Thursday, February 09, 2006



I've been thinking about this in the wake of the death of Betty Friedan... People measure the success of the women's movment by pointing out how their daughters won an award in the science fair; how women are rising in the ranks of mathematics professors and deans; how women are enrolling in engineering colleges and flying fighter jets in the armed forces. I'm glad that women are gaining in these fields and deservedly earning the respect of their male peers.

But there's something unsettling about this. Women's success seems to be measured almost entirely in terms of their entry, proficiency, and representation in male-championed pursuits: the rather clinical but unemotional fields of science and math, the brutish, violent, anti-compassionate pastimes of hunting and rodeo. Are typically male interests the benchmark of success?

Wouldn't a more meaningful measure of equality be an influx of men into areas that have historically been downgraded as "women's work" or "for the ladies?" I'd like to see some counterpoint to praising women for being "tough" and "fighters" and "warriors" and "not emotional." I'd like to see men praised for embracing feminine traits. I'd like to see skills like nurturing, conflict avoidance, and staying home with a sick child put on the same - or higher - plane as math wizardy and competitiveness.

When a man can say "I love my cats" or express deep interest in Jane Austin without derisive comebacks by his peers; when new male enrollees in home economics and poetry classes equal new women students in wood shop and physics, and when the respective levels of boosterism are equal; when men pride themselves in remembering their friends' and relatives' birthdays; when men get over "real men eat red meat" (and consequent heart attacks); when men can express fear and sadness as easily as they can express anger - then I'll feel like women are truly respected.

great entry, gary! i really like your train of thought on this one. :)
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