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Old 10-07-2002, 07:12 PM   #1
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Uncommon Sense: Why Can't A Man Be More Like A Woman? And Vice-Versa

I read this article in Oprah's magazine and typed it all out to share. Please read it all- there's a lot to discuss. I'll post some of my thoughts in a little while, but it really is an engaging and interesting article. (Any spelling mistakes are my own.)


Uncommon Sense: Why Can't A Man Be More Like A Woman? And Vice-Versa

Men are strong, silent, sports obsessed, and turn over onto their sides at the worst possible times. Women are thoughtful, good with thank-you notes, and want to talk, right? Wrong. Get over it, says AMY BLOOM.


We all know at least one big, straight guy who embroiders for relaxation, and maybe more than one wife and mother with a black belt in tae kwon do and no makeup in her gym bag. We all know some real men hate football; some real women love it. Academics call this gender nonconformity, and they make it sound rare- or at least subversive. Fundamentalists fear and despise it (how will we know who’s who or what’s what, I suppose), and whether you’re Liddy Dole (ladylike and marine-tough) or Bill Gates (cutthroat and mild mannered), most of us are mixed human bouquets of personality traits, a lot more variegated in our gender styles than in the old days and still somehow anxious about how our new bouquet will be received and perceived.

We want our girls to be strong, self-reliant, and healthy individualists- though not so much so that they don’t get asked to the prom, yet we all suspect, even if we don’t want to, that for girls, strong, smart and healthy isn’t always the most reliable indicator of prom-ability. We want our sons to be sensitive and affectionate, but not to the point that their friends make fun of them (or beat them up). And at what moment in our evolution did good manners and literacy become so much the sole province of gay men that whole sitcoms pivot on the notion that straight men understand neither women nor language nor art nor romance? (Italians and Jews and African-Americans complain to the networks when they’re defamed, why don’t straight men?) Even at our advanced stage, with women on the Supreme Court and on the basketball court, there is still the line. The line that we don’t want to cross. The line that marks where acceptable ends and dangerous begins. The line that requires women athletes to wear makeup, long nails, and high heels whether it suits them or not. (You don’t have to, of course; just don’t expect to do many endorsements if you don’t.) The line that keeps men from taking paternity leave and keeps us all from understanding why they don’t.

In one recent and well-constructed study, only a third of all the “normal women” studied were shown to be, by their own reports, and those of the clinicians, “classically” feminine. Clearly, few of us are what we have agreed to believe our gender is. The standard we set for normal women is so narrow that plenty of us normal women- hetero and homo- are left out. This knife of the “standard” cuts sharp and crazy in our culture, and like most trends and fancies, the craziness is most apparent in retrospect. Now we’re all sophisticated enough to be appalled or amused by medieval or colonial or Victorian nonsense. Maybe my grandchildren will look back on the magazine images of the very thin women with the very large breasts, the books that tell women how to “catch” a husband, and The Man Show just as we look back on the common Victorian belief that voting made women a) demented and b) sterile. (Actually, I do understand how following politics closely can make you a little nuts.)
We are so much better than we were before, even in little ways (I remember freezing my tail off all winter in 1966 because we couldn’t wear pants to school, even in deep snow), that I almost hate to make a fuss over where we’re not. Just as fish might be able to tell us about the ocean but aren’t likely to mention that it’s wet, we can describe all sorts of things about our culture but may not even notice some of its central qualities. We can shake our heads over Britney Spears (let me reveal my bias: I’d rather have my teenager get her navel pierced than long for breast implants, rather have a girl with a shaved head than one who emulates the nymphet-with-a-lollipop look) but not think too much about what she mean. We can appreciate or loathe thugged-out rappers (bias again: big fan of Mary J. Blige, not so much of Kurupt), but we might wonder how we got to such a point that a boy offering his seat to a girl on a bus will be showered with catcalls of “Faggot!” from his friends. (I was there and it was not in Compton.) Our cultural norms and myths make us feel better and safer; at the same time, they modify and constrain the behavior of most of us. Like old-fashioned girdles, “norms” mold a style that isn’t humanly possible, and then we all try to fit into them so we can look as we should.

