Tuesday, February 19

Men need to get emancipated

You probably asked yourself "what the hell is she talking about?" at first. Well, I had never thought about that before yesterday, either. But then, talking to a young colleague (the same who inspired me to do this post as well), I finally realized what the problem of men these days is.

My colleague has a strange view about men and women, sometimes. But then, he's merely twenty. This time he was going on about work. Women shouldn't work after they've had children, he said basically. Or only part time, when the children were old enough to go to school (because, today, a little extra money would be good for any family). And they shouldn't go for a career at all. And all leading positions were only meant for men, too. But what it burned down to in the end, was this: Men are the providers and therefore should have the better jobs. Women are supposed to stay home with the kids, so they shouldn't have a career (read: provide more competition to men).

Feminism and emancipation have provided women with an alternative to staying at home and minding the kids. They gave us the freedom to decide about what to do with our lives. We are no longer bound to our past 'fate'. (And if society and politics provided us with better ways to combine career and family, the birth rate in Germany would surely go up again - just a tip.)

Unfortunately, there isn't such a thing as Masculinism (my word processor won't even accept that word), so men have not made the same progress. On the other hand, why should they want to change the world? They've had the better part of it for a long time (freedom to vote, work and design society).

But for those growing up today, Feminism has created quite some problems. Their way to the future isn't as easy to see as before. In the past, it was easy: get a career, have a family and provide for them, then you've done everything as you should. But today? Today a man is not only competing with other men (as in the past), but also with women. That's a new thing. And in a relationship things aren't as easy as before, either. Women have become more self-assured, they are no longer necessarily the submissive ones. A marriage today is different than a marriage 50 years ago.

My colleague is fond of comparing a relationship to a pair dancing in a formation, claiming that the man has to lead and the woman has to follow, otherwise it won't work. I haven't said it to him yet, but I rather think for a pair doing that sort of dancing formation successfully for some time, it's not a question of who leads and who follows - it's merely both of them moving together in harmony. And, watching my parents who're both headstrong and have been married for over 40 years by now, I think a relationship is pretty much like that.

And why can't women lead? There have been quite some female leaders in history, not all of them necessarily successful, but men weren't all successful either. There has been Margaret Thatcher, lately. Then there have been Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria of England, Maria Theresia (an Austrian monarch) and, farther back, women like Boudicca, Hatshepsut or Cleopatra. The latter might have had a relationship with two influential Roman leaders, but she's nevertheless been reigning Egypt at the same time. (There are more, but I haven't had time to do a complete research. Feel free to do it on your own.)

If we step down a bit, from ruling a country to merely taking care of a company, things are getting even more obvious. For a long time women have been working alongside their husbands (and in quite some cultures also fighting alongside them - among nomadic societies it's the norm and even Arabian stories sometimes speak of a woman going to battle at her husband's side). A farm won't work without the women working just as hard as the men do. And in the towns and cities of Europe, women have worked together with their husbands as well. They have even taken over businesses after their husbands' deaths. Among the workers of the Industrial age, women have worked just as long and as hard as men. And today, some scientists even claim that women were hunters in the stone age, too. (And why the hell not? The most successful hunter usually is the one planting traps and that doesn't require as much strength as jumping a mammoth and killing it with bare hands.)

In short: only during a rather short period of human history, women have been staying at home and left all outside work to men. But, as that was a short time ago, men remember that time quite well today. (Better than the time of the mammoth, I would bet.)

On the other hand, it's not a surprise men want to hold on to the 'traditional' roles in which men are supposed to provide for the family and women are supposed to take care of the kids and be grateful their husband has got a good job. Life and it's route were clear (though not necessarily easy, there was a lot of competition from other men in the business world, after all) then: get a good job and a career, find a woman to marry, have children and be considered successful and a 'real' man. Today it's not that obvious.

Career women are the most obvious 'enemy' today: after all, they compete for the same jobs, for that which a man most direly needs. So it's no wonder my colleague thinks women should be banned from having a career. If a woman works in a low paid job - part time, provided she had kids -, that leaves more jobs higher up for men. And, after all, someone has to do the jobs at the lower end of the career ladder. And why are career women such a threat? Because, unlike what he says - and probably really believes -, woman can lead and, as they have to work much harder to get up there, they can be pretty hard and vicious, too. I wouldn't want to cross a real career woman - and I'm a woman myself.

But why does my colleague have that idea of women not being able to lead? Boys and girls are still raised differently. Boys are told from early age to be competitive. Their games quite often are centred around being "the best" of something. Aggressions are accepted to a certain degree. Girls, on the other hand, are mostly told that women 'don't do this' when it comes to competing (especially with boys). It's not feminine to go up against another person (especially not a boy or man) or even show aggressions. They are taught to be mediators, to find a compromise instead of getting what they want - if necessary, by hitting someone in the face with their fist.

