Why We Need To Be Careful About Forced Equality
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Because I can already feel people opening a new internet browser window and beginning to type their hate mail to me just because of the title of this article, I should put a disclaimer out here. If you are a regular reader, then you understand my position on gender equality and you know that I absolutely stand by it 100%.
However if you are new to my articles, please take the time to actually read through my points here before you take a position on what you think I might be saying. After all, you probably don’t even know what the term “forced equality” means. That is probably because I just made it up about 10 minutes before writing this.
The idea behind the term is this: It is just as harmful to tell someone to stop being the way they naturally are because they fit a stereotype, than it is to tell them they need to stop being the way they naturally are because they don’t fit a stereotype.
I think this is an important conversation to have in the midst of the very important gender equality movement. I have written before about the importance of seeing each other as equals in terms of respect and treatment, but simultaneously respecting the differences we all have between us. Even more than respecting them – celebrating them as beautiful.
The reason I think this is important is that I feel there is often an entanglement of messages that come along with discussions such as this. I think we need to be careful. Here is why:
As a man, let’s say I decide to grow out a beard, get in great shape, learn to fight, and work with my hands. These are things I would do because they are interests I have, perhaps some natural talents that cause me to gravitate towards this kind of lifestyle. I would not do these things because it is the stereotypical image of a “masculine man” I am trying to conform to. And I should not be made to feel guilty for doing so.
Similarly, if a woman is much more caring, nurturing, and would rather act in ways that seem to reinforce stereotypical gender roles, it is important to also note that maybe those are the things she naturally gravitates towards. Perhaps she is not doing them because society says that is what a woman “should” do, but because she wants to. And she should not be made to feel guilty for doing so.
Don’t get out the burning pitchforks yet, hear me out.
If a man wants to do none of the things I listed above and wants to, let’s say, be a stay at home dad while his wife goes out and works at her high paying job and financially supports the family while he takes care of domestic duties, that should also be seen as perfectly fine. And he should not be made to feel guilty for doing so.
If a woman wants to become a lumberjack and can swing an ax harder than I can, that should also be perfectly fine. And she should not be made to feel guilty for doing so.
What am I getting at here with all of these arbitrary examples? The point is that we are in some ways pulling each other away from our natural biological tendencies as human beings because we have constructed stereotypes within our society that we are trying to break. But in doing so, if we tell a man they should be more emotional or women they should be more ambitious or powerful in the workplace, this may be a contradiction to certain peoples’ natures, and they will be made to feel just as uncomfortable as if they shoe was on the other foot.
Maybe he is naturally uncomfortable being emotional. Maybe she doesn’t want to be the CEO of her company. Either way, who cares? They are the way they are because of their individual biological makeup, not because they are a man or a woman.
I, for one, enjoy being protective of the people I love (“male trait”), but I am also very affectionate and I am aware of and in touch with my emotions (“female trait”). Not necessarily a stereotypical “man’s man,” but I did not choose that about myself. That is a product of both my nature and my nurture, and that is how I am naturally comfortable being. If someone told me I should be chugging beer and watching football games with the guys while we go out and cut down trees from the forest for firewood, I would be out of my element. But this is often the American image of a “man.”
For me, personally, my father and my brother are both skilled handy-men and much better at building things than I am. I grew up watching my dad build things around the property and my brother grow into an engineer and personal trainer. They share many skills between them that I did not inherit. If I grew up being told that “being a man” means having the ability to do these things, I constantly would have been frustrated and uncomfortable.
Certain people gravitate towards certain things. The science clearly shows that men and women’s brains are different. But more than men and women being different from each other – every single individual one of us is different from each other.
Some women are going to be stronger and more protective. Some men are going to be more domesticated and better at tasks that human-made society has told us are “women’s jobs,” and that is just as perfectly fine as things being the other way around. The idea here – is to let people just be who they are.
Attempting to blur the lines between gender differences can be just as confusing for people, particularly children who are working on learning who they are. It seems to me that we are only trying to break the molds in order to make new molds that everyone can fit into – but that’s not how it works. We should all have our own unique mold and it shouldn’t matter what it is.
Instead of seeing the differences between genders as being a bad thing, we should just see each other as human beings and recognize the beautiful uniqueness of each of us.
The moral of the story is that some people are going to fit into stereotypes. Some people are not. It doesn’t really matter. I am me, and you are you, and we should love and accept each other for it no matter what society says.
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