By Richard Bleil
“Okay, but don’t look at my tits.”
This is what my not-yet wife said to me the very first time she undressed so we could become physical. Despite what eventually happened between us, it made me sad that this frankly stunningly sexy woman actually had concerns about how I would view her body. But, I also “get it”.
See, she had four boys and nursed all of them. Because of this, her breasts looked, frankly, like she had, well, breast fed four children. She feared I would look at them and see them as “deflated”. In fact, I saw them as heroic.
It’s such a bizarre aspect of our society. When women are young, thin, lacking cellulite with firm breasts, men have a habit of wanting to do things to them that, frankly, would get them pregnant. Once they have been pregnant and had children, their bodies go through changes that men dislike. I don’t understand this; women can do what men cannot. Their bodies are tortured for the sake of giving birth and raising children, yet as a society we see the commonly additional weight, the stretch marks, the changes to women’s bodies as somehow unattractive. Frankly, I believe this is a matter of perspective; while most men see imperfections, I see scars of heroism. But, apparently, I’m an outlier.
We could go on and on about this. There have been plenty that has been written about how unfair our society is, how shallow that it is so heavily based on looks and age. Heck, I refused to see the new Xena movie because they didn’t have Lucy Lawless in the lead. But what I wanted to focus on is how (from an admittedly male perspective) women tend to put so much of their own sense of self-worth on these male-centric shallow standards.
Women are warriors. They’re very strong, but tend to play their strength down. They’re highly intelligent, but often take the “back seat” to the men in their lives and in society. Women are highly accomplished, but often hold back so as not to intimidate others. What’s more, this seems to usually be done willingly, and often even subconsciously.
This to me indicates just how pervasive and ingrained this mysoginism is embedded in our society. It’s so common that we often don’t even notice it anymore. We’re getting a little bit better; people are starting to laugh when they see, for example, forensic scientists at crime scenes in high heels. We’re starting to see more “plus size models”, but this is so uncommon that when it occurs it is still considered to be newsworthy. Even Barbie produced physician, astronaut, and other professional career dolls, but somehow, it’s the body of the doll that gets the attention.
We can do better. We need to do better. Women are partners in this life, not servants. When I was in school, it seemed like most of the brightest minds were those of my female classmates. When teaching, I’ve seen many women change institutions, change majors or never use their degrees for their partners, but I can only think of one example where it was the man who willingly took the back seat to his wife.
Jim and Karen were never my students. They were fellow chemistry students in graduate school with me, she in biochemistry and he in analytical chemistry. I adored these two and much to my chagrin, I must admit I’ve lost touch. Jim was great. He was handsome, very bright, talented, and was clearly headed towards a successful career, but, truth be told, she was a star.
She was brilliant. Yes, stunningly beautiful in her appearance, had an incredibly gifted mind, and was on her way to astonishing heights, if…well, this is where typically the woman would pull the reigns and hold back so as not to intimidate her partner. What Jim was great at, however, and what I really appreciate in him and would hope I would take from our friendship is that he not only supported Karen in her meteoric rise, but actually encouraged her to her full potential. He was a partner in the truest sense of the word, recognizing her abilities and not only accepting them, but not letting her pull back. I saw them some years later in a video about Karen. She was working with cancer in a biochemical research company, and while he appeared in this twenty minute video, it was only very briefly, as he played with their two children in the yard in the background.
Life is struggle. It’s hard enough. Don’t you think that maybe it’s time to stop holding each other back because of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, the name of their God or other inconsequential manners of delineation? But, how do we do this? I’ll tell you this; we can’t unless we all work together.