Nuanced Armpit Noises Next


Trading Places

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit.
Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

- Indira Gandhi

Source: Funny Times September 2000 Maxine by Marian Henley

Male-Dominated Madonna Turns Back the Clock

by Shelley Bridgeman

Women have become blas√© about protecting their rights and freedoms.  Just look at how Madonna's husband calls the shots.  Madonna has revealed that her new husband advises her on how to dress.  It's the only revealing she will be doing these days since Guy Ritchie's main aim seems to be keeping his wife's famous body covered.

But hang on a minute.  This is Madonna - pop icon, the woman who transformed herself every album, invited cameras into her bedroom, thumbed her nose at convention and never gave a toss what anyone else thought.  And now hubby is calling the shots.

What does this tell us?  That no matter how independent and successful a woman is, you can be sure she will bow to her husband's demands once she is married.  Suddenly she will know her place and that place is three steps behind the man of the household.  Madonna's confession sets a bad example.  When one of the All Blacks displays antisocial and damaging behaviour, the experts are quick to point out that it could have a harmful impact on the youth of today.  And, in a similar way, this latest news from the gossip columns gives a poor and weak role model to the average young woman.  If Madonna of all people can allow her husband to boss her around, what hope is there for the rest of us?

And, yes, we all know that wives have long instructed their husbands on how to dress.  But that's different.  "Darling, you know you're not supposed to tuck that shirt in" and "the blue tie goes best with that suit" is only to help to prevent our men from looking a few decades out of date.  It's about keeping them current, not about oppressing them by denying them their freedom to express themselves.

These days the younger generation laugh and snigger at such concepts as female oppression.  To them the whole feminist thing is considered to be a good fight well won many moons ago but they don't want to discuss it.  And they definitely don't want to hear any war stories of battles along the way.  And you can see why they think it is irrelevant to them.  Women today can get a good education, a great job, earn big bucks, drive fast cars and party hard.  They think they've made it.  That they have got it all.  No one's oppressing them.  Right?

Wrong.  This naive complacency is dangerous to young women.  They have a sense that they are bullet-proof, but they have no concept of the small signs they should be attuned to that compromise their autonomy and emancipation.  If a lecherous, middle-aged man places a hand on their backside, these liberated women simply put up with it.  They are so nonchalant and so in charge that they cannot be bothered with such low-level fights.  And, anyway, knowing that they probably earn more than this hapless guy helps them to take it less seriously and makes it seem less sinister than it really is.

These are the same women who decide to take their husband's surname upon marriage - not, mind you, because it is a societal prescription but because it is such a romantic gesture.  In their eyes it's okay to choose to do it.  They argue that it is different from their mother's day when women literally had no option but to take their husband's name.  The latest twisted logic seems to be that its doubly cool and devil-may-care to resort voluntarily to tradition and not to exercise the freedom to keep maiden surnames.

But what these young women do not realise (and probably could not care less about) is that by refusing to exercise their rights in the minutiae of life - by not slapping off unwanted advances, by not keeping their own name and identity - these rights to choose how we act will eventually disappear, become extinct.

Once more, women will find themselves without options.  And in a few years we will doubtless be fighting again for women's rights which we would never have lost in the first place if the younger generation had not spurned them and casually taken them for granted.  We have to be eternally vigilant for beliefs and opinions that try to prescribe roles for women based on their gender.  And the warped attitudes are still there.

Take, for example, last Saturday's letter to the editor which proclaimed that if a woman wanted to have a baby, she should quit work and that it was a woman's role to stay home with her family.  What is truly scary is that such a view would have been quite at home in a newspaper 50 years ago.  The old adage that children and babies are women's work fails to acknowledge that men are just as responsible as women for bringing a child into the world.  We must fight outdated notions and question anyone who wants one sex to be treated differently to the other.  We will not countenance one race being treated differently from another.  Why do we still tolerate discrimination along the gender divide?

And if Madonna is happy to allow Guy Ritchie to censor her clothing, she should at least have the decency to keep it to herself, rather than propagate the myth that the little wife ought to do exactly what hubby tells her.

