Traveling the world, one gets the sense that the treatment of women may be the most dramatic cultural difference from country to country. It would be easy for one to generalize that women are treated with more respect and dignity in more developed, economically advanced societies, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. I have found that there is usually something positive to be learned from nearly every society’s approach to women, even if it is not so obvious, as was the case in the countries of the Persian Gulf where I lived and worked. I have also found that nearly every society, no matter how developed, is lacking in some way or another in its appreciation of women, their place in society, the dignity they should be afforded, etc. This may be partly due to my bias on the subject and partly due to the fact that there is no monolithic, “correct” approach to gender issues that spans the globe and humanity. But I can certainly speak to the women of my family and the importance they hold in my life and the life of my other male relatives.
It’s easy in a family like mine to under-appreciate the value of the women in our lives. It is not because of any shortage of women, they are the dominant sex by numbers in every living generation. But possibly, for that very reason, it has become easier to cloister ourselves, as men, in our own little world of male ignorance and ineptitude. I do not want to give the wrong impression of my family, because we are not a family that disrespects women and we certainly do not view their place in the family or society differently than the average American family, but that just might be the problem. Where does the average American family place a woman’s value and importance in the family and society? These thoughts are more acute now as I watch as my wife manages pregnancy with brilliance and poise.
Rather than answer the fluid question above, I would rather focus for a moment on what I know. I have been married for nearly two years now, and my wife has given my life the missing sauce. Yes, that’s right, I am like tasteless pasta. I have come to appreciate the women in my life in a different, more complex way now that I am married and expecting a child. They challenge us to think differently, colorfully is probably the best way to describe it, and without the cold ordered insensitivity that rules our thoughts. I guess I should not use the pronoun “us” too loosely, as my feelings and thoughts on this subject are likely not those of “us” men as a whole. But what has brought me to this gender-based topic is the flurry of life events my family has experienced in recent years. From pregnancies, as mentioned before, to surgeries, career changes to engagements, and unfortunately, even death, our family has had its share of, “Oh wow! Seriously?” moments. Each of these moments has been punctuated by the magnificence of the women in my family.
No one has quite the punctuation that my wife does. She is emotionally intelligent. In fact, she is to emotional intelligence (EI) what Marie Curie is to chemistry. I am, on the other hand, emotionally challenged. That dynamic will never change, although with my wife’s help, I am becoming slightly less dense. My mother and my grandmother also gave me important lessons in EI growing up, but I was too juvenile to realize the importance of such subtleties. My father and grandfather (sorry guys) are generally almost as lacking as I am in that department (inextinguishable burdens to my mother and grandmother), which is why I lumped “us” into the stereotyped males. We are dense, like mercury, capable of measuring temperature, but incapable of understanding why it is freezing or burning hot.
I want to take a moment to thank all the women in the world for putting up with “us” and doing it willingly. I am not sure why you do. Perhaps there is some hidden, mystical, even divine reason. Maybe we offer something, anything worthy enough for you to be willing to put up with a bunch of emotional bricks. Or perhaps, and more likely, you take pity on us like pets who depend on their owners for survival. And rather than see us hopelessly stumble through our emotionless lives like blindfolded idiots on a steep slippery wet path leading down into a murky abyss filled with the skeletons of less fortunate men, you reach out a hand, steady our stride, and bring us kicking and screaming into the light.