Why I Love the Gender Binary

Lisa Hickey likes the lead and follow, teach and learn, and give and take of both the masculine and the feminine.

In the not-too-distant past, I was addicted to Lindy Hop. Lindy Hop is a form of Swing Dancing, a partner dance. It’s usually a man and a woman, a leader and a follower. When I started, it never occurred to me to defy traditional roles. As the woman, I was the follower.

Through tons of practice I got good. I went to workshops, camps, entered competitions and danced in performances. On the morning of one performance, I broke my thumb bicycling to work. Drove straight from the hospital to the dance hall so I could tell my partner in person I couldn’t dance that night. But when I showed up, our choreography said “Don’t tell me you’re going to dance with that huge cast on your hand? Well, c’mon then, get on stage.” My partner was terrified he’d hurt me. “Don’t worry,” I whispered in his ear. “The thumb’s already broken.”

Being that good a dancer had its privileges. A small group of us girls decided we wanted to be leaders too. We took the beginning classes all over again, as leaders, not followers. We learned to signal our intentions through weight shifts and arm movements. We learned how to lead well enough so that when we took classes if there weren’t enough men we would lead, and if there weren’t enough women, we would follow.

I’m an equalist, but in swing dancing, I hated leading. As a leader, I’d be the one who had to think up all the moves. I’d have to watch out for my partner, keep track of where I was on the dance floor. I was often too short to be graceful. Not strong enough to do stunts. I’d have to think while I danced, instead of just dancing. And as a leader, I had to dance with women. As much as I love women, a woman is not a man.

Dancing has this interesting physicality. It’s kind of sexual, kind of not. At dances and workshops, you are constantly switching partners so that you dance with strangers all the time. I loved that about dancing. The roles were clear, it was not a pick-up scene. You were there to dance. But as a heterosexual women, dancing that close with a man, having to trust them, having their body move your body in rhythm – well, dancing was sexy.

And I liked nothing better than to follow–to give myself away, floating, not have to think, just move to the music and dance. But knowing how to lead? Made me a better follower.

♦◊♦

My daughter Caitlin started playing ice hockey at age 7. There weren’t any girl’s hockey teams when she started, so she played with boys, til high school. She made the varsity girls team in high school, then on her college Division 2 team.

Anyone who has seen a girl’s ice hockey team and a boy’s ice hockey team at the same level knows there is a difference. Boys teams aren’t just faster, they are two or three times as fast. They are not just stronger, they are more powerful. They are not just more aggressive, they are more forceful. There’s no comparison to watching someone being slammed into the boards on a boys hockey team vs. the way girls bump into each other. There’s no denying the difference in the pace of the game, the strength of a slapshot. Maybe some of it’s socialized, but if you watched my daughter, who played on boy’s teams all her life and then didn’t, you can see differences that can’t be explained by socialization or coaching or determination alone.

So my daughter stepped off the ice at age 20, and didn’t play another hockey game until a few weeks ago, at age 27. Her grad school had an intramural team. She borrowed my equipment. She was nervous. She hadn’t been on the ice in seven years. I walked into the rink with her. A couple of guys on her team were already in their skates, introduced themselves. They towered over 110 lb Caitlin. She came up to her teammates chest. Out of 22 people playing that night, there was one other girl.

But when she stepped on the ice, something happened. Yes, the guys were faster. Yes, they were stronger. But Caitlin could skate. She knew exactly where she should be on the ice, could anticipate the puck. The guys –- she had never played with them before — picked up on that in 30 seconds. There was some hidden code where they knew to pass her the puck every single time. She’d skate rings around the other team, get the puck close to the net, pass it back to one of the guys who would slapshot the puck into the net. Again, and again and again. 4-0, her team won easily. The ease at which the guys switched from leading to letting Caitlin lead was extraordinary. No one had to say a word.

♦◊♦

About eight months ago, my right leg stopped working. Just like that. I couldn’t get up stairs, couldn’t get into cars. At various times, I think I hung on to every parking meter and lamppost in Boston until I could limp along again. Thirteen doctors and specialists couldn’t figure it out. Doctors would say things like, “well, let’s rule out a brain tumor, shall we?” Yes, please. Finally one doctor threw up his hands and said “I don’t know what to make of your tests. But this much I will tell you. You have to exercise as hard as you can every day. Keep moving every day. “But doc, I can’t even walk!” He looked at me evenly, and gave me the best advice I’d ever gotten. “If you can’t walk on your right leg, hop on your left.”

The next day, my ex-husband drives me to our (younger) daughter’s game. My leg is so bad that as we pass by a hospital I yell, “HEY! Why don’t you drop me off at the emergency room and you go to the game. Pick me up on the way back.” He convinces me to go on to the game, so on we go. We walk in the rink, I’m leaning on his arm. He’s my ex-husband, and it wasn’t all that good when I left. But we’ve worked it out for the sake of our kids, and when I walked in the rink, he held onto my arm as if we were walking back down the aisle, or with the same care he took when we walked together into the maternity ward for the birth of one of our four kids. He was my ex, but when I needed a right leg for the sake of our children, he was my right leg.

♦◊♦

Tom Matlack and I started working together two and a half years ago. His background is in finance, I’m a creative. I’m a female, he’s a male. He’s logical, I’m intuitive. Except for when he is intuitive and I am logical. He uses conflict to uncover truths, I use collaboration to discover insights. He’s built huge companies, I’ve built social networks, books and art. We’re both passionate about the project, but we’re emotional in different ways. We’ve certainly had our share of clashes. But most of the time, there’s no one I’d rather work with than Tom.

Tom has taught me to see conflict as a way to quickly get to an honest assessment of the situation and create change as needed. We challenge each other. We listen. He is happy to teach me everything he knows, I return the favor. The speed at which we work together is amazing. Because of Tom, I’ve accomplished more in the past two years than I’d done in a lifetime. It often feels like I’m rushing down the ice in a high-speed hockey game, swirling on the dance floor in a Lindy Hop move. Sometimes I need to take time off to be with my family and kids and sometimes he does. Sometimes I follow while he takes the lead on stuff he is stronger at, and sometimes he follows while I lead.

 ♦◊♦

I love that there is a gender binary, or, more likely, a gender spectrum with masculine and feminine traits at either end. I like that there are differences. I like that it’s not one big mush of gender, although I don’t much care which traits anyone exhibits at any given time. But I don’t want to deny guys their masculinity any more than I’d want to be less feminine. I like gender differences, and want them to be a part of my life.

