I referenced Michael Kaufman the other day when I wrote about the White Ribbon Campaign. Besides being the International Director for the Campaign, Kaufman speaks, writes and runs workshops about gender issues. While watching his appearance on the Men’s Room, it occurred to me that women contribute to the traps that men find themselves in as men.
Feminists should not be blaming men for their worst qualities without taking some responsibility for them. We are the mothers who tell our sons that “big boys don’t cry.” We’re the girlfriends who profess to like the “strong, silent types” or who are attracted to the “bad boys.” We have to change our own attitudes about what makes a man a “real” man. As long as we buy into the same old stereotypes for men we will be continue to be stereotyped as women. This circle needs to be broken.
We’re not going to get anywhere when we blame others for our situations. There’s nothing wrong with analyzing the dynamics of male-female interactions, but we can’t allow the analyses to turn into gripe sessions. Most men don’t consciously choose to hide their feelings or to have control issues any more than most women consciously choose to be emotional or to have dependency issues. Nor is every man and woman exactly like the rest of their gender.Yes, there are men who abuse women, but there are women who abuse men as well. And women tend to care too much about their appearance, but does that mean that men don’t care at all about theirs?
It doesn’t do either sex any good to generalize about the other. Instead what we should be doing is looking at ourselves and trying to figure out why we each have our own issues. Not, “the patriarchy made me feel that I had to choose children over a career” but “what do I really want and how can I get it?” The reasons why something happened aren’t nearly as germane as the reasons why we allow it to continue.
It takes a lot of courage to look at ourselves this way. It’s easier sometimes to foist the responsibility for our problems onto someone else. But that won’t get us anywhere in the long run.