Let me begin by saying that I deeply respect Feminism, and that I sympathize with their cause. Many atrocities have been wreaked upon the female sex in the name of “Masculinity” or a chauvinistic Religion such as Christianity and Islam. The hardships the beautiful sex have endured for centuries due to misguided and insecure males is wrong and I will gladly continue to support their social, political and philosophical attempts to even the playing field.
That being said, I am going to discuss something that may piss off many of my dear Feminist friends, for one because I will look at Gender Roles in a mildly “traditional” fashion, and for second because I am a male, and therefore a soft target when discussing these matters. I realize that it could be very easy to dismiss what I say out of hand as more “chauvinist codswallop”. I beg you, however, to hear me out and consider the message in these words.
When I was a child, growing up in the late eighties, it was tres avant garde for mothers to ban toy weapons from their boys’ toychests. I had one neighborhood friend whose mother refused to allow him to play with my guns and swords, which I had in spades. I remember one occasion very clearly, he had come over, riding on his “big-wheel” down the hill and across the street. I was outside, dressed up as I often was in those days, as some hero (the Lone Ranger on this day I believe). I had my sweet western six-shooter set that my grandmother had purchased for me, it hung in a heavy rubber holster-belt and shot little rubber bullets (quite possibly the coolest toy I had ever recieved, with the exception perhaps, of my He-Man Sword that lit up and made clashing noises). Anyway, this friend of mine rolled up and watched in awe as I shot my gun and imaginary “bad-guys”, saving many a non-existent “damsel in distress”. He asked if he could play with me. I of course said he could and handed him my older, but also very cool, lead cap-gun. He and I had a really good time for about ten minutes, then his mother saw him. She was angry as hell, flying over and snatching the gun out of his hands, telling my mother that her son was not allowed to play with such awful toys. I was horrified, and immediately felt pity for my friend. How horrible to not be able to play with guns!
He came over a lot that summer, and we quickly worked a way around his mother’s decrees, sure he wasn’t allowed to play with a toy gun, but he would pick up sticks and point them like rifles, throw pine-cones like grenades, and we had a great time despite his mother’s laws to the contrary.
I had thought this mother was an abberation, and soon we moved to the midwest where I never ran into this odd rule again amongst the matriarchy of my pals. However, as I progressed into adulthood, I saw that this rule was becoming and has become, more popular.
It seems that the newest sociological push by the extremist feminist philosophers is to abolish gender roles completely. They search for “gender neutral clothes” and refuse to let their girls play with dolls or their boys play with toy weapons. Which brings to my deviant mind the question – what’s wrong with gender roles?
Of course I know the short answer, which is: “Everything!”, however the long answer is far more complex and nuanced and, in short, is a resounding: “Nothing!”.
Allow me to explain.
To truly understand our modern gender roles, we need to understand gender roles as they developed from a evolutionary standpoint. Allow me this disclaimer, I am not a professional paleo-anthropologist, and the following is merely my opinion, take it for what it’s worth, however the opinion is supported by my vast amateur researches into these subjects.
A wise person who holds a PHD in astrophysics and a Masters in Archaeology once explained gender roles to me in this fashion:
Men assumed the roles that they have traditionally held, as the hunters, warriors, the “stronger” sex, because they are biologically disposable. Males are merely the seed carriers, and each male carries with him a supply of seed that diminishes minimally with age and never truly dries up until death. One male can procreate with an entire tribe of women, however one woman could only bear so many children, and many women died during child-birth before the advent of our sciences and OB GYN procedures.
So, men are disposable, women invaluable. Why would women go out into the wilds where predators or enemy tribes could kill them and thus weaken the tribe’s ability to continue? This is not to say that a woman is less able to bring down an animal, it has nothing to do with her physical strength. In fact, the Israeli Defense Force has found that women make far better tank pilots and are better shots than men, cooler in the heat of battle and able to make more strategic decisions.
The “roles” of provider and homemaker developed out of a biological necessity. Someone must hunt to bring the food, and someone must rear the child and ensure it’s safety during the tender years of infancy. One sex is more disposable than the other, so send the disposable sex out into danger to leave the more important piece of the puzzle in the safety of the cave, village, or longhouse to raise the most important members of the tribe, the future generations.
