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War of the Genders

A confrontational soapbox for rants and politically incorrect manifestos regarding feminism, chauvinism, dating and gender issues.

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Location: Jerusalem, Israel

This isn't a dating site. If you wish to propose marriage or to beat me up, leave me a note.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Unidentified Gender Objects

I once had a discussion with an acquaintance regarding the extent to which men could understand women and vice versa. It was not about different reactions and patterns of thinking, nor was it about cataloging specific brain differences in both genders. The critical issue was whether brains, souls or essences of both genders were from the same basic mold which would allow them to determine each other's needs. Or, in other words, is a man similar enough to a woman so as to make it possible for both to understand each other's psyche without having to feed every necessary datum and deduction? And more controversially: Is it possible for one gender to understand and therefore dictate the needs of another on the assumption that he or she may know what's best?

Obviously, this approach will be instantly attacked from the individualistic angle, arguing that every individual, regardless of gender, may have completely different spiritual, psychological or otherwise basic needs, and no person may assume such arrogance so as to dictate another's needs. But it must be pointed out that:

1. For lack of more precise terms, we must differentiate between global human needs and personal desires. For example, the requirement for lowered stress in the workplace is a global need, but wanting to work with computers is a personal desire. Under any set of behavioral rules there must always be room to develop and express variations in individual drives (within reason). When most people argue for individualism, they are thinking about the relatively minor personal differences.

2. There are very basic needs which apply to all humans. If this were not possible, general psychology and mass religions could not exist. If you hold that each individual must work out every basic need on his own, invent his own religion if necessary and avoid being categorized under any general psychological theories, then you may as well stop reading right here.

3. Many people cannot determine their own needs. Any psychologist would agree. This is not to say that the other gender knows better but that the argument that only an individual could know what he or she needs is an untenable one. Of course, one can argue that shrinks don't dictate but instead help the person figure things out for himself. But again, this would be a matter of desires, not needs. I'm referring to the basic, systematic knowledge that enables the shrink to conduct this kind of session in the first place.

4. As far as spiritual needs are concerned, it may be argued that the differences here would be even more pronounced and even unreachable. But this religion-oriented argument may very well be shifted away from how to determine needs (because God enters the equation as a source of knowledge) and more towards whether men could understand, interpret and apply this knowledge regarding the opposite gender.

Unfortunately, the discussion led nowhere. Her agenda, at ANY cost, was to undermine the possibility of traditional religious rules for women supposedly set by the patriarchy who have no clue what a woman really needs to develop herself spiritually. My approach was to show her how deep this gender difference must be in order to satisfy her agenda as well as the consequences of such an a priori axiom. The way I see it, if a man is so different that he cannot understand the logic of a woman's core needs and his only option is to be fed such information like a parrot so that he could learn how to help and what to avoid, then:

1. Practically no deduction and extrapolation regarding the opposite gender would be possible. We would keep making errors until we memorized every possible need and danger area.

2. If she (or he) does not understand her own needs or has psychological obstructions, or even if she cannot or does not communicate this knowledge, then there would be no way of figuring it out on his own. Or worse: If she misunderstands her needs then he could waste decades and be none the wiser.

3. Shrinks and marriage counselors would have to stick to treating their own gender exclusively.

4. Teachers and whole education system may have to be more segregated. Etc...


A Simple Approach

I'd like to introduce you to a pet peeve of mine: Inconsistency.

I use this word often. When it comes to work, debates and philosophy then the meaning is clear and I am usually referring to a logical contradiction or confusing juxtaposition. But with relationships and people, I came to realize that what bothers me is not lies, hypocrisy or even change. It's a character schizophrenia: A contradiction between words and behaviour, or words and behaviour that conflict with themselves. I discovered that when I call someone inconsistent, I am often referring to a problem with me and my lack of understanding rather than the person's neurosis or lies.

Whether you want to believe that men can't dictate a woman's needs and that it's all up to communication and listening to what she tells you, or whether, like me, you believe the only way to live together is by logically understanding everything about your partner, these are basically personal agendas, not logical arguments.

