Yes, men and women are different. I agree. However, I believe that while differences can be celebrated and valued, they are ultimately irrelevant in a social court of law.
To all those people who think "differences" merit disparate treatment, may I ask you something? What are those differences, and why do they matter so much?
I'm not joking. I really want to know.
Sometimes people point to the physical differences in men and women. Women are physically weaker than men. We have lower muscle mass and tend to be smaller in size. But in the 21st century, why is that relevant? My upper body strength (or lack thereof) does not make me a worse lawyer than a man with big biceps.
People also talk about the fact that men and women supposedly think differently. Women tend to be better at "soft skills," like empathizing with others or resolving interpersonal conflicts. Men tend to have better spacial recognition skills. Some of this may be the result of brain chemistry, but a lot probably has to do with the way we're socialized as children.
But these are only generalizations. Women, as a group, may have slightly worse spacial recognition skills than men, as a group. This does not necessarily mean that, I, Ru, have worse spacial recognition skills than my friendster Nelson. Nor does it mean that just because women generally are better at resolving personal conflicts that I would be more suited to such a task than my brother Charlie.
If you're religious, people often point to the fact that motherhood and fatherhood are divinely appointed roles. While that is true, do people really believe that because women are nurturing, men are not? Or that because women are nurturing, they should be treated differently than someone (ie, a man) who is not?
People talk about the fact that women are kind, sympathetic, patient, etc. But all of these qualities should be and are also possessed by men. When I have a problem, or need advice or support, I go to my father. Does that make him less masculine? My mother less feminine?
I've heard people describe marriage as a partnership. (Yeah, yeah, I'm not married. I have no idea how it really works and therefore my opinion is meaningless. Got it.) Not to make everything a bar review course, but in a partnership, both partners have an equal vote, regardless of what equity each brought to the table.
So here's my view of marriage: A wife may carry and give birth to a child, but a husband has equal say in how that child is raised. A husband may (but not always) make more money than his wife. But she has an equal say in how that money is spent. There may be times when either partner is overwhelmed, tired, angry, frustrated, hurtful, or lazy. Their contribution to the partnership may dip lower than 10%, meaning the other partner will have to make up the difference. But because it is a partnership, that means neither owes the other. Both will continue to have an equal say. And that say has nothing to do with what junk is in their undies.
Yes, they are different. But in a true partnership, differences merely complement each other, they don't justify disparate treatment.
I like being a woman, but mostly I love being me. I love that I am a good listener, and I regret that I am not a good cook. I love that I am loyal and always try to be generous. I regret my short temper. Am I more of a woman because I am patient and loyal and giving, but less of a woman because I don't bake and scream in traffic? Isn't that like being "sort of pregnant?" I can't NOT be a woman, because I AM a woman. My personal qualities cannot and do not make me less feminine. I like wearing dresses and lip gloss, but that does not define me as a person.
I like the men in my life, but I mostly I love them for themselves. I love that Charlie is spontaneous and Ryan is good with computers and Diego and Rick make people feel good about themselves and Nelson never stops teasing me. I love that Bradley gives good advice. I love that Aaron is awkward and quirky. I love that my dad and brothers are loving and hard workers and big laughers.
But none of these qualities exist only because they are men. They exist because they are GOOD men. And goodness is more important than one society's notions of "masculinity" or "femininity."
Am I off base, people-who-care-so-much-about-the-differences-between-men-and-women? And if so, how?
If you're going to keep saying it, I want to know why.
PS: For a great post on why feminism still matters, click here.