Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Code For Women: Women Need To "Femme Up"

Rachel Lucas wrote a post in response to my post about manly men. As always, she made eminently sensible points and I encourage you to go read the whole thing--every last little word. She brings forth the idea that women don't have a code like men do and that we all know a good man when we see one. She says:

So there’s really not a lot of mystery about what everyone agrees a “real” man is. We all know “real” men are:

Mentally, emotionally, and intellectually strong, even if not physically (crippled and elderly men can still be “real” men). Hardworking, honorable, honest, dutiful, protective of family and country. Brave, courageous, rational, reasonable, kindhearted, and respectful. Knowledgeable about how to survive in rough times and how to solve problems. And so on.

And then she says this, which is also spot on:

What I started wanting to know when I was about 16 was just how in the hell any of those things were (or should be) exclusive to men. I realized even then that in fact, they are not. All adults should have every one of those personality and character traits as a matter of course.

So then I started wondering why anyone bothered with the phrase “real man” at all. Don’t they just mean “real adult”? As a young girl, shouldn’t I strive to be exactly the kind of person I kept hearing a “real man” would be? I thought so, and I still do. Maybe that’s why you never hear me whining about how my butt looks in these jeans or crying that no one pays enough attention to me. Who gives a crap? I don’t need any reassurances about silly shit because apparently, I am a “real man”, secure in my own “manliness”. Even though I’m a woman.

Now, what the fuck? Why can’t I just say I’m a “real woman”? Because no one ever talks about that. Except in the context of how “real women” have curves and “real women” don’t look like Heidi Klum. Of course, of course it always comes back to looks and sex when you’re talking about women.
She reminds me of a few things. Most readers know that I was essentially a tomboy growing up. I loved sports and played with the boys all the way through chiropractic college. Most of my closest friends are men and always have been. My interests are considered more manly and blah, blah, blah....I've posted on this before. And here's why I enjoy the company of men:
(By the way, I think this is the core behind the phenomenon of some women (like me) who much prefer the company of men over that of other women. We say it’s because men are funnier, more reasonable, less complicated, whatever. But when you get right down to it, the real point is that women like me identify with men more because we strive to be the kind of person who, if we were male, would be called a “REAL man”. We appreciate their code because as women, we have no code of our own, at least not one that has any meaning or worth.)
So why don't women have a code, too? Women sure as hell need one. And I think there is a complicated list of expectations for a good woman but it is qualitatively different then men. At the minimum, you have the character requirements that men have and what Rachel described above. I think of Army wives (and husbands) when I think about that. They are living sacrificial, loyal, lives, too. In a sense, they take on the code when their spouses take on the code. They are choosing a way of life that is duty and honor-bound.

And many people aren't going to like this, but dang if Proverbs 31 didn't rattle around in my brain a bit when thinking about a virtuous woman. Basically, she cares for her family and works hard and is well-known and makes money, too. She also seems to have a flair for real estate. But the overall point seems to be that she is good by serving her spouse, serving her children, working and being dedicated to her job, and she cares for the less fortunate.

Maybe part of the problem with coming up with a Woman's Code is that part of what is essentially female, motherhood, is diminished today. I understand women choosing to forgo motherhood. But there is, in a good woman's character, the ability to mother, to care for others. Now, sometimes this nurturing ability is overstated or misused or a woman just ain't the motherly type. But a loving mother is a beautiful thing to behold, I feel. To see a woman changed and mature into this giving role is as inspiring to me as seeing a person in uniform. The underlying character is the same--giving and selflessly serving another. The thing is, just like manly men have been devalued, so have mothers.

Oh hell, since I'm wading into shark-infested waters again, I might as well go all the way. There are many selfish, bitchy women who just don't want the burden of caring for their husbands or their children or, really, anyone, besides themselves. Mind you, the unmanly man and the unwomanly woman share one trait: selfishness. For women, there is an expectation of caring and kindness in their communication and action. I don't know that men have that expectation. There is an expectation that she'll be sexy enough to marry but not slutty. Like the Usher song says, "We like a lady on the street and a freak in the bed." I don't think men have that expectation, either. There is an expectation (sometimes) that she'd be willing to sacrifice career advancement to birth and mother. So, women have the character expectations of a good man, but because they have a different physical role, they possess a uterus, there are also mothering and womanly expectations. I don't think that's so wrong, really. If a woman chooses to become a mother, I don't think it's too much to ask for her to be a character-filled, serving one. (And this list of what makes a good mother could fill many books, and over the years, has. Holy crap! Good luck measuring up these days. The bar is high.)

A guy commenting on a post some time ago said he wanted a woman like this: companionable, available, and agreeable. So in the relationship role, a man wants a friend, a lover and someone who isn't too difficult. That sounds reasonable enough. Is that much of a code? It certainly isn't a set of rules or anything. But isn't it just like a good man? You know a good woman when you see one.

Rachel is right about being a good, solid, grown up adult. A good man or woman possesses the same character traits even if the roles change and morph due to need or circumstance or desire. I suggest reading all the comments. A couple men made a list of what a good woman looks like and they are all worthwhile thoughts.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.


Jay said...

Sure, almost anything positive that you might say about a man would also be positive if said about a woman, and vice versa. But the things that we traditionally think of as the key qualities of a "good man" are not the same as those of a "good woman".

Like, ultimately, men and women hold a man to goals like being capable, strong (in some sense), and responsible. We hold women to goals like being caring, attractive (in some sense), and self-sacrificing.

Is it good for a woman to be responsible? Of course. Is it good for a man to be caring? Of course. But those aren't the things uniquely associated with each gender. Like, I want a car that's reliable. I want decorations in my living room that are pretty. Is it bad for a car to be pretty? Of course not. But that's not the primary criteria I use in judging whether this is a "good car".

Of course any feminist reading this will no doubt be furious that I suggest there should be any differences in how we "rate" people. Too bad.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to give people a list of compliments -- "You're smart", "You're hard-working", "You're a good parent", "You're good-looking", etc -- and ask them which compliments they would be most pleased to receive. Then compare the results for men and women. I'd be quite surprised if they were not very different.

Sarah said...

While my husband and his best friend were in Iraq, his friend told me I had to read the book Gates of Fire, because he said I reminded him of a Spartan woman. After I read the book, I realized what a profound compliment that was! Now that my husband is deploying again in a few days, I am rereading the book for inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Do you not understand that there is no 'women's code' because you all let feminists destroy it? And we helped--damn us.

And I was amazed at how many leapt for the further emasculization of a 'good adult'

Men and women are different, and what I see as a 'real woman' will not be the same as what I see as a 'real man'.

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