I also doubt the possibility of presenting proof from science because I can't see how one can use neuroscience and brain patterns to prove that someone understands another human being.

Barring religion, the only possible logical argument I can see that would settle this debate is by boiling it down to a simple question: Have you ever understood a person of the opposite sex so well that you can predict their next moves in unfamiliar situations, or logically trace back their behavioural patterns to mechanisms you know exist in their psyche. Also, have you ever predicted the behaviour of the opposite sex without even getting to know them?

I have done these things very often and I'm sure you have as well. As far I'm concerned, this proves that, all differences aside, men and women are from the same planet or at the very least from the same solar system.


A Jewish Approach

Many people don't notice that in the Bible, it says that God created 'man' originally in both male and female form and that this is before the creation of Eve! Judaism holds that the original Adam was both male and female in one creature who was then separated (the so-called 'rib').

The Hebrew words used in these two separate processes conform to this idea: For the original Adam, the word Beriya is used, which denotes creation of something new ex-nihilo. For Eve, the word is Yetzira which is more a formation than a creation. In order to 'create' Eve, male and female were merely separated.

These different types of creation also denote the level at which they work (i.e. spirit vs. matter). The original creation was more abstract but the separation worked at a more concrete level. My argument, as I will further expand on, is that the more physical (material) the level, the more separate the genders become and the more differences we encounter.

A comparison can be made with conception and birth: Judaism says that when new life is created, at its source it has no gender. This is further supported by science that shows that as a pregnancy develops (more physical organs, less abstract potential), the separation, or gender, becomes more and more definite and clear.

This is further supported by the concept of Original Sin and the ensuing curses. As discussed earlier, Adam and Eve wanted more materialistic power, thinking they could control the forces and elevate them, and they got it, the consequence of this being more emphasis on physical functions and needs. Conceptually, due to the increased attention given to physical needs, a stronger sense of self-identity ('me' instead of 'us') infected the higher faculties and therefore the relationship between the genders deteriorated as well.

The consequences and curses Adam and Eve brought upon themselves emphasized the separation between the genders in many ways. Man lost his status, had to sweat for a living, lose strength after sex, etc. Women got 9 months of pregnancy, menstruation, the difficulties of child-rearing, submission to men, etc. It's interesting to note that before the sin, women didn't have to go through 9 months of pregnancy and there was no pain during childbirth. These factors are touted by feminists as making women secondary citizens and taking away their freedom in comparison to men. Ironically, the male curse of having to sweat and work for a living has now somehow become a blessing.

Regarding sex, whereas before it was primarily a joining of spirit, now it became a joining of physical bodies and therefore they suddenly 'realized' they were naked. Thus shame was brought into the world whereas before it didn't exist.

In other words, Adam and Eve fell from the idealistic level at which all genders are almost one and the same. Equality was progressively lost, roles were assigned, differences were created or emphasized.

A few other relevant points:

1. Judaism believes that a man gets the mate he deserves. The way I see it, this means that the more a man has polished his soul, the better a link he creates with his mate and he therefore gets a better/deeper soulmate. It's all a matter of which spiritual level you are working in and this attracts different mates to correspond with your abilities.

2. The first definition of a woman in Hebrew is 'ezer kenegdo' which translates to 'a helper against him'. Again, this is taken to mean that if he deserves it, she will be a helper, otherwise, an opponent. I.e. it depends on what level the man is working at and this defines the level of connectivity or compatibility.

3. Jewish sources say that Adam tried to mate with all other creatures and couldn't find a proper soulmate before Eve was formed. I.e. no proper link was possible with such alien beings until a creature from the same mold was created for him to partner with.

4. Judaism sees the evolution and maturity of a man as one who 'leaves his father and mother and glues himself to a woman until they become one flesh'. The more progress, the deeper the link.

All of the above makes it very clear that man and woman are one and the same at the source and only present differences and obstacles in their physical forms. The deeper the link, the fewer differences that must be overcome. A relationship where everything has to be communicated and there is no understanding is the lowest level possible.


