I realize that this is too big a subject to cram into one article, so I am going to raise some questions about what it means to be equal in an adult man/woman (or gay) relationship. I have many women friends and I do my best to treat them as equals, but sometimes by treating them as an “equal” I tend to presume that they will react as men do to what I say. WRONG! A female friend of mine once jokingly said that she was leaving my party because there was no cake and I jokingly, of course without thinking, replied: ”But didn’t you put some weight on lately?”
That was a bad mistake. She got really upset, and no matter how much I apologized and said that I loved and cherished her as a friend, she kept crying and saying that if I loved her I wouldn’t have said such a thing to her. Needless to say the situation became very serious. Had I said that to a man, he most likely would have laughed.
The question I have for you is this: can a man and a woman be equal, and what are the conditions and rules of behavior in treating each other given that men and women are so very different? One of the rules we hear often is to treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. In the above example it certainly did not work. Men would certainly not react the same way to my comment. So, a better rule would be to treat others the way THEY want to be treated. Great, but how do we know what others think? What comes to mind first is just ask them, but even asking them may provoke unwanted feelings and reactions.
Men and women ARE different. In fact, we are so different that it justifies the phrase “opposite sex”. Where does equality come in then? These are some of the fundamental differences:
Men / Women
Fathers (cannot bear children) Mothers
Want sex Want security
Want freedom Want relationship
Please add your own….
The whole issue about equality was initially raised by women. The Women’s Liberation Movement started because women felt subjugated and wanted to be equal to men. And there is no denial that in many cases women are not treated the same as men, such as not getting equal pay for equal work. But in general, isn’t it just a natural outcome of our genetic differences?
Do women really want to be the same as men, or do they want to be as powerful as men? The context seems to be decisive here. Which area are we talking about: intimate relationships, social interactions or business environment? This is a question especially for a woman in a feminist movement to answer because a woman would have to be adopting a chameleon behavior in different contexts. Is that healthy, or even possible? Do women have to pretend to be more like men in a business environments? If they do, does it come easier for some then for others to adopt these masculine traits? Can women be just as naturally and authentically feminine at work? It certainly seems to be an unwelcome behavior in this “man-made world.” If a woman is forced to take on some masculine traits in order to succeed at work, how does that reflect on her relationships towards men. I think she can get pretty resentful about the whole affair and put the blame on men.
On the other hand, when it comes to the question of having good sex, partners have to take on their authentic masculine and feminine role. Opposites create energy flow. The bigger the difference between couples’ respective roles, the stronger the sexual attraction. In order to maintain “equality” in a social arena and the workplace, can they and should they maintain that difference, or do they have to drift closer to each other, i.e., men adopt more of women characteristics — such as being more sensitive and expressing their feelings — and should women adopt more masculine traits, such as competitiveness, being more single focused and tougher altogether? This certainly seems to be happening in the workplace and, sadly, in intimate relationships as well.
Many “liberated” women insist on being treated as an equal in a relationship. Is that what they really want? Instead of a woman being an equal partner in the sense that she is self-aware, responsible, and wants to know her man as a person, feminism seem to have produced a doubly defensive woman who is on guard about her rights, but insistent that men be romantic and “make her feel like a woman” by acting like a real man. A liberated woman insists on changes in her attitude and ideology but not in her deeper feminine process; she has traditional longings and needs, is attracted to men who are winners and avoids weaker, less ambitious men, and she wants a man to play the lead role unless she decides otherwise. For the man there is often a confusing sense that whatever he does he will be made wrong and blamed. If he treats her as an equal, it does not feel romantic to her. If he treats her in traditional ways, he is often considered to be a chauvinist and sexist. He is expected to be a man and yet to not act as a man at the same time. When a man cannot achieve this dichotomy, a liberated woman becomes angry and blames him for not being able to fulfill this impossible dream.
From my personal point of view, in a relationship, if a woman’s issue is power in a relationship then she has nothing to complain about, or be liberated from. Her power is just as prominent as the man’s. The only reason that this is not so obvious is that the “liberated” woman is looking for power in the wrong place, a man’s place. As I said above, it all depends on the context, and in the context of a relationship a woman’s power is enormous, starting with the ability to bear children and her ultimate choice of men to share parenthood with, to a saying that behind a great man there always stands a great or powerful woman.
To my mind, equality in a relationship consists of unconditional respect, acceptance and love for who the person is as a human and a spiritual being. If a woman is objectified (as men often do, especially regarding sex) respect for a woman is often absent. On the other hand, there is conditional respect for what the person does, which really applies to all people regardless of gender or their position in society.
Let us know what do you think.