As anyone who’s read my books will know, I’m far from a sexist. Our of my four series, women are the main characters in three of them. When I play a computer game where I have a choice, I play as a woman. In college, I used to sit with women to talk, preferring it to endless football talk at the men’s table. However, I was watching a video Thunderfoot made over on YouTube and I have to admit he makes a lot of valid points.
I think calling feminists stupid (or at least feminism) is taking it too far. I don’t think calling someone an idiot for not seeing your point of view is going to help matters. The trouble, I believe, is that both sides have valid points. I do think that society and how we’re raised has an influence on how we perceive ourselves and others. I also think that there are certain things built into us that we can’t fight successfully against.
To begin with, let me share something purely anecdotal. My son, Alex, is three, and we’ve been very careful not to impose any gender stereotypes on him. No one says, “Pink is a girl’s colour” or “Princesses are for girls”. Which has meant that he’s sometimes asked for traditionally girl oriented toys in the toy store. However, he also loves football, guns and swords. They’re by far his favourite.
I don’t believe that pervading gender roles are telling him to like guns. He only started going to kindergarten at three and he was already pretending every toy was a gun before that. Boys are attracted to guns. It’s the same reason my son Matthew was considering joining the army.
The trouble is where someone imposes a gender role on a child who doesn’t want to follow it. People are different, and sometimes there are boys that want to be princesses and girls that want to be soldiers. However, just as that isn’t right, it is similarly wrong to force the opposite on people. If a boy wants to play with a toy gun and a girl wants to be a princess, that’s okay too.
Where I disagree with Thunderfoot is on the intellectual side of things. He says that perhaps there aren’t more women leaders, because women don’t want to be leaders. I don’t agree with banning words, but I do believe in countering them with positive messages. Women who have achieved great things should be taught in school. Girls should be shown the great things women can accomplish.
There is an argument that women aren’t as prevalent in history as men. That might be true, but we can’t ignore history while teaching it. Women have been little more than property for thousands of years. As such, the achievements of women are all the more extraordinary.
It’s comparable to African-Americans in the US. People don’t like affirmative action, but it’s there to counteract hundreds of years of oppression. It takes generation after generation to change things. With women’s rights, we’re getting there. There are no legal barriers any more for women, but there are still barriers in belief. Here’s a video I watched about a year ago that underscores the point:
I think that society and individuals do judge a book by its cover. Not only that, but people judge themselves by perceived stereotypes (as this study shows).
At the same time, I disagree with the feminists and agree with Thunderfoot in finding women attractive based on their appearance. The same is true in reverse, but it’s difficult to see thing from someone else’s perspective. Women are attractive based on their appearance and men based on the stability they provide. Which with five seconds of thought, has an evolutionary reason behind it. Men can have children later in life, where their wealth will mean the children will be more likely to survive. Women, however, are more likely to survive if they have children earlier in life. And the things men actually find attractive most often are curvy women who appear healthy.
It’s not something men intellectualise. However, men aren’t just interested in physical appearance. If it’s a picture in a magazine, of course that’s all there is to go on. But ask a man who he has a crush on, and it’s not always going to be the obviously physically most appealing woman.
Here are a few of my celebrity crushes over the years, with a view to demonstrating this point. I am not calling these women unattractive, just saying they aren’t the perfect models that might be in a magazine:
When Respect M.E. came out, I had such a crush on Missy. So much so, that my wife noticed and commented on it. She got a little jealous.
The reason for my crush was her incredible talent, with her appearance coming second.
Who doesn’t love Ellen with her constant smile and infectious attitude? Again, her beauty comes from the inside. You can bet if you were going out with her, it would be a lot of fun.
This was probably more a crush on her character on her character in A League of Their Own, but I had such a crush on Kit Keller. And it was because of how hard she worked to make a name for herself outside her sister’s shadow.
All of those women are talented in different ways. Leaving celebrities for a moment, there was a woman in my Tae Kwon Do club when I was nineteen that was the best black belt in the club. She was not a stunningly beautiful woman, but she was unbelievably attractive because of her talent.
Which brings me back to how complicated this all is. If we’re trying to compete just on looks on the Internet, then there are going to be seven billion losers. Even the winner will be a loser to some people. But trying to fight the fact that people evaluate perspective mates based on looks is a losing battle. And hating on the winners only makes the losers more unattractive. There’s nothing more unattractive than someone who’s bitter.
All of that may have been a bit rambling, so I’ll summarise as best I can:
- Women (and men) are evaluated on their appearance by people who don’t know them. If you want to combat that, forget comparing yourself to photoshopped models and go grab life. If you get good at something and show people, you’ll inspire a few crushes no matter your appearance.
- Women have been suppressed for millenia. Yes, things are changing, but positive reinforcement can help. Women can do anything intellectually and I do believe negative reinforcement has some effect.
- Men are driven for the same reason that men of accomplishment are valued more. The more accomplished a man is, the more attractive he is.
- Banning words is the wrong way to go. Instead, how about a campaign showing the great things women have accomplished despite the suppression?
- Don’t try to stop men being attracted to women in bikinis. It’s not going to work.
- Be positive, you’ll win more people over with a smile. Don’t put up with overt sexism, but don’t call every aspect of men sexist either.
- Don’t call people stupid when you disagree with them. Just point out the facts.
When I write, I try my best to put myself in the shoes of my female heroes. I think if everyone attempted to do the same, we’d all be better off. At least I hope so.
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