Equality of Personhood between Women and Men

Reconciling the "Two Solitudes"
Male - Female (Gender) Equality
An open-ended essay examining facts and fictions
about the differences
                           I am not using "equality" here either as a synonyms for "same",
                           or "equal/identical". Please  bear with me.

     Fact: the concepts of "male" and "female" are totally culturally derived and based.

    Culturally-based: beliefs, practices, definitions and standards differ widely
    across cultures   and communities, hence "personhood" is the basic
    commonality to use for a discussion on this. It's an open discussion:  I hope to
    engage you in dialogue on this; please share your views, thoughts and suggestions
    with me. This is NOT intended to be the definitive work on the topic, by any means.

    We must bear in mind that when something's cultural and thus relative, there is a
    danger in comparing one's own situation to someone else's if one doesn't under-
    stand this crucial point.

    Equality: both men and women should enjoy, and receive, equality of
    personhood: equality of dignity, mutual respect, harmony, complementarity,
    and if they are in a committed relationship - a unified destiny. While they may be
    "hard-wired" differently - the effects of that on actual daily life are still hotly
    disputed - see below.

    Of course, there are differences between males and females: they are hard-wired
    differently since they were embryos: basically, these differences manifested as
    making the "wiring" of the brain different. Considering that we are taught that
    nature never makes a modification without  it having survival value, then this
    must be a "required" situation for our species. Until we accept that, it will be
    difficult to understand its importance, let alone reconcile it constructively and
    positively

    However, to reduce the difference entirely to biology would be a mistake: there is
    much more involved; for although the brains may be wired differently, they both
    process the same data. And that's where the great possibilities lay - once we accept
    that and act upon our knowledge - it opens the door to necessary complementarity
    - one that extends way beyond sheer "breeding".. Biology doesn't dictate "better"or
    "lesser". It just means: difference or different.

    How the biology affects human conduct and behaviour is the source of an ongoing
    debate - one that has yet to be resolved: it's called the nature/nurture controversy.
    The main point is, there is an equality of personhood that must be regarded as the
    most important criteria. Actually, when it comes to "differences", beyond the
    biology most of them are Cultural, rather than biological.

    So to gain understanding and some sort of resolution on the differences,
    let us take a closer look.
    There is a fundamental "equality". Within the equality of personhood, there are
    some special qualities that a man has because he is man, and that woman has
    because she is woman.

    And those personhoods are manifested in the unique individuals who are various
    relationships, to others: they all have a specialness that needs to be recognized,
    honoured and respected. This applies exactly the same to two people in a
    committed relationship - perhaps even more so.

    Those qualities exist because of their differences: differences because they are
    each unique  individuals. In showing mutual respect and care there are
    special ways that a man shows respect to a woman; and vice versa. We are told
    that variety is the spice of life - so we should  have no problem in accepting bona
    fide differences - that are actually mutually beneficial.

    Equality of personhood and mutuality of respect is not sameness. Yes, there is
    a "sameness"  of qualities and equal access to all qualities - but they remain
    unique,  and different: full   individual - striving to fulfil their potential.

    As has been said, equality is expressed differently in the way we relate to each
    other as man and woman, not because we are male and female, but because of our
    respective, unique personhoods.

    Equality of personhood means that a man is not less a person than a woman
    because he has hair on his chest. They are equal in their personhood and those
    differences don't  change that -   in fact, they aren't relevant.

    There is an equality of dignity. A dignity which requires them to be equally
    honoured as  humans.  That honour is due to each simply because they are
    humans - this applies to all people  in our lives: that honour belongs to male and
    female equally (whether as adults, or  as children).

    There is an equality of mutual respect. And it means that both men and
    women should be equally diligent in respecting and honouring each other.
    Respect should never flow just one direction: they should regard each other
    with a kind of awe that is tempered by the reality of    who each is - and
    accepting them fully, "warts  and all".

    There is an equality of harmony:  meaning that there has to be peaceful
    cooperation between men and women; it is not two separate entities as islands,
    but two interconnected beings. Acceptance of that reality would smooth the path
    of our relationships.

    There is and equality of complementarity. This is somewhat like saying that our
    relationships should not be merely the sound of singing in unison as in music. It
    can only be the integrated sound of the various voices, whether soprano and bass,
    alto   and tenor. That way, the differences of male and female are respected,
    affirmed  and valued.  It also ensures that males and females won't try to duplicate
    each other; instead, an opportunity to highlight each other's unique qualities exists
    that allows mutual enrichment.

