It’s still a man’s world – even for women

You know what they say—it’s a man’s world. This, of course, creates problems for the other half of the population.

Now that women have made progress in the work world, we need to step back and see where we’ve gone and what lies ahead. The fact of the matter is, it’s often times still a man’s world, leaving women feeling frustrated and isolated.

Women must operate in this country under male-imposed constraints in all spheres of life. For example, women still face discrimination in the workplace, not to mention getting shortchanged on payday. There are some occupations that are considered just too “masculine” for women, such as soldiers and firefighters.

Women are also pushed to the margins in artistic realms. Often their work is stripped of merit on the basis of the gender of the artist or the “womanly” subject matter. Just take a quick look at the literary canon for any era; very few female authors have made the list, and sometimes had to use male pseudonyms to get that far.

Even in areas of daily living, women are often considered incompetent, at least in male terms. Many men think women don’t know the first thing about driving, sports, the inner workings of cars, etc. No matter how often women prove these stereotypes untrue, they manage to persist.

And of course, men often believe that women are just not capable of rational thought. This couldn’t be further than the truth, but since women approach thinking differently, this is labeled as inferior.

But instead of just complaining and instead of just suffering in a culture shaped by masculine values, women need to insist changes be made to accommodate female worth. People should be valued as individuals, judged by their notions of self-worth. White men will be in the minority in the near future, so why should that white, male, middle-class ideology be the overriding cultural yardstick by which everyone is evaluated?

One solution to the male-dominated culture is setting up a totally separate culture governed by female values. Obviously, this is simply too impossible. It would take a long time and require massive unlearning of things we were raised to believe, and it would discount valuable assets contributed by men, especially in the arts. This separate-but-equal situation would also create too much of a backlash from male resistance.

And, as I already acknowledged, women cannot simply suffer in silence under male judgment. Women have made significant progress in many fields, but often against the disapproving male code. People shouldn’t have to fight for opportunity and respect on the basis of gender alone. Since women know what they are capable of, they won’t tolerate some masculine criteria holding them back.

The most feasible solution is to make our current culture more accommodating, integrating masculine and feminine ideologies.

Men need to accept that women can be smart and can think rationally. Women are capable of doing many of the same things. Everyone deserves a chance to try, without being prejudged by gender.

However, in the workplace, affirmative action is not necessarily an answer. Those who do the best work deserve the jobs without regard to gender or ethnic background. (Of course, this raises the issue of educational opportunity, which deserves its own column.)

Women deserve to strive for their own personal goals without harassment. Opportunities should be open to those who can achieve, both male and female.

Our social norms still have a ways to go before completely accepting women as “competent” as men in many ways. (And women are sometimes surprisingly guilty of suppressing their own gender.) Progress has been made, yet the path to equality is long.

So when you hear or read “You’ve come a long way, baby,” realize that we’re only about halfway down the road.