Many of us- sick of news from the margins, worn out by the sand shifting beneath our assumptions – like to imagine Nature as a sweet, simple voice: tulips in spring, Vermont’s leaves falling in autumn. There are, of course, occasional mistakes – a leaf that doesn’t fall, a clubfoot. Our mistake is to think that the wide range of humanity represents aberration when in fact it represents just what it is: range. Nature is not two little notes – masculine or feminine – on a child’s flute; Nature is more like Aretha Franklin: vast, magnificent, capricious – occasionally hilarious- and infinitely varied. The platypus is not a mistake. Even the sex-changing animals, coral reef fish and Chinook salmon among them, are not mistakes. The cactus and the blue potato are not mistakes. They may not be as reassuring a sight as tulips are to postcard lovers, but that doesn’t make them deformities. The hot winters of Australia are not errors. They are just not the cold winters of northern Europe, which typify for many of us what winter should be.

After several centuries of confusion, we seem to have gotten the difference between gender and sexuality reasonably clear: Men are not defined primarily as creatures who only desire women, and desiring men is not the thing that makes a person female. But we are still baffled by the differences between sexuality and temperament, between one’s sexual nature and one’s personality, even between gender and personality.

There is a whole cinematic history of fops and cowgirls, ladies’ men with marcelled waves and tough, wisecracking broads; and where we once understood that one might be male, effeminate, and very heterosexual (all of Spencer Tracy’s rivals for Katharine Hepburn come to mind), or female, masculine, and very heterosexual (Rosalind Russell and Thelma Ritter), we seem to have now forgotten that. We barely grasp the high-heeled, Chanel-clad lesbian or the football-playing, beer-swigging gay man, as if, surely, some norm is violated when women who don’t have sex with men like lacy lingerie anyway, and men who don’t sleep with women still enjoy televised sports, cars, and sweat-pants. In our collective cultural wish not to be out of it or old-fashioned, we’ve chosen to be simpleminded. We pretend that sexual orientation and personal style are one (which is why it makes headlines when conservative Republicans are caught fooling around with other people’s wives, and even their husbands).

As University of Hawaii School of Medicine professor Mickey Diamond, PhD, said to me, “Nature loves variety. It’s people who can’t stand it.” Somehow, presented with all of Nature’s possibilities, a wild assortment of gender, erotic preference, and the vast array of personalities, we throw most of it to the ground and insist that whatever it is, there can only be two, and they should match. (Like the plaid couch and twin armchairs of Donna Reid.)

No one knows why the loss of the mother early in life seems to lead some women into the helping professions, some to divorce often, some men to have extramarital affairs, and others to cross-dress. No one knows why some men with terrific heterosexual parents as models grow up gay and why others with terrible parents or none at all grow up heterosexual. (Although I don’t expect to see a lot of studies devoted to the latter.) No oneknows why so many women prefer the Marx Brothers to the Three Stooges, and no one knows why most men- gay and straight – leave the lid up. I am as much a believer in these differences and mysteries as anyone; I just don’t want us to think that the differences between us are so much greater than the differences, the combinations, within us and within both genders.

No one knows how much of our identity is a biological result or a mix of the biological, the psychological, and the cultural. (These things are difficult to unravel. Since we are all born into a culture of one kind or another, how do we sift that out of our assessments?)

Lots of us know that we are not the magazine cover, not the “standard,” that we are interesting mixes of our father’s narrow shoulders and our mother’s long-shoreman vocabulary, or of his determined patriotism and her gentle skepticism; that even if we drive the minivan to soccer practice, camouflaged in “nice lady” clothing, even if we happily prefer makeup to masonry, most of us are really cactus and platypus, blue potatoes and Sarah Bernhardt at 55 performing brilliant as Hamlet…and that this is not only a good thing but a natural thing. Nature contains multitudes, and although she makes mistakes, human creativity, choice, and life’s large possibilities are not among them.
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Old 10-08-2002, 11:07 AM   #2
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Re: Uncommon Sense: Why Can't A Man Be More Like A Woman? And Vice-Versa

Well the part that mainly interested me in this article is the following:


Quote:
Originally posted by oliveu2cm

And at what moment in our evolution did good manners and literacy become so much the sole province of gay men that whole sitcoms pivot on the notion that straight men understand neither women nor language nor art nor romance?
Why does this happen? Doesn't it outrage you men out there? It gets me upset b/c it conditions women to lower their expectations from men (plus allows for that ridiculous "boys will be boys" notion), and it conditions men to not live up to their fullest potential, because the "minimum" for a guy is not only fine, it's celebrated.