    There is an equality of fairness;  an equality of being treated on the basis of merit,
    rather than gender (or a sense of "entitlement"); and an equality of being
    acknowledged and responded to - again, as a unique individual, and not because
    of gender.

    There is no room for, or need for, the essences and effects of twisted,
    dysfunctional  macho maleness and femaleness that is a self-aggrandizing
    effort to subdue and control and exploit the other for their own private
    desires and enrichment.

    There are several examples on this site, of what happens to those who
    are unsuccessful:  Dysfunctional Families/Relationships, Codependency,
    or  Comparing Healthy-Unhealthy Relationships.
    You may also wish to read "The Rules For Being Human".

    Generally, men have more brute strength than women, and many abuse that
    strength by trying   to dominate women (and children) through intimidation,
    violence and abuse - and look to be "waited on hand-and-foot".  But this is
    also true of many women. Where women might not have  as much brute
    strength as men they have, in order to gain dominance they often tend to
    use words, and where her words fail her, she knows the other weaknesses
    to capitalize on. Neither of these so-called "gender" behaviours is good,
    desirable, adaptive, healthy or functional.

    Many  men and women have been raised without a positive, constructive or
    enlightened vision of what it mean to be male or female. They have been told
    (and all too often, seen) many negative things: things humans ought not
    to be - things that humans are to be liberated from.
    Instead, the focus has been on the cultural (learned) ones. The "nature-
    nurture" controversy and debate is still   going strongly.

    It is not likely to be settled for a long time: however, there is some consensus
    that at best we can say that human (both male and female) are a blend of
    inherent, biological and perhaps inherited characteristics,  AND cultural
    (learned) ones. In the context and spirit of this article, the best we can say is,
    that the blend will be different for each individual: for example:

    Emotional Differences between Female/Male: that there are differences
    goes without saying. Whether the emotions themselves are different between
    the genders is open to question: perhaps it is safest to say that each gender
    has learned  how to experience, and express, them differently:
    the cultural influence.

    When we take the time to really get to know another person, we discover a
    rich emotional life, whether expressed uniquely via learned factors -nurture-
    or not is still open to question - and the subject of an ongoing debate.

    Two "Logics": Another point people often use is to say that men and women
    think differently, that they use two "logics". This makes eminent sense: since
    they are hard-wired differently, it stands to reason that they process information
    differently; as it should be. Once we accept that reality, then it allows us to see
    that through dialogue, using two different "logics" can lead to much more
    harmonious, balanced outcomes.

    Sexuality - Sex "drive" (Libido) differences between male/female. Here too,
    the nature/nurture factor is involved. First, as applying to "differences" between
    males  and   females as far as their sexuality and their sex drives are concerned.
    And secondly, within relationships.  

    People commonly speak of one or the other having high, or low, sex drives
    (libidos). And  these are often ascribed to inherent differences between male and
    female. Yet, in reality, there are many members of both genders who have so-
    called "high" sex drives, as there are those with so-called "low" sex drives.
    Actually, "high-low" are relative terms: relative  only to two individuals: there is
    no "standard" to compare it to. The most we can say is that one has an apparent
    lower/higher libido than the other. It is common that in many, many
    relationships there are differences in approach, desire etc between the two
    partners.

    And it is they who tend to describe those differences in terms of "high", or "low"
    - when instead the focus should be on the fact that they are different, and ways
    of  finding a mutually satisfying resolution to the difference should be
    sought, rather than "blaming" or "labelling". After all, there are many factors
    that impinge on sex-drive: for example, health, fatigue, stress  etc - all of which
    have virtually nothing to do with maleness or femaleness.

    Anima/Animus: in the midst of this "controversy", there is something else to
    consider. This is  C. G. Jung's concept of Anima/Animus: the male/female
    aspects each gender carries within. It means that a female has a preponderance
    of femaleness (anima), yet at the same time has within her psyche her
    opposite maleness - the animus.

    Males, conversely, have a preponderance of maleness (animus),
    yet carry within their psyche its opposite - the anima.

    Thus, not only does nature/nurture come into play - it is also how the internal
    psychic balance of anima (femaleness) and animus (maleness) are blended
    and harmonized. This whole concept is also related to yin-yang, and left-brain/
    right-brain: that is an entirely different discussion.
    Liberation/emancipation (and enlightenment) means that manhood does not
    consist of sexual exploitation: that a man is not just characterized by cool,
    rational unemotionalism. Nor is maleness only the ruthless task-oriented
    drive to conquer. Conversely, womanhood is not boring, drudging domesticity,
    nor just homebound motherhood. Femaleness is not just some mindless
    emotionalism, nor passive sexual compliance.

