One can hear, in the echoes of this past week’s events, a macho drumming. From the tweets by two men trying to belittle each other because of who the other man chose as his wife, to the charges brought against a campaign manager for man-handling a female reporter, leaving bruises on her arms — all the way to the flat-out threat of punishing women who make a decision not to fully carry a pregnancy detrimental to themselves. It sounds reminiscent of chest pounding more easily related to gorilla behavior or the clanking lock of chastity belts than to actions associated with modern men. For as old as history is, men’s oppressive conduct towards women has been clearly documented, yet in the past hundred and seventy odd years, something very profound has been happening.
Since the late seventeenth century, when Western forms of government moved towards representative systems, the expansion of rights and prosperity to non-white-male humans has been exponential and would have been unthinkable in the previous two centuries, primarily because the rulers were anointed white males.
Product of this great behavioral change: Women started to climb up the stairs towards achieving an equal chance to contribute fully to the supreme goals of the human race, from Seneca Falls to the Nineteenth Amendment, from the sexual revolution to a woman’s constitutionally recognized right to make her own healthcare decision. The steps taken upwards by generations of women pushing for higher goals have proven to be incalculable contributions to the betterment of our species, a testament to the endless possibilities that each human being, (regardless of their birth-given sex) can offer for the advancement of humanity. These have not been trivial events and were in no way unintended consequences, but were the product of millenia of oppression and the women and male allies who stood up against it.
It is clear in terms like “pussification” where the notion of superiority based on sexual organs is in plain sight. It is also clearly observed in concepts like “demonized masculinity” where men place themselves under attack by the movements trying to liberate women from harassment, objectification and sexual victimization. To reduce any human being to their physical characteristics is preposterous, and to reduce a woman down to her body is voluntarily missing the vast universe encapsulated in her human experience, her love, her kindness and all the other attributes poets have related in the most beautiful verses ever written. The muse, after all, is female.
For a society in which it is wildly common to make fun of a man in women’s clothes, we miss the true evilness behind such behavior. Yes, the intolerant person is making fun of the man, not because of his clothes but because this man has chosen to “disguise” himself as a lesser individual. For a boy to be called a girl is an insult, and for a man to wear a dress is degrading to his gender superiority and thus deserving to be made fun of.
I had the good fortune to have learned that as a man, I will never know what is like to be a woman. And of this I remind myself whenever I need to empathize with a particular situation in which such a notion is beneficial. I find it truly unhelpful to judge another human being in the areas where we share the same level of experience, for example: between a person who believes that judging a human being because of the color of their skin and me, there will be fundamental disagreements and very likely I would label this person a racist. We all have skin, so we are all entitled to our opinions regarding our interaction with skin and how we react to it. Calling this person a racist, as reassuring as it might be, is completely unhelpful — it will not make this person less racist and will shut him down to a message of human character above human flesh. Now, for a man to judge a woman, for characteristics that only women possess, is not only cruel but blatantly lacking any fundamental validity. A man does not know and will never know what is like to be a woman.
Here is why during this election my faith has been placed in the American woman, in their wisdom and their knowledge. A clairvoyant can see a huge movement of women to the polls in November; for obvious and subtle reasons women will participate like never before. (I acknowledge this knowing they were ten million more votes than men in the last presidential election) If there is something permanent that both past elections achieved, it is not only that they made so many African Americans reliable voters but also proved to them that their vote matters. This election can become a tangible proof for women as well. A tidal wave of repudiation of the culture of chest pounding with the subsequent epitome of a first woman president of the United States will likely create a surge of female candidates in future elections. With more women running for elected office plus a generation of women having tangibly experienced the power of their vote, the shift towards a more equally representative form of government will gear forward. This is what those on the other side of the gender equality spectrum are most afraid of, that their millennia old yoke is fading away. As a result of this fear they act ever more medieval and by doing so energize even more the movement they so fear.