If you want to put it in more military-oriented terms, then men are trained to be warriors and women are trained to be diplomats. Of course, Sun-Tzu claimed that "the best way to wage war is not to wage war" (in his "The Art of War"). That man wasn't a pacifist, but a Chinese general who wrote a book about warfare. And he didn't write this because he abhorred violence, but because war was - and still is - quite expensive. Sending out diplomats to negotiate for what you want does cost less and usually brings better results.

But if a woman gets over this initial training - and I have no doubt career woman have gotten over it -, then she's not more or less able to lead than a man (even my father says so, and he's been leading soldiers when he was younger). There are few people on this world born with the talent for leadership (and it's not limited to one gender), but quite some more who can learn how to lead. Some people are hopeless cases - also from both genders.

Emancipation has given women a larger span of possible futures - but men have not developed the same span. They still mostly hold on to the traditional "you take care of the kids and I take care of the money"-plan. Unfortunately, less and less women want to share it with them.

The lady of the house riding to work while the husband stays at home.

I asked my colleague what would be so wrong about the woman having a good job and the man staying at home with the kids (a possible and logical construct, provided the woman earns more money than the man). He couldn't even imagine a man doing this. And he argued again with children not being cared for if both parents earned a lot of money (and would not learn to behave the right way). Well, in that case, the family would probably employ a nanny, I should guess. It's not down to whether or not the mother is always around, it's down to the rules she lays down while she is around (and the same goes for the father).

I have, of course, to emphasize again that he's merely twenty. In five or ten years he'll probably see some things differently. But what he's saying isn't just the point of view young men take (and he also talked about a woman's honour, but I'll write another post about that one day), there's enough men older and supposedly wise who think and talk like that.

Men need to get themselves emancipated, too, that much is for sure. Just as women have discovered there's more than one way to lead a life, they have to realize that a man not providing for a family alone isn't less of a man because of it.

Monday, February 11

Male Gender Stereotypes

I do have to admit that I never really thought about how much a man could suffer from gender stereotypes as well. Until I read this entry at "The F-Word", that is.

Male gender stereotypes exist as well, of course, but they seem less oppressing than the variety for females, at least at first glance. While women are supposed to be weak, to be uncertain of everything and to just adore everyone who's gotten a "Y"-chromosome during the conception, men are supposed to be, act and think in a certain way, too. To a woman they appear to be more free in their choices, but are they really? This picture was published by me before, describing both the stereotypes imposed on men and on women (or rather: on boys and girls) in our society:

So if women want to show their strengths, is it too improbable for men to yearn for showing their weaknesses? Every human being has both, after all, strengths and weaknesses. While it's unfair to only accept one person's weaknesses, it's just as unfair only to accept the strengths and forcing that person to hide all that is weak.

And, unless a man, a woman today has the option to fight, to prove she's strong. But what can you do to make people accept your weaknesses and shortcomings? That's not as easy (which doesn't mean fighting to prove your strength is easy, mind).

It seems as if we all (all human beings) are unable to just be ourselves. And to a certain degree it's relaxing to know everyone has the little secret he or she wants to hide from all others.

Is horror divided by gender?

As you might have gathered, provided you also read my main blog, I'm quite a fan of horror movies - preferably b-movies. That's why at least once a month the title of a horror movie turns up in my regular weekend update. (In which I state what I'm going to watch, read and play that weekend and what other plans I have.)

This weekend it was "Evil Twin" (English title: "The Attic"), a very interesting movie set almost completely inside one house. This is not a post about that horror movie - although I might be tempted to write one for my main blog.

On Friday, though, I mentioned at work I was going to watch that movie, which made one of my colleague mention that it was not a horror movie from his point of view at all. This colleague is male and about 13 years younger than me, he quite often mentions horror movies that fall into the category 'gore, blood and entrails', as far as I am concerned (such as "Saw", currently the upcoming "Saw 4"). Now I wonder whether our different view of what a good horror movies is has to do with our personalities, our gender or the age gap (around the age of twenty, 13 years are a long time).

Personality is something that should never be neglected. Horror movies work with our fears - and apart from some universal fears, we're all different at that point. Fear is something really personal. Some people are very afraid of spiders, for example, while others merely are intrigued or find them rather annoying (like me, especially since I've started living in a flat on ground level and get one or two of them in my bedroom about once a week during the summer). The movie "The Exorcist", for example, was a huge blockbuster in the United States, but fared far less well in Germany - the Germans aren't that easily scared by the devil and his minions, it seems. (And that's strange, given the best-documented case of a real exorcism is from Germany and has taken place in the latter half of the 20th century.)

So our different personality could already explain why we prefer different types of Horror movies. (I, just to mention it here, prefer horror movies with a psychological or scientific background, but as far as I'm concerned, blood, gore and entrails aren't really scary either. They might make me puke, but they won't make me scream out in fear.)

The gender might be another explanation for the different tastes my colleague and I display. On the whole, as far as I've experienced it, men tend towards movies they see as 'challenging' - movies with a high factor of 'gore, blood and entrails' -, because they want to "prove" something. They see themselves as tougher if they watch movies in which the make-up artists and creators of prosthetic body parts had a lot to do.