That being said, I see no reason why anyone should be offended or threatened by the roles of “provider” or of “homemaker”. Of course these roles have become more complex than their simplistic distinctions, and I applaud the woman who climbs the corporate ladder or the man who stays at home to take care of his progeny. It is not so much the literal functions of these roles that I am concerned with defending here, but rather the sociological and emotional aspects.
And here we bring it back to the opening anecdote. Boys will be boys.
Most children will naturally, without coaxing or indoctrination, assume these biologically ingrained gender roles. I naturally, as a five year old boy, liked to play with swords and Star Wars battery-operated “blasters”. I liked to ride my rocking horse and pretend I was chasing down a dragon, and I absolutely loved to run through the house wearing nothing but a wash-cloth loincloth and a plastic knife pretending to be Tarzan (one of my many man-heroes). My sisters loved their dolls, their kitchen sets, and their princess costumes, but they weren’t above toting guns around to play cops and robbers with me when my friends were scarce or grounded! Our gender consciousness was not rigidly enforced by my parents, I was never told I was sissy for playing with my sisters’ dolls with them, and they weren’t chided for running about like yahoos climbing trees or acting like dinosaurs with me either. However we each had our seperate gender identities that had developed naturally and without coersion. Our biology and our evolutionary inheritance was doing it’s job.
Men, as a general rule, enjoy competition and fighting, the thrill of the hunt. They should not be made to feel some sort of “poltically correct” penis-guilt because of their biological lot in life. They should not be ashamed to be strong, wild and passionate. They should not be ashamed to admit their desire for a good brawl, or to admit to the simple pleasure of tossing a ball around or drinking all night with the “guys”. These are all modern manifestations of the biological traits ingrained in our sex for millions of years, the yearning for male comradery, for the adrenaline rush that zings through their body when they pursue an elk over a snow-covered mesa, or push their motorcycle to 110 MPH. They are just boys being. . .well. . .boys!
Now to the point. There are mysteries for a Heathen or Pagan of any stripe and creed that can be learned from our Gods by pursuing the gender roles evolution has given to us. Men are made in the image of the Gods, women in the image of the Goddesses. We live the mythology, our very lives should be mythic retellings of those ancient lays and songs. I believe that many of the gender inequalities could be solved if the “roles” were re-examined via this process, as being emanations of the divine gender polarities that are in no way static, but dynamic, shifting into themselves yet distinct and individual.
Thus I call for a revival of the Male Mysteries and the Feminine Mysteries. We should revel in our differences, not seek to denigrate each other because she doesn’t hunt, nor should we jump to the conclusion that simply because the female is not usually the warrior, that she is weaker than the male. The female should celebrate her roles in the home, not be defined by them. She should not be afraid to cook for her family, lest that enslave her to the patriarchy, rather she should recognize that when she cooks for her family she is working great magic for them, weaving ingredients together that sustain them just as her Holy Milk has sustained her babes. The woman should find strength, if she chooses, in the subtle and quiet art of weaving, knitting and sewing. Each stitch, each thread, each warp and weft is a spell, a prayer for the safety of her beloved kin, for the protection of her children, and the warmth of her lover. It is said that the most important item Arthur wore into battle was the sheath for Excalibur, for it had been woven by mistresses of sorcery and into it had been worked spells for the invincibility of the wearer. The sword is powerful, but it was craft of the women in his life that made him invincible.
Each gender has it’s mysteries, and each gender can sample the others’ secrets. Men can knit, women can fight, and there is nothing wrong with these deeds, however, by and large, men will pursue mens’ chores, women will pursue womens’ magic. My point is that ultimately we should celebrate these things, rather than demonize them and seek to eradicate them. Mothers, let your boys be warriors, and your girls too if they desire, but don’t fail to teach them the womens’ arts. The warrior impulse is not always martial, sometimes the greatest battles are fought with intellect and magic and prayer. Please, do not stamp out our great biological heritage.