My favorite kind of masculinity is best demonstrated by someone who has confidence is his own strengths. Who leads when needed, but is not afraid to let me or anyone else lead either. And so we go. Onward.

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About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I like your ideas, Lisa, but I do have a thought to contribute. The poison of the gender binary isn’t the fact that there is a spectrum, it’s that people are forced into it. When you wrote about the gender spectrum with masculine and feminine traits at either end, that’s misleading. There aren’t masculine and feminine traits, there are only human traits that are foisted onto either gender. It’s a fundamental language difference, I think, that really effects the interpretation of that language.

    Apart from that one exception, I loved this article. I was nodding my head the entire way as concerns the exchange of leadership roles. The best followers are those who can lead, and vice-versa. That’s just so important to know in all facets of life.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Interesting. I’m not sure — I actually like being feminine, and I don’t feel forced into it at all. I just like the feeling of being female, and I don’t know how else to describe it, because it doesn’t feel like a social role — I get that same feeling all by myself on a mountaintop. But I’m willing to entertain that idea for a while and see if it fits with my experience. Another commenter on a different post said he had never “felt like a man”, which I found odd. (not in a bad way, just not with my experience.)

      • “Another commenter on a different post said he had never “felt like a man,”

        Truth be told, the only times in my life that I would’ve describe myself as feeling like a man would be after sex with my most recent ex. “Would’ve”, however, because now I’d rather say that those were the only times I felt secure in my masculinity, which at the time was very defined by the man box, to use such terminology. Perhaps I’ll have such a mountaintop experience that I’m not so dim on – I’ll be sure to tell you about it in that event.

      • Kirsten (in MT) says:

        What qualities of yours do you think of as “feminine”?

      • Kirsten (in MT) says:

        Also, does this person (see link) strike you as masculine or feminine?

        http://www.spokesman.com/photos/2011/sep/18/143205/

      • @Lisa It’s important to note that just because YOU don’t feel forced into being female or feminine, other people are. The gender binary may be fine and good for some cisgender individuals, but for many transgender, genderqueer, and otherwise gender-variant people (and others) it is very confining and oppressive. It feels natural and not like a social role because it’s like health, you don’t notice it until you don’t have it (or it doesn’t feel right).

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Hi Zach,

          Yes, I do actually get that, and thank you for re-iterating it here. I in no way meant to minimize the experiences of any other gender-variant people. I do love and appreciate all those who would like NOT to fit into a binary system, I can imagine what you would say to me if I said “some of my best friends are trans” but, honestly, that is the case. So part of the point of this (this post, this entire project) is to say HEY — this is the way I am seeing things. It may not be the same way you are but I am using this to spark a conversation that will hopefully lead to multiple points of view around this same topic. And more open-mindedness overall.

          Would LOVE to have you write a post on your view, or how you would like to see the gender binary going, or anything related to this. Please email me at lisa at goodmenproject dot com

  2. Julie Gillis says:

    I love this. I wish I felt more feminine inside. I always try to lead. And I lead well! I’m not very girly and men pick up on that, even though I have a physically female body, tits, ass all that. But I’m driven and assertive and I usually wind up leading when the dance presents itself. it’s odd. My most recent favorite Facebook photo, I do look very girly. Like Clara Bow actually, that saucy assertive flapper!

    It’s a great article Lisa.

    • David Byron says:

      Well I’m a man and you seem plenty girly to me! :)
      Although I did pick up on the idea that you seemed to have a different opinion on that a few times. And here you say, “But I’m driven” as if that means less feminine. But certainly Lisa is driven and I think you’ll agree that only seems to make her more feminine, right? So why the difference?

      The gender binary… it’s not a binary in the sense of two discrete sets of qualities – each quality either male or female. I think being driven could make you both more masculine and more feminine… and even more oddly… I think maybe so could its exact opposite, in the sense of a pursuit of simplicity and quiet.

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        Ok, DB, excuse me while I get really excited here but THIS –>> “And here you say, “But I’m driven” as if that means less feminine. But certainly Lisa is driven and I think you’ll agree that only seems to make her more feminine, right? So why the difference?”

        This is SO exciting to me because truthfully, this has always been a conscious choice for me, although never really articulated before. As I’ve said before, I LOVE being female, feminine and all that goes along with it. It doesn’t mean I don’t love men too, but for me, it is part of my identity.

        So when I was growing up and first aware of the feminist movement, and the thing in vogue was “pantsuits” because that allowed women to move into the workforce looking a little more like men I said “YUCK”. And when “power suits” came out in the 80’s I said “YUCK”. And whenever someone said “ok, you can probably be the one to break through the glass ceiling but you have to be more “masculine” to do it I’d say “no effin’ way.” But that didn’t stop at the outer trappings of clothes of course. I think I’ve told you the story of how when I worked in really high-powered ad agencies and somehow did it while having 4 kids, there were times when I left work every day at 5 pm to get home to my kids, feed them supper and put them to bed and then go back into the office from 9 pm to 2 am. And I actually got a reputation for that – people would say to me “Oh, Lisa, I’ve HEARD about you! You’re the one who leaves at 5 pm to go home to get your kids and then comes back to work from 9 pm to 2 am.” So being a mother (which, to most people is pretty damn female) became a part of my identity at the same time being a top female creative director was. And THAT made it easier to get through the glass ceiling because my reputation would precede me. So I didn’t have to negotiate to get time off for the kids – I’d walk into HR departments and they’d know to put in flex time for the kids into the contract without me saying a word. One time I brought my 3 month old to a TV shoot, and I was staying in this really ritzy hotel in Los Angeles – where all sorts of tv and movie production crews were staying. And (I swear to life this happened) I get into an elevator and everyone else has their cell phones and sunglasses and movie equipment. And I get on the elevator with my 3-month old. And the only other women on the elevator says “OMG, YOU should be the poster child for the feminist movement. YOU are an inspiration for women everywhere.”

        But it goes beyond even that. I have cried in meetings (and been treated with disgust by men at the time). And I’ve said “thank god I’m a women and can cry in meetings and not worry about it.” Or I’ve said to guys – “Look, it’s ok to actually LOVE people you work with. Male or female.” Which – believe it or not – strikes FEAR into the hearts of most men. “But we can’t love women we work with – we will be sued!”

        And THAT right there – is what I think is the problem with the feminist movement.

