Men and women are often told that they can be equal but they must acknowledge that they are fundamentally different. However human behaviour follows a predictable pattern and it leads to the question, is gender really a reliable indicator of behavioral differences between men and women?
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia
A while ago I had a discussion with a man who felt compelled to discuss with me how polyamory was a superior practice to monogamy. Let me be clear, I think polyamory is a wonderful practise (between consenting adults who are happier that way), because the ability to share love and feel joy at your partner receiving love from as many people as they want is extremely fulfilling in many ways. It also affords people the opportunity to really understand their own insecurities and jealousy. Poly is not, as many believe, a perversion or a method to sleep around or even a ploy to resuscitate a dying relationship. It is a system built on honesty, communication and vulnerability from all sides and it can absolutely work. However, my acquaintance did not exactly see it this way.
“I think women should understand that men are wired this way,” he said, “Women should allow their husbands to have sexual relationships with other women because it is healthy for men.”
“That’s problematic on many levels,” I told him, “Are you saying women shouldn’t be “allowed” to have other relationships and this is really just about men and sex?”
That is often how it is viewed, and I am aware of that. However I find employing the Socratic method often encourages people to dig within their own opinions and ideas and mine for reason instead of conceptual bullshit. It works about 50% of the time. This was not one of those times.
“That’s not what equality is about,” he said, “Women are more hormonal and emotional, they don’t want to have multiple sexual partners and biologically they don’t need them like men do.”
I know for a fact that I am masochist because I know how often I get in discussions with people knowing full well that the outcome of it will be things that make my ears bleed and my brain explode. I do it anyway. There is no explanation other than masochism.
“What you are describing doesn’t sound like poly at all,” I told him, “It just sounds like men wanting to sleep around and using biology to convince women a two-way street isn’t equality.”
“But everything isn’t about feminism,” he said quite confident in his argument, “Men and women can be equal, but they are different.”
And there it was.
I am sure we have all heard this, and many of us have said it as well. Men and women are different. Men are rational and women are emotional. Men like the visual aspect of sex and women like the emotional aspect of sex. Men like guns and cars, women like silks and chocolate. Men are stricter “more effective” parents and women are soft, loving parents. Men are perverted and women are pure. Men are messy and women care about neatness and well-kept houses. Men are ambitious and women want positive feedback for everything to do it. Men want sex all the time and women just do it for the health of the marriage (and of course, no one does it outside of marriage and gay/trans/non-binary people just don’t exist). Men like numbers and women like human resources. There are numerous examples of these “differences” that we are just expected to take at face-value as fact. A lot of people will tell you that they are all for equal rights but they think they aren’t feminists because feminism is trying to erase gender or claim that men and women aren’t different and for some reason, a faction of individuals has a lot invested in women admitting that men and women are different.
Well, I call bullshit.
Let me explain.
The truth is more about the fact that men and women have different social experiences. Men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour like guns or fast cars because “risk” is something men have to seek out whereas women we live with it on a daily basis because of the extent of harassment and sexual violence that plagues society. Men are not stricter parents, society has normalised absenteeism on behalf of fathers, lauding them for every little thing they do like they should get an award for changing a diaper a month while women are tasked with being the ever-present parent who does everything. We aren’t supposed to say anything about this because, after all, in the majority of cases men are providing the money for the women “to be able to sit at home” and take care of the child because women’s labour as homemakers or mothers is disregarded and working women are actively penalised professionally (read: the motherhood penalty) for having children and so ultimately, financially, it makes a lot more sense for women to not pay for help, quit their low-paying job and let the men continue working because men are financially and professionally rewarded for having children (read: the fatherhood bonus).
