Monday, February 21, 2005

Gender Equality

This is one of the posts struck in my backlog.

A few weeks ago, someone came to my blog via this older post @ Fistul Of Euros, in which an American progressive living in Belgium (Scott Martens) sees French displays of naked women (like the bust of Marianne) as a sign of France being behind in gender equality. Well I'm not convinced that naked women in art and national symbols are really anti-feminist, but another measure that is unfavourable is women in politics.

On the other hand, I have another, ad-hoc measure of gender equality: look at the cars passing you on the street, focus on family cars and couples in cars, check who drives. By this measure, I evaluated France to be rather advanced, right there with Scandinavians - and definitely ahead of Germany.

* * *

A recent post by James Wolcott claims that women don't listen to advice on dating, or rather, listen and nick but then ignore it all. I'm not at all sure this is that universal (has Wolcott never dated the amateur intriguess who may later admit she read it in a women's magazine or someone told her?), but it is a good ocassion for me to present the train of thought below.

I noticed most (Western) people won't separate an emotion and its outward signs. Implicit in this is the assumption that the outward sign is always the same, and that it can always be interpreted unanimously. (In Far-Eastern culture, see f.e. Kurosawa's In The Woods, perspective is much more thought about.)

This is why, opposed to popular assumption, I don't think that women are more emphatic than men. If there is a pattern of difference, it is of more men not noticing at all, while more women noticing only what they want to see. And it's not just that.

Some women (and much fewer men) drove me crazy when they asked me something. They would nod attentively when I explain, but from talk thereafter it is clear they haven't understood a thing. But they aren't even conscious of that! And no, these people weren't all morons or, ehm, blondes. It was as if they have substituted the behavior of moving the head up and down (and the social function of signalling understanding) for the mental labour of understanding an argument, that is an abstract logical construct. (And, sometimes, it is also true for talk about how one feels.)


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