Saturday, August 22, 2015

Some sweeping generalizations and celebrating stereotypes:

Copy line on movie ad (no, I can't remember the title) with armed woman: Wife. Mother. Hero.

Why is a women defined by her relation to others? Would any man be described as Husband. Father. Hero.? I don't think so. More like: Explorer. Visionary. Hero.

It's all about what he does, who he is. Hers is about who she is connected to. That's why women traditionally have an honorific that links them to their male partner: Mrs. Or lack of partner: Miss. Vs men, who are just Mr. Their status as a partner is deemed irrelevant.

For instance: a man does not need to be reminded to put his oxygen mask on first. His default is to think of himself first, others later. And he expects others to think the same wayto first take care of themselves, then perhaps consider others. That may be why he doesn't thank you (you female person) for your selfless act. He thinks you're crazy. Or stupid. Or both. Or maybe just trying to ingratiate yourself with him, as he tends to think hierarchically, so sees favors in a transactional manner. Not that a man isn't capable of a selfless act, it's just an unlikely part of his daily routine.

Women often think of others first, themselves last. For many that's their default (yes, even if they're not mothers). And they expect others to think the same way. And of course they (female people) take it personally (perhaps with a long-suffering sigh) when they discover there's no parity, and they're not very high on anyone else's list. Perhaps even more irritatingly, they may be thought of as being an idiot for taking care of others and not bothering to take care of themselves.

Each sex is 'modeling' behavior that the other guy just isn't picking up. Neither is exactly right, but not entirely wrong, either. And it doesn't align.

Men tend to see things hierarchically, competitively, with winners and losers, while women tend to be more collegial and consensus driven, focusing on making something work. (Hey, my title promised "Some sweeping generalizations and celebrating stereotypes," don't say I don't deliver!). Deborah Tannen's Talking 9 to 5 offers some great stories of how these different basic assumptions can create miscommunication, misunderstanding and problems.

In many cultures, women traditionally have had little to no direct power and have had to work with indirect power: influence, relationships, connections, being liked, finding people to partner with. For a woman, helping others, doing favors, etc. is often a way of establishing friendship and usually inspires thanks, gratitude and likely a return favor in response—if the recipient is a woman.

But if the recipient is man, he may well see the gift as an effort to curry favor, confirming his status as the superior: the one to whom gifts and honor are due. Thanks are not necessary and no return gift would ever be given, as that would mean Giver and Givee were on the same level, which is not an acceptable idea when a hierarchy has just been established to Givee's satisfaction!

Women may view support as a circular, mutually beneficial experience. For men, it is likely more linear, a bottom up effort to propitiate and curry favor of the leaderswho may then have an obligation to protect their underlings. Like a feudal lord getting his due from his dependents, he will have to try to stave off the barbarian hordes if they show up, or build a walled city to protect them, but he's not partners with his serfs.

You can see how misunderstandings and disappointments might abound!

And why romance writers and romance readers are a necessary ingredient to our lives....

Isabel Swift


Gigi Swift said...

Excellent points!!!
I've noticed reading scripts recently that female characters are OFTEN called MOTHER or GIRLFRIEND in any given scene while the male counterpart will (even if they don't have more lines, although they usually do which is another problem) is named HOWARD or BRIAN or whatever real human name they have been bestowed!

Isabel Swift said...

What an interesting (and sadly corroborative) point! Thanks.

Kimberly Coats said...

I definitely fall under the idiot category as I get completely irritated schlepping water across the compound and hauling laundry back and forth for 15 cyclists and everyone just watches....even the other American staff and volunteers. Yes, definitely, idiot.

Isabel Swift said...

Never an idiot--but modeling behavior that has no uptake.

We assume others are like us (a comforting, easy assumption) and can't understand why no one is springing to help (as we would in similar circumstances). But they are different animals, & need different treatment.

Recommend creating a round robin list, possibly with reward/consequence, or consider how to motivate/reward within (but stretching) cultural norms (ie how to make it seem honorable--team is team--and not "women's work")

I use strong words (idiot) to get (mostly women) to examine what may be a self selected martyr role....

You are amazing, but need to take as good care of yourself as you do of others.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Isabel--this is so true, and our Judeo-Christian culture reinforces that role for women. For years, I was that idiot and then suddenly, after meditating, I got a reminder: "Jesus did not say love your neighbor more than yourself." Carol Flinders, in
REBALANCING THE WORLD;WHY WOMEN BELONG AND MEN COMPETE AND HOW TO RESTORE THE ANCIENT EQUILIBRIUM, suggests the different M.O.'s were not always gender-based but came from the change from a hunter-gatherer society, in which the culture of belonging was more prized, to a culture of enterprise, which fosters competition. Thanks, Joan