Month: March 2017

Free Will

Free Will

What does it mean to have free will?  Is it merely to have a choice available to you [Ref. 1]?  Or is it the freedom to make that choice and feel no judgement or pushback? 

 I grew up with parents that let us kids make our own decisions.  I’d say they let us make age appropriate decisions but that’s a loaded statement if there ever was one…  so to rephrase, my parents taught us to make decisions and then stepped back and let us fly or fall or, as I’ve found is usually the case with decisions even as an adult, stumble through.  They did their best to not judge but support, even if our decisions directly disagreed with their own choices.  In other words, we had the reality and not just the appearance of free will.

 I never realized how rare this was, maybe I still don’t know because I see explanations all around and I feel the need to give them myself.  What’s interesting is how I feel the need to justify having a low end car to save money – clarifying that I’m saving for vacations – when talking with well-off friends, and I feel the need to justify – or not mention – having splurged on heated leather seats when talking with friends who struggle to get by.  It’s the same car, just different social circles and expectations.  When was the last time you felt the need to justify a decision or lifestyle to a friend?  A coworker?  A loved one?  And can it really be called free will if your choice is judged and pressure placed to choose a particular way?

 My car falls firmly into the category of “first world problems”, yet we all have our own “car” as it were.  What is your “car”?  It can be as sneaky as “keeping up with the Jones’” or as blunt as being told “no, you can’t play with the boys”. 

 That second one happened in my 8th grade P.E. class [Ref. 2].  We had 8 girls, of which I was the only athlete, and about 20 boys.  I had played soccer for over 9 years at this point and knew the gender separation our teacher insisted on was not reasonable from a skill standpoint.  So when it was the boys turn to play I just… played.  Stepped out onto the field and played.  There were some complaints, and some boys wouldn’t pass to me, but enough would and no one stopped me.  Rather like what women in the STEM [Ref. 3] fields experience today.  I was allowed to play, or at least not stopped, but what about the boys?  Were any of them able to NOT play?  And if I took the ball from one, would he be made fun of because “you got beat by a girl”?  Never mind that I had training he didn’t have.  Never mind that I had athletic aptitude he didn’t have.  Never mind that gender didn’t actually matter in this case.  Our instructor took the lazy way out, the social expectations way out.  The double standard that boys are athletic and girls are not way out and effectively set us all up for failure.

 I had limited free will, the boys had none.  These ideas can and do co-exist.  The free will to choose not to play – or to choose to play! – for both genders needs to be addressed for gender equality to prevail.  Because free will starts with having the choice, and grows with that choice being one where either outcome is socially acceptable.

 

References:

1)      Free Will: free and independent choice; voluntary decision
Source:
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/free-will?s=t

2)      PE: also known as physical education in the public school system, which in my experience usually consisted of gym teachers attempting to teach game rules to kids who 1) already know them or 2) don’t care and will stand in the middle of the playing field gossiping

3)      STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. 
source: https://www.ed.gov/Stem

Current Events – Reproductive Choice

Note: Every third blog is planned to be my thoughts and reactions to some sort of current event that is going on in the world.  Please leave comments or contact me with topics you’d be interested in hearing!

 

Since I’m based in the USA, the easy answer for this current events blog would be the Trump presidency.  But I’m sure there are already books and books about it, and ultimately it feels like a cop-out… the easy and superficial answer… like swiping a finger-full of icing off a cake but not actually taking a bite.  So, let us begin as I mean to continue, with the heavy cake.  Today’s cake is reproductive choice. 

 I recently got into a polite Facebook discussion regarding abortion.  No sarcasm, it actually happened.  No one changed anyone’s mind – the polite discussion was miracle enough for one day – but what strikes me about the whole abortion debate is that very few people are realistically talking about men’s rights and roles in regards to reproductive choice. 

Pro-life supporters want to protect every innocent human being [Ref. 1].  Pro-choice supporters want to fight for reproductive freedom [Ref. 2].  The debates and arguments I’ve heard often center around the woman and child.  Men (presumably) had something to do with conception of the child and yet they are missing from the discussion. 

If an accidental pregnancy occurs, society generally expects the man to “do the right thing” and get married.  And yet the ability to make a child is no guarantee that the couple will be successful in marriage – the success of which affects all three people, mother, father, and child.  This societal expectation appears to have originated when patriarchal society set down rules to protect women, and their children, who were dependent upon the men in their lives [Ref. 3]. 

Many women now have a greater capacity to depend on themselves.  Much more so than any other time in the last few hundred years – not equal to men, but greater than it was.  Yet men are still expected to provide by means of marriage.  In a society where divorce is not taboo and co-parenting is a term that many have heard or experienced, marriage is still the golden standard response to an accidental pregnancy.  Let that sink in for a moment. 

Why are we not having debates about the many ways co-parenting can exist?  Why are we not having debates about the many options both men and women have when it comes to a shared child?  Why are we not talking about men’s reproductive choices?

According to Chip and Dan Heath the first villain of decision making is narrow framing which limits options [Ref. 4].  When it comes to men, pregnancy, and children, society’s narrow framework starts at the beginning and continues right on up through it all.  Even the very beginning has limits for men as they have only one choice of reliable temporary birth control – condoms.  Though really, they have two choices if you count abstinence and three choices if you count trusting your partner’s choice of birth control.  And while I’ve trusted the significant others I’ve had in the past, I’ve NEVER trusted any single one them enough to give them all responsibility for birth control.  Becoming a parent is a huge decision and one where I want full control.

