Another week another blog, and I’m still recycling (refiling) old ones to get them moved from A-B. This one was originally posted on my Moonfruit site on March 11, 2011, and is a bit of a rant at the content of the ‘Gender’ section of the course material on an OU literature course. To be fair, the course was getting on a bit, and even the tutor acknowledged that it ‘lacked subjectivity’, but that confession came too late and offered little comfort for myself and the vast majority of my fellow (male and female alike) students… Anyhoo, here, as Fred of the B-52’s might put it, it T.I. IS…
BOYS ARE BETTER THAN GIR- IRLS, BOYS ARE BETTER THAN GIR-IRLS
Some references in today’s blog won’t make sense to people who haven’t taken the OU A210 course ‘Approaching Literature’. Hopefully, that won’t matter too much…
Having fired off TMA05 I jumped straight back in yesterday to catch up on Chapter 2, Gender and Poetry, and I’ve got to say I’m getting really sick of these weak as water arguments being offered to prove that every single negative that arises in a woman’s life arises as a result of ‘Patriarchal Domination’.
If a bloke wrote a course book containing the kind of gender bias this course book contains it would cause outrage, especially if the arguments used to ‘back up’ the theorising had the kind of holes in that we find here. Or am I being sexist, by expecting that ‘feminine logic’ should need to demonstrate the kind of logic that other kinds of logic are expected to demonstrate, or offer solid conclusions based on all the available evidence rather than wishy-washy ones based on cherry-picked examples of other equally flawed and subjective theoretical wool-gatherings? Probably…
That’s not to say, of course, that us blerks haven’t got a lot to answer for in many respects, but where’s the objectivity in this course material? And where’s the acknowledgment of the very simple, down to earth (Venus and Mars, dog and cat) fact that men and women do differ in their psychological makeup, and that, unwelcome or not, men find, for equally valid reasons, aspects of women’s behaviour confusing and challenging too?
Now, I’ve got my tongue quite a way into my cheek here (sort of) and I’m playing devil’s advocate to put the cat among the pigeons, but mexed mitaphors aside, I think there is some merit to the logic that follows, and I think, in the name of ‘balance’, it’s worthy of consideration.
Throughout the history of the written novel and the history of contemporary (as opposed to classical, rather than to suggest exclusively ‘modern’) poetry, women have been the largest producers and the largest consumers. Despite this, these areas continue to be ‘dominated’(I use the quotation marks to highlight the irony of a word that should be available to both sexes being hijacked to imply a pejorative, gender-specific value judgement when used in conjunction with the words…) by men. Now I may be wrong (I haven’t read all of it yet), but for all the theories put forward in the course materials there seems to be one possible explanation for this that hasn’t been given any consideration whatsoever: perhaps the reason men continue to be regarded as the best writers and the best poets is because they’re actually better at it?
Shocking as that conclusion might be, it would explain a great deal that none of the arguments put forward in ‘Literature and Gender’ seem able to explain, i.e., why, in fields where women greatly outnumber men both as producers AND consumers, do men win all the prizes?
And of course it’s not just in the world of publishing that we see this. The same pattern exists in almost every field where female consumers outnumber – or at the very least equal – the number of male consumers, and also notably within fields that often relate pretty much exclusively to female aesthetics and consumption. Top clothes designers – Men. Top hairdressers – Men. Top Interior designers – Men. Top chefs – Men. I don’t know enough about shoes, handbags, jewellery etc to be able to say, but my guess would be – Men. Moving away from feminine objects of desire to ‘Art’ generally: Musical composition – Men; painting – Men; sculpture – Men; philosophy – Men. Then there’s the scholastic stuff like science and maths etc… Oh, men again!
And the answer can’t be as simple as men being bigger and stronger and ‘dominant’, because history and evolution have proven time and time again that brain is better than brawn, so after 200, 000 years or so of human evolution any initial bias based on the ability to throw a rock the furthest would probably have evened itself out by now.
I think the reality is (and this would seem to be borne out by scholastic results, though of course there is a proven inherent bias in school teaching methods that favours the ‘female brain’ pathology) that in general terms women do have the edge on blokes, but they tend to be less represented at the kind of levels where the word ‘genius’ might be bandied about. In essence, women are very good at being quite good, and they’re quite good at being very good, but they’re just not as good as men at being exceptional.
To be honest, I’m not sure what that means in real terms – whether it is better to be a good all-rounder than an artisan, or a Jack-of-all-trades rather than a master of one. My instincts tell me that both have equally valuable things to bring to the table – if only they could stop arguing about it and trying to prove that what they’ve got is better, and that the only thing stopping them from achieving their full potential are the people on the other side of the table.
Talking of tables, though, if we’re sitting down to eat, who’s going to do the cooking? Do you fancy Jamie, Hugh or Gordon in the kitchen tonight, or Delia/Nigella? If you’re a laydee, and you’re preference was one of the first three you’ve just made my point for me.
Now, what music should we put on… …
See my tongue? See my cheek? Please don’t take the above too seriously – I am well aware that in some cultures patriarchal oppression/domination equals systematic abuse, and that’s no laughing matter. I do, however, think that western feminists appropriating the suffering of women oppressed by such regimes as a collective or shared experience and using it to justify their own failures or as a shitty stick with which to beat men generally equates to a further ‘wrong’. And as the good man (or woman) said; ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’…