        This may not be what the feminist movement is saying but this is the message they send. “You can’t actually love women because XYZ will happen to you. If you actually love women – and act in ways that demonstrate love – you will suffer severe consequences. Better to put up walls. Better to act sexist and at least protect women. Because that is your role as men.” And then women say ‘WTF, where did this glass ceiling come from.” Because what I was hearing – from feminists, women, men, whoever – was that answer was that women had to give up their identity as women in order to succeed, where as actually, a better plan might be to actually let women actually be women.

        SO now – back to men. From what I was hearing from men, it’s the same thing — what they are hearing is “give up what you love as being a man.” And what I love so much about the Good Men Project is we are not saying “Men, give up your identity as men and become more like women.” (Which, BTW, was the catalyst for what got Tom into so much trouble with the feminists on Twitter.) I believe it is ok to be a man, however you define that. It is ok to have that be part of your identity. It is ok to act in traditional masculine ways. It is ok to be macho. It is ok to “feel” like a guy. It is ok to love being a guy. And it is ok to love NOT being a guy. It is ok to fall somewhere in between the gender spectrum. It is ok to switch binary’s. It is ok to do anything at when it comes to gender and I personally, and as a leader of this organization will accept that. But if being a man in the traditional sense defines you, if that is what you love about yourself — well then. We ask that you love women TOO.

        And that is my personal feminist beliefs. That is the difference David. I allow being a woman to be a part of my core identity because that is something I love about myself. And so what I want to say to men is – if being a man is part of your core identity, part of what you love about yourself – BE THAT. Love that about yourself and then it is so much easier to love everyone else in the world too.

        That is what I believe.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        ;) thanks babe! Agreed with what you are saying. I know a lot about all this stuff and I still wrestle with it. I still use language like “driven” and it codes one direction or the other. I don’t know if I can help it, but I”m trying.

        I do know that I don’t have Lisa’s numinious experience of the feminine. I often feel not womanly enough whatever the F that means. Odd isn’t it? Though last night at the Steampunk improv show I did, in full corset, I looked pretty “girly” I think. Still, I couldn’t wait to rip it off! So constricting!

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      So “feminine” means follower, not assertive, and not driven in your view?

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        No — Not at all. You are not getting at the bigger meaning of what I’m talking about.

        I’m saying that for me — feminine — just like masculine — has a fluidity of leading and following. You can lead equally well with your feminine side. I thought that was clear in every example I gave.

        But what I’m *also* saying is that if being feminine is part of my identity — which it is — and the feminine side is a part of me that I love — which it also is — then it is ok to let men be “masculine” or “strong” or however they want to define *their* identity. So that’s why it’s a constant “dance” — the person with the most strength at that particular moment — is the one that leads.

        Does that make sense? I think this is really important.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        No, not to me at all. Look at the quote I used from the original askers for the submission where my whole piece got started. They placed traits to help writers get started. One was “leading, decisive.” And those were considered masculine traits which they are not.

        I believe that “feminine” in it’s stereotypical sense might ilicit traits like follower, submissive, soft, vulnerable etc. I often do not feel any of those things so it’s easy for me to not feel “feminine” as I usually believe the word is meant.

        I believe these traits are human traits and they become gendered. It’s often hard not to take that in, even when we believe otherwise.

        Just as is possible everyone, I have (and will have) my own issues in wrestling with binary issues. When I was younger and I didn’t know about this stuff, yeah, I felt less feminine. I see myself has having energies that fall outside of an easy binary.

        • Julie Gillis says:

          Gah. The traits are non gendered but the stereotypical use of feminine might ilicit a response that traits are gendered.

  3. What a wonderful post, Lisa. Your examples do such a lovely job evoking the give-and-take, the interplay of leading and following, that characterizes all good relationships.

    I think Mad Adam makes a good point too. Masculine and feminine aren’t exactly opposites, because they are composed of so many different traits. A person could have some masculine traits — for example, he could be very independent, — but at the same time have some feminine traits, like being nurturing or emotional. I think most people are masculine in some ways, and feminine in others (in the traditional way those concepts are defined). So it’s not exactly a spectrum, but — I don’t know — a kaleidoscope? A quilt? I’m not sure what the metaphor is. Maybe something woven? I’m just trying to get at the idea of layers.

    Anyway, all that aside, I wholeheartedly agree with you that sameness is no fun. The world would be terribly dull if we were all leaders all the time. Not to mention nothing would ever get accomplished.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Yes, I love the idea of looking at it as a kaleidoscope. Or, remember those little potholder things you’d make in arts and crafts that were done on a small loom where different loops were interlaced? Like that maybe.

      But there’s still something I can’t put my finger on, however, that I don’t know if I’ve articulated — that as a heterosexual woman, I do feel as if men are the “other”. I don’t know if that’s bad or good, helpful or not — but that’s how I feel. That’s why I used examples where I thought there clearly were some binary traits going on. But I can also see the points about most people being masculine in some ways and feminine in others — or at the very least, having the ability to play roles that are masculine in some ways and feminine in others.

      • David Byron says:

        Even if men and women were just the same, in my mind they’d still be completely different.

      • Ooh, that’s an interesting way to put it, enjoying the “otherness” of the opposite sex. It’s true for all people who are different from you too. People do have different experiences of the world depending not just on gender but on economic background, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, etc. etc. etc. And of course there’s just the diversity of individual experience. Interacting with people who’ve experienced the world differently from you is enriching in a way that sameness can never be.

  4. The gender binary does not contain of two mutually exclusive sets of traits. Actually, gender binary is a social strategy for optimizing the social good based on the reality of biological differences between male and female.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      “Actually, gender binary is a social strategy for optimizing the social good based on the reality of biological differences between male and female.”

      Wow, that is a definition of it I hadn’t heard before — thanks, Rapses!

      • Julie Gillis says:

        I don’t much disagree with Rapses in theory, but in practice I do have a problem with it. Yes there are biological differences between men and women, and there are some roles that men may be physically more suited to play. The problem comes in when you have a woman, for whatever reason that wants to be/should be/can’t help but be an engineer. Or a firefighter. Or a basketball player. Or when you have a man, for whatever reason that wants to be/should be/can’t help but be a nurse. Or a ballet dancer. Or a violinist. Or a stay at home parent.

        Society then has a choice. It can be the kind of society that places square pegs in round holes in order to optimize the social good based on the reality of biological differences, or it can realize that the biological differences themselves don’t always evenly fit on a binary scale. That there are wide variations within nature. You can choose to create or adapt your society so that optimizing the social good isn’t always based on gender but based on skill and affinity for tasks.

