This somewhat controversial topic is centered around the question, “Are Masculinity and Femininity the Same?” Or, to put it more simply, are men and women equal? Now in order to relate to the concepts of masculinity and femininity in any meaningful way (at least here in the beginning), it is necessary to equate masculinity to man and femininity to woman. As we progress in our understanding of masculinity and femininity, it will become apparent that both masculinity and femininity are something more than the body while the body is still inexplicably tied to them. So, for the time being:
Masculinity = Man and Femininity = Woman
Now, back to the matter at hand.
Are men and women equal? The short answer. No. They are not equal. Below are some simple (and lighthearted) tests to see if that’s true. Before we get to them, please consider the following questions and ideas carefully:
Do you think that masculinity and femininity will ever become clear if we continue to view men and women as the same, or equal?
Would we ever have a chance at understanding masculinity and femininity if they were equal?
1. There are consequences of trying to be, or become, the same. The more we try to be the same, the more we blur and lose our masculine or feminine identity. (Just as in the movie The Incredibles, if everyone is super, then no one will be.) Also, the more we try to make them equal, the more they lose their distinctions. If this is kept up long enough, it will eventually result in masculinity and femininity losing their distinctions to the point of extinction. Their meaning would become lost. In fact, in our society today, it already has.
2. The only way to be able to appreciate, understand, and grow in your own masculinity or femininity is to understand that men and women are not equal to each other.
Masculinity and Femininity are separate and wondrous in their own right. This section only begins to unfold just how marvelous each is. Yet, it’s in those things that make them unequal, or different, that make each so special.
These following tests are written with the assumption that the reader believes that men and women are equal.
Math and Language
Simple language and math can tell us right away that men and women aren’t equal.
1 = 1 , CAT = CAT , WOMAN = WOMAN , 1765 = 1765
What is on one side of the equal sign of the equation is the same as what is on the other side of the equation. For example, we have a word for man. This word has a specific meaning. The English language also has a word for woman that has a specific meaning. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have need for either the word Woman or Man, for we would be using one word for both. Instead, we have two words that imply separate and distinct meanings for each. If we attempt the equation:
Man = Woman
we would be meaning and intending the exact same thing on both sides even though we know through the English language, Man and Woman are not the exact same thing. That is why they are two separate words.
Nursery Rhyme Flip-Flop
There was a nursery rhyme that I was taught as a child that went like this:
“What are little boys made of? What are little boys made of?
Snakes and snails And puppy-dogs’ tails, That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of? What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice And everything nice, That’s what little girls are made of.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I still think that it is a cute nursery rhyme even if it has the potential of being derogatory. You may be one to take offense at the nursery rhyme; and, if so, I ask you to think in a mature fashion for a moment and consider first how unequally it addresses boys and girls (men and women). Remember, as stated earlier, men and women aren’t equal; and this rhyme doesn’t treat them that way.
Second, if men and women were equal, then everything on the one side of the equation would equal the other side of the equation. So, men are not only snakey, snailey, and puppy-dog tailey but surgary, spicey, and everything nicey. Women would then have to weave snakey and snailey in with their sugary and spicey. That’s quite the mixture. What makes this flip-flop comparison so interesting is that it shows that not only are men and women not equal, deep down they don’t want to be equal. Men and women want the specific attributes that make each special that the other doesn’t have.
Now there are feminists who would say that that nursery rhyme was created by men whose only aim was raising children within the shackles of gender roles. Fine. For the sake of argument, let’s say those fetters don’t exist and that men and women can be all of the qualities in the rhyme so that they don’t feel left out or less worthy than someone else for not having a certain quality. Then try being snakey and tailey and sugary and spicey. Just try. It’s not going to happen. No one person can be all of those things at once. The best hope for feminists and others who are trying to break free of masculinity and femininity is to be none of those qualities and rage against (even the idea of) boys and girls exhibiting any of those qualities. Funny thing is, that’s just what they’re doing today.
Similarities Do Not Make an Equal
It should go without saying, yet I want to be thorough. Just because there are similarities between men and women, it does not make them equal. It makes them similar as in members of mankind but not the same, or equal. The questions that I ask to test the same/similar concept with masculinity and femininity are the following: Am I equal to a woman? Is she equal to a man? Are you getting the same thing if you have a man or a woman? To say that we are equal because we both breathe air, well snakes breathe, too. Are men and women equal to a snake? No. We are similar in that men, women, and snakes breathe air. Or if we say, men and women have blood. Ok. Flies have blood. Are men and women equal to a fly? No. We are similar in that men, women, and flies have blood. Yet we are not equal, but distinct entities in our own right.
