The Complexity of Equality Between Men and Women

So I have about fifty unpublished or incomplete posts and pages sitting in my queue for this blog and I feel like I need to clean things up a bit, so here is one that I found sitting around that I think has some decent points. I had a bunch more stuff to say on this subject, but my mind has wandered in the year since I wrote this, so I’m just going to post it as-is.

I once had an argument with someone about gay marriage and he claimed that gays already had equal rights because they have the right to get straight married. He thought it was ridiculous to claim that gays were not equal because the laws are applied in the exact same way regardless of your sexual orientation.

If you have two children, one who is obsessed with trains, the other who loves dinosaurs, you could take both of them to nothing but train related outings, but that wouldn’t be treating them equal, even if you’re giving them both the exact same things along the way. You’d be treating them the same, but clearly they wouldn’t be equal because they have different interests and different feelings. Instead, they should be treated differently but equally.

These are two extreme examples, though the first is actually a common belief among conservatives. However, I think this same basic concept applies to aspects of society in many other ways that we don’t always stop to think about. When you start thinking about laws and certain social expectations in this manner, suddenly our society is not even as equal as we thought it was.

Take marijuana laws as just one example. Marijuana is notorious for giving different people different effects. Some get hungry, some silly, some have an easier time focusing, for some it becomes harder, it feels wonderful to some and uncomfortable or even scary for others. Different people have different chemical makeups but our laws disregard this fact. In this sense, people who have certain mental or chemical tendencies are clearly not being treated equal.

You can say something similar about fines and many other types of punishments. On the surface it seems fair to impose a flat fine for a certain infraction, but when you stop to think about it, the harm from that fine is greater for a poor person than it is for a wealthy one. The actual physical action is the exact same regardless of wealth, but the effect on the person’s life can be vastly different.

To me it’s not the action that’s important, but the end result. It means nothing if two people are technically equal if they don’t feel equal because their emotions or culture are different. Ultimately it’s our feelings, not our possessions, that’s truly important.

Originally I wanted to focus on relationships between men and women for this post, but I kind of got sidetracked because this concept is a big reason why I’m anarchist.

I saw a blog post a number of months ago at, (I no longer read this blog after Elevatorgate but I used to be a big fan) and there was some talk about the Old Spice guy–the hot black guy, “I’m on a horse”–and Jen (or someone she was quoting; I can’t remember and can’t seem to find the post) was using this as an example of how men have to deal with the same kind of sexual objectification that women do, and it hurts us just as it does women. I found this a little offensive and felt it illuminated the fact that the author did not understand how men think and feel and made the assumption that underneath we are all the same. Men have many complaints about many things relating to sexuality, but some hot guy selling cologne is not one of them.

Sexual objectification is a women’s issue and I don’t think it’s fair to pretend like it affects men in the same way. In many ways men feel the opposite. Men tend to enjoy being sexually objectified and it usually makes us feel better about ourselves, not worse. Women are under no emotional obligation to avoid this kind of thing while men certainly are.

Same thing with safety. Men are under a very real obligation to avoid scaring women, which we can see from the drama surrounding Elevatorgate, even if we have no way of knowing or understanding why they are afraid. Those kind of emotions are foreign to most men, and it takes a ton of effort to remember to be sensitive to them twenty-four-seven, but it’s still our obligation. For women, on the other hand, as long as you’re not pointing a weapon, you really don’t need to give a crap about men’s feelings of safety. We don’t need you to.

With these issues, women who follow The Golden Rule with their dealings with men, are actually hurting men rather than helping them. Sometimes it’s not right to treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s better to take the time to understand the other person and treat them the way they want to be treated.

So I feel like if men are under these obligations that women are not, I think it’s fair to ask for a couple other concessions in exchange for these things, things that women might have no idea are hurtful to men. I’m not sure what the male community would decide we want those concessions to be since I’m far from a typical male and I don’t listen to male-oriented talk shows or read about men’s issues. I can guess, however, that we’d ask for things like making your sexual intentions clear and not tricking us into being friends when you know we have a romantic interest, not calling us creeps without a fair or at least clearly defined reason, or not inviting us into your bed only to tell us sex is out of the question.

If you look at BlagHag’s statistics, for example, you can see that more than half of her readers are men, and yet it’s a feminist blog. Granted, it’s more about atheism and science, but feminism is definitely a big player. For every male issue I’ve discussed or read about in my life, I’ve probably read or discussed five women’s issue. I have a feeling this is somewhat typical of liberal males, but I have a feeling the opposite is not true for liberal women. I feel like (and I’ll admit this is just a feeling without scientific basis) women in my liberal area (Seattle, Washington), and particularly feminists, tend to put a lot of faith in The Golden Rule and don’t acknowledge that men’s thoughts and feelings work very differently from theirs, and don’t realize the men around them may be hurting from things women can’t identify with. Perhaps this is because women are rarely exposed to these issues in non-confrontational settings. Men have no choice but to come to terms with our differences because it’s made so obvious to us, so in a lot of ways it’s our own fault for not speaking out about men’s issues in the way women speak out about their’s and making the information accessible to women.

Originally published at

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