        Which is where I think we find ourselves now on a meta level, personally.

        • DavidByron says:

          I don’t think people ever go, “Yeah! Let’s restrict others for no apparent reason! Awesome!” I think what happens is that firstly allowing more choices has an inherent cost to society. A sort of information / communications cost maybe. For a society that is not good at that stuff the cost can just be too high. So initially you have societies making restrictions on cost grounds – if everyone just did whatever they wanted to nothing would get done and everyone would be dead. Later on society gets richer in terms of opportunities. Specifically you see industrialisation firstly eliminating a lot of work women did — and I mean the textile industry. No more constant hand spinning and weaving. So you see frustrated / bored middle class women forming the women’s movement in the industrialised countries because they are the first broad group of people to have both motive and opportunity.

        • Gender binary comes to play only in the social construct. For example, I am unmarried male living in a foreign country. I have to do all the stuffs like cooking, cleaning, fixing things,working, and also fighting hard if I get in any brawl. I have to use all those so-called masculine and feminine traits in lead a functional life. On the gender binary scale I am an androgyne.

      • But the gender binary has not increased the social good. Instead, it has perpetuated male dominance and left women in the lurch.

        I do not think that leading is masculine and following is feminine. I do not think that logic is masculine and emotion is feminine.

        It is degrading to view personality traits as masculine and feminine because it keeps men on top and women on bottom.

        • Gender binary has been very successful in the evolutionary terms. The human population has exceeded 7 billion.

          • Not sure that that Gender Binary is a core issue there! Could just be equality of lust? P^)

            • You can see for yourself that in those parts of the world where gender binary became less distinct e.g., Western countries, the population growth has fallen below subsistence level, while in those parts of world where gender binary is till clear, population is increasing.

            • @Rapses: the population growth or decreasing, is mainly related to economic factors.
              In simple words, people in poor/developing countries have many babies, people in rich/developed contries have less.
              Obviously there are also socio-cultural factors, but IMO money is the first. Everything else is less imfluent.
              Then someone can take any arbitrary factor – like you did – and say that’s the reason. But it’s a fallacy.

            • There is a direct link between money, gender binary and population. When any society gets affluent , technologically advanced and less dependent on manpower, the gender binary is blurred resulting in population decrease. It is no fallacy, it fits perfectly in Social Darwinism.

        • John Sctoll says:

          @Marie: Not sure what country you live in, but men aren’t at the top and women at the bottom where I live (Canada). Some men are at the top , ALOT of men are at the bottom, Some women are at the top, and ALOT of women are at the bottom.

          Too many people when looking at gender equality completely fail to look in both directions when try to assess who is winning and who is losing in the battle for equality.

          Kind of reminds me of the UN sanctioned ‘study’ (and I use that term very loosely) that assessed countries for the level of equality. Canada for example came in around 20. This seemed rather odd to me since Women outnumber men in education attainment (a factor in determining equality), women live longer and die from major diseases at lower rates than men (another factor). And yet canada wasn’t considered a very equal country. Of course once I dug deeper into how they came up with the score it became obvious that this entire thing was a setup.

          Let me explain how the score worked

          If men were doing better than women the score equality = 0
          If men were doing worse than women the score the score for equality = 1
          If women were doing better than men the score for equality = 1

          Of course now you see there is no way using this scoring system for there to be equality.

          • @John Sctoll:
            “If men were doing better than women the score equality = 0
            If men were doing worse than women the score the score for equality = 1
            If women were doing better than men the score for equality = 1″

            Mhh. Should we coin a new term: womequality?!? :D

            Because, you know… there’s equality, and unequality.
            And then… there’s womequality! ;)

            It reminds me of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”: all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

  5. I like the way you’ve managed to thread the needle Lisa, without pricking your thumb….

    I don’t like the term gender binary. It is far too often used and misused. I prefer a complementary, Ying/Yang approach to getting your head around the vital concept of sexual dimorphism and all that flows forth – with an added clarity for not getting tripped up against the immobility of a naturalistic fallacy.

    The French managed to get one thing right in this century: Vive la difference!

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I like the Ying/Yang way of looking at it — that was what I was trying to get at in my examples, thanks!

  6. I love that there is a gender binary, or, more likely, a gender spectrum with masculine and feminine traits at either end. I like that there are differences.
    I’m not sure its a single spectrum. If anything masculine and feminine are two separate baskets of and any given person is free to pull whatever they wish from each basket? But even thinking about like that would rub the wrong way with people who don’t think given traits are either masc or femi (take “being athletic” for example. is that trait masculine, feminine, neither, or both?)

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Others have pointed this out to me as well and I get where you are coming from. I still don’t know, and never want to appear that I have all the answers. I wanted to put the term out there, in part so I *would* be challenged on it — because sometimes that’s the only way I can get to a deeper level of understanding. It’s something we’ll be getting people to write about more in the coming months. If you’d like to submit an article sharing your views, please do — I’d love to hear more of your viewpoint. Email me at lisa at goodmenproject dot com. and thanks!

  7. David Byron says:

    Thanks!
    -more thoughts on this later.
    Sorry about your leg :(

  8. “I don’t much disagree with Rapses in theory, but in practice I do have a problem with it…. The problem comes in when you have a woman, for whatever reason that wants to be/should be/can’t help but be an engineer… You can choose to create or adapt your society so that optimizing the social good isn’t always based on gender but based on skill and affinity for tasks.”

    I fully agree. Skill and affinity should be the basis for career choices. Traditional societies failed in this regard because they prevented women like Emmy Noether to pursue the careers they were destined for. However in the developed world we aren’t dealing with the problem of legal or social restrictions preventing women from pursuing certain professions. The legal and social restrictions are largely gone. Now the problem is socialization and socialization effects both affinity and skill.

    For instance consider women in Computer Science. There is a massive gender imbalance. The question is why? There are no legal restrictions and plenty of encouragement for women to pursue these roles. We are left with two possibilities: biology or early socialization.

    If it is socialization is that a bad thing? Personally I don’t think it is.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      A quick clarification: Do you mean that there aren’t many women in computer science and if they are avoiding it due to socialization rather than biology that it’s ok for them to avoid it? I would think that if a woman has affinity for Computer Science and she feels that the world is not welcoming to her due to socialization of both men and women, then we might miss out on an amazing professional in the field who could create great things.

