I wrote in an earlier post that I don’t think my first husband even liked me. He may have thought that he loved me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he liked me. (That’s not even getting into the question of whether or not you can really love someone if you don’t like him or her.)
I often thought that my ex doesn’t even like women, period. I wrote that I don’t mean that in a gay way, but just that he doesn’t value or feel comfortable around women. What I’ve always wondered is whether he is unusual. It does seem that women are not valued as highly as men in this world. (And I do mean, world; not just this society. See this Slate.com article about the likelihood of divorce when the couple only has daughters.)
There is a lot of speculation about why this should be so. On one hand it’s not so hard to understand: men and women can be very different, making it hard for them to identify with one another. But the truth is, the sexes have more in common with each other than they have differences; we are, after all, human beings.
Some argue that the feminist movement has made relationships between men and women more hostile. However, at least one study has found that feminism has made for stronger relationships between men and women. And as far as stereotypes about feminists go, this same study found that feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women.
Could this mean –gasp!–that feminism, sexual satisfaction and more harmonious relationships go hand in hand? Of course we’re generalizing here: not all men are comfortable with women (and vice versa). The reasons for this are myriad and beyond the scope of this post. Certainly the feminist movement has created some animosity on both sides of the sexual divide. But it has also brought the opportunity for more honesty and intimacy in sexual relationships. Men and women are encouraged to be whole persons instead of half-persons performing a role. By sharing each other’s traditional responsibilities, they come to understand each other better. They also relieve the weight of those responsibilities on each other. The working mother helps to support the family financially; the more-involved father helps to support it emotionally.
Feminism’s emphasis on personal growth makes some men fear that it will cause their wives and girlfriends to grow away from them. What they don’t realize is that when a person is allowed her (or his) personal space, she (or he) is less likely to want to break away from the relationship. A feminist outlook creates a win-win situation for men and women.