Friday, May 26, 2006

Man And Woman

Man And Woman

I think I am about to showcase my ignorance, but it should be entertaining nonetheless. So be it.

What is Man? What is Woman? The Question sets a kaleidoscope of images, sounds, smells, and memories spiraling up to the forefront of my mind (whatever the Mind Is and Is Not) from somewhere deep down on the bottom, from somewhere within the insulated darkness of my Being. But it is all a confusion of conflicting and sometimes unconnected Thoughts. There is no Order. If I grab hold of any one Thought and follow it through, I find it comes to it's own exclusionary conclusion, in other words, it's rightful and obligatory extinction. It's all appears connected, but when I follow a particular train of thought through, I find it very lonely and without support from all the rest of the thoughts swirling about this topic.

But then a voice from way down deep brushes aside the cacophony and quietly states, "Be a man." My father, the atheist, taught me that to 'be a man' meant these five things, in order of importance:

1) Don't hurt a woman
2) Don't hurt anyone weaker than me
3) Don't let anyone else hurt anyone weaker then they are
4) Help those in need
5) Accept responsibility for my actions

(Those five represent fingers being folded, the resulting fist means, if all else fails . . . call in the Marines)

Those are good, simple words to live by (and it doesn't escape me that to "be a Man" is to "be Good"). These rules give Meaning to Life. However, it comes to my attention that except for #1, and then only on the barest of technicalities, if then, these words could very well apply completely to someone being told to "be a Woman." In fact, it would be better to use those precepts to describe what it means to "be a Human." I think you can figure out why Women should not be harmed, even by other Women so I'll leave that for later -- #1 applies.

Hmmm. I wonder what my father taught my sister?

Anyway, given that, I am no closer to defining Man. I will definitely have to leave describing Woman off until after Man, for the obvious reason that I am a man and therefore I must first figure out what I Am before I can assess The Other.

Another lesson my father taught to me, this one solely by deed, is that a Man is a Good Father. I'll get to "Good" later, and I promise I'll sum "Good" up succinctly, but for now know that I am using the word "Father" to describe a paternal kinship connection between a man, a child, and the mother. The attributes a 'good father' must have, in order of prominence, have been handed down by tradition to me, and are:

1) To Love
2) To Protect
3) To Provide
4) To Teach
5) To Nurture
6) To Be There

Again it is unavoidable to conclude that these virtues mayhap can also be fully used to describe what it is to be a "Good Mother," and hence, Woman. Perhaps you would re-arrange the importance of each item, but all of them would still be there somewhere. So again, I am no closer to what it is to Be a Man.

I acknowledge the influence on the meanings of Man and Woman by the world of society, but will not embark into that morass because the whims of society are completely fabricated and ephemeral. Society is mutable, and I am looking for bedrock. Briefly I will say that Society seeks to force Man into something more than Human, and Woman into something less than Human. The "perfect woman" is Woman as an intelligent Animal to do the domestic drudgery and satisfy the carnal fancies on command while providing sons to carry on the patriarchy. Society as it is in the main, as I experience it, is cruel in ways petty and mean, and therefore at cross-purposes with what being Human is all about.

"Such a woman (Ed-note: the desired result of the time’s commonly approved teachings for children of the perfect woman) ought to be an angel - or she is an ass - for I discern not a trace of the human character, neither reason nor passion in this domestic drudge, whose being is absorbed in that of a tyrant's." - Mary Wollstonecraft, "Vindication of the Rights of Woman", 1792

Back to the subject of manhood . . .

We come to the seemingly self-evident biological aspect of manhood, but when one gets right down to it we find out that even the genitalia, the external reproductive organs, are basically the results at the extreme ends of the spectrum of the same Human thing. The penis and clitoris, to anyone who's taken a good look, and I hope we all have because those two particular things, I think, certainly do occupy a lot of space in everybody's head one way or another, are simply variations on a theme. The labia and the scrotum, likewise, provide the melody, as it were, to make the variation work in harmony. I know I don't have to take this further as it is all common knowledge . . . we just seem to be in a state of denial.

