What’s a Girl to Do?
July 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
I am sitting on my porch, watching the world. I am lucky enough to call home a place that is surrounded by trees and teeming with life. Sometimes this reverie is interrupted by ideas or opinions that make me question myself and lose the happiness, joy, and sense of possibility I know I deserve.
Like the other day, while driving and listening to the CBC, I heard an interview with Kay Hymowitz who wrote “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys”. Now, I haven’t read the book, but the interview really irked me, not to mention the title of the book. There is so much wrong with this concept, I am not sure where to begin.
So, I’ll just begin. Women don’t turn men into boys by rising up to meet our fullest selves, by becoming educated, empowered, creative, and free individuals with so much to give to this planet. The whole discussion is wrong to me. We need to stop searching ways feminist movements have hurt men, rather, we must allow men to take responsibility for their own purpose in this life, for the realization of their own fullest selves, and for their responsibilities to this world, to women, to eachother, and to themselves. This is not to abandon men, but to empower individuals to seek their own unique paths to happiness. In so many ways, this is not even a discussion about gender. This is a discussion about the human potential, and about individual destinies. Man or woman, there should be no barriers to the reaslisation of ourselves, our talents, our abilities, and to our freedom of choice – there should be no limits put on our ability to shape our lives. Women are sometimes easy scapegoats for problems that have arisen in communities of men – for why there are less men being educated today than women, for why families are collapsing at unprecedented levels, for why men are finding it harder to secure jobs. While these may be some unintended consequences (though, I am not even sure they are) of the changes that have taken place in our society since the rise of feminism, the rise of women is not the cause of the “downfall of men” -even that concept sounds totally ridiculous to me – that concept alone could only make sense in a competitive culture that polarizes the sexes. Yes, we may have unique needs by virtue of our different genders, but we are all in this boat together. Could there not just as easily be a book called “how the rise of the industrial revolution has turned men into boys” or perhaps, “how the rise of the unprecedented destruction of our natural world has turned men into boys”? Why must the rise of one gender be measured against the decline of another?
The “rise of women” has often been spoken of in economic terms – and I feel this book is no exception. There is even a theory that the liberation of women in the workforce was “allowed” only so that the economy could gain an advantage: more products could be produced, bought, and sold. Women are huge consumers, and therefore, in a capitalist market-based economy, it is highly advantageous that women earn capital. In a society and culture based on capitalism, women and our freedoms are easily talked about as having an important function in the ever-expanding quest for economic growth.
I do not believe that women are or should be responsible for coming up with a plan for how men will be most fulfilled in expressing themselves in the world, or for how they can maintain their advantage over us in universities or in the workplace. I do not believe that women should carry any burden of guilt for what we have managed to accomplish. If men are flailing in university, marriage, and maturity, why would we look to the “rise of women” to seek reasons or solutions? Why would we not approach men directly, ask what is missing, ask what is valued, ask what is longed for. Perhaps this is the job of men alone, to turn towards themselves to seek answers. Perhaps it is the job of women to protect our interests as women, to lobby for changes that are in our best interests as mothers, thinkers, workers, buyers, creative individuals, wives, daughters, sexual beings, and visionaries.
I can not take to heart any theory that makes me question the realisation of my full potentials, and that is why a book with this title is problematic for me. Even more problematic, when I weigh the alternatives: less than one hundred years ago, during a time in which my own grandmothers walked the earth, women were not allowed to vote, and it was nearly impossible for women to get a higher education. Not only that, we were not considered as “persons” in the Canadian constitution. If we want to talk about the systemic barriers to freedom, it might be more important for us to evaluate the ways in which our histories have come to impact our beliefs in our own abilities, our self-confidence, self-love, and self-realisation. I believe that even though we are enjoying so many of the freedoms that legal advances have brought us (we in the west can divorce, work, vote, play music, read, dream, travel, among other things – please don’t forget many women around the world today do not have these basic rights), we still live in the shadows of the confidence-crushing laws and customs that preceded our times and trickled down through the generations.
I think we need to look to societal reasons for why or if men are struggling. Is there something that is inherently fulfilling to a man that is not being met by our school system, the way our society, our cities and our communities are being structured? Is our society failing men? Are men failing men?
The author of this book went on to say that women around, say, my age, are having a more and more difficult time finding a responsible, mature, educated, capable husband, and that, as women, we have to be concerned with getting on with our reproductive longings by a certain age, as, yes, there is a biological clock to contend with – a concern that is not a primary focus for men around my age.
Well, if I wanted to I could easily go down this path of despair and anxiety. But I will not. And do you know why? Because I have a relationship to my higher self and a faith in my life, and because I know that I live in an abundant universe that does not say “no”. I know that I am not a statistic, but an individual, and I believe in the magic and miracles of my life. I do not believe this is naive, and these are not ideas that have come to me without hard work – I have earned them, and therefore, I know I can stand by my truth.
People are frantic in their search for love and sex and relationship, because we know on a very basic level that our connections with one another will be the most important things we accomplish in our lifetime. We know that if we are successful in love we are successful in life. And so we want to see our destiny fulfilled. That is why statistics like those of Kay Hymowitz are so terrifying to us. We believe that we can be unloveable, by function of our age, our weight, our education, our abilities. And so we scramble to ensure we won’t end up a statistic. But at the end of the day, no one can really convince us that we are loveable and irreplaceable, except for ourselves.
In searching for the title of Kay Hymowitz’s book, I stumbled upon another book titled: Man Up! Nobody is Coming to Save You! I kind of enjoyed this title, like a little cryptic message from the god’s of Amazon.com. Dear readers, no one is coming to save us! If you want love and fulfilment and to live your dream, and if you want equality and self-realisation then it’s time to get to work, take responsibility for your own life. Man up, Woman up, whatever that means for you.
We are – men and women alike- powerful, delicious, creative forces of love. Don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise!