Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Superwoman v Feminism

The following is all generally speaking, people are endlessly varied and the individual will often prove the generalization very wrong.  Also, it tends to apply most to the relationships between men and women and not to same sex relationships.  Since I have never been in a same sex relationship, I cannot really offer an opinion as to how this applies to them, or if it applies at all.

In early civilizations, matriarchy was the way of life, women were revered as life givers, the ones who carried the next generation, the carriers of the legacies of the men.  There is no greater way for man's name to burn bright through the ages than in his descendants.  As such, women were considered powerful for providing this link to immortality.  Goddess figures are found all over the earth, showing early man's reverence for womanhood.

Women and men tended to work side by side in early tribes.  Men, with their greater physical strength went out to hunt the animals in teams that utilized that strength.  Women stayed closer to the hearth, tending the young and elders of the tribe.  They gathered the herbs and plants for medicines and food to go along with that meat.  Any nutritionist will tell you that while meat is extremely important as a source of protein, people generally need to live primarily off of plant based foods.  Women also were and always have been the maintainers of social structure.  The women and the elders helped keep up with the children, taught them the ways of the tribe, taught them their work as productive members of the tribe.  If the women didn't keep up with the children, their would be no need for the men to hunt and bring home provisions.  There would be no tribe, nor a future.  There would be no innovation, because without a future, there is little need for improving anything.

In later cultures, women held places as important as men.  They were warriors and priestesses and monarchs, just as men were.  Even so, men and women still tend to hold different roles, generally speaking, because just as generally speaking, men and women tend to think differently and have different strengths and weaknesses.  It wasn't until more recent cultures that women were seen as 'the weaker sex'.   And that lasted far too long, and continues to last in some minds, unfortunately.

That seems to be what hard core feminism rebels against.  But is one extreme really better than the other?  Most major religions teach moderation in everything, from eating to arguing.  Can eschewing the rightful power of men in favor of the power of women be any better than saying women are the weaker sex?  Do we have to have one sex under the heel of the other?  Are women who enjoy the strengths of men any less for it? 

It would seem that women who are comfortable enough in their own strengths to allow a man to behave in a mannered fashion have the right thinking.  There is nothing weak about allowing a man to open a door for you, in fact does a woman not hold a position of power to expect a man to treat her with that sort of respect?  Are we not saying, I deserve reverence in your treatment of me?  Is it a demeaning thing to know your value as a woman and hold others to the standards of value you place on yourself?  How does expecting a man to follow his historically natural role as a provider make a woman weaker than a man?  How does that say that a woman cannot provide for herself?  It doesn't.  The modern strength of a feminist woman isn't the hardcore, bra burning, men are lesser than women stance, it is much simpler.  It is a stance that says as a woman I have as much choice to live however I like, as a man does.  Social standards be damned, it is all about my choices, the only limitations on me are those I set for myself.  I think everyone should have that choice.  Men and women alike.  Of course the right to live as I please only extends as far as it isn't harmful to the next persons' similar rights.

So in this belief, it is also right and the strength of womanhood to be a stay at home mother if a woman chooses.  If she wants to devote her life to home and hearth and the happiness of her husband and children, if that is what her desires and strengths stem from, then that is her Superwoman power.  If a woman will only date men who treat her with respect and manners, who court her in what modern society often deems as old fashioned, then that is powerful for her.  If a woman wants to pursue a career and climb the ladder of success in her chosen field, then that is what she should do.  That choice is her superpower.  If she wants to pursue a career and raise a family and has to demand that her husband participate as much as she does in the running of the household, then she should.  And in turn, he absolutely should share equally in the burdens of the household.  Every woman has the right to choose what makes her as powerful as the next person.  This is the heart and soul of feminism.  The power of choosing your life's path and how you will walk it.

In being raised in the American South, I believe men should treat me with respect.  I expect the door to be opened for me, I expect a man to pull out a chair for me, to hold my coat as I put it on or take it off.  I want him to feel the role of protector and provider.  There are few instances anymore where I would need protecting in any way I could not do myself, but I believe men need that as an affirmation of their masculinity.  And if demanding that sort of behavior makes me powerful and his fulfilling those demands makes him feel powerful, then isn't this a win win situation?  Aren't we both feeling the strengths of our roles?  Let's face it, men and women are different creatures, with different strength and weaknesses.  The best partnerships make  use of each others' strengths and weaknesses.  It only weakens a partnership to denigrate one member into a role of weakness.  I don't buy into women are more than men or men are more than women.  We are two halves of a whole and should work in tandem to make the whole strong and stable.

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