My Need to Argue!

Voice Card  -  Volume 5  -  John Card Number 19  -  Mon, Mar 13, 1989 9:35 PM

This is a response to Vol 5 Larry 5 ("Need, needs, needs- phooey")...


Our little debate is ranging ever farther and wider from the original point (which is fine). We seem to agree that men and women need each other, though I grant you that "need" is slippery little word. I would also agree that we have a need for something that could be called Religion in the broad sense of the word. Your notion that we need to stratify each other into groups is interesting; although you have history on your side I'm not entirely sure I buy that one. Maybe.

But the only reason I brought up needs in the first place was to argue that the special needs we have for each other make for something far more complex than a simple majority vs. minority relationship, and your comments seem only to reinforce that idea.

Perhaps you suspect that I might be trying to use the needs both genders have for each other in order to justify continued political inequality. That has certainly been done before, and similar arguments have been offered to justify racism, but I assure you that is not my agenda.

I agree completely that political inequalities between the sexes are still very much with us. The ratio of men to women in Congress will probably be among the last bastions to fall, although we may live to see it. I am more optimistic on this score than you are, because I feel the most important battle has already been won. A generation ago most men honestly believed there were many things a woman simply could not do as well as a man, and that most women didn't really want to do them anyway.

But since World War II women have demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that they can excel at just about anything a man can do, and what's more, they have shown that they very much want the chance to do so. Any man today who patronizes a woman is likely to get punched. One need only watch a fifties era TV show to see how far we've come.

This kind of change is possible because most men are raised by women and must learn to get along with women if they ever want to get a date, let alone a mate. Women have an enormous amount of control over men's behavior, and vice versa. This is not nearly as true for relationships between different ethnic and religious groups, and I fear that those forms of bigotry will be much harder to overcome.

You said that whatever corner of the relationship world we talk about, men are expected to be in control, and cited the dating rituals as evidence. But in my experience the "control" of a relationship depends much more on the personalities involved that on who drives the car. When I was a lad I deeply resented these dating conventions. I felt straightjacketed and burdened with expectations, as did the girls I dated. I may have been driving the car most of the time, but I was most definitely NOT in control.

When I led discussions of sex roles back in my 101 days, we focused on dating rituals, and both boys and girls complained about their respective roles. In particular, boys hated being the one to place the dreaded phone call and risk rejection, they felt they shouldn't be expected to finance the date, and they were tired of being asked to plan the activities. Some also complained that girls were actually in control because it was up to them whether to accept or reject a pass.

The girls also complained about the roles they were forced to play, in particular having to wait for calls rather than making selections themselves. There was much dissatisfaction on both sides and signs of change even in Salt Lake. But what came through even clearer was that both sexes were equally shy, equally awkward and confused, and very much in the same boat.

Our original topic was communication between the sexes. If the continuing male political domination meant that men routinely patronize women as they did in the fifties, I might accede to your argument. But I believe that the domination will continue to fade as women work their way into more visible positions of power (it takes a lifetime to reach such positions), and as the old dogs die off. The disparities in wages will take more time, because entire professions like teaching and nursing are undervalued.

But even in the bad old days, when men and women were alone together, I think they often set aside their masks. Whether you call it a need or an urge or whatever, men and women in relationships must make themselves vulnerable to each other. The outward trappings of society must come off and they stand naked before each other. That is the ultimate equalizer and always has been!