Sometimes men can help us understand...
I just stepped outside for a few minutes to sit with my husband and son. They were talking about the episode of Cosmos that I wrote about earlier in my post Did you know that the first computer was a room full of women?, saying that if women were granted equal influence in research and discovery, how wonderful the world could be. I said We think differently, and if men and women could work together, how many discoveries could we make that men could not make on their own? The difference in the way we think is not contrary to the thought processes of men, but complimentary to them." Thomas, my husband, said, "Yet how many of those discoveries were actually made by women, but the credit went to a man." Joel, my son, said "Men think women are the 'weaker vessel' because..." and then paused, searching for the word. My husband jumped in, saying "because they don't have the 'killer instinct'. They're all about life." I was just stunned at how this simple statement explains so much of what we go through in this male-dominated world and why mutual understanding, collaboration and cooperation with men can be so difficult.
I quoted a book by Leonard Shlain "The Alphabet versus the Goddess" who said that women are more likely to accept things as they are, while men are more likely to look for ways to change things. As I added Sometimes that's good and sometimes not so good, Thomas jumped in again and said "Yeah, but how many times have we heard of a family getting lost or running out of petrol in the wilderness, and the man tells the family to stay in the car while he goes for help, then the man dies of exposure or is never found, while the family is rescued."
He went on to say that in tribal situations, at least in many tribes in the US and in Australia that we know something about, the chief, a man, would listen to a council of women and would respect their advice and concerns, but they could not speak directly with a council of men because of the discount they would face: "They are weak." The chief knew we are not weak because every new generation of the tribe comes from us and without us there is no more tribe. Therefore he would listen, then translate their words into terms the men could relate to, and the will of the women would be done. We know of tribes in which the women were keepers of secrets that no man in the tribe could know, and the men were okay with that. They KNEW they were not trustworthy with the information and were happy to leave it safely in the hands of the elder women.
We also talked about how a woman's survival instinct is different than a man's because generally speaking it is selfless - a woman will struggle to survive for the sake of her children or someone else who needs her, but in the absence of such motivation she is more likely to accept her demise. In an abusive situation, a woman will often resign herself to her "inevitable" death where a man would be more likely to fight back.
We went on a little more, but this was the heart of the conversation. It made me think two things. One is that, as we struggle to gain equal footing with men in every arena of life, we must not forget our strengths as women. We must not believe the lies that cause men to discount the power and value of women or allow those lies to make us "more like men." We do think differently, and that is a good thing. In our efforts to be heard and to cause our needs to be addressed, let's not become the problem we're trying to solve.
The other is that men can truly be powerful allies who can help us understand the underlying reasons for the attitudes and discrimination we are up against. They can help to translate our views, needs and concerns and communicate them to other men in a way that will cause them to understand, thus helping our voices be heard by those who will not listen to us themselves. And being men, they can help us to effect the change we wish to see in order to improve life for all of us, men and women, sons and daughters alike.
I am truly grateful for the men in my life. Being a part of World Pulse makes me more grateful for them every day as I learn more about the incredible obstacles my sisters here and around the world must overcome to improve life for themselves, their children and each other. When we encounter a man with this kind of understanding we must make sure to let them know how much we appreciate them. We must cultivate these partnerships carefully so we will have allies who realize how important they are to us. The value of men like this in our struggle for equality cannot be measured - they are more precious than gold. I am glad to know that there are men who are active contributors at World Pulse. I hope that they know how very dear they are to us and how much we value their input and assistance. Instilling confidence in our allies and working together, we can make a difference!