As International Women’s Day dawns, one cannot help but look back on the events of the last few days, the last few weeks, even the last few years as arguably the antithesis of everything this day is meant to represent. It is almost as if, societally, we are seeing a hard return swing of the pendulum, a pushback by the men of the world against the leaps forward made by women over the last hundred years – in some ways an all too predictable accompaniment to the collective freak-out over the uncertainty of the future and the resulting rise of right-wing extremism in mainstream thought. Neanderthal legislators in several states are ramming through draconian measures forcing women to submit to invasive medical procedures prior to being able to legally terminate a pregnancy. Even the basic freedom to use contraception is under threat, with the gargantuan gasbag of the airwaves, Rush Limbaugh, suggesting that women who use it are asking for subsidized promiscuity. Fortunately he’s been subjected to a massive backlash because of his remarks, but it’s distressing that the political climate has become so anti-woman that he felt he could say something like that in the first place – it’s from the same line of thought that allowed the President of Afghanistan to pass a resolution declaring men to be fundamentally more important than women. Some might ask what the hell has happened lately, but the question goes deeper than that. It strikes at the very heart of our entire civilization, and the basic fact that men simply cannot understand women – and what they can’t understand, they try to control.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian features among its many hilarious scenes a bit where the People’s Front of Judea adopts a resolution that one of its male members can have the right to have babies, despite having no womb – “Where’s the fetus gonna gestate? In a box?” The fellow at the center of the bit opines that his interest in women comes from his desire to be one – in a way, a basic expression of men’s inability to figure women out. Pagan beliefs speak of woman as the triple goddess – the mother, the maiden and the crone, a holy trinity of complexity, a balanced equation of purity, maturity, wisdom, emotion and above all, beauty. Try explaining that to the guys at the bar on a Saturday night in single syllable words using visual aids and pie charts while the game’s on. And let me know how it turns out.
There is no way to understand a woman other than being one yourself, and that drives men absolutely bonkers. Women have a power over men that is inscrutable to men as well as infuriating, because we pride ourselves on our ability to remain in control at all times, indomitable masters of our domain – one glimpse of a beautiful woman walking by and that all goes out the window. Men’s measurement of their lives, their virility, their achievements, their status, is directly related to how much attention it garners them from women; what women think of them. Advertisers understand this, which is why you can put the world’s most useless white elephant in the hands of a woman in a bikini and sales will explode. And it’s why the most confident man turns to an insecure pile of jelly if a woman for whom he feels desire isn’t interested. His very existence as a man of importance is threatened. Men don’t like giving up that control to anyone. To paraphrase Yoda, insecurity then turns to fear, fear turns to anger, anger turns to hate.
Women are insulted, humiliated, shunned, subjugated, beaten, violated, harassed, dismissed and even murdered because men can’t accept that they are different and special – perhaps, in what is man’s deepest, darkest fear, more special or indeed, better than them. And men have perfected this pattern over thousands of years to the point where women think it’s their fault. They are made to feel inadequate, to hate their bodies, to crave a fantasy ideal of physical and emotional perfection that is so utterly foreign to what it truly means to be a woman – because that is what a man thinks they should be. A powerful, intelligent and confident woman – the actual ideal, at least from this man’s admittedly limited perspective – is dismissed as a harpy, a harridan, or a bitch, and sadly still in many countries, put to death. Every woman held back from achieving her potential is another notch in man’s ever-lengthening belt of oppression, and every time a woman fails in any way because of a man’s bruised ego, we should all be utterly ashamed of ourselves. Our collective human potential for greatness will never be achieved until every last one of us, man and woman, is permitted to be who they are, utterly free of the archaic constraints of a patriarchal society that men fail to realize holds them back as much as it keeps women down. In the end, men don’t need to understand women, they just need to accept them – and let them be who they are. Despite traditional expectation, we might just find that we enjoy the results.