Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Advice for a young father

I grew up in a very patriarchal society.
I did not know any better and I thought that was the way things were supposed to be.

Men were supposed to be the bread winners and the women the home makers.
Boys play with swords and cars and girls play with dolls and lace.
Girls were supposed to be soft and gentle and boys were not supposed to cry.
Women were supposed to be romantic and men were supposed to be chivalrous.

I remember coming to the United States in the very beginning of the 80’s.
Feminism was still alive and a very shocking and puzzling thing for me.

If men were such an evil bunch, why the American women were trying to emulate them?
It seemed to me totally backwards.
Women were destroying femininity because masculinity was bad and some how turning women into men would make the world a better place?!?

I was working for a big corporation.
The director was an older woman.
I remember going to a business lunch with all my colleagues.
I walk ahead of the group, being the youngest male, and opened the door for everybody to exit.
To my surprise our young accountant said to me:
- Why are you opening the door for me, do you think I am handicapped?
I was speechless as she exited the company ahead of everybody including our older director, which by the way stopped in front of me and said:
- Thank you, that is vey polite! – I think she wanted to make a point.
And then at the elevator, same thing, the young lady cut in front of everybody.

I was puzzled by the fact that every American woman was waiting for the prince Charming to come and rescue them on a white horse – or a Rolls Royce, but at the same time they called me a male chauvinist pig for calling them the “fair sex” – probable because I lacked the white horse or the RR :)

I still believe the women should be beautiful and soft and feminine and I don’t think that being feminine it is less than being a man – actually I believe that women are much better human beings than men – and I even learn some things from them, like getting in touch with my feelings and not be ashamed to show my emotions.

I am the father of two beautiful daughters and as they grow up and start turning into young ladies I dread the fact they will live in a society where chivalry is dead.
Equality between sexes in the working place is a natural right and as so it should be the legal right of all men and women.

But I always wondered as a woman how does it feel to be treated like a man?
Do you think that a man that opens you the door, kisses your hand, offers you a chair or brings you flowers is a chauvinist?
Is chivalry a bad thing or even better; is teaching my daughters to be and act like ladies a bad thing?

I don’t think your opinion will change the way I raise my daughter – my wife is already in charge of that – but I am really curious of knowing how you see this issue.


Aggie said...

Chivalry and Chauvanism are two very different things. I don't mind chivalry at all ... but I detest men who think that they are "superior" to women. They have their attributes and we have ours and the two halves cannot do without each other in the survival of the human race - so men need to lose the attitudes of the past. Feminism started as a reaction to the unfair treatment of women - not as a one way ticket to being "like a man." I wouldn't want to be one. Seeing each other in the light of equality and fair treatment (example = fair pay for the same job) is going to be essential to our survival as a species. It has bugga-all to do with who opens a door, or not, for me.

Talon said...

I think being a polite person has nothing to do with what sex you are.

Chauvanism exists, of course. And it works both ways.

In the end, it's about respect - in and out of the workplace.

The idea of women being "feminine" always amuses me...aren't females that way naturally? Just as males are male. It always makes me think of all the stereotypes that are hard at work in the world like "big boys don't cry" and "men don't wear pink" "women can't make up their minds"...and all we really need to do is be celebrate the differences and honor the uniqueness of being individuals.

Alice said...

I consider myself a fierce feminist in that I fully appreciate and embrace everything that makes me female. I think the old school feminists were into trying to be more like men, which I don't agree with at all. I never get offended by men opening doors and pulling out chairs for me. I think, "how kind." I also do the same for both women and men. People who think there's something wrong with another person being kind and considerate of them are morons.

BTW, you have been given the Honest Scrap Award. It's on my post today. You have one fine blog!

Ted Bagley said...

I like Alice. It's also my sisters name.

Alice said...

Why Thanks, Ted! Thanks also for stopping by my crap blog!

Ted Bagley said...

My pleasure.

Buddha said...