Romance

Everyone knows that when mysteries are revealed they tend to become uninteresting. And what is mystery if not curiosity and imagination due to a gap in understanding? What is the romance in new and mysterious people if not a projection of one's own imagination onto an otherwise dull individual? Is it any surprise this kind of fantasy wears off after you get to know the person all too well?

Real romance is magic in the mundane, passion in logic, joy in everyday life, and spirit in the material. The mystery of romance is not due to lack of knowledge or so-called 'complex' men and women that befuddle and intrigue their partners. It's something one actively builds on top of a solid, worldly base.

As shown, the type of romance based on mystery and lack of understanding is the opposite of a deep bond - it only emphasizes the differences between two people.

Even if a girl is as complex or mysterious as she thinks she is (which is rare), she is then merely a puzzle to be solved and nothing more. I used to think neurotic women were more interesting, but they're a dime a dozen nowadays what with so many modern women trying to be what they're not. Romance relies on the ability to know each other, to connect at the deepest level possible, not on guess-work, superficial communication and mystery.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is it possible for one gender to understand (yes) and therefore dictate (??? what do you mean therefore? just because I understand you I can now rule your life???) the needs of another on the assumption that he or she may (MAY??? Do you expect anyone to give up their freedom and put all their trust in a MAY?) know what's best (best for who?)?"

It took me a while to understand your question, and in order to do that I had to go back and understand the question you originally debated. You conveniently skipped the part which would explain how a certain somebody could "know best", or how an understanding could possibly give someone the right to dictate another. After taking some deep breaths and drinking a glass of cold water, I understood that the original question you seem to have debated is whether, under the assumption that God provided us with absolute knowledge, it would have been possible, do to man's faults, for something to get lost, or simply misinterpreted. And specifically, could men have been faulted when it came to interpreting rules that concerned women.

Now after that is cleared up (at least for me), the next step is to ask:

1. Are men capable of a deep understanding of women in ALL aspects of life?
2. Were men capable of being objective and not influenced by a conflict of interests? Did they truly have women's best interest at heart?

My answer to 1 is that I definitely believe men and women are capable of a deep understanding of each other’s needs, but I am not sure this understanding can encompass all aspects of life. I am even more skeptical of this capability in the past when less knowledge was available.

I also believe in the individualistic approach and don't think a 'one recipe for life fits all' exists. Even if all women share some basic needs, as you claim, it still doesn't mean that the mechanisms of fulfilling these needs are the same.

In regard to 2: Whenever humans are concerned you always must consider a conflict in interests. So, even if a certain individual or group some how had the capability of knowing what is best for another group, as long as that individual or group had what to gain/lose from their interpretations, the interpretations are questionable. (Let me note that rulings may have been made not only in favor of men but also in favor of society as a whole, the economic situation and so on, sacrificing perhaps women's well being).

After saying all this, let me just say I really enjoyed the post!

t-bear

P.S- I am sorry for the initial play back, but I don’t think such a discussion makes sense outside of a religious context.

April 23, 2006 11:41 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

Perhaps the question is so basic and simple and you're expecting something deeper which is why it's confusing.

The question is simply whether one gender can understand another gender fully. I used the word 'therefore' because if, for example, a man potentially can understand a woman and her needs fully, then logically this means he could(may) also dictate her needs. Dictating is not a consequence of understanding, it is a logical possibility.

The 'how to know' is not relevant. All I want to answer here is whether such a thing is possible in the first place. Same goes with the question of whether men made mistakes in the past or not and whether they were objective enough. If we establish, for example, that men can never understand the logic or needs of a woman, then such questions are pointless.

Regarding God as a source: As I mentioned, this is not a critical issue (although it obviously makes the knowledge a lot more authoritative). No matter what the source is, the question is whether men/women can understand it.

