Can Women Do What Men Do?

Graham Phoenix counters the ‘equality’ of Gloria Steinem.

On Friday over at Good Feed,  we heard Gloria Steinem say, “We know that women can do what men can do, but we don’t know that men can do what women can do.”

They are extraordinary assertions that cry out to be challenged—not just the statements but also the assumptions behind them.

I have never heard of Gloria Steinem and am not aware of the work she has done. I am British, and in the UK we tend not to be as brash or confrontational in our passions. We see things more as shades of grey. Sadly, the Colbert interview with Steinem had no shades of grey.

The issue is equality. This is the hottest political issue in America. It fires people up and sets them against others, others they want to be equal to. It was the British philosopher Bertrand Russell who said:

In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.

I see equality as a different beast altogether. Where Steinem sees equality as people doing the same things, I see equality as people having the freedom to do what others do.

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“Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.” —Tom Robbins

This does not mean that men should do men’s work and women should do women’s work. It means that we should do the work or live the life that is most in tune with our character. 

It’s about celebrating our differences while opening ourselves up to freedom of possibility for all. While in Britain we have made great strides, there is still a long way to go. We work on issues of race, gender, sexuality, education, poverty, and age from the perspective of opening up channels of opportunity. In sexuality, we abolished our ridiculous law making buggery illegal and have created same-sex marriages. Recently, it has been deemed illegal to ban guests from a hotel because they are homosexual, even if they owner has a strong religious belief against homosexuality.

What is important to understand, however, is that we don’t require everyone to be gay or experience gay sex. Most of us are not gay and that is OK, as long as we give gays the freedom to practice their beliefs in the way we practice ours.

Steinem wants women to be men and men to be women. In her world, we each need to do what the other does. It’s fine if we want to but she requires that we have to.

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“Before God we are all equally wise—and equally foolish.” —Albert Einstein

I have worked with gay Christians in the past, helping them to come to terms with their Christianity and their sexuality, so that they can live both without confusion or guilt. I am at one with what they believe. Homosexuals believe that they were born gay and their orientation remains no matter what socialization they put themselves through, never mind what society puts them through. This understanding is even more pertinent with transsexuals who believe they were born trapped in a body of the wrong physical sex.

When people own up to and live their sexuality, they live what they were born to. It is the same with men and women. We were all born to a degree of masculinity or femininity, and when we live our lives fully, we live in that masculinity or femininity.

Masculine and feminine are different, with differing qualities, characteristics, and skills.

This does not mean that men should do men’s work and women should do women’s work. It means that we should do the work or live the life that is most in tune with our character. There are many women who desire and are able to do work that is normally associated with masculine characteristics, work that requires the focus and power of masculinity. Equality is when anyone is able to do this work, when anyone is able to recognize these qualities within themselves and live accordingly.

Equally there are many men who desire and are able to do work that is normally associated with feminine qualities, work that requires love, care, and compassion. Equality is not requiring all men to do this or all fathers to nurse their children, even if the world might be a better place of they did.

The world exists and prospers through the tension and excitement of polarity. The interplay between masculine and feminine is one of the key drivers of society. To flatten this out with a distortion of the concept of equality is to damage society in a dangerous way. America is a society that is in danger of losing its way. There is pressure for women to become men and, most worryingly, there is pressure for men to become women.

Men are losing their way because they are confused and afraid. They are afraid to stand up and be men and they are afraid not to. They are afraid of the reaction of women such as Steinem, and they find it difficult to do anything other than ignore them or, as Colbert did, mock them. What we did not get in the interview was any coherent argument from Colbert. As a man he didn’t know how to counter a woman showing such strength.

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