      I think if a person doesn’t have an affinity for something, no problem. In the case of computer sciences it might be a combination of both? I know in fields like pharmacy women applicants have tripled. It was a field that was predominantly male. Now the graduating class here is approximately 60% female. Is that good or bad? We may not be able to tell on a cultural scale for hundreds of years.

    • Some of the disparity in women in computer science may be biology, but a TON of it is the culture. There’s encouragement for women to pursue careers that they want, but not by computer scientists. A lot of women feel really threatened, unwanted, or ogled over trying to work as computer scientists. Plenty of them still follow that path, but it’s pretty understandable why a lot of them don’t.

      And, to be honest, I think there are problems with socializing men and women to different types of careers. If there are some biological differences or differences in brain chemistry, that doesn’t mean we should raise people to be less competent in the areas that AREN’T their strengths. Consider the whole “math is hard for girls” idea. It’s ridiculous and wrong, but because we’re socializing girls away from math and towards more creative pursuits, *they become less competent in math*. I think people should be strengthened at least somewhat in areas that are their “weaknesses”, because that allows them to have a more balanced perspective on the world around them and keeps their thinking from going into their tiny little box that is their own field. And if we did that (socialized men and women equally and let them choose their own pursuits), I think you’d see a LOT more women in math and computer science.

  9. Justa Mann says:

    It is really too bad that the gender binary doesn’t begin and end with dance routines. Certainly there are differences in men and women, many socialized, many not. But the socialized aspect becomes dangerous when we romanticize the differences in our capabilities and inclinations. When we “expect” anyone, based on their sex, to do or be anything, then we are not paying homage to them, we are only fitting them for an outfit we want them to wear.

    The burden from that is no less on men than it is on women, and no less destructive to our self-actualization if we are foolish enough to try to comply with those expectations.

  10. Lisa,
    I am glad the you raised the issue of gender binary, because it is the most basic thing for defining masculinity. Masculinity and femininity are two complementary elements of humanity. Femininity and masculinity are like lock and key on the door of society (no puns intended). They should fit together for the door to open, otherwise we would be left out in cold. If you change the lock, you need new key. Same way new key is of no use if the lock is old.

    P.S.: I am facing lot of heat for giving analogies and sarcasm.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Rapses, I’m sorry you feel like you are taking heat. We are challenging you that’s true, but at the moment I hold no anger. When you say femininity and masculinity are lock and key, do you mean gender itself (male and female)? Because we are talking about attributes on top of gender. Gender expression is something else all together. That’s why you might meet women who seem more masculine or hold masculine traits (but still could have children) and vice versa.

      Or do you see no distinction?

      • I would again give you some analogy. Suppose that for the smooth functioning of a family a set of functions are necessary that require some skills Let the function be a, b c, d,e, f and g. A couple X and Y have to share the responsibilities of these function. It does not matter who does what but all the functions have to be performed. X has certain traits that makes her perform functions a,b f, g while Y has traits for c, d, f, g functions. In this set function e is not preferred by any of them and both are good at functions f and g. In this couple function e is disconnect which would lead to failure of this unit. The problem is not traits of the individuals, but the disconnect factor in the pair. They are not complementing each other. If both partners are masculine who will take care of feminine function and vice versa. The problem is complementarity.

        Don’t feel bad for challenging me. I like intellectual challenges. I am working on the answer to your challenge.

        • Julie Gillis says:

          I have no issue with complementarity. I still believe you are using gender when we are discussing expression. Traits are neutral. Bodies are gendered.
          If the male in the family is more feminine so what? If a man marries a man (I know I know) then you will still find complementarity if that relationship is functioning well.

          I see it as the actions needed for the partnership to work. You are assuming or believing it has to be assigned to a gender based binary for those actions to work well.

          • I just was the traits to fit for performing the necessary functions for the success of unit, however, they are defined.

  11. “A quick clarification: Do you mean that there aren’t many women in computer science and if they are avoiding it due to socialization rather than biology that it’s ok for them to avoid it? ”

    No my argument is more complicated. The brain is known to be plastic. A girl at an early age is socialized into a certain role. Her affinity to that role comes from her early socialization. Her brain is also developing rapidly. There may also be a biological component which gives women on average certain genetic advantages in this area. After she begins learning she becomes better and better at her role. Her aptitude increases and her brain physically changes to accommodate what she is learning.

    She is now more specialized in this social role rather than others and she will tend to perform worse in any other social role. She may also later prefer it over any other due to her socialization.

    Whether its biology or socialization I don’t really care because I don’t see any disadvantage to preferentially choosing one social role over the other, assuming everything is equal. In other words what exactly is so bad if there is a gender imbalance in computer science or for that matter pharmacy. Why does it matter?

    Your argument is that she may have made a better computer scientist than pharmacist. But its impossible to know that in advance. You can’t know when the girl is 3 that she will make a better computer scientist. Yet what happened at 3 maybe the thing that preferentially drove her away from computer science. Furthermore I think in most cases the differences in one direction or the other are small and in the case where the differences are large…those girls become programmers.

    The socialization that leads women to avoid computer science is deep. I remember that when I first started learning it, I loved it immediately and was just good at it. I felt like I had been made to do it. I was taught by a female high school teacher. Whereas for most girls in the class it was the exact opposite. Whatever caused the differences between us, the difference were by that point deep and to the point that most girls HATED programming. Whereas there were guys who were horrible students who just loved it.

    You can’t avoid socialization. You could however make it gender neutral. However I see no advantage to make socialization gender neutral. And I think the idea will be difficult to implement given that every single society ever studied with NO exceptions has some gender based specialization. Gender based specialization also makes sense given the fact that women bare children and the fact that there are biological differences between the sexes like strength, speed, maternal instinct, the ability to breast feed, etc that would imply that women are more suited than men to certain social roles than others.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      It seems to me that the conversations about jobs and genders almost always start around women. “There aren’t enough women in tech. There aren’t as many women CEOs there’s no women president. The economic summit at Davos had to actively recruit women and still can’t get to 20%.”

      But you rarely hear the opposite of that — You just don’t here “there aren’t enough male nurses.” or “why aren’t there aren’t there more male kindergarten teachers” or midwives or librarians.

      And what if the result of that is part of the reasons men are seen as not as caring or emotional, or get branded as pedophiles more. (i.e. if you are perpetuating stereotypes that they can’t be around kids.)

