A Phenomenal Paradigm Shift
Today’s post is dedicated to all people everywhere who want to be in an intimate, committed relationship…which still happens to be most people. Despite some of the worst long-armed by-products (porn, sexual confusion, gender upheaval) of the emotional process in society called Feminism that began with the French Revolution 250 years ago, human beings are still social creatures who desire intimate connection. This, in fact, may be one of the best long-armed by-products of Feminism. Let me explain.
When (in 1792) Mary Wollstonecraft began calling for equal education for women so that they could be companions, not just wives, to their husbands, she was suggesting a phenomenal paradigm shift in how men and women relate. Instead of operating in entrenched sex roles, Wollstonecraft believed that men and women could relate on an equal intellectual playing field.
Education and Financial Security in Relationship
Women are now experiencing the advantages of an educational system that began to open to them, and eventually began to tailor its delivery to more typically feminine ways of learning. I mentioned in a previous post that women now out-graduate men from college at a rate of three to two, and women are participating at an unprecedented rate in professional life on the highest levels of leadership. Consequently, they’re more financially secure on their own than ever before.
So what do they need men for if they don’t need them for financial security and fixing things around the house? And what do men need women for if they don’t need them to be dependent on them for groceries and handyman tasks? Men and women who consciously grapple with these questions inevitably reach important conclusions for themselves and their relationships.
It turns out that, despite all the social upheaval around opportunity and equality, intimate relationships between men and women aren’t hugely different than they ever were. The energy that flows between couples is still powerfully attractive: masculine energy compels feminine energy and vice versa. Certainly, when this intangible energy is the glue to a relationship, rather than his tangible ability to provide a paycheck and her tangible ability to produce children, there are some important implications.
Now that the days of dividing labor along gender lines are all but extinct, we’re going to have to learn to understand the strange differences that characterize these two very difference creatures who say they want the same things. That’s part of the problem, though. When men and women use the same words, they don’t always mean the same things. In fact, they rarely have the same motives for wanting and doing the same things. Complicated creatures we are, to be sure.
An Evolutionary Opportunity to Emerge
We simply have to get better at relationship, and that means we have to actually get to know one another, instead of assuming anything about the other. I could tell you clinical story after clinical story about the difficulties that couples have simply because we have contact with each other in ways that didn’t used to happen in agrarian society. Now that we’re all shacked up with each other all the time, we actually have to learn to get along with someone who thinks very differently than we do.
But that’s the joy of this strange relationship evolution we’re in. The Feminist movement, emergent evolutionary process that it was, may have sparked the emergence of another social structure, a paradigm shift that will make us stronger than anything we knew before, when gender roles were the accepted order of relationships. If society is going to succeed, we have to get to truly know the other in all his or her strangeness, and we have to accept the other without trying to change him or her. (That doesn’t imply we have to remain in bad relationships. It simply means we may need to acknowledge and accept when a relationship is bad for us and let it go.)
If you’re not familiar with the evolutionary concept of emergence, it refers to the greater, transcendent realities that emerge out of the interactions between many smaller ones. I believe we’re on the verge of an evolutionary emergence in the battle of the sexes! We have the opportunity to make peace with each other by appreciating and seeking out the differences in the intangible energy we bring to relationship.
Now we’re onto something, and that something will need to become the next societal emotional process if we want to stop regressing and start progressing toward relational and societal maturity.
More on that tomorrow.