Here’s something I’ve heard a lot in my years on the planet:
“Feminism was a nightmare”¦Women lost this feminine side by trying to be feminists. I’m totally against this. I think that we are different genders, so we have to get the best of ourselves.”
–Paul Coelho, via The F-word
This concept has got to be bleary eyed and wrinkly with age and never getting a good night’s rest. Let’s pick it apart almost word by word:
- I’m not “trying” to be a feminist. I am a feminist by definition because I believe in equal opportunities for people regardless of gender.
- This “feminine side” you claim I lost is merely a construct: like that girls should like pink and baby dolls while boys should like blue and action figures with guns. The world I live in is a lot more interesting than that.
- Believing I deserve the same rights and freedoms as men does not prevent me from liking pink or baby dolls. Like most people, I have some traits people like this guy would classify as “feminine” and others that are “masculine”.
- Believing I deserve the same rights and freedoms as men is the way for me to “get the best of myself”, to paraphrase.
If you’re wondering what this guy is on about, it’s receptivity. When actresses tell us the writers felt their character needed to show a soft side, that never means that she’s going to fall for a guy and go after him. No, it means she’s going to be receptive to a guy’s advances. It can’t even mean she’s going to become crazy about a child that needs her and take on unexpected motherhood, because children by definition can’t be aggressors. You’re not a real woman, according to Coelho and people who think like him, unless you’re receptive to a man. Specifically, a man acting as an aggressor.
Let’s consider precisely why this is so deeply warped it borders on abuse to even entertain the notion.
1 in 8 women are raped in the US, usually by men they know and maybe even trust. The vast majority of violent crimes are committed by men. But until we women open ourselves fully and trust a man, we will be stereotyped as failed women: ashamed of our gender, wishing we were men, hating men. Men aren’t required to trust. To be open. Hell, to even communicate with the wives and children they brought into their lives of their own accord – everyone must understand when Daddy is such a hardass he can’t say “I love you”. No, men can be as hard and self-preserving and invulnerable as they feel the need to be (to feel safe), and that’s all fine. Only women (who are, by definition less safe) are required to make this enormous leap of trust in a group of people that has, if we must generalize, worked its ass off to be as untrustworthy as possible.
I’m not arguing men can’t be trusted. Of course there are good men we should trust and be open to. It’s just they don’t wear an identifying tattoo on their forehead, and the criminals look just like them. And people want to lay responsibility for the bulk of human trust on the gender that’s less physically able to defend itself from aggressors?
Rather than tow this rather insane line, wouldn’t it be simpler to accept that there are appropriate situations for both men and women to be receptive, and appropriate situations for both genders to get aggressive? Wouldn’t it be simpler to accept that human beings are not 100% trustworthy, and everyone is entitled – yes, entitled – to be hard and invulnerable until another has proven his or her good intentions?