      And then the computer science situation — what if it just added to the stereotype that women just wasn’t as smart, or wouldn’t get it.

      So I think there’s a danger more than just not enough of one sex in a profession for the job itself, but as part of a systems problem that has a bigger impact.

      • We don’t hear that “there aren’t enough male nurses” because female typed professions are generally underpaid and undervalued. However, there’s lots of sociological evidence that men in “female” professions are paid and respected more than women. One sociologist said that men who do “women’s” jobs are whisked on glass escalators.

        So yes, this is part of a systems problem called male privilege.

        • David Byron says:

          Thanks for giving the official feminist dismissal of men. I’d point out the flaw in this argument but there really is no point is there?

          • No sir:
            That particular brand of kool-aid blocks the eyes and ears and well as the logical process.

            Same could be said for the %90 grade school teachers being female.
            It surely could not be that males where driven out under fem-pressure and false accusations.
            Or that male nurses perform the job better overall as a group.

        • A survey of male nurses in Norway found that many of them took the “glass escalator” because of hostile work environments or pressure from their female colleagues.

      • David Byron says:

        Well the real job men can never get into is being househusband. There’s a great deal of discrimination by the employers in that field and no law protects men from it. While there’s some lip service to the idea that men should be allowed to try for the position there’s no attempt to fix the demand situation. That’s taken for granted with women. Nobody suggested that women computer programmers would not be hired for example. There’s all sorts of legal and social protections.

        But to do the same for men would mean taking on women’s power and privileges and that is simply NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, period. There’s no movement on that that I have seen in twenty years. There’s been movement on the supply side. Saying to men “Oh you can feel free to try”, which would be like telling women “Feel free to try out as a firefighter but if you can’t carry a 250 pound man on your back and run up the stairs don’t bother.” When women faced barriers entering male occupations society responded by “protecting” them and creating laws to prevent discrimination. But society simply will not protect men in that way and especially not against women. Society will not force women to allow men to enter their main occupation. It remains out of bounds unless a man is lucky enough to find a woman who will allow it, and even then his position is tenuous.

        In fact so far from protecting men, society and feminism has created extra barriers against men entering this sort of profession as you say – with bogus charges of men being sexual predators.

        My impression is that whereas men were not at all threatened by women entering male professions, women are often extremely threatened at the idea of men moving in on their sphere of influence. Well you can understand it. I am a computer programmer. It doesn’t hurt me if a woman becomes one. Why would I care? But for a man to take on the position of primary home maker and/or child care giver means that his wife does not have that role any more and for a lot of women that is like cutting their arm off. They don’t mind allowing the man “to help” as long as he’s playing second fiddle (preferably in a charmingly incompetent manner). But if the man is actually going to become the primary care giver — meaning she is not — what does that make her? If she’s not a mother what is she? If she is not the nurturing one?

        The truth is that women’s liberation from gender roles was not a radical change. Freeing men would be a radical change.

        • Julie Gillis says:

          This may be true in a general sense David, I don’t know. And I know that anecdata is not data, but depending on the community one is dealing with you will see women working and men staying at home. I know of several, and many co-parenting, alternative work/home structures here in Austin. I imagine it could be easy to find those in cities like Austin, Portland, Eugene, Boulder…

          I have been the breadwinner for the last 11 years. My husband, while in school but also taking breaks, did a great deal more of child care and house running than did I. I also have a neighbor whose wife has a the job and he stayed home for several years. Isolated examples? Probably. I don’t think the mainstream Americans are going in that direction right now. I live in a very liberal odd little community. But I think there are trends moving in that direction, at least on the liberal side of things.

          These are amazing questions for us to ask, “But if the man is actually going to become the primary care giver — meaning she is not — what does that make her? If she’s not a mother what is she? If she is not the nurturing one?

          The truth is that women’s liberation from gender roles was not a radical change. Freeing men would be a radical change.”

          It’s exceptional stuff to think about.

          • David Byron says:

            If women had been freed in an equalist manner it would have been a radical change. If the feminist approach had been, “Women need to be free to take risks. Women need to be free to fail.” I think that would have been radical. I also think it would have been completely rejected by Victorian society. But feminists rarely demanded women be made equal by removing their special protections, and on the contrary they often demanded yet more protections over and beyond what they already had. They framed their demand that women be allowed into male professions and so on, as further protections of women. Since society was already in favour of protecting women at men’s expense, demanding more of that was not a radical step. As a result feminist demands were always understood in a context that was NOT about equality but “more for women”.

  12. Good article, Lisa.
    And I agree with the “gender spectrum”, rather than binary. Physical sex (genitalia) might be a binary (and even that not so much), but on a psychological plane there aren’t fixed “boxes” we fit in.

    I’d say that, in their essence, masculine and feminine are energies. So not much to do with the body they inhabit.
    As a matter of fact, we may see very masculine women and very feminine guys; they live a kind of energy that’s different from what culture assigns to their bodies.
    Besides, energy is always flowing, so we may have a more masculine or feminine moment or attitude or situation; the energies inside us would move and change accordingly.

    Personally, I strived to develop both energies in me; it’s my ambition, I could never be just one or the other. :)
    Thus, I can choose which energy I feel more apt to the situation or mood. I can be masculine or feminine, because I can direct my own inner energies.

    Regarding dance, I had a similar experience with Argentinian Tango. It has traditional roles (the male leads, the woman follows), and those roles are necessary (you can’t dance with two leaders or two followers). But they can be reversed, too: I tried both, and it’s fascinating having such a different experience.
    What you said is true: leading is much more hard work and stress; following is mostly flowing and let go… but even letting go is something to be learned.

    In the end, I’d say that masculine and feminine could be like dancing roles: anybody should choose whichever role would suit him or her, and we should be free to change role as much as we like. :)

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I like the thought of energies. Just not sure I’ve ever felt a masculine energy — I honestly can’t imagine what situation I would be in where I felt that. Not that I have anything against it — and I love masculine energy in men — I just can’t see it myself.

      Love to Tango too!

      • Great article Ms. Hickey. If I understand your explination of “Gender Binary” correctly(sorry, I just lack the formal education of many who contribute to this site) It’s that whoever in the “team” has the stronger set of skills needed at that moment, leads the way? If I’m right, you just described my parents as well as 2 of my daughters marriages. This method has shown itself to me all of my life to be a “winner. The human race has survived countless wars, famine, and various other threats of distruction because of this arrangement.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          This that you said bobbt — YES — “whoever in the “team” has the stronger set of skills needed at that moment, leads the way?” But that within that team, it is ok to have masculine qualities and ok to have feminine ones. It doesn’t actually matter if it’s the guy who has the masculine qualities and the women who has the feminine ones, that’s not the point.

