"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gender And The Role Of Women–They Don’t Need Anyone’s Help

“What’s all this gender nonsense about?”, asked Esther Mullins a few years short of 100. “I don’t get it.  Men are overrated.  Every woman knows that.”

She spoke from experience.  She had ruled the roost even in the 50s, a decade when women were confined to kinder, küche, kirche.  She used her brains, sexual savvy, and ambition to corral my father, harness him, and for 50 years let him pull the plow while she gadded about and took what her generation had to offer.

There was the country club, for example, a male enclave whose 19th hole was reserved for poker playing, spitting, and sports talk, and whose tee times were favorable to men. “Who cares?”, asked Esther  rhetorically. “Let them scratch their balls and tee off at 9 o’clock if it suits them.  Jane Tilly and I used to take tea in Farmington at 3, and then have our cinq a sept with the swells from West Hartford every Saturday.”

I wondered why and more importantly if Esther should be sharing these intimacies with me, a friend of the family; but she had never been one to hide either her feelings or her intentions. “While your father and his clueless friends were rolling the dice for rounds, Janey and I…..”

I stopped her there. I was happy to hear that the Frustrating Fifties had been more permissive than commonly thought, and that women enjoyed more sexual freedom than commonly thought, but this was cutting very close.

“What? You can’t face facts?”

The Fifties, I came to learn, were no more conservative than any other generation. Men and women screwed each other silly in the woods, in the back of old cars, and even between silk sheets under canopied beds.  “It was only a bit trickier than for young people today, but perhaps more exciting because of it.”

The silk sheets was a reference to Sybil Birnbaum, a Miami Beach Jewish princess who, if you listened to the men of New Brighton, corrupted the good Christian women of the community with her salacious ways.  As far as Sybil was concerned, she was doing a service to these emotionally corseted goyim women. Sybil wore minks, emeralds, diamonds, and Italian high heels to lunch, the gossips said, gobbled men like she did gefilte fish and kreplach, and entertained her afternoon paramours on silk sheets and under perfumed duvets and wanted everyone to know it.

Her husband Dwight, a pillar of both Jewish and Gentile communities, had absolutely no idea about what his wife was doing in the afternoon, even though the parlor was scented with tobacco and Chanel No. 5 when he came home from the office.  “Dwight was a dope”, my mother said.  “He never knew what was what, and thank goodness he went to his grave in a state of ignorance.”

Progressive newspapers and journals are filled with stories of women’s struggles in the workplace, on university campuses, and in the bedroom.  Daily columns are written about male predation, abuse, deception, and villainy.  Reading these accounts, one would have to think that feminism and the sexual revolution never happened. Women are still the frail, susceptible, and innocent creatures of yesteryear and not the defiant, self-assured dominatrices portrayed in women’s journals.  Rape is endemic on campus, feminist critics rail.  Poor defenseless women are at the mercy of male savages and their hormone-driven aggression.  Women – like their frail, dependent counterparts of the Victorian age – need the protective cloak of Government and its laws.

This all is, in Esther's words, nonsense. As far back as the Elizabethan era if not before, women have run circles around men.  Rosalind, Beatrice, and Viola were only some of Shakespeare’s female heroines who toyed and jousted with men, teasing them with their sexuality, understanding their simpleminded sexual urges and turning the hormonal surges to their advantage. Portia laughs in her chambers with Jessica as they recounted the pomposity and self-important ignorance of suitors from France, Africa, and Asia.  She settles for Bassanio who would rather be in bed with Antonio and is so dumb that he cannot see through her disguise at court at the trial of Shylock. The sharp-witted Beatrice settles for the dullard Benedick; and Rosalind has to be happy with the dope Orlando; but in those days women weren’t looking for love as much as they were for fortune and family.

Margaret, the wife of Henry VI, wears the pants in the family; and despairing of her husbands prayerful ignorance of the affairs of state, takes to the battlefield against the French to preserve his – and especially her – kingdom.  Lady Macbeth is the real hero of the plot to kill the king; and until she succumbs to pedestrian guilt and remorse, she urges her husband to murder and kingship. Tamora, Queen of the Goths, will have nothing to do with Titus Andronicus’ sanctimony and false reverence to the gods, and takes revenge on him for sacrificing her son by having his daughter raped and mutilated.  Goneril and Regan are dismissive of patriarchal claims and authority and proceed like latter day Genghis Khans slaughtering the opposition.  Cleopatra laughs at Antony with her slaves and minions.  He is past his prime, enticed by the allure of the East, and easy prey.  She tricks him, deceives him in love and war, and is responsible for his demise. She only wishes to be dressed well on her catafalque.

I have met few women who are not more than a match for men.  No contest actually when simple-minded, hormone-fueled, sex-obsessed men are pitted against canny and cunning women who understand the calculus of security, paternity, and heritage.  I have to laugh at the feminist screeds about the hostile workplace, the glass ceiling, rape, and abuse.  Women have successfully navigated their way through male waters for centuries.  They have figured out male weaknesses, insecurity, and fragile egos early on.  They may have had to stomach a few insults and put up with male pomposity and arrogance; but they have pulled out all the stops when necessary.  Laura, the main character of Strindberg’s The Father disassembles and ruins her husband with the same progressive cruelty as Iago’s.  Hedda Gabler, uses men as toys in her Nietzschean expression of individual will.  They are insignificant and completely dispensable.

The irony of today’s feminism is that it demeans and diminishes women’s intelligence, canniness, and calculating power.  Women need no one’s protection, let alone academic ‘progressives’ who are unwilling to admit their own genetic character.

The literary character hardest for feminists to swallow is Kate, the shrew in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. She is dominated by Petruchio who understands her sexual and personal frustration.  He liberates her from a domineering father and offers her virility and and escape from the confines of tradition.  Her final soliloquy in which she honors men as masters, is often vilified by female critics; but it is simply Kate’s acknowledgement of her feminine nature, her need for a male counterpart, and her happy rejection of her prickly and unhappy past.  Of all marriages in Shakespeare, that between Kate and Petruchio is by far the best.

A male friend of mine – a self-styled ‘friend of women’ has given himself willingly to feminist causes for decades.  He is the ‘sensitive, New Age guy’ of the new century, supportive of women in their struggles to break through the glass ceiling, and behind them in their fight against male aggression.  He, however, is a sexual dunce, and does not realize that women are more complicated than all that.  For all his political support, he is a sexual, uxorious wuss and the last possible choice for a sexual partner.  Most women are like Kate – sexually potent, ambitious, and hard to satisfy – but when the find the right man, there’s no stopping them.

It is time to give women their do, to stop the hand-holding and patronizing support.  Women are quite able to hold their own and then some.  It is time to start chasing them and not propping them up.


  1. Interesting that the only strength you credit women with is based around their sexuality and sexual relations with men. Like most males, you seem incapable of relating to women on anything more than a sexual level.

  2. Also, all of your examples of strong, cunning women are FICTIONAL CHARACTERS, largely ones written by men, which you use to 'disprove' flesh-and-blood women's reality-based accounts of workplace discrimination.


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