April 24, 2006 6:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you had just left the question at: Can one gender fully understand the needs of the other gender, I wouldn’t have had a problem.
My problem started when you jumped from the concept of understanding to the extreme concept of dictating. How the (****) does understanding result in a right to dictate?
Only if you establish that one gender has a superior understanding of the other gender there could be a logical basis for dictating. A mere understanding of each other is something we are all equipped with so we can live side by side, work together accomplish goals and so on.
I see mutual gender understanding everyday. I also see gender based misunderstandings often. I have never seen any evidence for superior understanding of one gender over another. Logically no gender is entitled to dictate the other.
But what you are really asking is, if by some way men were provided with superior knowledge regarding women, could they understand it?
But then why limit the question to women. Why should we assume they could understand any of the provided knowledge? Why should they have understood knowledge regarding the land or even regarding themselves for that matter? You even said yourself that psychologists would agree that most people don’t understand their own needs….
Is there a possibility they understood this superior provided knowledge? Perhaps. I don’t see anyway I could logically prove or disprove this notion. The argument you provided regarding predicting ones actions, is weak in my opinion. It establishes a certain degree of understanding but it is far from encompassing all aspects of life. The ability to predict is also very much event-time related and not general enough to prove the deep understanding you are talking about. Even if you had a way to prove complete understanding of the other gender it still wouldn’t prove anyone has the ability to understand the source of knowledge. Just because I can understand a programmer and predict his actions doesn’t mean I can read/understand code.

If you wanted to leave the question at can one gender fully understand the needs of the other, you should have left it just at that. But you didn’t:)

t-bear

April 24, 2006 5:38 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

1. The ability to understand the opposite gender is the single most basic criterion for enabling the concept of dictating. I do not want to discuss rights and the practical issues in applying such a concept, only the possibility itself!

2. I agree that there are other criteria such as objectivity, intelligence, checks and balances in case of errors, etc but these are things that give the person the correct tools to dictate, whereas I am talking about what gives a person the logical possibility to dictate in the first place.

3. I agree that superiority is necessary but I see superior understanding all the time. Not only that, but I see people accepting other people's superior understanding all the time. They are called parents, teachers, educators, psychologists, marriage counselors, rabbis, priests, etc. I.e. millions of people claim to have a superior understanding on what is best for members of the opposite gender and people accept this claim and allow them to dictate all the time.

4. These people with such superior knowledge do not have to understand ALL aspects of life related to this gender, only the areas where they are dictating or giving advice in. For example, a female teacher would only have to know how a young boy's mind learns knowledge in the most efficient way. If she could not understand a boy's mind then she should not be teaching boys in the first place. Thus your arguments and programmer analogy are not applicable.

5. The question on whether genders can understand each other is not the same question as whether anyone can understand anything because we are talking about gender specific knowledge that may be somehow only understood by people of the same gender. If the difference between genders is so strong that we can never figure out the other gender, then what are we doing using female marriage counselors to solve a man's marital problems? Etc.

6. The main reasons I raised this issue of dictating are: to make things more interesting and to show what kind of practical issues depend on such a seemingly abstract and basic problem.

April 24, 2006 11:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1.I agree, and I never said understanding wasn’t a the basic criteria for enabling this concept. What I said is that it wasn’t enough. The way you worded it (“Is it possible for one gender to understand and therefore dictate the needs of another”) sounded to me like understanding could be enough.

3. I never said that superior knowledge of some people in some areas is non existent (I agree with the examples you gave and there are many other). I said that to have one gender dictate the other you would have to at least prove one gender has superior understanding of the other. I added that I have never seen evidence of this. You must agree that even equal understanding is not trivial (otherwise you would never write this post).

4.True. If you have proven superior knowledge in an area that could make you qualified to give advice or even dictate in that area. But, if you are going to rule on matters that cover all aspects of life (like I believe Rabbis do/did) you better have proven knowledge superiority in all aspects. I admit the programmer analogy was a bad one. What I tried to demonstrate was the difference between the ability to understand a person and the ability to decipher coded information (I claim that even if by a divine knowledge was given to man it doesn’t prove he could understand it).

5. The question whether man was able to decipher divine knowledge regarding women to me is very much the same as the question whether man was able to decipher any divine knowledge he was given.

t-bear

April 25, 2006 12:48 am  
Blogger Baron said...

