Dudes of all sizes understand that compassion is not feminine or masculine. It is human.
Compassion comes in many forms. From a young boy and a chicken to the bravest community workers like firefighters. Even though they are just little birds – chickens, ducks… they are still life. If we are to build a world of fairness and equality we need to see beyond humanity and include all of life’s different manifestations in our concept of justice.
This young guy realizes the mutual benefit of compassionate hugging! There must be something about his community that helps facilitate his ability for compassionate expression.
On April 18th, 2014 in Oregon City, Oregon firefighters responded to a call that normally wouldn’t be seen as an emergency. Yet, the need to serve brought the firefighters to the aid of some community ducklings. The ducks were stuck in a drain, and the firefighters got them back on track. What is it that makes the brave show this level of compassion?
A boy and firefighters have found a way to let human compassion make little profound moments of shared justice between human and animal. Social betterment can start with the smallest, seemingly insignificant acts. These acts create ripples in the ocean of society. As individuals, we perceive these ripples, and they resonate within us to become waves. These waves can eventually crash to land and sweep away inequality.
We tend to think of compassion in terms of the feminine. However, Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, outlines a more social, instead of biological, perspective on the expression of gender:
“Whether they are researching animals or humans, males or females, scientists find that compassion is innate and instinctual across the board. Research with animals and humans show that we naturally have an impulse to help others who are suffering. … Compassion is natural and no gender differences have emerged across these studies.”
That does away with the biological difference, but what about the conditioning we receive from society?
“Differences in compassion expression in men and women are probably in large part due to different socialization processes. We know that our brain is “plastic” and that it changes in response to experience. A large body of research has shown that men and women have very different experiences and that they are socialized extremely differently as of infancy.”
We all know the stereotypes of gender that are forced onto children from before they are even born. Once those new parents have a sonogram that confirms the baby’s biological sex, the gender roles begin to be enforced by family and community. Dr. Seppala helps put the idea of compassion into the social roles men and women are conditioned to portray:
“From my work with veterans and active-duty personnel, I have seen deep expressions of compassion that do not have nurturing and maternal features. Think of the many heroic acts that happen daily, in which people throw themselves into dangerous situations to help others. These are fierce, courageous and even aggressive forms of compassion.”
Now that we have a better model to work with, there is more than one type of expression of compassion–fierce compassion and nurturing compassion. If there is more than one expression, then these expressions must also mix together in varying amounts at varying times. Just as the mix of gender identity can come in more manifested forms than the binary male/female model. These different types of expression appear to be conditioned roles that culture enforces onto various gender identities.
Why ask if different genders are more or less compassionate? Let’s appreciate the power of compassionate acts, however they are expressed, that get shared in a minor news piece, or a brief YouTube video. The world is watching.
How have you made your part of our great world a more compassionate and fair place?