I have more to add, but i'll wait to see if anyone else is interested in discussing with me.
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Old 10-08-2002, 12:00 PM   #3
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I agree w some parts of this article.
I dated alot of angry women
Alot of these women said I was too sentimental

I dont know if John Gray would agree w you Olive.
He says were from different planets

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Old 10-08-2002, 12:02 PM   #4
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First off, allow me to counter-attack:

Women, as I've found it, are two-faced: they will say to your face that they want a nice, sensitive guy, but when offered one, they will generally take the good-looking bad boy first.

But, if you would like to indulge in a bit of stereotypical reality, my suggestion for women who want the nice, sensitive, good-looking, somewhat gay-acting, but really straight guy is to go for the artsy boys. Trust me...I fall over them every time and end up getting hurt.

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Old 10-08-2002, 12:11 PM   #5
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Re: Re: Uncommon Sense: Why Can't A Man Be More Like A Woman? And Vice-Versa

Quote:
Originally posted by oliveu2cm
Doesn't it outrage you men out there?
not really, it annoys me
but not more than for example the way men are talked about over here at Interference in threads where the subject is relationships

in those threads usually the same stereotypes are thrown around as in this article


I think men and women mostly are the same, want the same, act the same and do the same things
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Old 10-08-2002, 12:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
First off, allow me to counter-attack:

they will say to your face that they want a nice, sensitive guy, but when offered one, they will generally take the good-looking bad boy first.


Melon
Knowing women the way I do..this rings very true

Donahue types get stepped all over by women.
Gladiator type fellows fare the best.

Al Bundys are despised.
Johnny Bravos are just simply misunderstood

thank u-

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Old 10-08-2002, 01:13 PM   #7
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Re: Re: Re: Uncommon Sense: Why Can't A Man Be More Like A Woman? And Vice-Versa

Quote:
Originally posted by Salome

I think men and women mostly are the same, want the same, act the same and do the same things
Very true Salome. I guess it annoys me the same way, how women are always represented as "weak" or "nagging" or whatever. I like your "bottom line" point though.


Quote:
Originally posted by Melon

First off, allow me to counter-attack:

Women, as I've found it, are two-faced: they will say to your face that they want a nice, sensitive guy, but when offered one, they will generally take the good-looking bad boy first.
I hope you didn't see this as an attack, Melon. (i'm confused as to what it is you're 'counter-attacking' actually.. )

And your post made me smile. I've just found the most amazing guy I've ever met, and I can happily say that I waited & somehow found that "nice sensitive guy"- and i'm takin him!

..I do see what you are saying though, and I think this is a case of insecure women you are speaking about, who feel they are not worthy or nothing 'better' will come along or just like chaos in their lives.

Diamond.. Al Bundy?? ..

different planets!

thx for your replies!
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Old 10-08-2002, 02:41 PM   #8
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This isn't a bash men article...its a bash the stereotypes that no one fits article, so there is no reason to counter-attack..although I do agree that I have seen similar complaints to Mellon's for years. I myself went for the nice guy. I don't want drama in my life!

I'm a straight female. I like the outdoors. I like computers. I like Tolkien/Star Wars and U2. I don't wear make up and could care less about clothes (mostly because I'm fashion blind! I don't like to shop unless its in a book or CD/video store. I do on occaison wear jewelery but that's usually because I want someone to see I'm wearing their gift...I normally don't buy any for myself. On my anniversary/birthday we don't need to have candlelights and and dinner out...I would much rather we both take the day off work and go hike in the mountains...and I won't get mad if you give me something so called 'unromantic' . Any gift is fine.

There is nothing wrong if you like the things I don't...but the thing is..where do I fit in? Not in the conventional sterotypes obviously..and I stopped trying to conform a long time ago.

We're all ok...we just need permission to believe that..and someone whom we trust to come out and say it!

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Old 10-10-2002, 08:17 AM   #9
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Hello Everybody...

The picture is just for pure amusement - don't take it seriousely! I remembered this advert when i read this thread ,-)

It's from a verry famous watchmaker from Swizerland and says:

Almost as complicated as a Woman, but never late.



Not written on this advert: The watch is called "Grande Complication" and is the most complicated watch (from the mechanical point of view) in the world.

enjoy,
Klaus
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