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Friday, September 14, 2007

What's Going On Between Men and Women?

By Silvia Uribe

This is the question that a 23 year old posted on my website. She was referring to the kind of relationships that happen today which follow no rules, have no expectations, and over all, no commitment. She indicated she’s noticed that in past times – as close as the previous generation – lines were clearly established, approaches were understood and accepted, and basically everyone knew how to play the game. “Not today – she claims. Today people meet, and if they like each other pretty soon they’re sleeping together. They don’t necessarily know each other, and they don’t trust each other but they decide to share a house, and in many cases, their finances. How is that possible?”
According to her, in the past, things were clearer and easier to understand, therefore, people knew exactly where were they standing, how to act, and what were the expectations on both sides. “For God sake, we don’t even know how to introduce our significant other: as a friend, or as a boyfriend? What’s the line and when you cross it? and… these are the easier to answer questions, because there are others more complicated, such as how to choose who to date, or go out, or hook up with? We are not even clear on what we’re doing and what to call it. Are we to choose based on character? Well… that’s a problem too - according to my young reader-. "In the past men were “manly” enough to go after who they wanted, to court, and to take the risk of being rejected. Men now sit back and wait to see what the woman is willing to do. They take a comfortable position instead of a pro-active one. If we are talking about choosing based on education, this can certainly post a problem for those women who are not only obtaining their Bachelors, and Masters, and PhD’s, but who also like to read, travel, and have a variety of interests. How about based on drive? Then, even more of a barrier! - and she proceeded to ask me, - How many young guys you know that are a go-getter, a goal setter, and a trail blazer with high dreams and ambitions who know where they want to go, and how to get there?" (Let's admit it, this kind she describes, has never abounded.)
I see her point. However, I think that a lot of those unattractive behaviors that men present have not only been accepted, but they have been encouraged by women, and here is why. We have been confused between being independent, smart, and strong in more than one way, and not needing a man’s strength, support, and advice. We have clearly sent them the message that we don’t need or want to admire them, trust them or depend on them in any way. Why? Just because that’s what the old idea of “feminism” is all about? Yet, I still have to hear a woman say that she feels great having a mediocre, lazy man, with no imagination who only likes to be taken care of, next to her. I truly believe that we need to adjust the expectations that women have of men, and that we start taking a modern, more mature approach to the concept of feminism. Can we mix the feministic values, in which I totally believe, with a less self-sufficient, aggressive, almost "macho" attitude that women so much deplore when a man exhibits it? Can we be who we are, without undermining who men can be? If we let them open the door for us, it does not mean that we don't have the strength to do it. If we let them court us with charming details, it does not mean that we cannot also set clear limits. Can we, please, reach a healthy and much needed balance between who we are, and what we want in a man, and find an articulate way to convey it? It is possible, and several strong, smart women I know can attest to it, and have a great "manly" man by their side. The good news is that it is up to each one of us. Men are not going to want to leave their comfortable position, unless they see the need for it. We have to be the driving force of this particular change in them, for our own good.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

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