A recent episode of The Walking Dead featured a community comprised entirely of women, and I found myself having an interesting (and unexpected) reaction to it: I recoiled.
Upon further reflection, I had to admit to myself that the idea of living in a society without men was abhorrent to me. And if I was forced to choose between the company of only men or the company of only women…well, the zombie apocalypse hasn’t happened yet, so I need not upset anyone with my conclusions on this theoretical subject.
Pondering all of this, I had to acknowledge a double standard I had never considered before…while we generally embrace the concept that men need the support and influence of women to be their best selves, it has become “politically incorrect” to admit that women need men. I was raised in the very heart of Generation X, the first generation of women who were unequivocally taught that we are each the captain of our own ship and have NO. NEED. FOR. MEN. For anything except perhaps a genetic donation, if motherhood is your bag.
Which it totally, 100% need not be. I am woman, hear me roar.
Both of my grandmothers were working women in spite of the fact that they were born in the first decade of the 20th century and enjoyed 50+ year marriages to traditional (and successful) “hunter-gatherers”. My own Mother, who graduated from college in the 50’s, went on to work as a full-time school teacher despite an out-of-the-box pregnancy following her wedding. Neither she nor my Dad ever told me that marriage should be a “goal”, their own very happy and productive one notwithstanding.
I was raised by and around women warriors. Ahead of the curve, before their time and every single one of them demonstrated and taught self-sufficiency; I identify myself as a feminist. So how can I still believe that women NEED men?
As I have been blessed, in my lifetime, with many varied and rich relationships with both men and women, I know for a fact that when I turn to a male friend—straight, gay, married, single and of every other religious creed and color of the rainbow—I am not looking for a “female” perspective. My relationships with women are entirely different, and contrary to popular opinion, not necessarily superior.
There are some key differences to the way men and women relate to each other that I have never duplicated in my same-sex friendships.
I think the transgender community has opened up a wonderful dialogue about the masculine and feminine as a core essential truth and not something to be imposed by society or even our physical bodies. As we are allowed to hold to our essential truth of what it means to each of us to be a man or a woman, we embrace the ancient theory of yin and yang, the idea that seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interdependent. The fact that there are human beings who are born with male or female physical characteristics who self-identify as the other sex provide us with perhaps our greatest proof that gender is not interchangeable but instead a unique viewpoint and way of being in the world.
Generally speaking, there ARE opposing characteristics in evidence that DO provide a wonderful, symbiotic balance. Just as men need the influence of women to bring out the best in them, women need men to become fully realized. It is the differences in our natures that interplay to create a thriving human race. When we deny each other, we deny ourselves.
There are some stereotypes about the way that men relate and the way that women relate that naturally do not and cannot apply to every single member of the sex, but that do have some demonstrable value. Anecdotally, here are some of the ways in which friendship with a male may be considered “inferior” to friendship with a woman: men don’t listen as well as women; men tend to be more “blunt” and less empathetic. Men are more willing to prioritize their interests (football!) over your feelings.
However, there are also ways that friendship with a woman may be more challenging: women are more likely to be maintaining an inventory of who did “more.” Women are more likely to actively choose a placating behavior they resent; women are (therefore) more likely to blow up about something you had no idea was a problem. So those “superior” communication skills we supposedly have can come with an Achilles heel.
This is all anecdotal, of course. Spare me the angry comments about how you are a blunt woman entirely lacking empathy. Or a man who blows up over B.S. no one else knew was a problem.
However, there is a flip side to each of these coins; sometimes we just need to talk without everything we say being catalogued. Other times we need someone who will hear and consider every word. Sometimes we need someone to rip the Band-Aid off; sometimes we just need someone to tell us we are okay, no matter what. Sometimes we need someone to explain that the world doesn’t revolve around our feelings; sometimes we need someone to teach us how to be more respectful of ourselves and others. It’s all good and all necessary.
Even this recent election, which seems to have demonstrated some of us would prefer having a man with no experience in charge rather than a woman who was perhaps the most qualified candidate ever to run for President opposes a greater pattern that has been emerging in our attitudes towards leadership. Most of us have evolved enough to now accept that the bedrock of successful governance is always teamwork. No man (or woman) is an island and without the varied and various voices coming together, we are building a castle on sand.
There is no “right” without the left.
We are all, man or woman, part of a deeply interconnected species whose well-being depends on cooperation; it is the contrast in our energies that provides us with our clearest template for deciding who we are and what we want.
We need each other practically, spiritually and in toto.
Women don’t need men to open jars (unless we do, don’t judge!).
Women don’t need men to make decisions for us (EVER).
Women don’t need men to protect us (although we should ALL protect each other whenever possible).
Women need men to be ourselves. Without my son, I am not a mother. Without my Dad, I am not “a chip off the old block” (my Mom will back me up on this). Without my brother, I am not a punk (no really…no one else on the planet would describe me this way!).
Without men, there are no women. And vice versa. And who would want it any other way?