Now that I've titillated the dear reader with words that should be common, and realities that should be openly and honestly taught to us from the beginning, we can get down to the one seemingly definite difference between Man and Woman, and therefore is the path of inquiry I have been searching for on my journey to uncover the definition of Man. That difference I mention is the production of sperm and ovum. Up to this point in time only Man has sperm, and only Woman have ovum. I will admit my further knowledge into the technical aspects of this area is severely limited, but again, I suspect the difference is more contrived than actual. I suspect that the ovaries and the testicles are quite the same things in a very Human way; simply variations of the same theme. Further (always further), I think scientific trends indicate that before very long that imaginary difference will no longer be a sustainable misapprehension -- that eventually science will perfect methods, from genetic to surgical and everything in-between, so that the physical roles of ovulation and spermatogenesis are not gender specific. Fantastic as that may sound it is just one of the many things Science has in store for us this century. That should erase, forever, any talk of difference between Man and Woman. But it probably won't. Regardless, the future of genetics will result in changes to the Human Race, literally. That is quite scary, but, alas, fodder for a different day.

So without ever delving into the definition of Woman, and never even discussing the realities of the third point of the sex triangle -- the rare and mystical Hermaphrodite -- I will conclude my understanding of the definition of Man is as the provider of sperm, and after that a Human (i.e. those 10 (or 11) principles above, which can otherwise be known as a canon if we expand the word to include philosophy). From that, I would guess that Woman is then the producer of ovum first, and then a Human after that exactly as Man is. But I concede that there is no real difference between the two, as sperm and ovum together make Human, and so at this point I cannot define either Man or Woman, only Human.

Now, I know I can't get away without speaking of sexual behaviours and roles. Sure, the world around us, society, places a great deal of emphasis on lust (let's call it what it is, it is not sex but the lust for sex that is encouraged in our hedonistic consumerism) -- specifically, a male's lust. I don't have to convince anyone of this -- simply spend an afternoon channel surfing, and analyze for yourself the visual message and verbal innuendo washing over everything like a stormy, incoming tide. I daresay that even the visuals of the male body used in this way usually depict the male perspective, the male ideal of itself, the male as simply a stand-in for the female role, or the male as a non-threatening placeholder in a scene where we will fantasize our own male selves in the dominating role. But in any case, my point lies in the fact that sexual behaviours and roles are entirely learned -- they are not in any way constant; not constant in Nature, not constant in the Race, not constant in History, not constant in an individual's Life (at least, not mine). Behaviours and Roles are learned from the Family, from the Circle of Friends, from the People of the Community, and from the World At Large (which gets more intimate all the time).

Sex, the physical act of sensory pleasure as opposed to the mechanics of reproduction, is something we all spend a lot of time thinking about (if my own thoughts over the course of my life are indicative of the 'human experience'), casually as well as passionately -- and this "Modern Western" culture that is society's influence seems to funnel the thoughts of the People to desire a self-indulgent sexual fantasy in all aspects of everyday life (just check out the periodicals at the checkout line, pulp/pop movies and TV commercials . . . 'nuff said). Sex is being screamed at us from every vantage point, but we aren't saying anything constructive. Take a look around . . . is it working? No. It's broken.

The dynamic importance pleasurable sex has in our thoughts indicates that this is an important topic for our discussion if we are to understand the Meaning of Life. I think it is generally fair to say that sex, in all it's incarnations, dominates the flow of thought in the minds of most people -- and society (that is, people) has irrationally decreed that genitalia should limit the options we have in life, not only in sexual behaviour and sexual roles, but also in every other aspect of Life. Everything, from the clothes we wear and the words we speak, to the focus of our lives in totality. It all revolves around the particular size and shape of our external reproductive organs (and, in this culture, woe to all those born with so-called ambiguous genitalia, or worse still, born intersexual).

