We've all heard the expression, "You can't live with 'em, and you can't live without 'em." This is usually said by a man who has just had a run-in with a woman. Well, buckle up. I'm going to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the gender wars, and since the only map I have was drawn by a drunken monkey who didn't know what tree he was in, we may leave the pavement at any time; keep your heads and arms inside the blog, please...
The "initiating event" for this post occurred when I wondered (prompted, no doubt, by some inane sitcom) why it is that when a man expresses his appreciation of a sunset, a butterfly's wing, or a stunning piece of culinary architecture, women reward him by expressing their approval because he is "sensitive," but when he takes that next step, and admires the architecture of a stunning woman, he becomes a lower life form, fit only for castration and imprisonment?
When faced with a question of general human behavior like this, my approach is to look at what feral humans were doing a couple of million years ago that got us to where we are. Back when homo erectus was grubbing roots on the Savannah, I'm guessing he was the preferred prey animal of the large predators. Let's face it, a lion can catch us without breaking into a trot, and once it does, we have no big teeth, no sharp claws, nothing that is going to give a lion the slightest pause. So, my guess is, proto-humans were dropping like flies. One tried and true strategy to cope with this is having vast numbers of offspring. This is a strategy that predates the dinosaurs, and there's no reason to think that it wouldn't have appeared among pressured human populations.
So, we have a situation in which males, men, have a genetic imperative to not only produce as many children as possible, but to do it with a variety of women in order to diversify the gene pool. This proclivity to be promiscuous thus becomes part of our genetic baggage. This is no longer necessary, nor is it socially acceptable, but that drive continues to hang on, because when a strategy has been successful for millions of years, it doesn't go away quietly. Women know this. When a man, especially a man with whom they have a personal history and even a genetic common interest, says something like, "Wow, she's pretty," the woman on his arm is most likely to reply, "I'll cut your balls off!" In fairness to the woman, the assumption she makes, that her man is considering a fling with the admired stranger, is often correct. Of course, it just as often isn't, but this doesn't really help. When the basic reproductive contract is so fraught with mistrust, how close and trusting can the overall relationship be?
Women tend to think in a different manner than men. Men for centuries have made snide remarks about how pathetic it is when a woman tries to do analytical thinking, but the facts don't support this disparaging attitude. See, when a man works on solving a problem, he tends to use one hemisphere of his brain almost exclusively. One deals with abstract symbols, and the other deals with the physical space around him. The problem solving woman tends to use both as a unified whole. Return for a moment to the feral humans out on the veldt. Having fathered all these children, the male has one more job left to do. That is to make sure as many of them as possible survive to adulthood to start the cycle over. The male, who is generally larger and stronger (see the stats on size differential between males and females in harem-collecting mammals) is the expendable member of the pair, as he doesn't actually have these children, so that duty falls to him. If he could stay alive, fine, but if the last resort was to throw himself in front of a sabre-toothed cat so that mom and the kids can make it up a tree, then that's what he did. This sort of thinking doesn't lend itself to a lot of analytical thinking, in fact, quite the opposite; nobody who is good at predicting consequences is likely to throw himself in front of too many sabre-toothed cats.
So we have some more genetic baggage: Men can be demonstrated to have a martyr complex, a willingness to go out in a blaze of glory, and our analytical skills tend to focus on the immediate without too much dwelling on down-the-road consequences. And yet we see women's abstract thinking skills being ridiculed for centuries as being weak and flawed, an exercise in futility. How did we get to that?
Ancient societies are known to have revered women. Their childbearing ability accorded them immediate awe from men, who had to do something heroic to prove their masculinity, and often their value to a society. A woman could gain the same status by producing a child, and this "body magic" was only enhanced by their intricate thinking skills. They were leaders, healers, nurturers, priestesses, interpreters of signs. I guarantee you, the term "feminine intuition" was not coined by a female. It is an excuse to placate the male who can't experience what it means to apply both hemispheres to the solving of a problem.
Then, culture by culture across the world, agriculture was discovered. Primative humans found that you could put a seed into the dirt, provide water and nutrients, and a tiny plant would emerge, grow to maturity, and make its contribution to the society. The analagous view of human reproduction was too close for any male to miss. You put a seed into a woman, kept her safe and nourished, and a tiny human would emerge, grow to maturity, and make his contribution to the society. The almost mystical regard for women was replaced by one in which she was, not to put too fine a point on it, the dirt in which the male's seed grew, and he was everything of any importance. Did you know that as recently as the years around 1900 (during the reign of Queen Victoria, for God's sake!) there was a school of thought, not dominant, but considered valid, that held that women weren't really human, but were a sub-species whose only purpose was for breeding? How are you going to hold an attitude like that for millennia without having it boil over? And how can there be any respect between genders?
Early '60s. Women's Lib. I was there. It wasn't pretty. Life in America was supposedly exemplified by Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. Of course, everyone knows that that was Hollywood's caricature of suburban life, but I grew up in one of those 'burbs, and what I remember is more similarities than differences. Women all had the domestic role. My grandma was Rosie the Riveter. She kept her factory job after the War, and was viewed by my neighborhood playmates as an aberration; a real woman would limit her concerns to laundry and cooking, like their moms. My mother, as noted elsewhere, was a professional gambler and part-time card room bouncer, and I defy anyone without a psychology degree to figure out what the neighborhood kids made of her!
And then women, young women my own age, started acting in a way I had never been trained for. Or maybe I had; having had no men involved in my upbringing, there was never anyone around to teach me that it was OK to treat a woman like a piece of meat. I had been raised by a family of strong women, but it was still culture shock for me when women began to shun the chivalrous attitudes I had been brought up with. I have been laughed at for offering my seat on a bus, and cursed at for holding a door. I have been castigated for the turn of a phrase, and never told what I'd done wrong, instead being told, "If you don't know, I'm certainly not going to tell you!" I don't know to this day, and I'm guessing other guys around 60 have had similar experiences.
The pendulum has swung, and like any pendulum that has been held high on one side, it has swung far beyond the center. That's the two-million year road we've taken to get to here, and any call for understanding is likely to fall on deaf ears. I know that I don't particularly like younger women; they don't act like they want to be liked. What they want is to be respected, and I guess that they feel that familiarity brings with it contempt. That's too bad. Not counting Bonnie and my blood descendants, I have one female friend. She is about twenty years younger than me, and works like a man in a traditional male profession (she fuels airplanes with the motors running). We talk, we laugh, we joke, we compare notes about how we raised our children; in fact, she follows this blog, and The Tyler Gang. I enjoy our conversations, and wouldn't object to being exposed to a wider variety, but it took years of mutual respect in our intersecting professions to get to this point. I don't have time to develop another one.
Okay, having spent the last two hours rambling around on a collection of distantly related subjects, I'm not sure I'm any closer to answering my initial question, but I've at least opened the door to discussion. I'd love to continue in Comments, or on the Chat Board. If you have some information to add to my education, please, jump in. There are no unwelcome comments here. And ladies, I wasn't raised to think that you are any less human than I am; some other men weren't either. I plead for the benefit of the doubt. By all means, defend yourselves from that which might harm you. I won't. If you smile when I greet you, and say hello, you just might not regret it...
Now, get out there and live life like you mean it!