I’m hearing more genre equality debates lately, the opinions becoming more and more complex as we realize that we can’t possibly interact with men and women in the exact same way, either because they are different creatures, or because we are wired to do otherwise.
My personal approach, on the contrary, is fairly simple. I don’t think it is a perfect system that should be adopted by everyone, and I do not want to add to the confusion by claiming it the fairest one. It just works well with me.
Note : if any of the depicted process offends you, remember that at any given transitional step, I had not reached my conclusion yet, and was rather clueless on the matter, which means prone to biases and prejudices.
My view started forming during a past conversation with a female friend, who isn’t versed into feminine behaviors very much. I’m talking about things that I personally find complex, such as dressing and putting makeup on or gossiping.
I identified with her because of our shared appreciation of certain experiences which, if they had to be categorized, would clearly not exclusively ‘belong’ to the feminine sex. Things like physical effort, direct experiences like eating simple food, wild camping with the bare minimum, … Which were among the main sources of pleasure for both of us.
During that conversation, she told me that she was glad to be a woman. And I felt puzzled. If she wasn’t so much into feminine activities, then why on earth not desire to be a man ? I mean… Right ? It’s not that I found men superior or more enviable as a general statement, I just found the masculine experience much simpler and practical. It felt obvious to me that it was more aligned with the things we both liked.
So, I tried to imagine why she could possibly enjoy so much both being a woman and doing the activities we shared. And I saw something that changed my mind on the matter. I could empathize with the fact that she liked what I liked too, from a woman’s perspective, even if she was very probably enjoying them in a different way as I was. I also felt that her feminine existence must bring her to enjoy other things that I could only imagine.
From that position, it seemed foolish to expect certain things from men and other things from women in general, and even more to expect the same things from both.
I actually started to apply this insight to everything else. When a newborn infant sees the world, he doesn’t see a fat person, a tall person, a small person, an ugly person. He sees different beings with different features, and that’s all there is. One is not better or worse than the others. I started looking at the world with those newborn eyes, the simplest of minds. When I see a dog, I don’t feel pity for it because it can’t stand up, and when I see a tree, I don’t feel it lacks the ability to speak. I just observe them, and infer from that observation what I can ‘expect’ from them. Within the ‘limitations’ of what a dog can do, I can very much appreciate said dog, and feel content with how much it can do.
And it works for all the subtle variations between living creatures. Feeling what a person is like, I can be content with whatever they are. Maybe there are things I can do and they can’t, maybe there are things we both can do, but one does them and the other doesn’t find any interest in them, and maybe there are things the other person can do which are completely outside the realm of my comprehension. But it’s not about being more able or less able. Each person brings a slightly different ‘vibe’ ; they have built a certain reality for themselves. You can read it and play along with it. And if we do that, this is no more a debate about how to treat different genders. It is a multitude of rich, unique interactions, tailored for every single partner.