I assert that at the core of it, the penis and the clitoris are simply variations of the same thing, and therefore the entirety of accepted sexual behaviours and roles are built upon a Leap of Faith that constructs something that does not exist. Yes, I know that there is a physical difference between the totality of the reproductive functions of a clitoris and a penis -- that the clitoris does not take an active part in reproduction except as a center of pleasure for the Woman (ain't that active enough for ya?). But then, aside from helping to deposit sperm in an advantageous spot, Man views and uses his penis as simply a lightning rod of pleasure -- exactly the same role the clitoris plays for the Woman (or so I'm told, and I accept as reasonable to assert because it feels right, but I acknowledge I have no practical experience in this matter except as a Man is a Human, and a Woman is a Human).

Society tries to force people to live this important aspect of life in Bad Faith, and therein we will find, I think, all the emotional problems stemming from sexual desires, good human ones, that deviate from the currently accepted norm for the group we live among. It isn't the sex that's broken, but the sexual behaviours and roles we are taught and expected to fulfill that are the problem. The behaviours and roles are based on nothing real. We fight against our own artificial restrictions imposed for some insane reason to prevent us from experiencing the wonderful totality of what it means to be Human. That we place any barrier on sex, or anything else, for any reason other than the encroachment of an individual's unalienable rights is, to me, sheer and utter nonsense. It is like saying there is only one reason to walk.

No, I do not justify a hedonistic sexual chaos just as Sartre did not justify a deadly moral chaos. What can be taught to me by Others, can also be taught to me by my own choice through my own experience in my own life. The choices and lessons I teach myself can indeed be good ones, and I hold that an honest approach must yield virtue in this respect. It is also my choice on how to apply the knowledge I gain (what a wondrous age of information we live in!). In my own uneducated view I would think that the intent of sexual behaviours and roles would best be directed to bring a larger fulfillment into the life of the individual, and hence into the lives of everyone around the individual in a domino effect like a breeze across a grassy meadow. I think it is sad that this is not the focus of sex taught to us by society as being acceptable (i.e. Normal).

Why are we, as the society of the United States in 2006, afraid of sex even as we thrust lust in everyone's faces as the basis of good consumerism or faux rebellion? It seems that sex should be the one thing we all should understand and be most comfortable with as we get on with the business of being human and living life. I think it frightens us because the cultural behaviours and roles we are taught amount to nothing less than enslaving one Human to another, doing violence to the spirit, the emotions or the physical being of another person -- and we Know, deep down, this is not the way it is supposed to be, this is Not Good. We are scared because we are cowardly living in bad faith.

OK, I promised a short definition of "Good." Here it is:

"Good" is beneficial. "Good" must first be beneficial for the specific individual, no matter what the particular focus or topic. Next it follows that this same "Good" must also be beneficial for the Family the individual depends on, and then on to the Circles of Friends as well. Further still it follows that it must be beneficial for all the people who nourish and support the security and prosperity of the individual, the family and the friends through all the tribulations of life. Then logically we must also include within this "Good" all the people who nourish and support all the people who nourish and support the individual, and so on until every Human in creation is within reach of the initial "Good."

That is what "Good" Is. Make no mistake, it doesn't have to be perfect, just good. There's a huge chasm separating "perfect" and "good" that many people ignore. Be that as it may, . . . getting back to the subject . . . there's no room in "Good" for personal foibles, and if we bend Good to include a little favorite selfishness or cruelty (or whatever our favorite Not Good thing is), then we have made it Not Good. Pure and Simple. We cannot compromise Good with Not Good.

Some say “Good” is in the eye of the beholder. For example, it rained yesterday. Many people thought that the rain this Sunday was not a good thing – they had plans, after all, and could very well have been at the beach. Well, the facts of the matter are that it is Spring, and Spring means rain, and rain means life. Rain in Spring in New England is Good. Anybody who doesn’t think so is insane. Bottom line: you can try to put your own spin on Reality, but all you end up doing is fooling yourself, not Nature. The day of the week is an irrelevant bit of nonsense. Recognize Good, accept Good, enjoy Good.

We can choose our lives, choose our sexuality, choose our culture . . . it seems to me that we only need to realize we have the choices.

