Article first published elsewhere in 2009 and re-issued in response to Katherine Gregor's post
About forty years ago, there was a daffy Beatrix Potter-like image in circulation based on the conjoined masculine and feminine symbols. The wisdom quoted was that Woman was the lily-pad from which Man could leap into the ether.
Why this should have been current when Feminism was digging in its heels is interesting and somewhat ambivalent.
With Darwin up for consideration again, (incidentally, I have no problem with Darwin and the Bible) I recently revisited the Genesis account of Creation. Post-Fall, one translation states of Woman: "...your yearning shall be for your husband, yet he will lord it over you." You don't have to be a theologian or a scientist to agree or disagree with this. It has its own compelling mythic power and rings psychologically true beneath all the layers of enlightened revision.
Commonly, women put the interests of their menfolk to the fore and will be the first to shut down those aspects of personality and aspiration which have no room to flourish within coupledom, for the salvation of the unit. This is the principal reason that many fewer of them have historically gained recognition in the Arts.
Isn't it also the underlying reason why Political Feminism is doomed to bring on a whole new set of problems in spite of its achievements? Whatever measures are taken, the truth will shuffle the cards to achieve a status quo and the 'glass ceiling' will exert compression like some ghastly scene from a James Bond film.
No sane person could be against redressing injustice and giving women an equal education and the option of a life without marriage, particularly an independent caring, teaching or artistic life, using her creative and nurturing skills. But that's humanitarianism. There's a sharp difference between that and the drive to compete with men in the boardroom. That sort of high-octane ambition generates resentment, proves nothing and is not worth sacrifice. (However, I am glad there are women in Parliament and some other high places, representing the female experience, who are prepared to struggle with the practical and emotional demands of their career for the greater good.)
Feminism as a Movement has emasculated men to the point where they're no longer confident of their role and can't win either way. It has also produced an excess of androgen in women to the point where some are distressed to find themselves sprouting beards!
Jung explains that pair-bonding is secured by the feminine in the man treating with the masculine in the woman. This confirms the essential identity of both and makes the relationship foursquare.
Women need to take on board, not just in an intellectual way, that on the shared platform of conjugal harmony, he has not arrived on the same train. Novelists, like Danielle Steel, have grown wealthy on peddling an archetype of manhood that is a woman's fantasy. We wish men were like that. At least we think we do. This makes us disappointed in reality and each dysfunctional.
It's all out of kilter and we must make shift as best we can. It can do no harm to trade chores. That's teamwork in a society shot through with multiple stresses and it can't be denied that men possess true inspiration in the culinary department, something that would have been anathema to our fathers and grandfathers, except in the Savoy Grill. But to insist on a division of labour that undermines the natural strengths of each gender is to invite chaos.
While women are the ones to bear children, there will always be discrimination against them in the workplace, with the best will in the world. That we ourselves have undervalued our child-rearing and homemaker vocation has come back to bite us. We are still not content and don't command the same male respect for our role which our mothers and grandmothers took for granted. Were women ever more august than on the cusp of Emancipation? The hand that rocked the cradle a century ago knew a thing or two and was well wised up as to how to rule the world. They fondly allowed their menfolk to cling to the illusion that they were the 'logical' ones! It is not a matter of disingenuousness, but of humility. Suffrage was necessary, but has the underlying dynamic really changed, though with each generation it may take on a different aspect?
The wisdom of persevering in adversity is powerful and wreaks change, no matter that it sometimes looks like defeat while that's going on.
Childbirth may be awesome, but I sometimes think it was a mistake to allow husbands and partners into the delivery room. Our forebears just got on with it and preserved a little mystique. Today, we somehow get the idea that we're not actually living unless we're 'on stage' every step of the way.
That's probably down to Shakespeare. Now, I wonder whether he was able to appreciate that Anne Hath-a-way with him?
Upon reflection, perhaps it was the other way round!