Thursday, January 5, 2012
Battle of the Sexes
Education, for instance. Women are rapidly forming the educated majority. They're graduating in higher numbers with higher grades and pursuing higher degrees than their male counterparts. If those are the statistics, however, then what is causing this gender-based shift? Are women finally receiving and embracing the educational opportunities that have been denied them for so long? Are men getting lazier? Or does early education favor the way girls learn, leaving boys at a disadvantage?
Beyond the classroom, the numbers flip. More men hold CEO and company-ownership positions than women, and even when women hold equivalent positions in the same company as men, the men tend to earn more than the women. If women are performing better in school, what happens when they get to the workforce? Are they simply not cut out for leadership roles? Or are men bigger risk-takers, meaning greater failure but also greater reward? Are men truly doing the job better, or are they simply more willing to ask for (or demand) a raise?
Then, there is the ever-contested issue of rape. Yes, rape is a horrific event that can severely damage a person's body, psyche, and reputation. Yes, rapists deserve to be punished. However, merely being accused of rape can also severely damage a person's reputation, psyche, and even body--whether or not that individual is ever convicted. And who is more often accused of rape, men or women? Furthermore, for every woman who fails to accuse her attacker, how many men have also been raped and failed to report the incident?
Amid all of these debates--who is being treated unfairly? who is the true victim of sexism?--I do have one abiding observation: if a man passes a woman, depending on who that man is, there is a chance that he will beep his horn or let out a whistle or make a lewd face or gesture at her. As a woman and mere observer of humanity, I can attest to this. On the other hand, I have never seen a woman passing a man let out even the softest of whistles or gentlest of catcalls. Nor have I, as a woman, ever even considered doing such a thing myself.
So are we equal? Not quite yet. But let us not confuse having equal opportunities or deserving equal respect with having equal skill sets. Because I, for one, believe that men and women differ in essential and important ways. Our goal should be to take advantage of those skills and enhance them.
First things first, however: we should work toward equal respect. The rest will follow.