My maternal grandmother instilled this in me, and I’m pretty sure it was reinforced by my mother, and certainly by the culture around us, television, movies, radio, books, magazines, etc. I loved culture and media as a kid, much more than math and science. And I only had a brother, no sisters. People actually said out loud that specific women were saints, esp when they were probably the opposite. Sugar and spice and everything nice. As a kid I believed it and not at a superficial level.
I remember saying to my grandmother I wished men could be more like women. I cringe when I think of that now. What a betrayal of myself and my gender. When I’ve told that story to women friends they are surprised, even shocked, probably because they had never considered what gender must look like from the point of view of a boy.
I think a lot of people of my generation were raised like this. We don’t think of ourselves in a good way. We don’t speak up for each other, often we don’t speak up for ourselves. We go quiet at the first sign of conflict.
If you listen to men talk about this among ourselves — you might find the reasons surprising. I’m not going to go into them here. It’s off topic from the question I want to ask.
Anyway, I eventually learned that women are not saints, they’re people — with varying qualities, just like men. Women will be the first to tell you that other women are jerks. Then come the stories! What a trip. I’ve seen it up close at rare moments when I was in the middle of competitive women. It was nice to have the attention, but I quickly understood it wasn’t about me. I was being used as a pawn in politics between women. And the battles can be very bare knuckle and the losers end up in a bad bad place. Who knew! I was raised to believe these people are saints.
A few years ago I came across an audio tape of my grandmother, after she was gone for 30 years. I get goosebumps thinking about it. As a man, I understood much better how manipulative she was. As I kid, I accepted her reality, as kids do of their caregivers. I can see much more clearly now how my view of the world was shaped by hers, and it was not a nice vision.
If all this is true, and women are people, not saints — then why in Internet discourse are we asked to act as if they are? When will people talk about genders without the PR and closer to reality?
This is a striking facet of the debate about the Mia Farrow/Woody Allen family.
Isn’t it likely that the blame for the mess is shared equally among the adults, and the children are paying the price for the adults inability to act like reasonable people?
Isn’t this how it always is in families? The adults act irresponsibly and the kids are left to pick up the pieces and try to make sense of their lives, the best they can.
Every family has problems. I’m glad my family’s problems are not discussed in public like this. As people get older, and new generations replace the old, there are opportunities to do better, consciously — to decide not to let the ghosts run our lives.
Anyway, that’s where I’m going to stop. I put a picture of a wholesome family at the top of this post. Ponder it please, and think about how different real life is from that image. I’d like to see more of the real stuff in discourse on the Internet, and in the pages of the NY Times, and less of the fantasy. Just one man’s opinion. 😉