3. If you agree with my examples then what's the problem? Don't psychologists, rabbis, etc. dictate to the opposite gender on the assumption that they have superior understanding? Where is your problem exactly? I'm confused.

4-5. In the case of Rabbis, since the source of knowledge is God, then there is no worry that 'all aspects of life' have been covered. The only worry is whether the rabbis interpreted the information correctly and this is NOT a topic I want to go into as it is complicated and a completely different issue. All I want to discuss is whether a rabbi could understand the information regarding women's needs specifically or whether a woman's inner workings are so alien that a rabbi has no chance even if he DID decipher/interpret correctly.

April 25, 2006 10:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I agreed with you I meant that I agree that there are many examples for a specific individual of one gender knowing more on a certain subject then a specific individual of the opposite gender. For example: A female doctor has superior knowledge when it comes to the physiology of her male patient.
When the knowledge is confined to a specific field that is typically not intuitive understanding, then there are many examples for cross gender superior understanding.

I didn't want to get into it so I said I agreed with the examples you gave when I really only agreed with some. I obviously don’t agree with the examples of rabbis and priests because as a non-religious person I have no reason to assume they poses superior knowledge. And just because something is accepted doesn't make it valid in any way. If you would follow that logic you would have to agree that anyone that could convince a couple of people to do what he says has proven superior knowledge. And if the amount of followers is what counts then the fact that there are many more Muslims than Jews in the world would prove that Islamic Imams have superior understanding and therefore should dictate to all of us.

Just because someone claims to have superior understanding and just because people accept this doesn’t prove he really does!

I also only partially agree with the examples of psychologists and marriage counselors. I think both may help the opposite gender work out various issues but not because this comes from a deep understanding but from using techniques that help the individual or couple solve their own issues (in theory...). I also personally would never go to a male psychologist when the issue specifically had to do with a female problem. The same with parents, I'd never go to my dad to help me with girl stuff (except if I wanted a male point of view).

Having said all that, I think that if a man really wanted to, he could get pretty close to fully understanding all issues concerning a woman. Somethings you may have to experience first hand to really understand (breast development, menstruation, sex, pregnancy, wanting a baby, giving birth, menopause, the joy of buying shoes, the joy of just buying, make-up, ice-cream, back massages, being consistently inconsistent, and the list goes on) but with all the technological advances today something can probably be arranged…

t-bear

April 27, 2006 5:43 am  
Blogger Baron said...

Fair enough that just because it's accepted by the masses it doesn't make it valid or proof. For all we know, psychologists are bluffing when it comes to treating members of the opposite gender and teachers are really incompetent in the same scenario and get by mainly because the students/patients are doing all the work. Etc.

Like I said in the original post, the only real non-religious proof I could think of is the personal one.

But I also don't agree with many things you said:

1. A doctor is not a valid example because it has nothing to do with a gender's psyche or soul.

2. Regarding psychologists: I already addressed the argument that they may be merely enabling the individuals to solve their own problems. The techniques they are using rely on a core understanding of the psyche which must apply to the gender under question in order for it to work. I'm not saying that it works most of the time or that they really understand, but most study psychology on the assumption that they can understand. At least Freud was honest when he asked "What do women want?". I.e. understanding is vital to treating.

3. The fact that you personally would go to a female doesn't prove anything. Perhaps you do this because you want more sympathy, perhaps because chances are that these women understand better, or perhaps you are biased against men. Perhaps, as you hint at, you just wanted a female point of view, which has nothing to do with understanding. Whatever your reasons, it doesn't mean that men couldn't understand just as well or better.

4. I completely disagree that one has to experience something in order to understand it. A psychologist doesn't have to experience schizophrenia to understand it and treat it. A psychologist can easily have superior understanding of schizophrenia over the schizophrenic patient simply by studying it. Why should I have to experience breast development to understand what it does to a woman's psyche?

This is a typical argument used by women and I think it confuses the sensations and emotions one gets from the experience with the understanding of the experience and how to treat it, deal with it, etc. Perhaps you are referring to empathy, not understanding.

April 27, 2006 8:25 am  

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