I swear this is the one time you’ll have to hear me wax on philosophical about gender roles and relationships (because let’s be real, I have very little experience in either fields) but here I go. I was sitting in on a class with an old professor, and let me tell you there’s nothing more depressing than being a college grad sitting in on a primarily freshman class, called “Family and Society” or some such nonsense. The focus of the class is to examine the gender roles that are perpetuated in different societies, which seems like an interesting enough premise. The first week of class was dedicated to the reading of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. The focus was on the character Nora, which for those of you who for some reason never took high school English, is the wife and mother who’s essentially oppressed by every male force in the play. Soon, the discussion turned to whether Nora was sympathetic or pitiable. She seemed to be well taken care of, but not respected. But more importantly, she knew how to get what she wanted. Some girls in the class indicated it was that Nora knew how to play off of her sexuality to get what she wanted whereas others disagreed, saying that she was merely playing the part of the child, just like her husband always treated her. This brought the discussion to modern day gender politics. Are women treated differently from Ibsen’s time? If so, how?
The astonishing thing was that the whole class was in agreement on one thing; that women manipulate. It didn’t matter what we were talking about, girls openly acknowledged that they manipulate men and even the relationships they have with other women are based in part of their mutual manipulation. In a cry that would’ve made Camille Paglia proud, these women admitted their manipulative tendencies. However, as soon as the men in the room joined in them, talking about how women had manipulated them in the past, it became sexist. The good ol’ double-standard, which always surfaces at one point or another when discussing gender, reared its ugly head. As the debate erupted, i began to think to myself, fearful of raising my hand in a class where I didn’t belong, the discussion turned inward. I considered how women in this class had admitted manipulation, but shrunk back when the men recognized it.
As the discussion turned to whether men manipulate or not, which the females in the class overwhelmingly declared so, another idea came to mind. Maybe what was being asked in the class was the wrong question, a thought that I of course wouldn’t dare express. The question of who’s more manipulative is a debate that could rage on well past graduation day, and it honestly seemed a little off base. The real question is “who is easier to manipulate?” not “who is more manipulative?”. Ask just about anyone around and that’s a much easier question to answer.
Well, I’ve been putting it off for about 3 paragraphs now, but the fact of the matter is, it’s us guys. This doesn’t make it right when men are manipulated or mean that as guys, we’re dumb or anything, it’s just the God’s honest truth. Let’s be real, it could be due to a variety of reasons, but one factor that comes up time and time again, whether gay or straight, as men, we’re visual. men have been proven to be much more visual when it comes to sexual attraction, and when we’re talking about manipulation the two seem to usually go hand in hand (though not always) and women as well as other men are well aware of that. AFter all, they say knowing is half the battle and if that’s the case, we called defeat before even putting our combat boots on. In the case of straight guys, you think a girl doesn’t know that you’ll buy her drinks if she wears the right dress? She’s well-aware and while some people may make a case for that as manipulation, which it pretty clearly is, it’s always empowerment. Women, and the right gay men, may be willing to bare a little skin but that’s at the cost of their counterparts self-respect. For all those guys out there who claim that women are more manipulative, two things. 1) Don’t act like it’s a one-way street. Guys manipulate to. And 2) If women are so manipulative, stop falling for it. It takes two to tango after all.
Well, after roughly 750 words, I’m feeling a little too Carrie Bradshaw for my own good. I don’t mean to dole out advice on the behaviors of men and women. I don’t even think I’d be very good at it. But the fact of the matter remains, it’s all about the battle of the sexes. Men vs. women is a never ending war. This whole battle analogy isn’t meant to evoke some dormant hostility or anything, it’s just an age-old saying. Regardless, as the battle of the sexes continues on, it looks like most of us guys are fighting a losing war.