Shelley Bridgeman is an Auckland writer

Source: 28 December 2001

Madonna, I think, can do as she pleases - she always has.  If it pleases her to follow the wishes of her husband, perhaps Ms Bridgeman should realise that needs change as people mature...

See also:

bulletThe Plight of the High Status Woman (in the section on Society and Culture) - Given the high divorce rate, today's young women cannot rely on marriage for economic security.  Even if they aspire to marriage (and according to survey research, most do), they have to be ready and able to support themselves with their own earnings.  This has meant ever-increasing education beyond high school.  For women pursuing high-status professions the schooling can extend several years beyond college, well into their 20s.  Then, for as much as another decade, such women must invest heavily in developing their careers.  Indeed, women on the make adopt the same priorities as men on the make.  Work is in the foreground, love in the middle distance or the background...
bulletModern Manhood (in the section on Society and Culture) - The genes of a woman, who is vulnerable in childbirth and needs support during years of child-rearing thereafter, call for a mate who will protect her and her offspring.  The genes of a man require a guarantee that the children he provides for are his own, lest all his labour be (from the genes' point of view) wasted.  Hence nature itself, working through our genes, decrees a division of roles between the sexes.  It predisposes men to fight for territory, to protect their women, to drive away rivals, and to strive for status and recognition in the public world - the world where men conflict.  It predisposes women to be faithful, private, and devoted to the home.  Both these dispositions involve the working out of long-term genetic strategies - strategies that it is not for us to change, since we are the effect and not the cause of them.
bulletWanted: More Than a Few Good Men (on an earlier page in this section) - now, on college campuses, they like to "hook up" for a night with a female student and then move on to "fresh pastures."  According to one well-publicised study, co-ed groups "hang out," while traditional dating is all but dead.  For young women, this behaviour is degrading and a true dead end, without a future.  It's also destructive for young men as well.

Married Men Earn More if Wives Do the Chores?

Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives stay at home doing the housework, according to a report from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research.  Academics Elena Bardasi and Mark Taylor found that a married man whose wife does not go out to work but is primarily responsible for the cooking and cleaning earns about 3% more than comparably employed single men.  But that wage premium disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don't do most of the housework.  "It has been fairly well documented that married men earn more than single men," Taylor, a labour economist, said.  "However, our research established the wage premium is related to the wife doing the chores," said the academic who teaches at the University of Essex in eastern England.

He said analysis suggests there could be two explanations for the results:

bulletA marriage might allow a husband and wife to focus their activities on tasks to which they are most suited.  Traditionally, this would result in the man concentrating on paid work enabling him to increase productivity and in consequence his wages.
bulletTaylor said another explanation could be that marriage may increase the amount of time a man has to hone work-related skills which could trigger higher wages.

Taylor and Bardasi analysed the hourly wages of 3,500 men who have been interviewed annually since 1991 as part of the British Household Panel Survey.  "We looked at all types of jobs from unskilled up to managers and professionals," Taylor said.

Source: 22 June 2005

Boys and Toys ... It's Natural

by Michelle Pountney

Little boys are biologically programmed to play with cars, trucks and balls.  And girls will naturally play with dolls.  Scientists had believed boys and girls learn what toys to play with based on society's expectations, but an experiment with young vervet monkeys has found a biological link is present: children's brains are wired to play with gender-specific toys.

Texas A&M University psychologist Gerianne Alexander found that, although monkeys had no concept of boy and girl toys, male monkeys spent more time playing with boy toys including a car and ball.  The girls spent the most time playing with a doll and a pot.  Males and females spent about the same amount of time playing with gender neutral toys.

"Masculine toys and feminine toys are clearly categories constructed by people," Ms Alexander said.  "(Our finding) suggests that there may be perceptual cues that attract males or females to particular objects such as toys."

