I guess I am writing this article because I live in a country which is about 20 years behind on gender equality. It’s something that I have often thought about because the men and women of my generation are not as subject to what I am writing about as previous generations.
One of the differences that is often commented on about men and women is about emotion. There are numerous books on the topic. Many societies around the world have this believe that men are unemotional and women are emotional. I assume I am not saying anything new here. What I have noticed though is two things. One, this difference is one our societies have created. And Two, it is a huge disadvantage to both genders and our society as a whole.
Firstly, to suggest that men are naturally unemotional is a ridiculous position to take. Men are taught to be unemotional. They are pushed in that direction. I am in no way arguing this is necessarily a bad thing, just pointing out that this is something many societies teach their men. However, they don’t seem to teach that emotions are natural.
On the other hand women are taught to embrace their emotions. They are taught to care for people and to care for themselves. They are pushed in that direction. Since men also have emotions I would argue that emotions are a natural part of the human experience. Men are pushed away from that experience and women are pushed towards it.
This is a huge disadvantage to both genders because it creates an unnecessary gender gap. It creates a difference in perspective that is so huge that both sides struggle to understand each other. Men accuse women of being overly emotional and women accuse men of being insensitive. This creates problems for both genders as there is a wall that society has built between them. Personally I think the disadvantage in this case is greater on the men’s side because they are never taught the language needed to talk about feelings and emotions. They are never taught how to deal with an “emotional” person. This puts them at a disadvantage in every field of human interaction as you need to have empathy and sympathy to be able to be part of society.
I mentioned in the title that it is a disadvantage for both genders though. Being pushed in the direction of embracing emotion wholeheartedly opens women up to greater emotional vulnerability. Being taught to shield your emotions or put off your emotions until there is time to reflect is actually a useful skill that men are taught.
For me it’s not a matter of one or the other. It’s a matter of realising that emotion isn’t a difference between the genders. In which case we should ask, is it beneficial to have this artificial difference? We should also decide which direction to go in. We can teach all humans to be emotionally distant. We can also teach all humans to be in touch with their emotions. I personally think it needs to be somewhere in the middle. Where we know how to distance ourselves and how to be in touch.
What do you think?
This is a question I often wonder based on my first child’s use of mum and dad. When our first one was first using the words she quite accurately proclaimed me to be dad and my wife to be mum. At the time her world consisted of mum looking after her at home while dad worked. There was a clear concept of what mum and dad meant. When she was around one and a half we put her into child care and mum started working a night job. When this happened I was the primary carer making sure she got up early had breakfast took her to childcare picked her up from childcare made sure she had dinner, a bath and got to bed early. In this time the concepts were turned on their head. Our little one started calling me mum and my wife dad. Quite logically I might add. For her mum looks after the baby and dad works. Since I was looking after her I became mum.
The situation has changed again since then. Our little ones are no longer in child care and my wife isn’t working. It will probably change again but for now that is the situation. I am back to being dad or papa and my wife is back to being mum or mama. Our little one’s favourite game at the moment is telling stories using lego block characters. Most of them centre around a mum figure who is also holding a crying baby character. The baby is usually scared of everything. She also often refers to herself as mumma for her anpanman doll. This usually involves carrying anpanman, giving him a piggyback, singing lullaby songs and putting anpanman to sleep. Another game we play is pretending that our hands are characters. Since my hands are bigger than hers they always become mumma or pappa. She will often say mumma or pappa and have our hands hug. It’s very cute. She will also often run away from the pappa character squealing.
What does all this say about what mum and dad means to her? I’m not really sure. She never calls herself pappa or dad when she is role-playing which could mean she knows the concept is based on gender. That or the concept of the primary carer has remained for her and perhaps if i go back to be the main person she sees she’ll go back to calling me mum. I’d be interested to see if that is the case but I’d better keep on working.