Gender Neutral Civility? Just Another Excuse to Ignore Privilege.

As we discuss the issues of what it means to be a good man or about the obligations of Gentlemen, the generalized comments and reactions from many men present me with a paradox that seems to be in vogue lately: the idea of a gender neutral civility. We talk about being good men, yet want to remove the “obligation of men” when it comes to our relations with women (you know, the other gender). We refuse to see any responsibility towards women based on the idea that there shouldn’t be gender requirements to general civil behavior.

Men, this is a cop-out, a way to have our cake and eat it too.

I know that at this moment I could start talking about unicorns and rainbows because most readers have already shut down their rational capability and left the room to prepare snide remarks and reactions. Then again, they probably shifted into that attitude as soon as they read the title or saw that this was written by the same man who likes to use the word Chivalry every other article. For those few gentlemen and ladies left, let me explain why I make such a drastic conclusion.

The generalized comment from most men, when told they should be gentleman towards women, goes along the lines of “I treat everyone with civility, irrelevant of gender” or “I treat everyone as equals.” Another typical comment mentioned goes along the same lines, “I don’t see gender, I just see people.” That actually sounds like a noble concept, a society where gender is not a factor when determining treatment towards someone. Well, I’m sold. No more Gentlemanly articles from me…

Except I have heard this kind of wording before. You could just replace the word “gender” with color, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, economic class, or whatever else you want. You might think you’re being progressive and non-judgmental, but the reality is, the only people who say these phrases tend to be the ones who benefit the most from the way society is currently set up. This concept diminishes the impact of any actual discrimination, inequality, or suffering currently happening to the group mentioned. You might as well be saying “I don’t view it as a problem because it does not affects me.” We need to make changes to the world, not to grant any special benefits for women, but to compensate for the current inequality they endure.

For this discussion, I will only focus on the gender aspect or I would never be able to finish this article within my lifetime if I mentioned any other group.

Men will say that men also suffer from this gender role discrimination, citing attacks from the militant feminists as the most evident examples. They will complain how Stay at Home Dads are viewed by society, how men are shamed because “everything is the guy’s fault,” or how there are groups specifically geared to benefit only women. Instead of attacking or dismissing these situations, shouldn’t we be asking why these situations even exist? Are they not a reaction or result of the prevalent Male Dominated society? We, as men, created the monster and now we complain about how it behaves! So why shouldn’t we man-up and set things right?

On a side note, we see similar movements comparable to the feminists from other marginalized groups fighting for equal treatment. We see social equality movements from Blacks, LGBT community, Latinos and other Immigrants, Muslims, and several other “minorities.” We usually say “we don’t see (insert social difference of the group here), we just see people.” Then we walk away, leaving them to deal alone with a society that reminds them every day with the reality of discrimination.

Men objectify women and expect the ladies to be happy about it. I am not talking about the open crass objectification, but the simple everyday ones. How many images of half-naked women do you see every single day, from your waitress’s uniform to billboards down the street? How many do you see of men?

How do you think you would feel about your own self-image if you were bombarded with images of half-naked teen boys, who have nothing better to do with their day than to workout, telling you that this is how men should look, even when you are past your thirties?

You would probably think it’s unfair if they started firing all the male newscasters and commentators when they grow fat, old, or bald. Then, why do we expect our female newscasters to look like eye candy? Guess when they get too old, we can just fire her. It’s gotten to the point we even determine if a woman is too attractive to become a work hazard. Guess then, we can fire her. For the first time in history we might have a woman as a presidential candidate, yet instead of analyzing her political qualifications, the main attack was that she had “Fat Thighs” and “Small Breasts”! Really? One might say that political campaigns get dirty and she should have to deal with the same attacks as male candidates do. I have yet to see a political attack to a male candidate because he has a big beer belly, is so insecure he needs to do a comb-over, or has a small penis.

Why is it so hard to understand that we help men while helping women? Doesn’t helping one also help the other?
You might wonder why “stay at home dads” are viewed with mixed reactions or why men aren’t viewed as having the same rights as women during custody battles? Because WE made a society where women are told to stay home with the kids while men go out to work. Because WE laugh at every “make me a sandwich” joke we see online. Maybe if we stopped promoting this stupidity (sorry, I meant to say ideology) and actually stopped making it harder for women to make a career, Dads might be viewed with the same importance as Moms. We complain when we are told that our role is one of being a provider, but have no issue with women being paid less for the same work. The same goes to almost all other aspects where we complain about male gender discrimination. We love to spout statistics of how men are at greater safety risks in the work place, but refuse to view the way we actively keep women out of those same jobs. If women were offered the same opportunities as men, maybe the ladies wouldn’t have to create ones specifically catered for them. We have to accept that gender has nothing to do with capabilities.

It’s interesting how most feminists are actually proud of the fact that they are women. They view their gender as something that defines them and empowers them, not as something to be ashamed of or as something that limits them. They, as women, can do everything a man can do, yet don’t have to stop being women to do it. And they are right!

Then why do we, as men, choose to view gender equality only being possible if we minimize the characteristics of our own gender? Why do we feel the need to think that equality comes from lessening the gender differences? Men have shamed themselves out of their own Male Pride. That mentality is just a cosmetic solution to make you feel like you are doing something about the issue at hand. The truth is, it ignores a more profound problem. As long as we think that gender equality comes from not recognizing gender, things will never change.

Just because I recognize the difference between genders, acknowledge the reality and struggles that women have to endure, and promote true social justice between us, does not mean I have to be any less of a Man! So why would I think that by saying “I don’t see gender, I see people” when dealing with a woman, I’m helping true gender equality in any way?

As you may have noticed, I did not start my article with a quote as usual. Instead, I felt this time I should close with one. I leave you with Ms. Jane Elliot’s presentation of “The Angry Eye”. Although her chat is about recognizing race past the “I only see people, not skin color” mentality, it applies to any marginalized group:

You do not have the right to say to a person I do not see you as you are, I see you as I am more comfortable seeing you…We all live in different realities, but when you deny what this person is going through or what that person is going through, you are denying their reality….People, don’t deny differences! Accept them, appreciate them, recognize them, and cherish them.

Gentlemen, cherish the women around you.  

(Previously posted on Good Men Project)