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The precariousness of women's place in society
I'm interested in opinions about this.

I answered Geoff in another thread (men,women,gypsies) with this statement and question:

Being smaller and weaker women evolved to do things 'under the table' so to speak.
We use wile and guile to get what we want and need.
These days women can speak more openly but I think the balance is always up for grabs.

Do you think that contemporary women understand the precariousness of their place in
society?
In the developed nations laws and men with enlightened minds give us a modicum of respect.

There are issues here that I'm afraid to talk about.
Isn't that Interesting?
Linda, in my mind, too much has been made of the current competitive nature of the relationship between the genders.  This sense of competition has come almost entirely from women.  Perhaps this was necessary in order to achieve the significant gains that women have achieved over the last generation or so.

It is perhaps easy for me as a man to pontificate on this subject, but women and society as a whole would benefit it we all relaxed a little bit, and took the long view of things.  Women seem to be so obsessed with proving that they are equal, or perhaps even better than men.  This has caused them to take on more than they should have to handle.

In this quest for “equality” we overlook the obvious fact that men and women are different and each have, collectively speaking,  their strengths and weaknesses.  For some, to me mysterious reason,  this plain statement of obvious fact has aroused accusations of misogyny from some women.   You cite a good example when you state that men are stronger but women are more adept at using wile and guile to get what they want. 

The point that I am really trying to get to is that rather than getting all caught up in the competitive game,  women and men should follow their instincts and natural inclinations to do what they are most interested in and in doing so complement one another for the greater good of society.  If that means conceding that higher math is not your cup of tea, focus instead on artistic endeavors and open the mind of your football obsessed husband or boyfriend to the beauties of impressionist paintings or a Mozart violin concerto.  Conversely, be open to the male in your life and allow him to explain what is so great about football,  you might end up developing an appreciation for it also.  If we can replace the current tension and acrimony with harmony,  we would all gain.

(Just for the record, my wife and I are both equally enthusiastic about football, and I am the one who usually suggests going to a violin concert)

In response to Paul Rosenberger
I need to clarify, Paul.
I have no competitive issues with men and all the men in my life have been excellent.  I am a lucky woman.
But this:
This sense of competition has come almost entirely from women.  Perhaps this was necessary in order to achieve the significant gains that women have achieved over the last generation or so.

Only the last generation or so...

What I wonder is, do women appreciate the fact that it's been a very short time that we've had rights?
Since we've been able to vote, to be educated, to have our own property...to have control over our reproductive systems...
Do women realize that we cannot relax yet or maybe ever?


And which long view would you have us take?  The one looking back or the one looking forward?  It hasn't been all that long since the most fortunate of women were beloved pets and bed-mates.  The Abigail Adamses of this world were few and far between.
And the unfortunate ones...it makes my teeth ache to think about it.

It's too early for women to assume that their rights are not precarious.

The point is not that we are equal or as smart or as strong.  The point is not football or violin concerts.  All that is superficial.
The point is that all humans need to show respect for the other and to afford each other equal rights.
You may be one of the enlightened, Paul.  I hope so because if you're not then you seem to be supremely patronizing in your reply.

I look forward to continuing this conversation.

In response to Linda OReilly
Paul writes "women and men should follow their instincts and natural inclinations to do what they are most interested in and in doing so complement one another for the greater good of society.   If that means conceding that higher math is not your cup of tea, focus instead on artistic endeavors and open the mind of your football obsessed husband or boyfriend to the beauties of impressionist paintings or a Mozart violin concerto"

I'd certainly agree that people (any two people) are different. However, I don't agree that gender is the most useful dividing line. By this I don't mean that it's inaccurate sometimes -- I mean it's wildly inaccurate as a predictor, constantly. When I say that I know women who are astonishing mathematicians and men who are deeply sensitive art historians, I don't mean to point these people out as exceptions. Education, family background, personal intuition and sensitivity, culture...personal character... these play a role which I'd argue is much stronger than gender. Gender appears significant within the confines of our very, very narrow cultural and sociohistoric lens -- when Sartre argues with de Beauvoir, the differences have to be chalked up to something, and gender is more or less the only thing left.

When we read de Beauvoir against Kant, or against Ngugi wa Thiongo, is gender really the first thing?

That said, our cultural mythology of gender is almost overpoweringly strong, and leads to statements like the one quoted above being thrown around like the most natural thing in the world. Really, anytime someone makes a statement which they feel to be so viscerally obvious, I wish they would seriously consider what makes it so; culturally held beliefs run much deeper than we initially acknowledge, as Penelope's post on sexuality points out.
Books Discussed
The Ethics Of Ambiguity
by Simone de Beauvoir
Critique of Judgment
by Immanuel Kant
Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature
by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

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