It usually doesn’t take long when talking about men and women, and in this case masculinity and femininity, before comparisons are made between the two. Oftentimes these comparisons are the kinds that show that one performs better than the other. It is my belief that masculinity and femininity are so distinct from each other that there exists no satisfactory way to compare them. Also, that when comparisons are used, they don’t affect the intrinsic masculinity or femininity value of the person.
What is Meant by Compare?
I hate to say it, but today’s Webster dictionary does a poor job of defining what the word compare means. I had to find the 1960 version of Webster’s dictionary to find a definition that is useful and worthwhile for the discussion on the topic of comparisons between masculinity and femininity. The definition is as follows:
Compare – to make one thing the measure of another; inflect (bend, turn from a straight line) so as to form the degrees of comparison.
So, to see how one thing measures up to another and to bend the measuring line to establish degrees of comparison between two things is the 1960 definition of comparison. Well, how do men stack up to women? How do women stack up to men? What useful comparisons can be made and what is the end result?
Apples and Bananas Revisited
My first post under the Equality-Comparison category I dealt with the idea of comparisions to show the inequalities that exist between men and women. In this section I’m going to be working with comparisions to put the spotlight on the uniqueness of men and women. To help out with this, let’s go back to the example of apples and bananas.
When comparing apples to bananas and vice versa, it is easy to distinguish differences between the two. There are also similarities that can be discovered between them as well. The similarities between apples and bananas are the features that distinguish them as fruit. The similarities between men and women are the things that distinguish them as mankind. They both share similar qualities, but equal they are not (i.e. apples to bananas, man to woman). We’ve established the fact that value is a subjective, eye-of-the-beholder, concept and that “equal” is a relationship that indicates that apples and bananas, men and women are not equal. With this understanding when we look at fruit, does this mean that one fruit is more special than the other, or does it just show that each is different?
Why Doesn’t Comparing Men and Women Yield Satisfactory Comparisons (Results)?
The best way that I can think of to delve into this topic and get to the bottom of it is to ask a few specific questions.
What happens when we try to compare the similarities between men and women? The answer to this question is that we come up with unremarkable commonalities. Both men and women have blood as do flies, sharks, and vultures. It is important to note that comparisons between objects that are the same aren’t useful because they don’t make any distinctions such as a 2010 blue Ford F150 truck compared to 2010 blue Ford F150 truck with all the same options.
What happens when we try to compare the dissimilarities between men and women? The answer to this question is that we readily come to understand that men and women are not the same. The brains of men and women are “wired” differently due to the testosterone bath that does happen in men that doesn’t happen in women. Men and women are physically different especially when it comes to all of the body parts necessary for procreation.
What makes either of these comparisons unsatisfactory? Either we make comparisons between men and women and show that they share similarities with every living, breathing thing; or we make comparisons to show that they are really not the same after all as the following highlighted examples illustrate.
When nations come to compete against other nations, the events are divided up into male and female competitions. Such events as weightlifting, javelin throw, gymnastics, and swimming all have men competing with other men and women competing with other women. The situation gets really dicey when transgender participants want to compete. Since transgender participants keep the strengths of their original gender, they receive an unfair advantage over women in the events that they participate in.
Strong Man Games, Miss America Pageant
I don’t know if you have watched any strong man games on TV or not, but those guys are humongous! I even watched a little bit of the strong woman games, and those ladies are strong! Be that as it may, the strongest man will always be stronger than the strongest woman. That’s just the way it is.
Now take a look at the Miss America Pageant or the Miss Universe Pageant. Wow! Look at all of the attractive women. They make all of those evening gowns look stunning, and do their best to let the beauty that they have on the inside be shown on the outside. The Mr. America or Mr. Universe competition has a totally different feel to it than the Miss America or Miss Universe Pageant. Those guys are almost as big as the guys in the strong man games. What we look for in the Mr. America/Mr. Universe Pageant is totally different from what we look for in the Miss America/Universe Pageant, and we like it like that.
Differing Physical Training Requirements in the Military
I have talked with people who are or have been in the military and found out that men and women have different physical training (PT) requirements to pass in order to become promoted, or to maintain their current job status. There are also different standards set for older military personnel versus younger. At least for now, our military training program recognizes the difference between men and women and the effects of age on the human body.
Training Men and Women to See Both Sides
Both men and women, masculinity and femininity, are valuable in their own, unique (different) ways. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Would you? I have spent a lot of time understanding the differences between men and women by imagining what would happen if they would switch places in certain circumstances.
For instance I’ve seen pictures of Elvis singing on stage with women yelling wildly on the verge of climbing onto that stage. That picture seems innocent enough. Now let’s flip the situation in our mind and see what things look like. Let’s say that Shania Twain is singing on stage, and there are a bunch of men yelling wildly on the verge of climbing onto the stage. I would call that a riot and fear for the safety of Shania. When viewing these two instances, we count Elvis as lucky and Shania as in trouble.
A closer-to-home example might be how men and women differ when unexpectedly tickled in the side. There is a certain type of surprised scream that women make that just warms a man to his core. Guys, you know what I’m talking about, right? It’s that same type of scream that grade school girls made when boys chased them. This example doesn’t look the same when played in reverse. The surprised yelp that a man may utter when unexpectedly tickled in the side may still warm the heart of the woman doing the tickling, yet the tone and look of the circumstance are totally different.
A final example is the effect that women have when they “bat” their eyes. When women bat their eyes, funny things happen to a man’s rational thinking. Now he may have the sense and willpower to keep his head on straight, but it will be a constant struggle until he can get away. A man who bats his eyes doesn’t have that effect at all. Let’s say he tries to bat his eyes when pulled over by a police officer. The police officer will think that he has something in his eye and not find the motion charming at all. The actions don’t look the same, and their effects are entirely different.
The most constructive way to compare men and women in order to build them up in their masculinity or femininity is to understand and view them as distinctly different from one another and holding special value in their own unique ways. This can be done more readily when we take a contrasting view of men and women instead of a comparison view.