By: Lykke E. Andersen*
Today is International Women’s Day and you are likely to be bombarded with posts, articles and speeches listing all the ways in which women are wronged and discriminated against. Some of it is true in some places, and there are definitely problems that have to be dealt with, but the concept of Women’s Day still bothers me, for several reasons.
First, designating one day as Women’s Day would seem to imply that the other 364 days of the year are men’s days. That is a very long way from equality. Either we should have one Women’s day and one Men’s day, or neither of the two. Anything else would be discriminating.
Second, Women’s Day tends to perpetuate the perception that women are weak and repressed and unfairly treated. But why is it that in almost every country on Earth (except Botswana, Swaziland and Mali), women live longer than men? (1). Either women are built much tougher or they live easier, less dangerous and less stressful lives than men. Women are a lot smarter and stronger than feminists give them credit for.
Few people have noticed that by now there are more women than men enrolled in higher education worldwide, and the women generally get better grades and are more likely to graduate than men (2). Thus, the main problem of women will soon be that they cannot find men of their own caliber, even if they scour the entire Earth. They are unlikely to marry high-school and university dropouts, so lots of women will either stay single or perhaps hook up with other women. Either way, we should soon be worried about a growing underclass of ill-educated men without the subtle skills that women have always used to get what they wanted even if they were openly discriminated against.
Third, I think the whole “Men versus Women” worldview is harmful. For a long time we have brought up boys to be chauvinistic assholes, because that is the behavior that was considered “manly,” whereas girls have been encouraged to handicap themselves with high heels and long hair, which makes it much too easy to assault them (the probability of getting raped drops to virtually zero if you have short hair and wear practical shoes). Guys who actually act like nice, intelligent, decent human beings often risk being ridiculed and called “faggots” or “queers” by other guys, a behavior designed to perpetuate gender stereotypes. It is somewhat easier for girls to express boy-like behavior, as tomboys tend to be more socially accepted than girly guys.
But deep down we all harbour both male and female characteristics to different degrees. Some people are obviously males and others obviously females, but for a lot of people, the distinction is not so clear, and some people even feel completely opposite from the physical gender they were assigned at birth (see, for example, Geena Rocero’s beautiful TED talk or Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s daughter who wants to be called John).
If I had to put percentages on myself, I would probably say 40% man and 60% woman. I cut my hair short when I was 11 or 12 years old, always preferred to play with the boys, never had a doll in my life, and chose an extremely male-dominated profession (econometrics). While I did give birth to three daughters, I am not at all like the other moms, and at social school events, I am a lot more likely to be found at the fathers’ table than the mothers’ table. Fortunately, kids love their parents however they are, and society ought to be just as tolerant of deviations from the norm. Instead of propagating gender stereotypes this Women’s Day, we should embrace a more fluid gender view and celebrate the delightful diversity of gender styles and preferences.
For your reference:
(1) Population Reference Bureau data here: http://www.prb.org/DataFinder/Topic/Rankings.aspx?ind=6
* Dr. Lykke E. Andersen is the Director of the Center for Economic and Environmental Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at the Institute of Advanced Development Studies (INESAD), La Paz, Bolivia.