Being a Woman is Great

July 14, 2011

I have never taken any kind of gender studies course (or even a sociology or psychology course), and have little to no quantifiable evidence to support my opinions; only my own experience.

Based on this experience, I think being a woman is great. I have never felt held back by my gender although, admittedly, I am not particularly career-minded. I would imagine that is one of the arenas where people are fighting the hardest for equality here in Canada.

I love both genders and believe they need each other equally. When I hear someone imply that one gender is better overall than the other, I think they’re deluded or conceited. As far as I’m concerned, people can go ahead and make their cheap-shot not-really-that-funny gender jokes all they like, but they can expect to lose a bit of my respect each time they do. (This goes for “men are clueless dopes” jokes as much as “women are incompetent and should stay in the kitchen” jokes.) On the other hand, when I hear someone say that both genders are the same, I disagree there as well. If they truly were the same, they wouldn’t exist. They wouldn’t have to.

No, men and women are different and, born of that, they are naturally better (in general) at different things. I would assert that the things we find ourselves “naturally good at,” individually, are clues about what our purpose is. And to lean into one’s purpose will result in the greatest positive impact. It is foreseeable that some men will be very good at things that are typically considered “a woman’s role” and some women will be very good at things that are typically considered “a man’s role.” To me, gender equality means that these people are free to lean into their strengths without their gender hindering them.

However, we also see people of a gender who aren’t naturally good at something considered as the other gender’s role, but they try to go there anyways, hoping that “gender equality” means that they’re fully entitled to. But the standards of any role should not be lowered in order to accommodate that interpretation of equality. That would just result in everything being less good.

Considering traditional gender roles, now, look back in time. In mankind’s early days, people lived in hunter-gatherer societies. It was natural for the males to do the hunting— they’re bigger and stronger. To continue the society, having children was important and much less optional than it is today. So, females had children and took care of them while the men were hunting. Those gender roles made sense in a purely physical framework. Think about times as recent as the early 1700s. If they weren’t upper-class, people worked on farms. Having children back then wasn’t about having a cute little peanut to buy adorable clothes for. People had kids as employees— hands to work the farm. A lady could spend most of her prime years in pregnancy. So, physically-determined gender roles made sense in that time, too. The man did the heavy lifting and grunt work involved in farm living that a pregnant lady probably shouldn’t. Plus, seven to fourteen kids probably kept her fairly busy.

In our times of modern convenience, the overwhelming majority of the downtown jobs a person can get requires little to no physical strain or aptitude. And if you’re willing to have a mature conversation without any quippy jokes, you can submit that for the intellect required by the average office job, men and women are absolutely on an equal playing field. So, while my female ancestors’ survival might have depended on settling down with a huge man able to protect her from wolves, bears and other men, I live in one of the safest places in the world. I have never required the protection of anyone; not because I am strong or fearsome, but because city life and society itself (coupled with the common sense of not walking down the beltline at two in the morning) protects me. The most dangerous creature I come across with any regularity is my eight-year-old tabby cat and that’s straight-up not an exaggeration.

With that in mind, why should any office jobs be considered “men’s jobs?” Why wouldn’t women “invade” the workforce? The human population is in no danger of extinction; a woman can choose not to have children without guilt for the species’ survival. Our middle-class North American world has largely moved beyond gender roles being dictated by physical predisposition, which means that our culture is one that is poised, perhaps more than ever, for equality.

To consider this change in roles themselves, and the inevitable happening of women filling in these roles because they are completely able to, is it accurate to say that women no longer need men? Of course not. That is like saying that men have historically not needed women. Ultimately, neither gender can survive without the other— it is a biological truth. The roles dynamic is merely altered. In our great grandparents’ time, it was nearly always the man who would provide for the family. Now, we’re seeing the emergent “stay-at-home dad” and “breadwinner mom.” Yes, the lines between genders seem to be blurring a bit in terms of profession roles, but in my opinion, this is not cause for alarm. There remain enough family-minded women that a man wanting to work eight hours at a job and come home to a hot dinner is still be able to find such a wife and do so. If these women are more rare than they have previously been, all the better. It will prove how valuable they always have been.

Where does this upcoming gender role equality lead us in terms of the day-to-day flourishes that ladies have enjoyed for years? Admittedly, this is where it gets fuzzy for me. I think it’s nice when a man opens a door for me or says something like, “ladies first” when getting off a bus, but I certainly don’t expect these things and I do not take particular notice when they do not occur. They are things that, I think, add geniality to our civilization. People who read too much (negatively) into these small gestures are merely looking for a fight. Being offended if a man doesn’t open a door for you, or being offended if he DOES (I can do it myself, thank you very much), is either manifesting an air of entitlement or is simply missing the point. I would be a little sad to see these little things (door holding, etc.) go completely by the wayside, but if they do, they do. If women truly are viewed as equal in coming years, those things will have no reason to remain.

In any case, Tom always opens my door for me when we drive somewhere and it makes me feel cherished. We both have stellar dads who respect and adore our moms and that makes me so, so happy. I hope it’s a trend that will carry on throughout the generations.

“Equality” is a word you hear all the time, but I wonder how similar everyone’s definitions of this word would be. Because, in terms of workplace gender equality, to me, “equality” does not mean “50+% of all top-level managerial positions shall be held by women.” I think that’s a bad way of measuring it. It would be better to say, “Employees are paid based on the quality of their work, regardless of their gender.”

The truth as I see it is that, although we notice an increase these days of women who want a career and not a family, there are still many women who want a family instead of a career (or, a career after a family). I am unashamedly one of the latter; my kids will have my full attention. Based on that, it would be unwise of my employer to groom me for upper management in the company. Those efforts would be wasted when I ultimately quit my job to raise kids. This is completely due to my gender; if I were a man, it would be a different story. Of course, this makes it difficult for women who want a career and not children. Companies are caught between a rock and a hard place because it is technically against the law to discriminate. But they are taking a risk when they hire the 25-year-old female over the comparably qualified 25-year-old male. Even if the female vows that she doesn’t want kids, minds do change. I’ve seen it happen. If she quits two years in, the company might take a hit that they perhaps would have avoided in hiring the male. At least, that’s how I see it. And I think it’ll be an issue that may never completely go away, because women will always be the gender that can naturally bear children.

One thing I think is unfortunate is that, as a culture, we have developed a mind that will “rank” roles based on perceived importance. One woman says, “I’m a lawyer,” and another says, “I’m just a housewife,” as though one role is more important than the other. I don’t think it is. If this “just a housewife” creates harmony and security in the lives of her family members, the impact of that is immeasurable, yet commonly undervalued. I think a woman’s choice to be “just a stay at home mom” should not be looked down on. To say she should aspire to more is making an undue judgment. As someone who has little interest in the professional world, I can predict that probability suggests there to be some men out there who feel similarly. If they want to keep a home and raise a family, I think they should be able to so, without scorn (in the same way a woman should be free to say, “I don’t want to have kids,” and become a politician if that’s where her skill set takes her.)

And not to beat a dead horse, but I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good and loving mother— a woman who has said, “I do want to have kids and will do all I can to raise them right.” That’s the mother I have, and I happily give her due credit for any good I manage do in this world. I don’t have to spend my time dealing with the emotional scars of bad or spotty mothering; I can skip straight to doing what I can for other young girls. I don’t say this to brag. It is in desperate gratitude that I underline the impact that “just a housewife” has.

Now, Kate Middleton received some attention earlier this year when it was dispensed that she would not, in her wedding vows, promise to “obey” William. It seems reasonable that this part of the traditional vow originated in the bit of scripture that ladies love to hate, Ephesians 5:22; “Wives— submit to your husbands.”

Misogynistic? Read the verse before it: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And skip down to verse twenty-five: “Husbands— love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Some translations use the word “cherish.” Have you ever cherished something? Would you wish harm on that thing? Christ suffered and died for His church. We are talking here about very powerful devotion. If you ask me, women are duly protected by the same chapter that might doom them to a life of matrimonial servitude. On top of it all, I live in a culture where a woman may choose the man to whom she makes wedding vows. Instead of worrying that submission undermines you as a person, why not simply choose a just and good man whose advice you value and whose decisions account for your feelings and well-being? Submitting to one another could be quite natural for a like-minded couple.

On a related note, you hear from time to time that a guy is “whipped.” Maybe he’s at the beck and call of his wife as though he’s a trained dog, maybe he makes sacrifices far more often than she does, maybe he’s continually putting up flowery wallpaper in the master bedroom while all his friends are getting rowdy at the game. It’s disappointing when it gets to that extent. But, as in all things, I hope for a balance. Because, on the other hand, if a man is married, he can’t go on living and thinking like a bachelor. I was talking to a newlywed acquaintance last week and, of married life, he said, “It’s a little scary. It struck me suddenly that it’s not just me anymore.” I think he is very right to think so. Both partners must sacrifice and think of each other. Within reason, it is not a mark of weakness, but of strength. In short, I hope the term “whipped” will be reserved for those truly embarrassing cases and not attached carelessly to any man who shows difference to his wife.

To conclude, I deeply respect both genders. I hope I succeed in ultimately conveying to my youth group girls that despite what they hear, men are not all pigs. Some are, but some women are, too. That they do not need the love of a man to be happy, and that the love of a man will not necessarily make them happy. However, it surely can— if they are discerning, and patient to wait for a good one. Yes, they are certainly out there.

1 Comment
  1. Reply

    Dave Church

    July 21, 2011

    With the same caveats as you (no academic training), I think this was an excellent entry. Very grounded and thoughtful.

    In a society where everything’s poked and prodded and analyzed for meaning, I think it’ll be very interesting to see where gender roles go over the next several years.



Hey guys. I'm just some girl who enjoys life and thinks a lot. I'm a full-time wife & mom who loves gardens, coffee dates and cats, particularly my cat.