How Sexual Roles Hurt Us A?
WE ARE human beings first of all. We all began naked, wanting to be able to tell the truth without hurting anyone, to rejoice, to live decent lives.
Our education should tell us what we want to know. And what we want to know is: Why is so much punishment inflicted on these human beings to make them secretaries, students, deans, janitors, parents, professors, alumni? Why these suits that are so ill-suited to our bodies, these conventions that prevent us from coming together? Why do some people acquire wealth and privilege they can't enjoy, at the expense of their poor brothers and sisters? Why are we asked to kill starving people in order to protect our unhappiness?
Our parents and teachers teach us more by their example, by the content of their lives, than by their intended lectures. Explanations of the society we were given come outside of class. Imperialism, racism, capitalism are ideas that seem at least to describe the inhumanity we slave under. For many of us this past year at Harvard, education included the idea of Women's Liberation.
A girl was asked, "Oh, are you involved in Women's Liberation?" She answered, "All women are." All men are too. Each of us throughout his life has been executor of oppression of women. Enough has been written by men misrepresenting Women's Liberation, so I will not try to represent it at all, but rather react to it, to suggest how it relates to men, to men at Harvard in particular. I think it necessary that men talk to women and to each other about Women's Liberation, about how men can live it.
Men are taught that women are irrational. What other explanation could there be for the constant yet seemingly unreasonable fighting with girls about possession, jealousy, sexual protocol, social protocol? Why else are mothers so helplessly trying to control, "protect," their children? Why else are secretaries so "self-important" and "bitchy?" That is, how else can we explain the inhuman relationship we have with women?
The insights of Women's Liberation provide the needed alternative explanation. No person can be molded into what schools and advertising define as a good mother or good wife or good husband without being deformed. People are fighting to maintain the little dignity they have been left with. Girls have been taught that their worth is in their "reputations," in their looks, in their ability to catch a man. Mothers have been taught that, while their husbands are out working, their worth is in bringing up the children. No wonder they fight to make that seem like a lifetime job. What else do they have to live for if they admit that their children are grown up? Secretaries are taking out their resentment that they are just another office machine. They act "self-important" because they are and are treated as if they were not.
Most people I know are fighting these fights so frantically because, unhappy in their roles, they are sure that they have failed. But it is the roles, not they, who have failed. It is sexist society which has failed to conform to us as human beings.
Men are hurt because they cannot have human relationships with women. Men's roles are dehumanized too. We must conceal our weakness, maintain a myth of omnipotence. But we have been taught that our dealings in the "man's world" are what is really important anyway. Within the context of this dying society, we are the beneficiaries of sexism. While we become rich, famous, powerful, the shitwork will be done for us by "our" women, changing diapers, typing reports, washing dishes, scrubbing the floors. (If we are rich enough, we will let our wives out of some of these jobs by paying an even more oppressed woman to do them.) Harvard is part of a long process to prepare us for this.