I was driving home today on the 101 and was struck by a thought.
What if we were to think of individuals—men and women, as two different beings? So a man would be both a gender (male) and non-gender (intellect), and a woman would be the same.
What I think this explains about our situation, that other models fail to, is how and why gender roles exist to the degree that they do. This will sound rather course, but I think the part of us that is a gender is simply…well, inferior.
Men are inferior. Women are inferior. Or at least the parts of us that are those things. They are our animal selves, our lesser selves, our sexual selves. They are what evolution demands that we be, so the fact that they are primitive and crude should fail to surprise.
Our other sides—our better sides—are thinkers, artists, and scientists. We are mothers and fathers and painters and poets and accountants and teachers. We are mental beings striving for a world of equality and fairness and virtue.
So when we see gender roles and social arrangements that make us wince and cringe, perhaps we should decouple the causes in our minds. Perhaps we should assign blame not to individuals or groups, but instead to the flawed vestigial components within them.
Astute readers may notice that this is impractical. I think even more insightful readers would disagree, however. I think knowing why we behave in such foolish ways helps us immeasurably.
If a man finds himself making poor choices in life, or posturing like a fool in certain situations, he may be inclined to think himself foolish as a person. And if a woman finds herself behaving in a similarly demeaning way, against her own will as a progressive person, perhaps she shouldn’t castigate herself on the whole.
Maybe these two should see themselves instead as afflicted with a chronic and completely natural ailment. A condition that causes all manner of strange and (often) undesirable behavior.
Being able to see things this way doesn’t fix our problems. It doesn’t solve inequality. But it may be helpful in the sense that it explains to some degree why we behave the way we do.
It’s like understanding depression, or alcoholism, or any other ailment that humans suffer. Giving names to these things, and working to understand them, doesn’t make the behavior they cause acceptable. What it does is separate the behavior from the host’s desired behavior, and charts a course towards improvement.
Eager to hear any thoughts.
- I am not saying that our sexual/gender sides are all bad. There is, for starters, the small matter of it making our very existence and future possible. I’m only addressing the negative here.