Why do men not have that same level of control?  Why, if society expects men to take full responsibility for a pregnancy they helped create, has society not provided men with multiple options of reliable temporary birth control?  For that matter, why is “full responsibility” relegated to financial support of the mother and random pickles and ice cream runs at 3am? 

Let us start the change.  Let us start by asking the men around us what reproductive choices they feel they are missing?  And what choices would they like to have? 

And then, to own the issue, ask yourself how we can start to make those options a possibility.

 

  References:

1)      National Right to Life (NRLC)
Source:
http://www.nrlc.org/about/

2)      NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation
Source:
https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about

3)      Shotgun Weddings
Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_wedding

4)      Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Source: book:
http://heathbrothers.com/books/decisive/

Who am I to Speak?

Who am I to Speak?

This is the part where I tell a tale of epic hardship and how, through the principles I’m espousing, my life turned around and I’m now living happily ever after and have started a crusade to share my path with others.  Yup.  Um.  I got nothing.

Truth to tell my life has been privileged.  I grew up in a safe neighborhood, had two siblings to play and argue with, my dad was the breadwinner with a steady job, and my mom stayed home while we were younger.  It was expected that us kids would go to college and become contributing members of society, at which we’ve mostly succeeded.

That’s not to say I haven’t experienced hardship, because I have, or loss, I’ve been there too.  But I have knowledge holes on both ends of the societal and monetary spectrum.  What I do have to offer comes not from a glorious life turn-around, but rather a series of quiet events.

There are depressing quiet events.  The consultant who accepts answers from a male co-worker but not me… even though we used the exact same wording.  The boyfriend who feels emasculated that I earn more money than he does.  The martial arts training partner who refuses to hit a girl.

There are uplifting quiet events.  The co-workers who have always judged me by my merit rather than gender.  The couple who has successfully traded primary parenting responsibilities every couple of years.  My husband who has no problem acknowledging me as an equal in martial arts skill.

Mostly I find the depressing events are based in fear and expectations and the uplifting ones are based in respect and a certain willingness to throw societal expectations out the window.  What are these societal expectations that define an event or get thrown out?  In current society, I see men who are struggling with an old set of expectations on how to act and be a productive member of society.  I see women who are not sure how to achieve gender equality, partially because they all have a different idea of what that looks like.  One thing I see missing in these and other instances is an understanding that HAVING a choice is more important than the actual choice a person makes.

I want to spread that opportunity to choose, because the more people who have a choice the less there is to fear in what others choose.  I want to challenge the status quo of societal expectations, adjust them until the only expectations are ones based in knowledge of the person.  I want to be a vehicle of change, but I cannot do this alone, because alone I am just another person throwing societal expectations out the window.

 

So, who am I to speak?  I am simply a voice.

The more important question is: Will you listen, evaluate, debate, and discuss what you hear?

 

Feminism and Maleism

Both men and women are defined by specified roles in today’s society.  Women – through the feminist movement and other efforts through the years – have gained many of the socially acceptable rights and responsibilities of men.  They can wear pants, earn a living wage, vote, etc., etc.  That’s not to say they’re equal in all things, just that they have made significant progress in many parts of the world.  Men… men have not had a similar movement.  It’s not socially acceptable for men to wear dresses, be a stay at home parent, or express emotion.  Though I have recently seen progress being made in this direction!  To balance men’s requirement to maintain traditional masculinity, women must therefore maintain a certain level of the traditional role.  Men are being limited and that in turn limits all of society. 

 One definition of feminism is equality of the sexes.  Yet the words feminism and maleism are polarizing and, in some ways, biased by their very names.  The first portion of the word “fem” for female or “male” for… well… male draws the focus.  We need a new word.  One that encompasses the full spectrum of gender variation.  When trying to come up with this word my grand idea was to create the thought of equality for all using the term “genderism” only to find that genderism is already defined as the concept that there are two and only two genders.  Grand idea fail.  So while I ponder the name, here’s some more food for thought.

 It is my firm belief that gender equality cannot move forward with half of the equation (masculinity) frozen into a particular shape.  Don’t think, just respond: Would you rather your male child play with cars or dolls?  What about your female child?  Many forward thinking people would be insulted at the idea of their female child only being allowed to play with dolls, she can do anything a boy can!  But the same is not true at all for the boys.  Can’t they do everything that a girl can?  Shouldn’t they be allowed and encouraged?  What is so very wrong about a boy playing with a doll?

 The same double standard exists for emotions and behaviors.  Women and girls are more and more encouraged to show leadership skills (previously called “being bossy”) while men and boys are still not encouraged to show empathy for others (as is needed for care based tasks).  “Stronger” emotions include anger, conviction, and confidence while “weaker” emotions include things like crying, vulnerability, and uncertainty.  You, the reader, already know via social norms that we all experience which genders are associated with which emotions and the negativity associated with expressing emotions “owned” by the opposite sex. 

 So how do we move forward?  How do we free all genders to express themselves as a human without following a scripted gender role?  Let us start by exploring and supporting the concept that gender equality can only be reached by all genders supporting … all genders.  Gender equality for all.

 

Footnotes

1)      Maleism: slang word for “Masculism”; belief of men’s rights and defending the male image from the extremist views of feminist groups. The opposite of Feminism; the male’s version of Feminisim. 
Source: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Maleism

2)      Feminism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes  OR organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
Source:
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism

3)      Genderism: Genderism, or gender binarism, is the cultural belief that gender is a binary, or that there are, or should be, only two genders — man and woman — and that the aspects of one’s gender are inherently linked to the sex in which they were assigned at birth.
Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderism