Monday, June 11, 2012

The Gender Manifesto

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for quite some time. I’m kinda pumped about it, actually.-->

It all arose from a few critiques I received (mostly from a couple readers) of a chapter in my novel THE MALE AMENDMENT.

In my novel the main character, Mia, discovers a parallel world (no aliens here) where a matriarchal dystopia reigns. The women of this world are like amazons, tall and athletic; trained to fight at a young age and to value all things feminine. But feminine has a different meaning to them than it does to us. It has this sort of law of the jungle twist to it. It’s about beauty and power and that a woman is Mother Nature; the giver and taker of life. The men are somewhat anemic, as small framed men are desirable (and there are some brutal lengths that both men and women are willing to go to achieve this) and more controllable. Unmarried men are sold as slaves to do hard manual labour for the rest of their lives.

If hundreds or thousands of years of evolution had instead valued strong, and yes, bigger childbearing women, how different would modern day woman look and be? If smaller framed men were desired, how different would the modern day man be? What would this do to a society?

I was curious.

In the offending chapter in my novel, Mia goes to a bordello where boys and men tend to the, ahem, “needs” of women. There are young children in the bordello and that had a couple of readers up in arms. Their comments were that they just didn’t feel, in their hearts, that women would be capable of doing such things. Women were nurturers and that things like pedophilia were bound, almost exclusively, to male genetics.

My first reaction was….to laugh.

“Bah hahahahahahahahahahhaaaaaaaaaa! That’s a good one!"

When I realized they were serious….I was pissed off.

“You’re blaming genetics? What the f&$%!”

My story has been labeled as feminist (by women), even though I don’t think it is, and here are the complaints when the story bashes a hole in the female ego:

The women in the story are vain. Some think vanity stems from women trying to please men. I don't think it is. I think most men would say they prefer women to have a more natural look. (disagree with me if you like, but I know quite a few guys who've told me this) And besides, I've attended basically an all-girl school, and women still get all dressed and painted up when no men are around.

I think women are capable of every terrible and wonderful thing a man is capable of. Many would say that women are more peaceful than men and a world run by women would be that, a peaceful utopia. And maybe it would be. But have you ever worked or lived in a female environment for long?

I have.

Women can end up ready to kill each other before they’ve even met. Seriously!  I’m not saying all women are like this, but lots are. Women also get this “more peaceful rap” because most of us have never been expected to get physical. You go to a women’s prison, or to a bad part or town where women are "in touch" with their rougher more physical side, and peaceful is the last thing they are.

Some have told me the gender reversal in my novel should not be as simple as just a flipping of roles. I say, it isn’t. I did not just flip roles! I thought about it, believe me. I’m not saying my opinions are definitive but they are not skewed to one gender or the other.

I’m not a feminist, I consider myself an equalist. I’ll argue male rights any day of the week. I think men and women are a lot more alike than we are different and the reason we may be so different is that we’ve been conditioned and trained to be that way.

For those of you who’ve said to me, “Equalist? Things will never be equal. Men can’t have babies.”

My answer is= *Eye roll*, and *slow clap*

But seriously now, I would love to hear some feedback about this.  What are your thoughts? I hope my psychologist and psychiatrist friends chime in. Tell me if you think I’m wrong. I do so love a good debate!!

Wait, you think I’m an idiot and I can’t argue my point?
<---Challenge accepted!
Would women, in a historical place of power, create utopia or anarchy? How would it differ from our own society? Are the faults of man genetic? That would mean the faults of women are genetic as well, right?

Send me a comment!
Please?

Stella out!

8 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

First of all, I've never seen a photo of you that wasn't a profile. You're gorgeous!

Ahem, now, as to your question. I think the role reversal could go either way. Men and women are very alike, at least in the sense that either can be corrupted by power, either can be violent, and either can be nurturing. Is it less likely that a matriarchal society would be violent or oppressive? Perhaps, but that doesn't make it impossible.

Fascinating topic, Stella!

Stella Telleria said...

Thanks for reading, Matt! Flatter. ;) I think it’s a pretty fascinating topic too.

I’ve always found myself disappointed in views that distinguish men as corrupt or greedy and the root of the world’s problems. I think it is power that corrupts, and that if women had been placed in that same position of power, few things would be different.

All personality attributes are present in either sex. But, some are deemed more appropriate for certain genders. I’ve known fathers who were better nurtures to their children than the mothers. I’ve known women who were better at making financial decisions then the men in their lives. It goes both ways in every category I can think of.

Gender egos are a terrible thing.

Stella Telleria said...

