Saturday, January 3, 2009

When Mars and Venus are being threatened

I had a long discussion with a friend awhile ago. She’s from one of those post-Soviet Union countries. Perhaps a little bit similar to Malaysia, we are from a generation where we still hang on to certain traditional values but unlike our parents, our lifestyles and mentalities have somewhat changed through influence from the West.

Before I proceed to share the discussion, I need to explain a little bit about my friends’ character in order to better illustrate the point of our discussion.

I see my friend as a modern woman who has her own career, in which she is very good in, sociable and forward thinking. She’s a mother of two young children but don’t expect her to be one of those moms who stay at home and forget about their social life.

I enjoy having conversations with this friend because she speaks her mind and basically, also a fun person to be with. However, there is something about her relationship with her husband which I don’t quite understand. When they are together, it is very clear that they play very different but complementary roles. It’s more or less like he is the chef and she, the sous-chef. Without each other, they will not be able to run a restaurant smoothly.

I guess you must be wondering which part of their relationship don’t I understand as it seems perfect. Anyway, I am not finished yet.

So, an incident happened one night when we were together. We were hanging out at a bar with our husbands and a man who was standing beside her started checking her out. She said something to the man which generated an unexpected reaction from him. He started turning aggressive and we were caught by surprise since we were busy chatting and did not really witness what was happening. To cut a long story short, her husband came to her rescue and finally, the man was ushered out by the security guards. Our night was nevertheless spoiled.

When I later asked my friend what had happened, she explained that she was upset with the fact that the man had the audacity to “give her the eyes” in the presence of her husband. I also observed that during the whole commotion when her husband was about to punch the man in the face, she remained in her seat. I told her that if I were her, I would have punched the man myself.

Then she quickly explained that she could never take such an action in her husband’s presence. It is her husband’s job to protect her and by taking matters into her own hands, she would be undermining her husband’s masculinity.

This is the part I don’t understand. I guess what really confuses me is the paradox between her individual and marital self. I persisted to ask her whether a woman should not be allowed to defend her own honour. Her response eventually generated into another long discussion about the change in man’s role in modern society.

According to her, part of the reasons why women have became the way they are; meaning more bold, bitchy, and out of line, is because of the way men are treating them; meaning more respectful, sensitive and understanding. She was referring to European men. She added that European men do not know how to behave like men anymore and hence, they are being stepped all over by women.

We have very differing views of course and I argued with her that I don’t agree with the way “non-European” men are treating  women. Putting women in subversive positions, treating them as objects, prohibiting them from having individual identities, etc. Are all these what define the masculinity of a man?

I proceeded to tell her that a man who treats women with respect, being attentive to their needs and understands what women want do not make them weak. Masculinity is not measured by how much power or authority a man has over women. It is measured by how he defends a woman’s honour and dignity. There is nothing honourable in treating women like possessions.

In the case of women behaving out of line, I wouldn’t blame it on men. I think it’s mostly due to the nature and personality of the woman in question. These women are just ignorant and lack manners. It doesn’t mean that if you are being treated nicely, you can be rude or mean.

I think that we have to start to understand that we no longer live in an era where women’s options in life were limited due to the lack of education and financial independence. Women are able to obtain the highest level of education and contribute to their nations. They are able to be independent and hence think for themselves. These qualities should not be a threat to men.

The only threat is when both men and women forget the fundamental principles of how to treat each other, as human beings and partners in life.

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