On male female stereotypes

Ok, I’m sure this topic has been burnt to death by umpteen number of brilliant philosophers and sociologists and anthropologists etc etc. But I was [[http://jayajha.blogspot.com/2005/02/to-write-or-not-to-write.html|reading this post]], and I felt I had to add my two cents. But the number of comments already grows long, and in any case I think this topic deserves a post of its own so here goes.

First all, let me make the following disclaimer: I’ll try my best to be an impartial bystander in the following discussion, however the fact that I am a guy can and will have some influence, so please bear with that. I am not in favor of male chauvinism (c.f. MCP) nor of excessive feminism. But too many disclaimers will spoil the fun, so lets toil on!

I have to agree with Apurva that such stereotypism is so pervasive that there’s really no reason to be so surprised/shocked. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean we should accept it and be complacent about it. All I’m saying is that its expected, sort of. Let me elaborate.

So it all started with that original “joke” on Man vs. Woman right. I’m not the best person to comment on women’s desires, but I can tell you that no matter how much (or how many) guys deny the “claim” about Men, I believe it to be true to a large extent. Now don’t jump to conclusions — I’m not saying all men (for that matter myself) are sex maniacs. I’m a strong believer of the fact that a substantial amount of male behavior (rather, the male superficial/short term external behavior) is “hard-wired” into the male brain.

Jaya says that social conditioning can lead to a role reversal. I don’t think its that easy. What is a few thousand years of cultural patterns compared to millions of years of evolution? Examples abound in Nature where the male is the agressive pursuer of fertile females, from a purely biological point of view. When a beautiful woman passes by, few guys would be able to stop their gazes from following her (there are exceptions, but never mind those). Its not that all these guys are desperate, its just that its sort of an involuntary reaction which has no other deeper meaning and should not be construed always to reflect upon the person’s character.

But I digress. Back to stereotypes — its true that the male and female stereotypes are largely a result of social conditioning. But I think over the years they’ve been re-inforced (atleast the male one) by the sort of biological under pinnings that I mentioned above. Whether they are right or wrong is another debate — all I’m saying is that there is a biological pretext to the stereotypes as well. Also, regarding “equality” of men and women. Frankly, I think claiming that men and women are “equal” is stupid (modulo the conception of equality itself).

Don’t get me wrong here — I have a sister, and so I believe I have a broader perspective on most things than some of the other guys out there. I am a strong believer of equality of opportunity, and also of the belief that women can surpass man at any conceivable task. However thats not the same as saying men and women are equal, simply because they are not! I mean just look around you — do you really think men and women are even remotely similar, let alone equal?? Ok, some of you might find this a nit-picky argument, but personally I’ve often found people confused between equality of opportunity and equality of abilities (physical or otherwise).

The simple fact that the bodies of men and women evolved in different ways clearly indicates that there are tasks that the male body is more suited for than the female body (and vice-versa). If we were just animals, this would be fine. But we live in a complex society, and difference in physical abilities — though Nature had the purest of intentions — manifests itself in other ways. Over the years, I think these things have added to the male-female stereotype image in subtle, yet significant ways.

The bottomline? I’m no expert on male or female psyche or on society. But I don’t think that sweating a lot over this issue is a good solution — men will be from mars and women from venus — what is important is that we realize who we are and why we are and who they are and why they are and develop an appreciation of the opposite sex. Personally I have much more respect for women than for men — and this has nothing to do with stereotypes.

Some of the posts cited in Jaya’s post seem right out of some philosophy book — big words, short sentences, unrelated statements — but I couldn’t make any sense out of them. The authors of those lines might be knowledgable and know what they were talking about, but they definitely couldn’t convey this impression to me!

Peace :)

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