Looking at the Gender Divide: Where does it come from?

Usually when discussing the “gender divide” people are referring to the pay gap between the sexes. Men make more money than women in similar fields, regardless of experience or proven success.

But why?

At the end of the day, that particular discussion goes back to the power levels between men and women. Historically speaking, women have been treated as property because it was believed we were incapable of doing the same work as a man. It was also understood that the woman’s place was in the home to raise the children and provide the education. This arrangement, however gave all the POWER in the relationship to the men.

We women revolted and thus have been fighting for equality for quite some time now (right to vote, property rights, reproductive rights). We took the fight to the boardroom sometime in the 1970’s, and we’ve been fighting the “good fight” ever since. Whoever has the money, has the power, and women as a whole have been fighting to regain some of the power.

money-equals-power

If you ask me, though, this “fight” to be recognized in business is only a reflection of the power struggle inherent in our relationships.

I’ve spoken about it before because I want a dominant man in my life; I even went into a bit of detail how the power struggle in the dating game is part of the fun, but as women fight to be seen as equal in the public sphere, how is it affecting the power struggle in the private realm?

Traditional gender roles (as in the 1950’s model) have the woman as an object to be obtained. It is the man’s duty to woo her, prove his ability to provide for her, and once he’s won her, she is effectively his property.

The woman’s sole job, on the other hand, is to make herself as desirable as possible, both before and after marriage. Before marriage, a woman was supposed to present herself as beautiful and slightly seductive, yet maintain some essence of purity and innocence. After marriage, a wife (in the 1950’s model, remember) was meant to be the caretaker in the home, raising the children, keeping the home clean and organized, and keeping her husband happy. For generations, the “wifely duty” has been a euphemism for sex, and it was not meant for the woman’s pleasure, or at least as it’s presented.

wifely duties

Obviously, the world has changed! Cosmo no longer gives advice on how to help your husband to be successful, but on how to balance your own success and still have a healthy (read sexual) social life. (You should definitely check out this Smithsonian exhibit which features the changing cover of Cosmo)

Woman have been liberated, and it’s acceptable for the woman to make the first move. In fact, there are plenty of men who say it takes some of the pressure off of them when a woman approaches them first.

But, just as things aren’t equal in the boardroom, they aren’t equal in the bedroom yet either. Or even the dating sphere, for that matter.

Before we get too far into the heart of it, a little disclaimer: I’ll be the first to admit that my perspective may be a little skewed. I’m a single, non-white, middle-class, country-raised woman in my thirties in Texas. I am not the preferred demographic of Cosmo magazine, or many of the others that are designed to help women navigate the ever evolving social scene today, so as you read on, please recognize that this is MY experience with the dating scene. I always love comments and I love a good debate, but do it respectfully.

rulesMy experience has been that there is a strange tension between men and women now that there are no rules any more. Believe me, I don’t think the old rules were the right way to go, but with NO rules, things get muddled, and quickly. It’s difficult for the different sexes to be friends because of the uncertainty of signals nowadays.

A woman who is comfortable with her sexuality is still, in some circles, considered a slut. I’ve heard it from my guy friends (and my brothers for that matter) that they want a woman who is experienced in the bedroom, but they are leery of them being too experienced. So that double standard still exists. The result is that when a woman makes the first move, she is labeled a predator or a slut; she is seen as untrustworthy partner.

The Artist in particular had a problem with this. We had on more than one occasion (when I was apparently acting as his personal counselor) discussed his view that a strong woman needs a stronger man to preserve the natural order. His experiences had shown him that a woman who is more dominant will demean her man and becomes restless, while the man goes further and further into his shell, until basically there is just the shell left.

More interestingly is how he and I interacted, since I am a fairly dominant female myself. He often misinterpreted my actions as trying to “trap” him into a relationship. If I suggested we go to a movie, he took it as me trying to initiate a date.

Sometimes a movie is just a movie.

only a movie

It makes it really difficult for us women to understand when a guy is interested or not. Obviously, if he conforms to the traditional roles, then it is quite obvious: he will pursue the woman, offer to pay, hold open doors, and all those chivalrous things that for some reason “feminists” find offensive. But, if he is more modern, and won’t conform to those standards, or if (heaven forbid) the woman makes the first move, it is much more difficult to tell.

I mentioned in my New Year’s post that I had asked the Starchitect  Superman (in honor of the shirt, I’m changing his nickname) to join me for the movies. The first time I asked was indeed just a friendly gathering, but I had tried to dress up because I had hoped it might end up to be a date. No pressure at all; it was my way of gauging his interest. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t sense any attraction, so I thought I knew where I stood.

IntentionsAfter he read the New Year’s post, we discussed it, and he had no idea that it had been my intention for it to be a date (it wasn’t, it was more like a pre-date). When we discussed the New Year’s date (to see the Hobbit movie), I think he actually commented on it being a date, though I’m not sure if that was intentional… He was making an analogy, after all, but even if we hadn’t spent New Year’s Eve together, I was still planning on looking at it like an actual date.

And here lies the problem: how does one know, really know, what the other person’s intentions are now that the rules of dating are moving towards the same equality that women are striving to achieve in the workplace.

I mentioned feminists a moment ago, and I have purposefully put “Gender Divide” in the title because I think this is where the dating problems come from. Again, I don’t believe that the old model was correct, but the struggle for equality in the office through the actions of extreme feminists seems to be the source of this new gender divide in the dating realm.

feminism2Before I get lynched, let me explain that I don’t much like the term feminist. It was originally created as a word that meant a supporter of equal rights, and as women were the ones being oppressed, it was gender specific.

The word has, however, been taken up by a number of militant feminists who now use the word as a shield for their male bashing ways. I have commented amongst friends that I think we need a new word that is indicative of equal rights for all, no matter the gender (or race or sexuality or trans/cis or anything else). The logical word would be “humanist” but this word has been taken by the atheists, so yeah…

straw-feminism

Feminism done incorrectly!

It seems to me that as the feminists continue to try to force men to see them as equals, what they are effectively doing is blurring the gender roles so extremely that even the positive things are getting lost. Chivalry is seen (by some) as an insult, as if women are incapable of opening their own door, instead of being recognized as the respectful gesture it is meant as. Same with paying for the meal, or offering his arm to walk arm in arm.

As a result, many men don’t do these things anymore, and the few that do aren’t always met with a positive reaction. Superman offered to let me walk in front of him because there was a puddle on the sidewalk the last time we went out, and I nearly panicked because it was such a foreign concept to me. I think I did do some crazy thing and start rambling about how it makes me nervous to have people behind me. It does happen to make me a little nervous, but it wasn’t that big of a deal; I was just shocked by the old-fashionedness of the act.

I could continue, but this post is getting a little longer than I had initially planned. We’ll look into solutions in a later post. In the meantime, please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear about some of your experiences. Do you think I’m on the mark? Or totally off my rocker?

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13 thoughts on “Looking at the Gender Divide: Where does it come from?

  1. Tim Rigney says:

    :/ I think that article from the ’60s is probably the single-most chauvanist thing I’ve seen in my life. It’s good for a lark or role-playing but pretty antiquated even in the ’60s. I’m beginning to think they should be looked back on as “primitive times.”

    • Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come? Although, in a discussion with some of my students to prepare for our reading of Brave New World, they seemed to think that some of the double standards still exist… or at least as far as society was concerned.

      Thanks for reading! And thanks for commenting!

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