Source: Friday 13 December 2002 from the Herald Sun

See also:

bulletMother Nature Strikes Back (in the section on Men) - Tom Wolfe has said that Colapinto's shocking book, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (HarperCollins), "stands as exhibit A" against the idea that nurture is more important than nature.  It is the sad story of a baby boy whom an ambitious doctor changed into a girl with tragic results...

Girl's Diary
Saturday 6th March 2004

Saw him in the evening and he was acting really strangely.  I went shopping in the afternoon with the girls and I did turn up a bit late so thought it might be that.  The bar was really crowded and loud so I suggested we go somewhere quieter to talk.  He was still very subdued and distracted so I suggested we go somewhere nice to eat.  All through dinner he just didn't seem himself; he hardly laughed, and didn't seem to be paying any attention to me or to what I was saying.  I just knew that something was wrong.  He dropped me back home and I wondered if he was going to come in; he hesitated, but followed.  I asked him again if there was something the matter but he just half shook his head and turned the television on.  After about 10 minutes of silence, I said I was going upstairs to bed.  I put my arms around him and told him that I loved him deeply.  He just gave a sigh, and a sad sort of smile.  He didn't follow me up, but later he did, and I was surprised when we made love.

He still seemed distant and a bit cold, and I started to think that he was going to leave me, and that he had found someone else. I  cried myself to sleep.

Bloke's Diary
Saturday 6th March 2004

England lost to Ireland.  Gutted.  Got a s**g though.

Mr and Mrs become Mrs and Mrs

Bernadette Rogers 76, formally Bernard (left) and her partner Joyce Rogers, 80

A husband and wife have "remarried" as a gay couple - 14 years after the groom had a sex swap operation.  Bernard and Joyce Rogers wed in 1967 but have lived "like sisters" since 1991, when Bernadette, as she's now known, underwent gender surgery.  The retired physicist is now legally recognised as a woman thanks to the Gender Recognition Bill which became law last year.  And that meant she was able to have a civil partnership ceremony with Joyce.

Bernadette, of Woodford Halse, near Daventry, Northants, said: "We have exactly the same affection for each other we have always had.  "We have an absolutely ideal relationship.  We complement each other in every way."  The proud 76-year-old added: "I stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom this morning and thought, 'Yes, you have done it now.'  It is a sense of completion."

Before "remarrying", the couple first had to divorce - because the Gender Recognition Bill does not acknowledge a change in a transsexual's gender if the person remains married.  A judge this week granted the couple an early release from divorce proceedings at Northampton County Court, giving Bernadette a new birth certificate which showed she is a woman.  They were then able to have their civil union ceremony.


Testosterone Power

When Andrew Sullivan took testosterone injections for a health problem, he discovered something weird: "Mere hours after a T shot," the British-born New York Times Magazine columnist wrote in an article headlined 'The He Hormone,' "my dog ran off the leash to forage for a chicken bone left in my local park.  The more I chased her, the more she ran.  By the time I retrieved her, the bone had been consumed, and I gave her a sharp tap on her rear end.  'Don’t smack your dog!' yelled a burly guy a few yards away.  What I found myself yelling back at him is not printable in this magazine, but I have never used that language in public before, let alone bellow it at the top of my voice.  He shouted back, and within seconds I was actually close to hitting him.  He backed down and slunk off.  I strutted home, chest puffed up, contrite beagle dragged sheepishly behind me.  It wasn't until half an hour later that I realised that I had been a complete jerk and had nearly gotten into the first public brawl of my life."

Andrew Sullivan:

I believe passionately that greater opportunity for women is probably the most significant gain for human freedom in the last century.  But with this advance came a problem: a denial of biological or psychological differences between the sexes.  I speak as a homosexual who, as a boy in an all-boys school in England, growing up amid the rough-and-tumble of boys' play, was both comfortable in my maleness, but also aware that I was different.  I began to understand that I might be gay at about the age of 9.  It was never, to my mind, a question of whether I was male or female.  I knew that I was male.  A gay man is a man before he is gay, and a gay woman is a woman before she is a lesbian.  To say this in the gay community, however, is taboo - like much of academia, the gay world is wedded to the notion of social construction.

