The title of this post – Men are stronger than women – not the bracketed bit, comes from words I spoke when I was about ten years old. They were said to a thirteen year old boy. I had just met him. Perhaps our paths had crossed before this day as we both went to the same very small school for weird children, but I had never noticed him. The reason for my words was very simple, yet within them was a seed of complication.
My Judo teacher had sent me and my classmates to retrieve some heavy padded gym mats from the school basement which we needed for our lesson. The mats had to be rolled up then lugged up a steep and narrow stairway. One rolled up mat was too heavy for one of us to carry, it barely left the ground with two of us, one at each end, yet three of us could not climb the staircase with the mat.
The boy and his mates had been hanging out in the basement during recess playing football. When we arrived they decided stand around, watch us struggle with our task and give us a running commentary on our efforts. A few of my classmates got upset at the comments, the others just ignored them and continued to struggle.
One of my friends began an argument with the boy, who seemed to be the unofficial leader of the pack. He had pointed out to her as she pulled at a mat that as she was a girl she did not have the muscular strength to lift such a heavy object, that she really should leave the heavy lifting to the boys in our class. She was a bit of a blossoming feminist and was adamant that women and men were equal in everything. This attitude rubbed the boy the wrong way. He was at the age when boys become men, in their minds and in their bodies, and every interaction is tinged with them proving their manhood to themselves and others. My friend’s words stung him and he decided to leave. He and his friends had been teasing us, but they had not been being mean, whereas my friend’s words had felt like a personal attack, an insult.
My friend’s words struck me in an entirely different way. It occurred to me that she was wrong, and that her error would work to our benefit. I stopped the boy and said ‘Men are stronger than women, and you can prove it to my friend’. He looked doubtful but was tempted by the opportunity to heal his injured pride. ‘These mats are too heavy for us, I bet that they aren’t too heavy for you and your friends, I bet that you guys can carry these upstairs to our classroom easily.’ The boy grinned, he knew what I was doing, he told me so, but he also saw the satisfaction to be gained from showing off his superior strength to me, my classmates, and especially my friend. She was also a blossoming beauty as well as a feminist.
Several minutes later all the mats were in our Judo class ready for the lesson to begin. We thanked the boy and his mates, and that was that. Or was it.
My friend was rather annoyed with me. She confronted me about it. She felt that I had betrayed those of my own gender by playing the role of weak and helpless female in need of being rescued by a big and strong male. She was particularly irritated with what I had done because she knew how physically strong I was. Our Judo teacher had partnered me with a boy in our class who was two belts above mine because I was too strong to be partnered with anyone else, male or female. But to me this was my strength working against me because my partner was more skilled in Judo than I was, and I always ended up on the floor in a hold which left me gasping for air.
My friend was intellectually my superior, but her intellectual strength was also her weakness. In this instance she wanted to fight a battle for the sake of fighting a battle, but it was one that her intellect needed her body to win for her. Her body was not strong enough to win the battle for her, yet her mind could not accept such a defeat. In some ways her mind was willing to sacrifice her body to a cause. She would have been happier straining every muscle in her body trying to lug a heavy mat up steep and narrow stairs, perhaps even injuring herself in the process, than give a victory to someone whom she saw as her enemy and her inferior. The fact that admitting defeat would work in her favour was something which she did not want to grasp.
One of the main things which I learned from Judo class was that my weakness could be my strength and my strength could be my weakness. Many of the moves in Judo are about assessing the strength of your opponent and using their strength against them, but also assessing your own weaknesses and using that knowledge for your defense and benefit. If your opponent is physically stronger than you, then you must acknowledge this, honour it, and use it to your advantage.
I was only a child at the time, so much of the ramifications of that interaction were lost to me. I simply realised that I was given a task which was too great for me to accomplish with the skills I possessed, but I was given an opportunity to accomplish it using the skills which others possessed. I was learning teamwork. I was learning about social interaction. I was learning about the differences in gender. I was also learning how to swim against the tide.
I do agree with feminism up to a point. I am very grateful for the opportunities which the feminist movement have given my gender. Women should be treated with equal respect. They should have the same opportunities available to them. Have equal pay for equal work done. And so on. However when feminism becomes a scorpion stinging itself, when women are afraid to take on traditionally female roles for fear of retaliation from other women, when women feel the need to apologise to other women for not following a career path and choosing instead to be a wife and mother, when feminism oppresses females, and when feminism becomes oppression of the male gender, that is where I stop agreeing with it.
A matriarchy is just as bad as a patriarchy.
If women consider themselves equal to men, then they should give the respect they want from men to men. The relationship should flow both ways. Equality should flow both ways. There should be a balance. An appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of both genders which work together for the benefit of all genders. Why waste time fighting a battle which will leave us all worse off. Angry men and angry women all being angry together and against each other.
My mother was a misandrist and my father was a misogynist. They both taught me that both genders can be assholes, especially when they are using the opposite gender as a scapegoat for their own problems. Playing the If It Wasn’t For Your Gender game with no end of the game in sight. A Lose/Lose situation.
Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the guidebook of our early ancestors who survived tough times by making use of the skills of both genders… before one gender decided that it was superior to the other. But, unfortunately we tend to think our ancestors were idiots. Grunting and grovelling in mud and dirt trying to survive. Our intellectual superiority has made us weak due to our disrespect for our bodies. For nature’s order, balance, and rhythm.
The battle of the sexes… if one sex wins this, both sexes will lose.
Perhaps what we need at this point is to stop using our gender as our identity and start realising that we are individuals first and foremost. Our gender is just a part of our identity, not the whole of it, not even half of it. That is a lesson taught to us by those fearless enough to cross the gender barrier. The sexual revolution of our times is not between male and female, it is not even about being a male or a female, or having sex with whoever we please, however we please, it is about choice, choosing the gender which suits our individual identity. We are not a man or a woman, but a person, a human being. Being a human being, an individual, having the courage to embrace all that that entails… now that is a challenge, a battle worth fighting, not outside of ourselves, but within.
That’s my view, what’s yours?