|Equality of Personhood between Women and Men
Reconciling the "Two Solitudes"
Male - Female (Gender) Equality
An 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 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 understand 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
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. 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
So to gain understanding and some sort of resolution on the differences, let us take a closer
There is a fundamental "equality". Within the equality of personhood and the equality there are
some special qualities that a man has because he is man, and that woman has because she is
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
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; 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.
Nature/Nurture: There has been no intent to ignore biological differences. Instead, the focus
has been on the cultural (learned) ones. The "nature-nurture" controversy and debate is still
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
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,
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).
Some Truths and Realities we each face are:
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
Please join me in dialogue on this important facet of real human life (email or snail mail - see
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
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
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
|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 © 2007-2017
Questions and comments welcomed.
Equality of Men & Women
Male/Female - Nature/Nurture- Anima/Animus
This Us/Them situation has gone one much too long: it's almost as if people are discussing two
separate species when describing human females and males; like two completely misunderstood
This discussion is not about equality based on gender, race or cultural "norms", instead it is based
on the reality of equality of Personhood, and that the two genders are complementary halves of
one reality: personhood in all its glory (if we pursue the vast potential benefits).