Men are not more ambitious than women because by design of the system women have to be four-times as ambitious just to get to the places where men get with ease. Women are given more “feedback” because in professional spaces people are more likely to have a bias against women’s intelligence and feel the need to coddle or explain things to us. I’m a trained journalist with multiple degrees, and I have men (who are not at all in the field) explain the press to me on a daily basis. Any woman will tell you any number of stories like that, just ask. Men don’t want “more sex” than women, women just have very little agency when it comes to who they want to have sex with and when. Therefore women who do not wish to have a lot of sex within marriage or relationships, would be much more comfortable having a lot more sex if they were attracted to their partners and while arranged marriages can be healthy, it is rare to come across one where the attraction is at the same level as the affection and sex is about attraction. Not necessarily physical attraction but attraction nonetheless. I’ve been with men, women, gender-fluid people, non-binary people and trans people, everyone wants sex (except the asexuals but I have been with them as well and sometimes they do), they just want it with people who do something for them. If they don’t, they don’t want it. It’s really simple.
Men are not necessarily more messy, men are necessarily more likely to have been brought up in an environment where they were not responsible for the mess they made and someone else (likely a girl or woman) was tasked with cleaning it up and when these men live by themselves, they’re messy. Women who have been cleaning up after themselves since childhood, don’t see cleaning up as as much work as men do. Even then, some women are messy. I mean, my house on a Wednesday afternoon looks like an abandoned laundromat and women are shamed for that. Women are taught as girls that they can be ambitious and work but they also have to keep the house, that’s what makes a complete woman. Women care more about tidiness because not caring means being judged for it and that is okay with some of us, it shouldn’t have to be okay with any of us. And also men aren’t perverted and women aren’t pure. Men rape and take, due to entitlement, which we normalise as perversion and evidence of men’s sexual needs. Women aren’t organic coconut oil, purity is not a measurable thing in people, and are just shamed and attacked a lot more for displaying sexuality.
But those are all just the little arguments, the argument that is loudest and most often repeated is this: Men are rational and women are emotional.
Can I call bullshit twice?
The rationality argument is fundamentally flawed because human beings aren’t computers, emotions are not contradictory to what is rational behaviour for a human being (fear, for instance, is a rational evolutionary response in human beings and pretending not to feel and not acting upon it is inherently irrational) and perhaps most importantly, the word rational has been misappropriated to the point where it is has lost all meaning. Rationality would mean being able to take information in, analyse it for fact and draw the most effective conclusion. In practice, rationality would dictate always finding the most effective course of action in any given situation and applying it with minimum labour and maximum efficiency. Might I suggest that a very small number of people are actually rational? And men especially, by virtue of socially engrained behavorial morays, contain in multitudes something that is in direct contradiction to this.
I am not suggesting that women cannot be egoistic but we aren’t allowed to be in the same way. We are not allowed to be arrogant, prideful or egoistic without being condemned for it whereas we are given to understand since girlhood that men are egoistic. We are taught not to cross the pride of our fathers. We are taught to appease the ego of men by never making more money than them. We are taught to be attracted to the arrogance of men. However, ego is fundamentally irrational by the current definition of male rationality. Ego is an impediment to efficiency. It adds layers and layers of emotionally charged bullshit to goal-oriented activities and recreational socialization. Or as men would put it if women engaged in the same behaviour, drama. Which is not to say women cannot be passive-aggressive, aggressive or manipulative, it just means we all are. Men are just also likely deluded about their own motivations when engaging in such behaviour because they have been allowed for centuries to pass egoistic pride off as acceptable masculine behaviour.
And that is what different.
Men, women and others, all the same. Our social experience, different. I know that is sometimes hard to hear because as human beings we seem to be wired to seek out our specialness and we all have things that are unique to us, but none of us are special. We go through the same life experiences. Birth, puberty, youth, middle-age, old-age, death. Birthdays, heartbreaks, sex, love and betrayal. We all act in predictable ways and no number of stories about your ski-trip or your mercedes will change the fact that none of us are special. Or different. We’re just creatures destined to die.
But we’re treated differently in the world.
That’s not on nature. That’s on systems we created.