Women and Men

I’ve been thinking about this post by Donald Miller for a while now.  He asks if women want to be treated like men, or to be treated like equals.  It’s a complicated question, and I have so many thoughts.  The first is just “yes.”  And I’m sad we have to have this discussion, that it’s an either or question.

Because as I’ve been thinking about it, my answer is really this–If it takes being treated like a man to be treated equally, then yes, I want to be treated like a man.  Miller points out that women probably wouldn’t like it because men don’t treat each other all that well.  That may be true, I can’t really speak to that.  But in my experience, equality is not something easily recognized.  Perhaps by either gender.

Miller says:

If we’re saying women should be paid the same as men, I’m in. If we’re saying women should be given the same opportunities, of course, I’m in. But if we are saying women should be treated like men, then unfortunately, I’m out. And I wonder if most women would be out, too.

Which is great.  Yes, I want to be paid the same as a man for doing the same work.  I want the same opportunities.  I also want to have my opinion heard and valued, and my contributions to an organization appraised with the same measuring stick.  But in my own experience, and I am certainly not speaking for all women, that equality hasn’t come without some focused work on my part.

Giving examples without being hurtful is tricky.  In Miller’s estimation, perhaps that is because I am being nice and thoughtful.  But a few do come to mind.  I was sitting around a table of mostly males, having a conversation.  I made a suggestion about an idea, one I thought was quite good.  It was ignored.  The exact same suggestion was made by a male.  And applauded.  Another time I noticed only males were being asked to serve in a certain capacity in an organization.  I asked about it, and only then was invited to take part.  I sat in on an interview where a statement was made about a female, that she might not be someone that men would listen to.

Vague examples to be sure, to protect the innocent (ignorant?)…but my point remains.  Personally I’ve found that in order for my opinion to be heard and valued by men (in the world of work or socially), I often have to be more assertive and loud and forceful (less nice?) than I would like.  I’d love for equality to happen naturally, but I haven’t really seen it work like that.

The other question Miller asks that I find interesting is this:

Do you want to be treated like men in every area of your life? And if not, is it confusing for you to want to be treated more kindly and tenderly in a social area, but more straight-forwardly in the sense of economic and cultural equality?

Let me be more pointed: As women, do you want for men to say you’re beautiful? Because if we treat you like men, we will never say you’re beautiful. We don’t really care. And we won’t make you feel small or special or precious, either. We won’t protect you because, quite frankly, you need to protect yourself or you’re a wimp. Do you really want us to treat you like men?

I suppose I don’t understand the “confusion” aspect of being treated a different way socially than you are economically any more than it is confusing to act professionally in the workplace and more casually with friends.  Although, I have to say, the stakes are different.  At work being treated unequally can have significant consequences–less money, promotion, etc.  That’s a big deal to me.  Socially it’s also a big deal if I feel like I’m being treated as a second-class citizen, but I also get to choose to not be around men who treat me that way.

I find his last question really interesting–whether women want men to say they’re beautiful, or special or precious.  (Aside–small?  I don’t see how that makes the list…)  I certainly don’t want to be treated like a man in this area…but are the only two choices like a man or like a princess? I’d really like a man to treat me with love and respect and dignity, all of the above.  As I would him.  I think it’s fair to say every woman wants to be desired, but for me personally not because I’m helpless or small and precious.  How about instead because I’m smart and funny and caring…it doesn’t have to be either/or.

And then there’s the complementarian argument, which I don’t even really want to get into here.   And I certainly don’t have my answers to these questions cemented in stone.  Far from it…I just find them fascinating questions.  And I’d love to have discussion.  Anyone care to jump in?  What do you think?

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