@ Aggie – I don’t know who came up with this idea that men are superior to women - to me its like saying apples are superior to oranges – We are all different and I love this diversity and all the differences.
I think it all has to do with the fact that we see ourselves as competing, instead of looking to each other as complementary as completing each other.
As for the equal pay part I believe that the laws should treat all people equally no matter what their differences are.

@ Talon – I never thought abut it that way but you are absolutely right. Men have been stereotyped and laugh at when did not conform to the social expectations. I had a lot of experience with that - being a non aggressive, violent person; I was always looked as a “less of a man” by my peers. I had to compensate that by playing the funny guy of the group bid – which I did not mind since I like being funny – but I always resented that physical violence was considered an attribute and measure of masculinity.

@ Alice – By elevating the feminine qualities and incorporating them in the public and political life – I am thinking of nurturing, cooperation, dialog, non violence, things that women have mastered for ions, instead of the macho “lets bomb them so they don’t bomb us” BS would be a more productive approach than to exacerbating the differences and the animosity that the “war between sexes” has created. IMO

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

They showed "The Devil Wears Prada" on telly recently and i watched it having never seen it before. Mostly it was forgettable nonsense about sensibilities winning out in the end, but one comment struck me: which was when Anne Hathaway's character (her name still cracks me up every time, due to Shakespeare's wife of a similar name) defends Meryl Streep's character by saying that if she were a man then none of her behaviour would be seen as being unusual and would be acceptable.

There's still a perception in business that in order to be half as successful as a man a woman has to be twice as hard and twice as focussed as a man.

I don't think there's any quick solution to this problem without tipping the balance the other way. Equality is a nice theory, but doesn't easily work in practice

Ted Bagley said...

Equality is nice in theory, but doesn't easily work in practice.
Good one. I think Kant said something like that.

Mark said...

I love your perspective on this. I believe that how you are raising your daughters is correct. I think women can be women and still have equal rights.

Ted Bagley said...

We know, obviously, what a female is. So far all that has been said of what a woman is are characteristics that a man is not. Maybe a woman is just other than a man and that's all. There is no woman per say, then, and "other than" is not equal.
Men and women are complimentary in a fantasy way. Maybe "equal" is a fantasy, too.

Buddha said...

@ Pixie – As a fresh emigrant to USA I have experienced first hand discrimination. I had to work twice as hard to get the same pay but eventually I got the recognition I deserved.
I believe a lot of so call discrimination is just taking financial advantage of the people and they are just happy to find an excuse for it. I don’t believe we will ever get to a perfect system but at least we are getting better.

@ Mark – I hope my daughters will be proud and successful women and measure their success by the happiness in their life and not by what other people think or expect them to be.

@ Ted – It seems that people don’t like very much to talk about controversial matters.
Should I keep my blog on the narrow path of Buddhist theoretical teachings, or damn the torpedoes and write whatever comes to my mind?

Lydia said...

The question you asked Ted at the end of your reply to him? Absolutely, I think you should damn the torpedoes.

This is a fascinating issue, and an evolving one too. I do not think that the original feminists were trying to be like men. I think they were trying to BE. They felt unseen, unheard, underpaid, etc. Certainly the early movement made mistakes but all movements for change have glitches in their evolving.

Young girls today don't know how much they owe to the 1960s-70s feminists. My 13-year-old neighbor, Jackie, plays softball. But she also plays the flute. And she also is becoming boy-crazy, which means she is experimenting with girly things to jazz up her regular very-casual appearance. She's on Facebook and I'm one of her "friends" there. She expresses herself with ease with both adults and her peers. She fasted for 30 hours last week as a participant in some world outreach project for her church. Jackie is an autonomous individual with spunk and strength, charm and sweetness. She has the opportunity to be all these things because she hasn't been held back or expected to conform to standards. And I think she would think it's cool for a guy to open the door for her. She may return the favor next week. But that doesn't make her any less a great American girl. :)

Ted Bagley said...

"Fire at will!", I say.

Joe Clement said...

"Men and women are complimentary in a fantasy way."

Or maybe men and women are in a way a fantasy about complementarity.