Gender Polemics, anyone?
There’s been a lot of back and forth on gender roles lately, on Medium, one of the online platforms to which I contribute. What a surprise. Gender politics is a hot topic. So, if you’re looking for eyeballs, it’s a little like shooting fish in a barrel…especially if you have strong opinions and aren’t conflict averse. Write a provocative title, take a controversial stand, and watch the fur fly.
There’s always someone out there spring-loaded to disagree with you, often acrimoniously. And it works, often independent of the relative merits of the post. These days, gender politics live rent-free in some form in the minds of many men and women. So maybe you get eyeballs for no other reason.
And at the 30,000 foot level surely there’s a place for that. Is it not through communication that we arrive at a consensus or at the least, clarify our differences? That said—and no, nobody asked me, but—occasionally I think we may be guilty of pole-vaulting over mouse doo-doo. Work with me, here.
The Parable of the Sperm and the Ova
Not long ago, an article was posted on Medium, entitled “Sperm Don’t Actually Race to the Egg — So Why Do Most Still Believe It?” Having grown up with the narrative that sperm do in fact race (or at least swim toward) their quarry, I was curious—and looking forward to learning something. I must confess to not giving a whole lot of thought to the granular details regarding how the male and female gametes get together and do their thing, beyond my direct role in making that possible. But being intellectually curious, I’m generally open to being educated.
So…I clicked. I should hasten to add, I doubt the updated information is likely to change my behavior much, insofar as I’ve been shooting blanks for decades. But knowledge is knowledge and (IMO), inherently valuable. But I confess I had another, less noble motive.
The article’s title hinted that the author might have another agenda. I was not mistaken. And why would any of us be surprised? We are encouraged daily to think less of each other by self-appointed “thought leaders.” And most of them know the issues on which they’re pontificating are way more nuanced than they’re representing.
But they can’t seem to help themselves, either because someone/something triggered them, or (often) because there’s money or notoriety in it. Given the title, I suspected the post cited above would get a response. I was not wrong.
And Right on Cue...
The post did not go unnoticed. Seventy-nine comments, (including one of my own)…and 6.3K claps. Mission accomplished. Predictably, it drew a reaction from someone who couldn’t resist taking the bait.
And I’m no better than the authors who triggered me. I took the bait, too. But I wonder if both posts don’t highlight our collective interest in the latest shiny object. That said, is there maybe an argument for all of us being just a tad bit more nuanced? The gender divide has been around as long as I can remember…and I’ve been around long enough to remember things I’d just a soon not.
Everything happens in a context. And our interpretations of events are profoundly influenced by our context and our experiences, which in turn tend to shape our opinions. One of the smartest comments I’ve ever read was by Anaïs Nin, who once observed, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” How we see the world and interpret our experiences in it are a function of where we get our information and the net intellectual heft of those who influence how we interpret them.
I’m certain you’re thoughtful enough to see where this is headed. Part of our contextual, lived reality is gender and our experiences as a result of that gender identity. There are women writing today whose experiences with men (and patriarchy) have been stifling and restrictive if not down-right exploitive. It’s not difficult, IMO, to dope out why they might see things differently.
Likewise, there are men writing on this site whose own experiences attempting to relate to women have uniformly sucked buffalo penises. There are men who have been told they’re not tall enough, not accomplished enough or not “cool” enough, whatever that means, to be worthy of women’s attention.
Is it Really a Matter of Right and Wrong?
Neither men nor women are wrong to draw the inferences they draw. The majority of expressions I read in the fraught world of gender politics today carry a measure of truth. And as you would guess from the way I phrased that, it isn’t just women or just men who have a point. In our sometimes heated disagreements over who’s more dysfunctional in the 3d decade of the 21st Century, we’re cooperating with each other to miss the point.
Instead of making each other wrong for how we feel, maybe we should listen without judgment, get clarification when we need it and find the common ground. Deep down, don’t we all know this is the path to understanding? We certainly apply it to people who matter to us. Is it possible we’ve become hard-wired for competition and conflict, rather than taking yes for an answer?
Instead of blaming each other for how society has shaped us, how much better off would we be if we could forgive each other for buying into obsolete or flawed paradigms and work together to create a new paradigm that works better for both genders?
From the conversations online and elsewhere that I read/overhear today, it’s painfully obvious that a lot of what we’re doing isn’t working for either sex. So maybe it’s time to change that? Just thinking out loud…