Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Language, sensitivity and sexism

People may have trouble seeing how a study on pain connects to the ongoing and usually ignored omnipresence of patriarchal dominance in culture and language, but my mind works in unusual ways. The headline of that article could have read "Duh, Men Are Literally Insensitive" without losing any accuracy, relation to the story or journalistic punch if we had the cultural underpinning that what a woman felt was the norm.

I can hear it now. That headline puts men down. It makes men look dumb and dull, but the other headline can just as easily be read to make women look whiny and weak when the main point of the article is that women have on average twice as many nerve receptors in facial skin as men do,

The differences between the sexes
should be celebrated, not used as a tool to make one
lesser than the other.
making a difference in how the sexes need to be medically treated.

There's nothing wrong in not being able to feel as much as woman, though I'm very grateful that I have all those extra nerve endings. Apply that difference in the ability to feel a kiss or a caress, and is it any wonder that women's sexuality has scared some men for a long, long time? It doesn't make a man inferior. The differences between the sexes should be celebrated, not used as a tool to make one lesser than the other. This pendulum has swung to both extremes too many times. We just need to be aware that what is normal for a man may or may not be normal for a woman. When we assume there is only one normality for everybody, we have problems.

The word patriarchy often gets tied to a knee jerk rejection of all that is male, as if masculinity itself is wrong somehow, yet I know of no other word to describe the completely male-as-norm mindset it describes. I get tired of hearing that we live in a post-feminist era as if there is no longer any need for the thinking that drove the feminist action of the seventies. Only the language needs that have changed. A feminist in the seventies didn't need to call herself a suffragette, even though she and her sisters from fifty and more years prior were both working towards the equality of people regardless of sex. Thirty years after marching women in miniskirts protested unequal pay, housing, unemployment, lending, legal status, gravitas and more, we may not need to call ourselves feminists anymore, even though that is a label I still proudly wear. Their larger goal, the one shared by the suffragettes, that one we still need to works towards, is the same whatever a woman or man who believes in equality calls themselves.



Blogger Cynnie said...

Oh goodness..

This is a fight I've been in the midst of my whole life..

I really love men..but i feel towards the majority of them like i do towards a 10 year child..'oh how go sit down and be quiet"
There are very few men i've ever met that I thought were a real peer..

Women in my family are powerful..
we are the stronger sex, we have such a matriarchal dynamic.
But its an illusion , cause once you step out in the real realize its a mans game.

it just makes you crazy..

November 29, 2006 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cynthia, I just left a long comment that seems to have evaporated in the context of the new beta sign in. I'll come back later and see if by any chance it showed up. Too bad if it disappeared -- it was a brilliant piece of writing.

November 29, 2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

LOL at Robin's comment...

I wanted to read the article, but the link didn't work :(

I dunno. I think that just because the media says we're in a "post-feminist era" don't make it so. Do we haveequal pay, housing, benefits, legal status, etc.? I don't think so...

And as long as we do not, I will also still proudly wear the label of "feminist."

November 30, 2006 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm..2 for2. I forsee a drastic plunge in comments until we learn that you have to sign into beta BEFORE you bother to write the comment.

November 30, 2006 7:10 AM  

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