bank where I work, at least 90% of the employees are female. At my branch, out of about twenty-five people, two are male. My department is loan operations; we do all the back-office support for loans -- preparing documents, processing payments and advances, booking loans, etc. There isn't a single man in loan operations, out of twenty-plus people. Among the sixteen loan officers, who are substantially better paid than loan ops, one is a woman. She works in collections and has no lending authority.

I don't think this is an accident, or coincidence. I don't think gender has nothing to do with it.

But I don't think it's because the bank won't hire women as loan officers, or men as loan processors. I don't think it's because men are trying to keep us down, to maintain "male privelege". I'm not even sure it is privilege, because being a loan officer is a sucky high-pressure job. The bank couldn't pay me enough to do it, and even if they did I'd be terrible at it.

I don't know what exactly causes the disparity, whether it's subtle cues lingering in the way we treat each other, or part of genetic propensity or what. But one thing I'm pretty sure of: it's not a male conspiracy against women. It's not men saying "women are too stupid/weak/incompetent" to do this job. I don't even think it's men at all, not anymore. Women are also complicit in accepting what's expected of their role. Men are complicit in accepting their roles, too.

These roles aren't imposed for the benefit of either gender above the other.

If I'd been born a man, I think I'd be a computer programmer now instead of a bank employee with an English degree. If koogrr had been born a woman, I think she'd be an artist now instead of an engineer. I think I'm happier as a bank employee and a wannabe author than I'd be programming computers. I think Koogrr would be happier as a starving artist. That's where gender roles got us. Is it a privilege? For which?

Am I privileged to have been encouraged to place my happiness and the people I love before my career and material wealth? Is he privileged to have been encouraged to pursue material wealth and judge his worth based on his financial success?

I don't like gender roles. I don't like one-size solutions. But I don't dislike them because they screw my gender. I dislike them because they screw people. Men and women. Anyone who doesn't fit in the right box gets shafted. Stay-at-home fathers and career women, male kindergartner teachers and female loan officers. Women who don't want children and men who cry when they're upset. Women who dress for comfort and men who want to be beautiful. It doesn't matter how you don't fit in, all that matters is you're swimming against a current of expectations. Silly expectations.

haikujaguar wrote a good post on comparative pain -- the point being, it does not compare. I don't know if she was thinking about this when she wrote it, but I was when I read it.

That men get falsely accused of rape does not compare to women being raped. That women get locked out of high-pressure jobs does not compare to men dying young from the stress of high-pressure jobs. That men get judged by the size of their wallets does not compare to women being judged by the size of their chest. The one does not justify the other. It is not okay.

People seldom want to hear about the problems of others when they are weighted down by their own. Don't tell me my problems aren't real. Don't tell me they're insignificant compared to yours, or someone else's. Don't tell me it's all in my head. Don't tell me the things I see can't be real just because you don't see them. It's real to me.

Our problems are real to all of us, and we're all in this together, doing the best we can to rise above them. That's the important thing.

I'm rambing. What I want to say is this:

Most of my friends are male. This isn't because I like men better than women. I just happen to like a lot of male-dominated hobbies so I mostly meet men.

I do not feel patronized by men, or devalued, or objectified, or looked down upon. I can't imagine thinking such things as characteristics of my friends. My friends generally have more respect for my intelligence than I do. It pisses me off to see people write these things about half of the human race, about my friends, to look at men as if they need to apologize for being male, for existing, for having gotten stuck with a gender role they never asked for.

I didn't ask for my gender role either, but you know what? Mostly I'm grateful for it. I'm glad I can cry when I'm unhappy and hug my friends and say "That's a nice dress" and be sexy when I want to and all the other things I got with the Female Package Deal. When I look at the kinds of problems men have to deal with, I think, "I'm so glad that's not me."

I'm sure it works fine for plenty of men, of course. It's a pretty roomy box in America and it fits a lot of men fine.


I just want to say, to all my friends, that your gender isn't anything you need to apologize for.
Tags: philosophy, politics
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