Paradigm, Shifted: Men Are Not Superior to Women and Never Have Been
But this observation has not been good for my bank account, or my dating life …
When I lived in Missoula, post-divorce, I experienced a vicarious awakening. My roommate had just returned from a year-long stint as a commander of a co-ed, space-related, expeditionary force. In her mid-twenties, the dating possibilities for a heterosexual woman in Northwest Montana were minimal at best — and she was in no way interested in being less than the badass she was, in order to avoid intimidating the men she encountered. What was a girl to do? She’d been the best person, male of female, for the job. Everyone had agreed, including me: She was/is a remarkable person. And also, she couldn’t unlearn the lessons she’d learned: She couldn’t “un-Commander.”
Although thirty years her senior, I’d had a similar experience at around age 20, when I’d joined an all-female climbing expedition in the Himalayas. In the six months of organizing, publicity and fundraising, traveling, trekking, and dealing with whiteouts, snowstorms, avalanches, and effective group decision-making, I learned a lot. Raised by a single mother, I’d already had a pretty-big head start in the knowledge that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” but Nepal changed everything, pretty-much permanently, and I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t “un-expedition.”
I realized that men weren’t superior to women in any way, and for the rest of my natural life, I’ve had a lot of trouble “submitting.” What do I mean by that? Playing nice; ignoring juvenile, bad-boy behavior; allowing my partner to do all of the decision making without any democratic input from me; and most recently, putting up with ubiquitous, and-perfectly-monikered, “mansplaining.” (Thank you, Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me). Basically, I have difficulty turning the other cheek, when I don’t want to, and shouldn’t have to.
What it boils down to is this: when I say I want a partner who considers me to be an equal, I really mean it.
In an earlier, pre-Trump-era-version of this piece, I wrote, “women still have a tough hill to climb, but we’re strong and smart enough to get there.” But in the summer of 2016, when I began this…