"You know the drill: you help'em or you hurt'em." - Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk as a mobster movie character), "Undisputed", 2002

Oh, what is Man? What is Woman? Whatever we want to Be. The choice is ours: god or demon . . . good god or bad god, but gods all the same. Man and Woman are Human, that is self-evident. There is no difference, We Are One. All of Creation is Ours in all its rainbow glory. Recognize, accept, and enjoy.


Heather G said...

unfortunately I do not have much time to respond today....but I will try to make this short and sweet, and to the point...

As far as men and women are conserned I believe that society has a large role in dominating what we are supposed to believe. As time goes on it is exceptable for a woman to be more "man like" where as before, it was less excepted. It has even become more exceptable for a man to be more "feminine" as it was not even 10 years ago. A man was to be manly and that was that. If you were not masculine enough there were derogatory remarks that were to be made.

as far as sex in the media....that is what sells and as much as I would like to agree that this is directed mainly for the males as a woman I must say that it is actually completely the opposite. They show "sexy" beautiful woman on say cleaning commercials why? not because we want the man to notice that that woman looks good cleaning the toilet but we need to show that to the woman. If there is an ugly woman cleaning the toilet as a woman watching the person doing the task we think "y would I want to look like that....or be like that...or anything else" if we find what ever is being sold attractive we are more apt to by it than if we do not. And that works for a woman actually maybe even more so than for the guy....just because the girl on the tv looked good does not mean the man is ging to rush out and buy the product...however a woman just might for that exact reason go out and buy the pathetic is that?

While yes we do have different but similar body parts for some reason we tend to think differently...I do believe that woman have more of a tenancy to over analize little things that men could care less about and then men think about things that woman would that part of what society does to us....why do men have a tendancy to call woman crazy....and woman the same tendancy to call men assholes? is it the way we were raised is it the things that society pushes upon us?

as far as your defiinition of "Good" if good is only good in the way that is is percieved by others does some of that not fall under Sartres "bad" faith?

OnlyEd said...

I'm only concerned with actual differences between man and woman -- not societal influences, edicts and general irrational norms. We are Human. When one speaks of a dog one speaks of dogs, not dividing them into male and female dogs. Humans are animals, that is undeniable and self-evident. The same rules apply.

Society does not dictate anything. Society is an artificial construct that is always changing. There are no undeniable Truths about Society -- a short stroll through the history books will give ample evidence that different societies are sometimes completely at odds with each other, and their definitions of Man & Woman (as well as many other things) are as fluid and insubstantial as Time itself. Letting Society dictate anything to the Individual is living in bad Faith.

As for Good . . . no, I am not asking for confirmation from anyone on whether an act is good or not good (or bad). Good © is good. Good © is beneficial to everyone all the way down the line because if it was not, then it would be Not Good © to someone, and therefore Not Good ©.

As for humans deciding something is good or not by applying their own personal or societal or traditional or religious or whatever foibles onto the situation . . . they are acting in Bad Faith. Reality does not care a whit about our state of denial, nor will it change itself so that we can deal with our guilt for preferring Not Good © or Bad © over what we know in our depths is Good ©. If we prefer Not Good © or Bad © over Good ©, then let us recognize, accept and enjoy it . . . because if we don't, then that is indeed Bad Faith, as well.

I posit that we, as a race, have forgotten Who we are, What we are, and Why we are. Are we here to be stunningly beautiful while cleaning the toilet? Or are we here to fulfill our Self -- regardless of what anyone else, or Society, wants from us?

Am I able to live my life completely in fulfillment of my Self regardless of other people and society? Probably. It would be difficult, but then . . . nobody ever said life was easy. Will I choose to do so? Ah, that is another question, and at the moment I am content with acknowledging where I cannot naysay Society without more effort than I am willing to put into the task . . . and moving on. But I must always acknowledge that the choice made was not mine, and never rationalize it as my choice.

I am only human, therefore I have within me the greatest Good © and the greatest Evil ©. It is up to me to choose, not Society.