Gender equality: an eye for an eye?

“Men are evil. They suppress women. They do not know what women go through. They have no real feelings. All they can think about is chasing women and keeping power for themselves.” (anonymous extreme feminist, paraphrased)

“Women are inferior. They should cook, they should clean the house and they should take care of the children. Work is not something for women, they should stay at home.” (anonymous male supremacist, paraphrased)

These are both real life examples of how human beings of different genders talk about each other. It should not be a surprise that I disagree with both views. And I do not only disagree, I am convinced these two views are very detrimental to the process of emancipation.

Emancipation involves rights and responsibilities of both genders. As with any form of discrimination, eliminating discrimination requires an external perspective of those who are being discriminated. Implementing positive discrimination is a way of tackling short term negative discrimination, but in the end it will only make things worse.

Here is why. Sexism can point in either direction. It can be negative about women and put women in a disadvantage compared to men. It can be positive about women and put men in a disadvantage compared to women. It can be negative about men and put men in a disadvantage compared to women. It can be positive about men and put women in a disadvantage compared to men. Any type of discrimination, whether positive or negative, always ends up in suppressing one category of people with another. (For the purpose of limiting the longevity of this article, I will not go into other forms of sexism other than discrimination of men and women by each other and write about LGBT equality and other fundamental rights at another time)

By differing oneself from another person in any way, one is affirming that there should be a difference. This is the case in both examples at the start of this article. Both extreme feminists and male supremacists widen the gap between men and women. By stating a priori that men and women are different, there is a perception of difference. And with a perception of difference, there will be different views. And with different views and acting upon them, there will be discrimination.

Don’t get me wrong. I do support the feminist movement. I do support women’s right to choose. And in the latter case, the perception of ‘equality’ is different. Men (at least, today) can not be pregnant. So in this way, men and women are inevitably different. In this specific case, a woman is responsible for what happens with her body and the potential life within her body. This also keeps her right to decide what happens with it.

However, men and women do not differ in being human, as do not LGBTs, as do not Europeans and Asians, as do not people with blonde hair and people with black hair. The way one develops a personality is dependent on culture, education, the experiences in life, rather than biological differences.

By reaffirming this equality principle, men and women should not only be viewed equally, but also be treated equally. There may always be men who patronize women, or women who discriminate men, but it is necessary for securing gender equality that both men and women treat each other as equals.

For the men who still patronize, a specific form of feminism should remain. Not the aggressive feminism that discriminates men in return, but the feminism that lets the woman prevail in a conflict of patronization. This will balance out the force of masculism. On the other hand, when a woman discriminates men, perhaps because she would assume that all men would supposedly suppress women, that all men would supposedly be evil, because they would supposedly not understand women, then a man should have the right to claim he is discriminated against in his own right.

I have witnessed some cases of the latter concept in which the extreme form of feminism may assume the form of androphobia or misandry. This means the woman has assumptions about the man’s intentions and puts all of his actions in a mental context in which she would be the victim of harassment. This does not happen very often, but it is a very special case of when a woman seriously believes (specific) men are set to hurt her, or other women. She might not even realize it. I reject any kind of harassment or abuse of women. And that is why it is very important that the real abusive men be identified as such, and that women with androphobia or misandry will receive the proper approach from their environment. This is relevant for gender equality, as both abusive men and androphobic or misandric women are participants in an inequality of power.

This also concerns the concept of women still being considered “weaker than men”. Obviously, a woman may have physical disadvantages compared to a man, but a woman definitely does not have disadvantages in other domains. A woman should also be strong enough to recognize abusive men and to resist them, whereas a man should be responsible not to be abusive.

Abuse can be physical, verbal, or perhaps psychological. There are cases of both men and women who abuse each other, where it is obvious that the physical abuse performed by men are statistically significantly more serious. It is often mutual, where escalation often shows the man to exercise the most serious (sometimes even lethal) violence. This shows that women are still often put in a position where they are less powerful. This should be taken seriously, as, being as dreadful as it already is in itself, this demonstrates gender inequality. Abuse in any form should be stopped, but statistics and examples clearly show a gender difference.

I believe physical properties of man and woman do not necessarily explain this difference. I believe this a cultural difference. A difference of the culture of man and the culture of woman. This difference is stressed by the nurture of boys and girls from childhood. Boys get to play with cars, girls get to play with dolls. Boys are often associated with the colour blue, whereas girls are often associated with the colour pink. At school, boys and girls even develop their own subcultures. The tough boys, the butch boys, the horse riding girls, the metropolitan girls… This increases the distinction between the male and female genders. But these subcultures all have something in common: boys are less educated with emotions and girls are less educated with logic and technical reasoning. This could also explain the big difference between, for example, the share of men that chooses technical education and the share of women that chooses social education. And more importantly, I believe this explains why men are statistically more abusive than women, and why the non-physical abuse of men by women is underestimated, as men are less likely to show their emotions.

This is why there must be a cultural revolution of genders. A man should know it is good to understand emotions and a woman should know it is good to understand logic. They aren’t incapable of understanding, they just don’t do it. Society, as a facilitator of these cultures, should influence parents to teach their children that a man should know emotions as well as a woman should know logic. A man should know how to control his emotions and understand emotions of a woman. A woman should know how to use logic in the reasoning with a man. Only then should genders become more equal. Should cross-gender abuse (whether physical or non-physical) be reduced. And should discrimination from either side finally stop.

Update (22 May 2010):
The here fore mentioned men and women are the men and women who discriminate, not all men and women. As many societies are increasingly emancipating, the real situation in some societies is better than the text suggests.

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