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The War Between The Sexes

Any hope for a truce?

By: Susan Browne

Most wars begin slowly, quietly without much fanfare. One day a nation wakes up and realizes that it is at war with an enemy it may not even have known it had. The truly great wars all begin that way.

The war between the sexes seems to have begun in the Garden of Eden. I believe Eve ate the apple to keep from biting her tongue off. Imagine a world with only one man. A man who thought God had made him in his own image. A man who knew he had the biggest and best of everything. A man who believes you, the woman was made out of his own rib. A man who thought he had come first and that you were an afterthought. Oh yes, she really was at her wits end. The serpent looked damn good to Eve. Another voice, a voice which told her she too could be as wise as God. He gave her a bit of respect. Wow, that must have felt good. She listened. She ate. She got evicted. He got evicted too. He never really forgave her for his having to find a job. War was declared.

Generation after generation conducted the war. Woman won a few battles, but just couldn't win the war. Power remained in the hands of men. The only power women had was the power of sex. Seductive in its early stages, but it loses its power over time.

There were many women who used their power. They changed history with their choices of sex partners. A few who come to mind are Bathsheba, Cleopatra, Anne Boleyn, and that wonderfully zany Mary Queen of Scots. These women won many a battle, but clearly lost the war. Then there are woman like Joan of Arc who actually won the war, but lost anyway. Those are the famous warriors in the struggle, but perhaps as many as six million women who chose to live their own lives supporting themselves, died at the hands of the witch hunters of three centuries. Strangely, the witch hunters were all men.

This brings me to my life. A girl, pretty and smart, born into a world that was going to see great change. As a little girl I was warned often of the dangers of being too smart. It was understood by every little girl I knew that you didn't beat boys at games. By the time I was six, I had been indoctrinated into the ancient female wisdom which taught us that “the male ego is a fragile thing.” I learned my lessons well. I learned to manipulate the male ego to get what I needed from the man. I understood that all power lay in being “chosen” by the right man.

Then in the year 1960 a wonderful thing happened. I am sure no one noticed at the time that the world was about to change for everyone. It happened quietly, no fanfare. Just a disc jockey at a dance, a small announcement, and the world was different. He walked to his microphone, blew in it to make sure it was still on. The strange sound a microphone can make made us all look up and listened. And then he said, “We are going to try something new tonight. The next dance will be a ladies choice. That's right boys you have to wait to be asked.” A silence fell over the room. Unsure teenagers moved back against the walls. Boys used to being in charge, shuffled their feet and pretended to be deep in conversation with their buddies. The music began, a slow tune, a few brave girls moved out onto the floor, checked the location of each boy, made a choice and moved forward. The chosen boy breathed a sigh of relief. The dancing began. Just one dance for now, but who knew what floodgate had been opened.

In just a few years, woman had gathered up the courage to ask for equality. The same pay for the same work seemed an impossible goal. Notice the word ask, we were not yet strong enough to demand.

Helen Reddy sang the anthem, “I am woman hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” We made another try for power. Slowly, very slowly, the brave ones moved onto the dance floor and began to dance. Most women did not. Women turned against each other. Those who were afraid of losing what they thought was an honored position, fought to keep the “unlady like” women from being taken seriously.

Men gave in more easily. Perhaps, it is the arrival of the sexual revolution which made men open to the requests for equality. Once again, sex brought power. Battles all over where won, but the war remains. Why, I wonder?

Perhaps the answer lies in our inability to want what is good for us. Women never seem to want the men who want them, and men never seem to want the women who choose them. The “ladies choice” just doesn't work off the dance floor.

I read once that women approach life like a buffet. They go to the food table. They see what is available to them. They make a choice, eat and frequently remain unsatisfied. Men say, “I am hungry for a steak.” They go to the buffet table, if they don't find steak, they go to another restaurant.

I think there is a great truth buried in that last paragraph. Women still waiting to be asked must choose from what is available to them. Men are afraid to make a choice for fear a better steak may show up on the menu.

Is there any way to resolve this? Perhaps, but first both men and women will have to accept the fact that being equal means sometimes we both get what we really want. We do that by asking for it.

Perhaps, this war won't ever end. Maybe, the best any of us can hope for is a personal cease-fire with one partner. Someone we chose while they were choosing us.

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