Is the goal simply to “act like a man?”

A few months ago I came across an article on the ESPN website about a high school girl who was the starting quarterback for her school’s football team. This article was extensive and took me probably over 20 minutes to read. I think it’s fantastic that this girl was a pioneer in her town, excelling in a sport that historically has been performed and targeted by and for men. However, as I read this article I thought about where we place our value in our society. Why aren’t there extensive articles about a high school girl who was a magnificent knitter? Why are athletics, something that is traditionally male dominated, thought of as a venue where when women get there, they have “made it?”

Yes, (predominately white) men have been the most powerful demographic in our country. As women work for equality, we do work for power. However, should our standards of what power means simply be what power has been historically? Are what have typically been male “characteristics” and “values” be what females also strive for? Are female “characteristics” and “values” truly valued? I would say no to both of these things.

Female dominated work fields such as social work, education, waitressing are underpaid and undervalued. In the business world, compassion and empathy is often seen as negative and vulnerable. When women are aggressive, maybe they’ll be able to make it in a cut throat man’s world.

Personally, I value assertiveness in myself, in women, and in men but I don’t think assertive and aggressive are the same. Assertiveness is saying how you feel, what you want and what you think, that all sounds good to me. Aggressiveness has been deemed masculine and therefore maybe perhaps what women strive for?

The ultimate aggressiveness for the symbolic equality of American women was achieved this past week when the Pentagon changed its military policy to include women in combat. As I heard the news, I felt no excitement, just confusion and an icky feeling inside. I’ve never called myself a pacifist, don’t know I ever would. However, women being included in the right to shoot, bomb, and drop drones didn’t strike me as the equality I work for every day. I didn’t know how to articulate these feelings but this Atlantic piece, summed it up pretty well for me. Seemingly male characteristics have fallen into the default category of the place a woman’s end-all goal should be but are all male characteristics really something even men should want to achieve? Is violence and aggression really what I want to excel in as a woman?

I’ll end with a little something Gloria Steinem said, “we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons..but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay

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6 thoughts on “Is the goal simply to “act like a man?”

  1. Aleks says:

    My dad has always said he thought having women serve (officially) on the front line would make Americans think twice about starting wars, that people who thought it was proper to send their sons off to war would be reluctant to put their (in their perception) delicate daughters in harms way. Personally I think we’ll get comfortable with women being maimed and killed in combat all too quickly if we haven’t already.

    I do think this is a big step forward. So far women have been doing the work and taking the risks of being in combat (because the wars we fight now have neither front lines nor safe rear echelons.) This will allow women to receive training, equipment, recognition, pay and advancement (within the military, civilian life afterwards and in politics) due to the role they’re already playing without those benefits today.

    I wish we were a less militaristic society. But we’re not, and military service and especially combat is a key avenue of advancement. It’s wrong to shut women out from those opportunities, especially when they’ve been doing the actual work for at least a decade.

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    • Aleks says:

      A retired Army officer was on the radio explaining that to get around the regulation against women being assigned to combat units they would instead “borrow” female soldiers and specialists who were officially assigned to non-combat units. Aside from being silly and keeping the women from getting proper recognition it always made for less functional units because the “borrowed” female members didn’t train with the rest of the team and were never fully integrated.

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  2. sonyakuzy says:

    I love that Golira Stienmen quote. I think there is a lot to say about the things we place value on in society, and you did a great job with this post.
    I had a different reaction to this news, partly because I listened to this personal story earlier this winter
    http://thestory.org/archive/20122012_The_Story_Women_in_Combat_MJ_Hegar.mp3/view and every time I heard the news I though of Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar and the other women who were suing the military (and would like to think that this is why Leon Ponetta lifted the ban).
    I understand that violence and aggression isn’t what you, I, or others in society want to strive toward, but I think this new development is starting and/or adding to an important conversation – such as your post :).

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    • Aleks says:

      I’m sure the lawsuits were part of it, as with the DADT repeal. If the military has to change the Pentagon would rather direct the process than have the courts push it.

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  3. Maddy Kluesner says:

    I think the post you made about “assertiveness” and “aggressiveness” is really poignant. I feel like we should be encouraging people of all genders to be assertive versus being aggressive when it comes to discussions of empowerment.

    Being aggressive implies a type of violence, or trying to overpower or dominate a person or social situation. On the other hand, being assertive almost implies a vulnerability on the part of the subject. To be assertive, you have to be forward, frank, and honest about what you want, what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling without having to be dominating.

    In this sense, maybe when we talk about what it means to be empowered, we can look to trying to be assertive versus aggressive.

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  4. Wyng says:

    I think that on one hand, the fact that a profession has been opened to women is a good thing. This means one less restriction to what a woman may actually choose to do with her life. The larger and longer-term picture, however, is less of a triumph. The military is a patriarchal institution promoting rigid hierarchy, justifying violence, promoting intolerance of diversity, we all know it. Its very existence encourages oppression.

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