Here is a comment from Ryan:

I agree strongly! I believe that woman and men are very similar, the difference being the roles that society has put us in. In fact if woman were in a place of power in history things may have been even dicier as I feel a male is much more willing to forgive then a female generally. People who think that a woman is not capable of the evil that we have seen in men in the past, is simply because of opportunity I think. Male roles in society historically have been much more in the public eye, given the same public exposure and power I think a woman's decision making and characteristics would be eerily similar to men's.

Stella Telleria said...

Thank you for commenting, Ryan.

I hate it when, both men and women, think their shit don't stink. I think topics like this are really interesting and very telling.

Va said...

Stella!!! I am SO disappointed that we didn't talk more about stuff like this when we worked together because I totally agree and it is the VERY thing that I end up debating with my feminist friends about. I've struggled with the feminist label so much because it is, by definition, completely one sided. What affects women affects children, of whom 50% grow up to be men. Feminist issues are HUMAN issues.
I think the part about pedophilia is really investing, and it's a subject worth exploring. I don't think that men are any more likely to sexually abuse children, I think that it's more likely that abuses by men are more frequently reported, in part because there is often physical proof.

Chelsea Ohlmann said...

Hey Stella,

Interesting post. I would love to read more about this parallel world ☺

A couple thoughts.

I don’t think that women are more peaceful than men, like you I agree that women express violence in a different way. For instance, while males tend to be more violent and overt with their aggression, women are socialized to be more relationally aggressive. Though things like gossip or ostracizing others are not as physically violent, they can be equally harmful, if not moreso. Of course, no generalization is perfect and there are always those who stray from society’s “norm,” but in my experience and in working with many, many adolescents, this is what I’ve noticed.

Though men and women have the potential to be harmful and destructive to each other, I also think that men and women have gifts and abilities to nurture and heal each other.

I agree that many women and men take on these roles, not because we are genetically destined to act this way, but because it is the way that society constructs gender roles.

I’m not sure if women would have created a utopia or anarchy if they were in power throughout history, but I would venture a guess that it would have been neither. Given the diversity in the human race and the many mistakes we tend to make, I think it would be difficult to create a utopia, regardless of who’s in power. I think how a society functions has less to do with the gender of the person in charge and more with the individual abilities and strengths of the leader.

Aimee Galick said...

I am currently completing my PhD in Marital and Family Therapy and my specialization is in gender issues so I was very obliged to submit a response when Stella asked. I find the views of the readers to be refreshing in terms of recognizing the overwhelming similarities between men and women. I am a feminist and I think it's important to realize that feminism exists on a spectrum and just like anything else there are extremists. The popularized version are those that are all things women and against men. I, personally, am on the side of connection and mutuality,things that power make very hard to achieve, especially within intimate relationships. Unfortunately for men (and let's not forget how much they have benefited from this), historically in our society, they have had much more power than women, but I personally think they have suffered in terms of isolation like the saying 'it's lonely at the top.' I can tell the pervasiveness of this value because everyone seems to assume that if it weren't for subjugation women would be like men, there is no way to know that...it is just as likely that we would all live in a cooperative society where everyone cared for and looked out for one another.

Where I disagree with some of the readers is in the capacity for women to be just as brutal as men, citing evidence from your own personal experience of women. Here's what many people do not realize, being a man is a very privileged status, so much so that many theories of individual and social development privilege male ways of being (autonomy over relationality, rationality over emotions, competition over cooperation)meaning that the majority of psychologists, teachers, parents, and the media, are transmitting messages to us that independence is better than interdependence, so naturally women are seeming to become more like men. Another product the transmission process is the oversexualization of men (men do not have much more testosterone than everyone thinks and this is not responsible for differences in attitudes and behaviors toward sesx) there is no doubt that the research clearly shows that men are much more prone to sexual violence than women and this is becuase they are taught that they are so sexual that it is difficult to control it, many men chose to act on this and feel entitled to it. Women who abuse children typically do it for different reasons, unfortunately there is much less research on these reasons.

On the subject of vanity. This is a product of American Society. I wouldn't blame men for this one, but media. Anorexa Nervosa is primarily found in Western countries. Who benefits from vanity? How about cosmetic companies? It seems that we as women are always trying to keep up with what we see in the media, some men buy into this and endorse looks like that and women go to great lengths to look this way. A smaller amount of women and men are happy with the way they are.

I could keep going almost forever, but the main point I am trying to make is that gender, although a seemingly simple binary category (also very arguable), is much more complicated than this and cultural and societal ideals are much more influential than the X or Y chromosome or even the way you are raised by your parents.

Quillhill said...

Interesting discussion; yet, none of it matters to your novel. What matters to your novel is the internal logic and consistency. The world is as you see it, and the only character who might question it would be the outsider to the world, Mia. For her what is right is right, what is wrong is wrong, and gender has nothing to do with it.

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