The Concept of Value and Equal
When talking about masculinity and femininity and not being equal, the greatest “knee-jerk” response comes from the idea that if men and women aren’t equal, then that means that one must be better or more valuable than the other. You can thank our society in large part for that perception. (See Inequality: Its New Meaning in Society.)
In order to accurately address the concept of value and how it relates to the concept (or idea) of equal, we must first understand what value means. VALUE IS SUBJECTIVE which means that the value of an object differs from person to person. For instance, you can go online and buy eight ounces of Swiss cheese for $8.99. In my book, you couldn’t give it to me. On the other hand I might be willing to spend over $100 on my favorite movie memorabilia whereas you may not think it worth a penny. It is interesting to note that different stores will give different values to the exact same items. They are trying to guess what the value it is that you, the customer, and their competitors will place on that same item.
So far, we’ve been talking about placing value amounts on identical items, that is, items that are identified as the same. How about items that are related? What about the value of apples and bananas? Aren’t they equally as valuable? They aren’t priced that way. They aren’t viewed by health marts in the same way. They aren’t eaten for the same nutritional value. They aren’t the same. They are not equal. And of course they aren’t! One’s an apple. The other’s a banana! Are men and women the same? Of course they aren’t. One is a man. The other is a woman. There should be no big surprise there. So what determines a man’s or woman’s value? I can think of two answers: God and Society. From the Biblical standpoint the idea of value and equality with men and women is a mixed bag. As far as how society has handled applying value to men and women, check any article under the Society’s Impact Category . Needless to say, men and women do not have equal value in today’s society.
Be that as it may, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that men and women are both worth the same. Let’s say they’re each worth $10,000,000. Since they are both worth the same value, does that make them equal? If we have $10,000 worth of gold and $10,000 worth of diamonds, can we say they are equal? They have the same value, and yet they are not equal. One is gold and the other are diamonds. Remember, similarities do not make an equal.
The King and Queen
We have addressed the idea of value and equality, and yet there are a number of other important qualities that exist between men and women that have been claimed to be equal. These qualities are dignity, honor, and respect. There are more that we could tack on to the list, but these will do for the illustration at hand.
When you sort through a deck of cards, you’ll eventually come to a king and a queen. Now kings and queens possess dignity, honor, respect, and nobility. Yet the dignity of one is not portrayed, nor conveyed in the same manner, or with the same authority as the dignity of the other when we compare a king’s presence to a queen’s. They don’t look the same because they aren’t the same. Can they be said to be “equal” in value and dignity and yet not be the same? No, they cannot. While both kings and queens do possess dignity, honor, respect, and nobility, it is expressed differently and therefore they are not the same, nor equal. There’s man’s dignity, and there’s woman’s dignity. This dignity that they have they share with all humanity. Yet, they exude that dignity differently on account that one is male and the other is female. Here’s one last analogy to help you understand the point I’m trying to get across. Imagine a red square and a red circle. Both are red, but one is a square and the other is a circle. Are they equal? No. Are they equally red? They may both have red, yet one is portraying that red as a square, and the other is portraying that red as a circle. The same is true of dignity and other human qualities. Both men and women possess these qualities, yet the qualities are expressed through either a masculine framework, or a feminine framework. This concept is covered in more depth in the article The Acting Game – Can Men Act Feminine and Women Act Masculine? under the Category Action-In Action.
The Proper Paradigm (Philosophical Framework)
When all things are considered, men and women are not equal. This is easily seen from our world around us and through the simple (and lighthearted) tests that I have shown above. For some of you reading through this, I will be preaching to the choir. Others may find it interesting and somewhat unsettling. Still others may find these simple tests and statements I have made very upsetting perhaps because they challenge the current tennets used to control social opinion, or because they tend to attack one source of personal identity and worth. I can respect that. You see, there exists a far better relationship between men and women, masculinity and femininity, than the equal sign, than attempting to be equals. Other relationships do exist (complimentary for example), and one that contains a far more fulfilling meaning for men and women. It is Biblicaly based and found under the Category “Biblical” in the article: Equality-The Biblical Perspective. When God is taken out of the equation, the most accurate relationship we can get is represented under the King and Queen heading above. Understanding that men and women are different and that it is good that these differences exist is the beginning of understanding and embracing the concepts of masculinity and femininity.