Remember the cartoon of the caveman dragging the cavewoman by the hair? No one knows if this depicted reality, but most of us grew up with the image. It is embedded in our psyches as an unconscious image of gender relations. Are you bristling yet?
The caveman-cavewoman image suggests one element of the beginning of gender relations: In the absence of language, size and strength were disproportionately influential. Additionally, since the average cave dwellers (who actually lived on the savannah) only lived to about 16, they missed the opportunity to develop more “mature” relationships in their bi-gender pairs. Imagine if today’s gender relations were solely determined by early adolescents!
Accelerated by the women’s movement in the 1960’s, there has been a steady increase in societal awareness of gender inequities , as well as in the understanding that “masculine” and “feminine” are descriptors that refer to much more than physiology. Caroline’s use of the “bell curve” to describe the distribution of “masculine” and “feminine” qualities among both genders helps forward this understanding.
As we better understand the value of the “masculine” and “feminine” for both genders, we are more able to watch and appreciate the process of our own evolution, and even affect it. At the same time, we are still dealing, often unconsciously, with the vestigial inertia of the “might makes right” world of the caveman, e.g. business organizations based on the military model, the elevation of individual achievement and competition over collaborative success.
Is this the right time for accelerating this process? John Gerzema surveyed 64,000 people in 13 countries. Of the adults he interviewed, 66% agreed with this statement: “The world would be a better place if men thought more like women.” His research further indicates that the most economically developed countries are those that are the most balanced in thinking in masculine and feminine ways. Gerzema claims, “Feminine values are ascendant.” And they pay off.
Does this mean men are doomed? Hardly. This rethinking of the masculine and feminine liberates men to adopt more characteristics like social awareness, collaboration and empathy traditionally considered “feminine.” And women can be freer to demonstrate traditionally “masculine” qualities like competitiveness, assertiveness and analytical thinking. What’s the benefit of such “psychological androgyny” for society? Almost by definition, it levels the playing field between the genders, furthering equality quite naturally. And it allows each individual to actualize his/her potential and contribute more fully to the common good. It allows more men who are sensitive; more women who are assertive.
It can be difficult to assess the current of the evolutionary river that carries us along. Some are impelled to swim against it. Most believe we are moving in the right direction. Still, those of us who are aware of the slow speed of the current, and more importantly, of the obstacles retarding its progress, have an obligation to work, each in our own way, to advance gender equality and a broader view of the feminine and the masculine. Other forms of equality have been actively fostered and embedded in our society over the last century, to the benefit of all. While the shrinking of the gender gap has had many articulate advocates, it lacks the groundswell necessary to advance it sufficiently to provide that level playing field for our children and grandchildren. By focusing on a future of equality that appreciates the feminine and the masculine in everyone, we are all more likely, in our daily and momentary decisions, to add to the momentum needed to achieve that vision.
How are you contributing to our evolution?