    Now that we have seen what manhood and womanhood is NOT, and what it IS
    (tentatively and conditionally), what are we left with in our society? The main
    thing is a big void of confusion about who and what they are: frustrating, guilt-
    producing, destructive, dysfunctional confusion.

    Many couples have no clear vision of what it means to be a husband and a wife
    (or committed partners). That confusion has a profound effect on the stability of
    marriage/relationships and the way the children will be prepared for life as male
    and female.

    That confusion ends when both partners gain insight and clarity with regard to
    the other's uniqueness and of their relationship as completely singular in terms
    of what will  help it survive or not, in short, come to understand and accept each
    other.

    There are advocates who insist that relationships should be fair, and that
    there is some standard  to which all relationships should be compared to.

    To clarify what that means, or doesn't mean, it would be helpful to regard
    Camilia Paglia's work (books): uncontrollable, often self defeating urges
    and very different agendas depending on one's gender (See, for example
    Paglia, Vamps and Tramps - excerpt below).

    Sexual equality may be possible - but not extremely likely according to Paglia.
    She indicates that the belief is that when "equality" is achieved it will result in
    complete ease in relationships. Impossible, she says. And this is due, she goes
    on, because men and women are vastly different and their differences, though
    creating an often chaotic world for one and other,   are what passion is all
    about (see more on sexual/emotional differences below).

    Relationships are never completely balanced: there is always some degree of
    hierarchy. Actually, relationships function often on many hierarchies
    simultaneously, and balances  shift during the course of relationships, often
    many times.

    The "raw material" which makes up one relationship is completely different
    from any other,  and gauging balance against other relationships, or the ideal
    of complete equity in all regards is futile, impossible.

    Paglia says, "(those who) see every hierarchy as repressive, are practicing a
    social fiction that rejects contingency, that is, human limitation by nature
    or fate (3, Sexual Personae)."

    Caring is good. Some people care more than others, and caring often endures
    despite inequity. Thankfully, we live in a world in which caring can shower itself
    on the good,  bad and ugly. Sometimes this results in imbalance.

    Imbalance is not necessarily bad, and to regard it that way would require us
    to consider  the most altruistic individuals in history as flawed. A mind-set result
    that examines  many caring behaviours, and the possibility that some many
    need modification while others may not.

    This attitudinal/behavioural approach can be applied to almost any situation
    where disagreement, tension, hurt, discord, lack of harmony and other problems
    exist - by either gender (or both genders, depending on the circumstances).

1 Men are from Earth
Women are from Earth.
That's our starting point - "equal planetary residence"

2 Not all women are alike.
Some women are more evolved than other women.

3 Not all men are alike.  
Some men are more evolved than other men.

4 Gender identity is the sense we have of "needing" to belong one of the
socially prescribed genders: either to the male portion of the human race, or
the female portion of the race (other choices are still "proscribed" in many
cultures, and within large segments of our own culture).

5 Gender conceit is when either gender assumes that what is natural
and preferred for her/his gender is correct for both genders.

We are ALL unique individuals.


This is not intended to be "the" definitive work on this topic, but anything
that leads to improved understanding, points of view, acceptance and more
functional  behaviour and attitudes can only be good.

Please join me in dialogue on this  important facet of real human life
(email or snail mail, Skype or FaceTme - see "Contact/Comments").

It is an introduction that will be revised on an ongoing basis:
I think it is summed-up nicely in this tribute to the late Fritz Perls:

How We Are (a philosophy to live by)

"If I just do my thing and you do yours,
We stand in danger of losing each other and ourselves.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations; but I am in this world to confirm
you as a unique human being, and to be confirmed by you.
We are fully ourselves only in relation to each other;
the I detached from a Thou disintegrates.
I do not find you by chance; I find you by an active life of reaching out.
Rather than passively letting things happen to me,
I can act intentionally to make them happen.
I    must begin with myself, true; but I must not end with myself:
the Truth begins with two".
- "Beyond Perls" (Walter Tubman 1972)

Klaas Tuinman MA
Dawn Cove Abbey
Deerfield, (Yarmouth County) Nova Scotia, Canada
2010-rev 2019
Dawn Cove Abbey
_______________________________
"Roadside Assistance" For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
_______________________________________________________
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman M.A.  © 2007-2019

Questions and comments welcomed.