She scratched her head for a second and slowly placed her hand back on the table.
“I guess the most important thing that I’ve learned is that Feminism isn’t about hating men, but…well…more about equality of the sexes.”
The process of interviewing had been long and tiring but here, at last, was what I had been waiting all day for. Finally, as some might call it, was the breakthrough moment when this student understood that something that she had learned had actually changed the way in which she viewed the world. I left the interview room happy that this student had come to a deeper understanding about a subject but didn’t think much about our conversation for a couple of days.
Then, while catching up on e-mails, I happened upon a news story where a group of men marched against domestic violence. “Great!” I thought, “It’s always nice to see males take on this issue.” But as I looked further into the event I realized that the primary focus of the march was to end domestic violence instigated by men on women.
Okay, sure, if you play the odds, male on female violence probably represents the cases that you hear about most often. However, the question that I had was, “Why did it matter?”
While I certainly don’t want to imply that any type of domestic violence is necessarily less deserving of attention than any other, why is it that we are so eager to get fired up about protecting women but not about protecting men from females? Or even from other males for that matter? Can you make a case where a male is physically able to defend himself from a woman and therefore doesn’t need outside help? What about non-physical abuse? If so, what does this say about your assumptions about gender roles? What happens to this argument when the aggressor and the victim are of the same sex? Is this any worse or better than an assumption about Feminists?
For me, sex education is not just about the act itself but also the host of things that surround the deed; gender roles, gender stereotype, and perception of gender all engender inform the various ways that we interact with our sexual partners. How do our expectations for our partners (or others) depend on our preconceived notions of their gender? For that matter, how do our expectations of ourselves hinge upon this?
Sometimes I think that it would be easier if we had been assigned roles in life—we would know our job, our lines, and our costume. The other way to think about it, though, is that we now have the freedom and the opportunity to define ourselves as we see fit. Instead of asking ourselves “Who should I be?” we get to inquire “Who will I be?”