          The point is — if you are a guy who wants traditionally masculine qualities as part of his identity — that is ok. As long as you are not trying to push your worldview on others, or abuse your power. The same thing with women. I simply don’t want to give up my identity as a female. I love being female. And I love the fact that men are *not female*. Of course — I also love the fact that some people DON’T care about a gender “binary” and that’s great too. You don’t HAVE to take sides. I love people who are secure enough in their identity that gender doesn’t matter AT ALL to them.

          But that’s not me. And I want that to be ok.

          Thanks for your comment!

      • Yeah, energy can be a tricky thing. It took almost a decade, to me, to begin perceiving it. :D

        Some people call it a “vibe”, a feeling; you enter a room and notice it: “Nice feeling!”, “Hmm, something is not quite right”…
        Some men just radiate masculine energy. If you’re not used to the energy “thingy”, you might call it someway else.
        Thinking about examples, off the top of my head, I remember Hugh Jackman acting Wolverine, Russell Crowe in “Gladiator”, Marlon Brando…

        BTW, energies can be mixed, too: thinking about movies, the Neytiri character in “Avatar” (played by Zoe Saldana) was very feminine (the way she moved!) and very powerful at the same time.

  13. Donald Brown published a list of human universals / traits / behaviors as collected by ethnographers. According to this list – all human cultures share these universals, without exception, and without any one being conditional on another. List link below

    http://condor.depaul.edu/mfiddler/hyphen/humunivers.htm

    “Ambivalence” is on the list, as is the idea of “Oedipus complex”, but of course never both in the same person.

    I don’t think that this conversation should be held to statements of fact, but rather be based on a moral approach under our willful control. And another good thing: “moral sentiments” is also on the list of universal.

  14. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    My favorite kind of masculinity is best demonstrated by someone who has confidence is his own strengths. Who leads when needed, but is not afraid to let me or anyone else lead either.

    So, Lisa, when you have confidence in your own strengths and lead when needed, but are not afraid to let others lead, do you consider yourself to be masculine?

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I just gave a long reply to Julie Gillis and DavidByron above that goes a a lot more depth in this. I actually don’t. I still have my core identity be “female and feminine”. That part of me — because i love that part of my identity so much — is what I lead with. I know it seems confusing, but read the reply I wrote and then feel free to ask other questions. Thanks for asking.

  15. David Byron says:

    Lisa, I can see why you wrote this piece. In theory it’s good that there is equality and we’re both all in favour of folks doing what they want and mixing it up and all that. But dammit I *like* the differences. I don’t want to feel like saying a woman is feminine is some sort of put-down, or might be seen that way. I want to be able to delight in women’s little differences without having some nagging doubt, “wait is that sexist?” I want to value femininity but I don’t want to put girls in a bind where they are worried that they aren’t girly enough because perhaps the expression of their femininity is non-traditional.

    (I also don’t want to make people who are not into a male-female dance think that the rules are rigged against them.)

    But I think it ought to be doable. It seems like a lot of this stuff is pretty arbitrary. Traditionally things like career and looking after kids got identified with men or women. If as a society we now think that difference needs to be partially reversed, or if it happens whether we like it or not…. well as a society we probably better come up with some other arbitrary stuff to keep things a little different. Stuff that isn’t going to effect someone’s pay check. Doesn’t matter what really. Because I think in the end any little thing you did would become “feminine”, rather than you being “feminine” because you do a bunch of little things.

    But I still like the little things.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      YES. Different but equal. Yes, yes, yes. Oh thank goodness someone figured it out — thanks! Let’s do that!

      • Hi lisa,I did enjoy your story of your daughter playing on the boys hockey team.

        I can absolutely see where a better,faster skater could take the position of forward and excel in it.
        When I was playing defense,most of my activity was blocking the other team,and gave and took a lot of hits.

        It was a pleasure to rarely get ahold of the forward and slam him good,a bit of revenge.

        I would postulate that the opposing team knew the forward was a female and did NOT
        Slam her hard against the rails out of deference.

        That is not equal but different, that is playing by another set of rules.

        More power to her,but it diminishes the level playing field the boys have to play upon.(lowers the game)

        If that was your analogy,perhaps someone can extend mine beyond what I’ve said here.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Hi freebird,

          I see what you’re saying, but it’s not really “playing by a different set of rules” if the opponent simply chooses to play that way. It’s not as if she was checked and cried “foul”. So if it “lowers the game” — who’s fault is that? Hers, for playing? What’s interesting is that when she was younger, and the only girl in the entire league instead of just her team, there were some games where the boys would just go after her *because* she was a girl. It really looked like they were just trying to take her out. But she always held her own in those games.

          Hockey padding is a great thing. Deference is a choice.

          L

  16. My male identity is tied to what I am. It’s not tied to any particular traits as no traits I have are exclusively male and I suspect that no traits you have are exclusively female. In fact you talk about the interchangability of those traits. The notion that I should feel more feminine when I comfort my son when he has scrubbed his knee or that I should feel more masculine when I have to physically protect someone is troubling when it by language is implied that the former is more removed from who I am (a man). It implies that it is an act – not genuine. I suspect it’s the same way for female executives who hears that her assertivness is a masculine act she has to don in order to succeed – thus implying that it’s not genuine.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I agree that no traits I have are exclusively female — you can have any of mine you want! And I’d like to feel free to take any leftover masculine traits you don’t want…

      But seriously, going back to your first sentence “My male identity is tied to what I am.” — Can you elaborate? That is, if it’s not tied to traits, or acts, or feelings — what is it? Is it merely a part of your core identity — and that’s it? So nothing makes you feel “more masculine” for example — not what you wear, not what you do, not how you act. In fact, you can’t be “more masculine” because you just are who you are. But maybe I’m not getting it right at all.

      There are those who say “gender is a performance.” It implies I am going to walk into a room and play the role of a female because that’s what I want to do. And I sometimes I will play it subtly, and sometimes I’ll be over the top with it. But it doesn’t quite explain my “joy in being female as part of who I am.”

      Would love to hear more about how you view yourself as male.

      • Well, that’s a though question. My maleness is just innate and not a function of what I do, what I wish to do or how my emotional responses are. Physically protecting someone (a masculine coded trait) makes me feel good. Nurturing (a feminine coded trait) my child makes me feel good.