But anybody who has spent any time in the gay community will be struck by how different the cultures of lesbians and gay men are.  All the stereotypes about men show up in gay male society; all the stereotypes about women show up in lesbian society.  There is a famous joke: What does a lesbian bring on her second date?  A U-Haul.  What does a gay man bring on a second date?  What second date?

When you read the science about gender differences, you realise there are very few hard cases, with control groups and without cultural bias.  But because of a medical condition, I had the almost unique and undeniable experience of having what is literally an injection of manhood in a syringe.  I am HIV positive, and two years ago, when I found myself with no sex drive, little energy, becoming more passive, sleeping half the day, and being depressed, my testosterone was checked - it was found to be below that of an 80-year-old man.  The usual treatment is injections of testosterone.

Testosterone injections dramatically altered the way I felt, the way I behaved, the way I acted, even the way I conceived of myself, which was an eye opener.  Because I inject the testosterone into my rump every two weeks, and it leaves the bloodstream quickly, I can actually feel its power on almost a daily basis.  The rush of a T shot is not unlike the rush of going on a first date or speaking before an audience.  I feel braced.  After one injection, I almost got in a public brawl for the first time in my life.  There is always a lust peak - every time it takes me unaware.  But afterwards, I realise again that lust is a chemical.  It comes, it goes, it waxes and wanes.  You are not helpless before it, but you aren't in total control either.

There were also long-term physical changes: going from napping during the day, I now rarely sleep during the day.  I weighed 165 when I began testosterone injections, and now I weigh 185.  I can squat more than 400 pounds.

I started reading up on the subject of testosterone.  Testosterone is regarded as the definition of maleness, but both men and women produce it; men, however, produce much, much more of it.  The effects of testosterone start early.  At conception, every embryo is female.  Testosterone turns a fœtus with a Y chromosome into a real boy.  The Book of Genesis got it backwards — man is created from woman.  Testosterone is clearly correlated in both men and women with psychological dominance, confident physicality, and self-esteem.  A 1996 study found that in lesbian couples the one with the higher T level assumes the male role.  A 1998 study found that trial lawyers have more testosterone than other lawyers.  Put any two men in a room and the one with the higher level of testosterone tends to dominate.

When I was making these larger claims about testosterone, the researchers I spoke to on the subject seemed sort of puzzled and interested and very nervous, as scientists are about creating any controversy at all.  One of the problems in this culture is our inability to talk about difference without implying inequality.  It should be possible to adhere to strict political and civil equality while recognising social and cultural differences.  I always have believed and still do in the rights of women to be in any field of activity they want on equal terms with men insofar as they can do the same job as a man can and vice versa.  But I don't want to deny the reality that men and women are different and the data on the subject is enormous and fascinating and utterly ignored.

Many feminists have made tenacious arguments about the lack of any substantive physical or mental differences between men and women.  You can understand why, of course - for too long, girls and women were second-class citizens.  But a visit to any college campus today will show you how far we have come from those pernicious days.  Now, arguably we are seeing the crisis of the male.  If we continue to deny the male identity, we will not be able to provide the proper education for noble and virtuous manhood.  The word virtue springs from the Latin word vir — man — partly because of the sexism of the ancients, but nevertheless, this etymology shows that virtue meant being a man well, knowing how to be a good man.

Perhaps to some extent we are right to demonise manhood - it's a very worrying thing, it tends to be often very aggressive, dysfunctional, unable to communicate; we all know the problems that men have.  But we must start from understanding that men have problems and advantages and then construct a system of education and virtue which allows us to become better men - what they used to call "gentlemen."

The essential educational task is to accept one's nature but to want to improve it, to guide it to the most profitable and fruitful flourishing of that identity.  Being a noble woman will not be the same as being a noble man; though we share an enormous amount in common, there are some things that will never be the same.  In other words, understanding reality and difference is the beginning, the necessary beginning, for a civilised human society - by denying our basic differences, we deny ourselves the possibility of a more civilised life.

Source: © 2000 - Independent Women's Forum

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