Women, on the other hand, seem to prefer the horror that is inside your head, the psychological variety. Gore, blood and entrails aren't really scary to them, they just are something that makes you sick, but not something that makes you afraid. As a woman, you're used to see blood regularly for quite a potion of your life, anyway. If you're cooking yourself, you get to see entrails every now and then, too. And as far as the gore is concerned - well, that's not really scary either.

As I said, you might puke after or during such a movie, but that's not the same as being scared, not for a woman. But for a man, watching such a movie and then being able to say "it was nasty, but I didn't get sick" might be a prove of his strong stomach and courage.

But is that the real difference or do I just have the wrong acquaintances (only women who prefer the horror from within and men who prefer the gore-fraction of horror movies)? As I mentioned, that colleague is more than ten years younger than me, merely twenty. I surely was different when I was twenty, too. During that age, the teenage years are not that far off. And for teenagers, breaking taboos (like watching people getting dissected alive...) is pretty much business as usual. That's one of the things being a teenager is about.

So, will he be more interested in psychological horror once he's a few years older? Honestly, I pretty much doubt it. But, of course, I can't be completely certain.

Maybe it's just because men and women think differently, maybe it's because they're raised differently, but it seems that "horror" has different meanings for both genders.

Saturday, February 9

Female Sexuality

Yes, I know I tackled that topic before, in my other blog. But I really feel the need to repeat it here.

Feminism has come a long way, but one thing has not changed the least. The concept of female sexuality. Men always tended to see it as something rather unimportant. Whether or not a woman actually enjoyed sex was of no interest to the man, as long as he got all the sex he wanted. And, as Feminism wanted to take the women out of the role as a victim - or object -, to them the question of whether or not a woman could enjoy sex was unimportant as well, although for other reasons. Sex wasn't as important as changes in politics and society. And a lot of Feminist gave the world an image of being completely asexual anyway.

For example, the question whether or not a woman could be self-assured and look sexy at the same time was debated quite heatedly. Wearing a mini-skirt or painting one's nails was a sure sign of not being a Feminist for quite some time. Looking sexy, Feminists claimed, was not something a woman did for herself, but something a woman did for a man. And an emancipated woman would never do such a thing. But is not looking attractive the only way of showing self-assurance?

For a long time female sexuality was even thought to be practically non-existent. While men wanted sex, the only thing women were supposed to do about it was to provide something to have sex with - as dreadful as it sounds. A woman was supposed to be ready when a man wanted sex - she was not supposed to want it herself. You could even say she was some kind of living sex toy.

It took science quite some time to realize that women can actually orgasm, meaning that they can enjoy sex as well. To men, this was bad news: now the question of whether or not a woman came as well was a marker of a man's sexual abilities. Yes, that was what more or less came out of that scientific discovery: a man has to put work into making a woman come, because otherwise he's not the man he should be. It still wasn't about a woman's sexuality, instead it was about putting more pressure on the man while having sex.

And the women? Still out of the loop.

The fact alone that a woman does not necessarily have to be penetrated to enjoy sex and orgasm, shows quite clearly she doesn't really need a man for it. That doesn't mean having sex with a man cannot be good, it just means it's not the only way to enjoy female sexuality.

Maybe that is why the idea of a self-controlled female sexuality is so scary to men: they can't control it. But does that mean women shouldn't have any sex? I personally don't think so. Sex is a basic need of every human (except, perhaps, for a few saints; but they don't really count, do they).

Women as sex objects seem fine - at least by men's standards (and yes, it's not all the men who want this, I know) - but women who actually want sex? That's not the way it should be in our society.

Religion comes into it as well. Three of the main religions today (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) have the same roots, and all of them see women as a) weaker than men and b) only meant for reproduction. While Adam (if we start at the beginning) has the right to 'want' Eve after a day of hard labour, Eve is just supposed to lie on her back and 'take it'. The missionary position (which all of those religions see as the only 'right one') is one of the least likely positions for a woman to actually achieve satisfaction in. In other words: Eve is not supposed to get anything positive out of the actual sexual act. She is supposed to become pregnant and give birth later on (which is a painful thing).

And, socially speaking, sex was dangerous for women for quite some time. Until the pill was invented, every act - inside and outside marriage - could lead to pregnancy. Inside marriage that was an accepted risk. Women could - even should - become pregnant during a marriage. But a woman who was not married, who was a widow or whose husband was away for too long (read: since before the time at which she must have conceived the baby) could get into a lot of trouble. So sex outside the marriage was dangerous. And sex inside the marriage became dangerous for women sooner or later (because there's only so many children a woman can give birth to and stay healthy). Birth control - whatever the Pope might say about it - has done a lot for women and their sexual freedom.

Female sexuality still is far more of a taboo than sexuality in general terms (of when, how and how often to do 'it'). It's time to change that.