        I have heard people who have had sex reassignment surgery tell that they at some point (often when quite young) just knew that they had a certain gender identity – even though they had mismatched genitalia. None of them underwent that surgery because they wanted to play with dolls/cars or because they were displaying feminine or masculine traits. They just knew. It was innate. Now, I am not transgender myself so this is a recounting of what I’ve heard and I hope I haven’t misconstructed anything here. Please point it out if I’ve missed the mark somewhere.

        I am keenly aware that other people do judge my maleness based on the masculinity and femininity of the traits and acts they observe in me. However, I find that frankly not caring what they thought were very liberating and freed me up to be, well, just me – who happens to be male. One interesting result of this was how little it mattered when people mistakenly took me for being gay (both people hurling gay slurs(idiots) and gay men hitting on me(simply mistaken)).

        I believe that categorizing traits and acts as masculine and feminine and explicitly or implicitly enforce the notion that one’s identity as man or woman is a functions of those is detrimential.

        Now, I am privileged in that sense that I don’t diverge too far from most people would call masculine – although being short, not very assertive, playing in drag in the school play, a nerd and perceived as gay were some of the ways I did diverge in other people’s view – which made it easier for me to do so.
        At later age a beard, an expanding gut, a beginning onset of male pattern baldness and “heterosexual credentials” in form of two children and a more liberal view of male and female roles in society have made it even easier.

        • What Tamen said.

          My femaleness simply is (even though I was assigned male at birth, and have not had surgery). I don’t have to prove it, and nothing affirms it except stating it is and believing it. I don’t need to do something feminine to feel better about it.

          In fact you’ll find that I’m a bit unfeminine (not that I’m really masculine). It doesn’t make me not-female. Or even ‘less female’. It just makes me a videogame-playing anime-watching girl who can be “one of the boys” in geeky moments, with geeky boys.

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    On another feminist blog, possibly Hugo’s, I said that traditional men like and respect women like Rebecca Hodge, Teresa Broadwell (“little bitty Teresa”), Rachel Hugo, Kim Campbell aka “Killer Chick”, Misty Frazier, Jill Stevens.
    I think the folks thought I was referencing some bunch of redneck bluenose fundies.
    Problem is, to be respected in this fashion doesn’t draw much from the feminine bucket.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    Woops. Katrina Hodge. I responded to some of the folks that the only thing I knew about the women’s politics is that I was pretty sure Hodge wasn’t a republican.

  19. HidingFromtheDinosaurs says:

    Depressing.
    Partly because my autism precludes me from ever experiencing the subtle cues and social interplay you describe, partly because I am reminded once again that years of abuse and feminist film criticism have left me with no self-confidence, no gender identity, no ability to trust and a mass of self-loathing and guilt over things I haven’t done.

    Have you read C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength)? He describes some ideas on gender by way of his take on Christian theology (this was after Tolkein convinced him to convert) that share some marked similarity to what you describe. I believe you would find the end of the second book and all of the third (particularly the scene in which the spirits of the planets descend to possess Merlin so that he can fight Big Brother) especially of interest.

    I hear that the bears come will come out of the mountains next month when they wake up. Maybe I can get mauled by one. That would be an interesting way to go, at least.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Hi Hiding From the Dinosaurs,

      Thanks for commenting. I haven’t read C.S. Lewis’s trilogy, but will will look into it — I read the Chronicles of Narnia and was a science fiction buff as a kid (ages ago, Asimov and Heinlein were my favorites).

      I don’t know what to say about the rest of your comment — other than you are welcome to talk here and you will find people that will listen. For a long time I was socially inept, and can certainly relate to the part that you write about not being able to understand the subtle social cues. We have people we see as leaders here who have autism and other parts of themselves that are difficult to deal with; there are certainly issues of trust, self-loathing and guilt that we all have.

      Please find help if you seriously have suicidal thoughts, and do so immediately. You can also email me if things get bad and you need more help in your world than you can find. lisa at goodmenproject dot com.

      Thanks again for the book recommendations.

  20. I read the title of this and nearly had a conniption. I started reading it ready to raise hell against those who would try to force me to fit into a binary gender system. Then, of course, I actually read the piece. What I took from it is not that you love the binary system of gender, but rather that you love gender difference (whether it’s binary or not). I think the title is a bit misleading, or at least it was for me.

    Anyway, I really liked the article. You enjoy being feminine, and you’re saying it’s alright for men to be masculine. It’s something those of us who are of the opinion that gender traits are mostly socially constructed need to keep in the back of our heads. I think when we talk about gender, we tend to focus on those who do not fit into the current gender roles. This can lead us to villainize those gender roles, which is the wrong way to look at it. The issue isn’t that there are gender roles at all; the problem is when they are so rigid they don’t allow for anyone to exist outside the norm. This doesn’t mean we have to get rid of gender completely, just make it more flexible.

  21. Hi Lisa,
    Great article. I’ll add this. I have been married for about a year. It is not my first marriage. Two years ago I went on Match.com and in my profile said very clearly that I was tired of traditional gender roles. It was a complex couple of paragraphs but the bottom line was, enough already. I imagine a lot of women passed me over. But my current wife liked what she read. And the end result is not about rejecting some traditional parts of being a man, but that my relationship with her is not limited to strictly those roles. The freedom to move in a wider universe of expression and frames has made all the difference in the world in our marriage. I feel like a very lucky man.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      “The freedom to move in a wider universe of expression and frames has made all the difference in the world…”

      That’s what’s so cool about what we’re doing here, to see those different frames, to e allowed to explore them.

      You were lucky to have found someone who immediately saw why your own POV was so valuable. And having talked to both you and your wive, how lucky you both are indeed!

  22. What a fantastically superb article Lisa! I feel exactly like you on this. Exactly.

  23. I agree with that it amazing that there is such a great diversity in human personality and skills. I also agree that there is a certain physical difference between men and women, and in how we interact because of this. However, that doesn’t mean that the first (personality and skills) should be demarcated along the lines of the second (body). The gender binary to me is related to hegemonic masculinity/femininity, in the sense that there are two boxes and you have to be in one or the other. People who fall in between (genderqueers, androgynes, neutrois, intersex…) do not have a viable existence in a bi-nary. I think the dance of leading and following and people dynamics are wonderful, but I don’t think we should let our genders limit us in that dance.

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