I tend to talk about women as a whole group, but while I definitely prefer the female gender of our species over the male (both visually and for their company), when I say, “I love women,” I am speaking incorrectly. I know this. I think that most folks I speak to understand my intended meaning, but semantically I am lumping every adult human female into a single group that I have a collective affection for… and that’s not accurate. If I were to phrase this more specifically, for less casual conversation, I should instead say, “I love women who ______ (are cute, have a nice laugh, are creative, are sweet and motherly, etc.).
The same idea is in play when addressing “women” in any capacity, including their social roles.
Doing a quick search on the Google for “woman’s role” (not including all other variations) produced 104 million results. It’s certainly a topic that a lot of people are talking about (too many or too few, depending on your stance) and there are certainly a lot of opinions to be heard, but while I tend to hear a lot from the opposing sides, I more rarely hear from the middle-ground. Do I call myself a feminist? No. Am I an anti-feminist? No. How can that be? Magic. Do I have personal preferences as to what my ideal mate would be like as a woman? Yes. Does this preference extend as a limitation to what other women can be? No. Are women more than just their bodies? Of course. Are their bodies still something beautiful? Definitely. Am I asking a lot of rhetorical questions? Yes.
Women are the prettier sex of our species, and because of that, many issues about women’s rights tend to revolve around that aspect and its historical/idiotic limitations. You will find a lot of attractive women shared on my website, and I have no qualms about how appealing I find the female form from head to toe, but that’s also due to the nature of the medium. It’s trickier to share a woman’s great personality in an image. Of course, it’s not impossible…
With the recent news and trailers for Batman v. Superman trailer, I’ve been discussing the new DC movie universe with my friend, Nick, and what we would do differently (aside from everything). The topic of Wonder Woman came up, and I came upon an image of hers that flowed from the pen of comic writer Gail Simone.
I absolutely adore that panel; it’s just fantastic character. It doesn’t seek to make a point about women, it simply shows us an interesting bit of personality. Wonder Woman’s foxy and strong, but what really sells this is her concluding line — a fun and hilarious reminder that she’s not quite one of us ;). I actually fell into a bit of reading on Gail Simone because of this panel, as I’m not a comic reader and hadn’t heard of her previously, and seeing some of her other work leads me to believe that she’s just a great writer… no need for gender specification or qualification on that.
The discussion of a woman’s role in the world extends a little beyond the pages of comics, too, of course. During the last US presidential election period, a fun image popped up online that really sums up not only my appreciation for Ron Paul, but also how I feel when these matters come into conversation:
It is a very popular notion to discuss people in groups, in part because it’s simply easier and, in some ways, necessary for sane conversation, but also because not doing so can shatter one’s personal beliefs if they are too weak. Being forced to look at women as individuals, instead of a collective group, will definitely bring up a lot of similarities, but also plenty of variety. So, as I’ve brought you here to discuss a woman’s role in society, I do have answer as to what it “should be.”
That answer is: there is no “should be.”
We’re removing my personal tastes and opinions from the mix, here, because I think this subject is more important than to simply share what I feel the ideal female traits are. Women are people, just as black people are people, just as kids are people. We’re all individuals, so I don’t think of “should” phrases when thinking about groups, in this case women, because I don’t really think much about groups at all, anyways. Women have been oppressed in the past, and still are, but the same could be said for any grouping of people: short people, ugly men, stupid Chinese girls, boys who can’t grow beards. Please don’t misconstrue this point as a belittling of anything anyone has gone through, as that is far from my intention. I simply feel that referring to the woes, “should” phrases, and group-attributes tends to do more harm than good in these matters, as it merely focuses even more on segregation by differences. Furthermore, when on the topic of oppression or -isms (racism, sexism, heightism, whaterverism), this segregation then makes it very easy to compare how badly different groups have it and contemplate who has it better/worse.
I think, sadly, many of these well-intentioned ideas actually hurt the cause they aim to support. In part, this is due to the aforementioned divisiveness, but it also due to the “shattering of one’s personal beliefs” I talked about earlier. It is said that women can do whatever men can do, and the idea behind that is true in many ways (aside from issues of biological differences), but “can” doesn’t infer “should.” Is a woman who is a homemaker less than one who has broken through some socially accepted boundary? Is the latter a worse mom/partner than the former? Perhaps one is less inspirational to some and the other less appealing to some, but I would never refer to either as subjectively “less.” It is very easy, as I see it done quite often, to slip into a mindset of generalities and “should” concepts, and in effect then limit the group-in-question in the opposite direction. If, however, we focus on the person, on the liberties of individuals, as opposed to trying to correct imbalances by further entrenching the mindset of lumping folks into groups, I think we can answer these types of questions quite clearly.
So, semantics and philosophy addressed, what is a woman’s role in society? Maybe she’s academically ambitious and wants to lead a university’s political science study program. Perhaps she enjoys being able to be a stay-at-home mom who is there when her kids come home. It’s possible that she would like to work in a construction yard but is practically limited by her diminutive size and so half-begrudgingly takes on a different job. Maybe she is kind and gentle; maybe she’s a brash and aggressive jerk. Maybe she loves wearing dresses; maybe she wears jeans or dresses or whatever random thing she finds in her closet. I couldn’t tell you what a woman’s role in society is, because that entirely depends on the individual.
Women are people, and the role they should have in society is something I encourage you to never try to define by looking at them as a collective group. I like what I like, and you like what you like, and there are certainly absolute truths in this world, but be wary of anyone who tries to define what a woman’s role should be in society, one way or the other, because that person is thinking in very broad strokes… and that’s just not very bright :).