Not so long ago, I watched Lover Come Back with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. No need to mention that it’s a pre-feminist movie, notwithstanding that the female lead is an advertising executive. The portrayal of her can be explained in two words: dumb blonde. She accepts everything her antagonist says, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to us today. Obviously, they end up married – and there you have it.
The film was funny in some ways, but it was embarrassing. In the end, it didn’t make me laugh. Doubtless, it is an accurate presentation of the fifties and early sixties. The question is, have we come that far since then? In certain ways perhaps, but there’s still huge gaps between what men and women earn for equal work.
There are less female than male representatives in any government or high finance. There are less female than male leaders in any business, as far as I know. The number of male chauvinists hasn’t changed — much. What can be done? Women may carry part of the responsibility. It’s difficult to change the way people think. Regardless of all the brave women who fought for equality, most people haven’t changed their ideas about women’s place – or men’s – in the hierarchy.
Take a simple issue as height. Women prefer dating men who are taller than they. It’s something they say openly. Any woman likes to be swept off her feet by a strong alpha male. Many women look for a partner who earns more than they. Women who become mothers to sons often don’t teach them to sew buttons or do the washing up. Girls learn those ‘female’ skills without a question – and yet some of the most famous clothing designers are men. Go figure.
It’s a marvel that we can’t seem to accept that the sexes aren’t that easy to separate or determine. This reminds me of a book I just read, Beneath an Indigo Moon by JT Atkinson. He makes some pertinent points about gender. It is a thought-provoking book and hard to deal with in some places. Nevertheless, it is well worth tackling. Anyway, these days, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is an entire spectrum of sexes, spanning from alpha male to alpha female. Some are easily recognizable, but the difference becomes difficult to see when boys grow up in female bodies and vice versa. Yes, that can be remedied nowadays. All the same, the confusion reigns and will continue to do so, until we accept that we’re all human beings, regardless of sex, sexual preferences, and colour. There are still many people who resent anybody who doesn’t fit the norm, which is their norm.
For some reason, this reminds me of a sign outside a barbershop. I saw it not three weeks ago on a sidewalk in Bremerhaven. It said Racists Aren’t Welcome. Next to this was another sign saying that the salon isn’t open for ladies. Food for thought. That’s how far we’ve advanced since women should only concern their little heads with their children, the kitchen, and the church. Of course, they had to maintain cleanliness in household matters too. In many heterosexual households, these issues still fall to the woman. A patriarchal society that has worked for around two-thousand years doesn’t change fast.
Maybe there’s reason for rejoicing that husbands can’t commit their ‘unruly’ wives to asylums any longer. There’s also ground for rejoicing that women are allowed to have possessions and earn money after marriage. In most countries, females even have the right to vote. Forget that the most progressive countries granted that right to women about a hundred years ago. All the same, there are many countries where girl children are mutilated at a young age, to keep them innocent until they marry. To return to past politics, there were times when only the ruling or moneyed classes, obviously only the men, had the right to vote.
Males and females indeed have different bodies. Men are endowed with stronger muscles, but only females can procreate and carry a child to full term. That doesn’t mean that men have intelligence and females – souls. That idea is too simplistic. Will it ever change? It is delightful to be a female as it is probably great to be a male. It is alluring to be complimented, wined and dined. All sexes enjoy that game. Isn’t it time to accept that it’s a game and has no real substance? Let us be as feminine and as masculine as we can and as we like, without pulling rules around our necks that limit our humanity. Is that too much to ask for? Just wondering.
© HMH, 2020