In the course of my new job, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about traditional societal sexual roles and how they can colour our expectations of the people we meet on a daily basis.
In one instance, my co-workers and I were talking about women in nontraditional fields of employment. One co-worker is ex-military, and explained why he would be reluctant to have females serving alongside him on the battlefield. He talked about how difficult it would be for him to ‘allow’ a woman to be in harm’s way, because he has been programmed since childhood to protect the ‘weaker sex.’
He said that he would be distracted with worry over the fate of the delicate flower next to him in the trench, and that would probably cause him to fight less effectively.
I said “Wait a minute–if there’s a woman next to you, she’s undergone the same combat training as you, has the same weapons and the same capability to defend herself and cause the enemy serious harm as you do. She also has the same equal responsibility to look after YOU that you have to look after her. And you’re telling me that you can’t overcome the instinct to protect her? You can’t treat her as a teammate and let her do her job, while you do yours?”
He said that no, he couldn’t, at which I replied something rude about evolution evidently not catching him up, and him thinking with his male sexual organ instead of his brain.
Another day, a coworker and I were talking about love interests and dating. She commented that men just naturally have a wandering eye, and that because of their penis and men-ness, are expected to wander. “They can’t help it, they’re men,” she said, shrugging. “That’s what men do, right?”
And again, I said “Wait a minute. Just because they’re men, they’re expected to be unfaithful, and they’re held to a different standard of fidelity?! That’s HOOEY.” Except I didn’t say ‘hooey’, I said something else much more descriptive.
This co-worker is an intelligent woman, much younger than I, an attractive, engaging woman who I thought had a higher level of self-esteem. I was saddened and shocked to find that she truly believes these antiquated stereotypes of expected behavior for men.
Come ON, people! Just because men have penises, that doesn’t mean they have no self-control! Let’s all agree that men are rational, evolved beings who do not need to think with their hoglegs, and who can overcome the programmed knee-jerk reaction to ‘save the wimmenfolk’ and then jump their bones.
Although…if one IS a man, arguing that one “just can’t help it, I’m a man, you know what animals we can become” could be a very handy cop-out. How many will take that easy way out, even though they know it isn’t true?