by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer
A woman can do anything a man can do. The sentiment in those words have propelled the feminist movement from the days in which “the little lady” was expected to be a stay-at-home mother, obedient to her husband, until today, when women are successful business executives and are among the highest ranking officers in the armed forces.
The quest for gender equality continues, sometimes with notable success, but at other times with disappointing failures.
Most recently, out of a hundred women soldiers who attempted to become US Army Rangers, which is an elite combat unit, none qualified. (See the link at the end of this commentary.) A few did well enough to be offered a future second chance, and perhaps one or more will make history as the first fully-trained Ranger. Given that very few men make the cut, it will be entirely unsurprising if none of the women do, but let’s wait and see.
What will happen if none of them qualify?
So much has been said and written about gender (in)equality that the literature is a maze of confusion, distortions, and outright lies. Lucky you, you have stumbled upon a commentary that sorts it all out for you, neither deprecating women (or men), nor mythologizing them.
The reality is that while men and women are clearly notcompletely interchangeable (the myth), there is a lot more overlap in our separate skills than one might assume. The error we often make is to look at the extremes of performance, both the best and the worst, and to ignore the vast middle ground where most of us live.
For example, on one extreme side, the National Football League used to have a rule which stated that a football team consists of eleven “men” on the field. The National Organization of Women attacked this rule as sexist, since it prohibited women from participating. When NOW threatened action, and demanded the rule be changed, some of us expected the NFL to put up a fight on several obvious grounds. Instead, the NFL immediately gave in, changing the rule to indicate “persons.” Thus, NOW gained an important victory for women who wish to play football in the NFL as an equal of men. Sarcasm mode, of course, since in the years after that change, not one woman has played in any regular season NFL game. They can’t get through training camp.
NOW’s error here of course, was to look for equality at the extreme of performance. The natural physical differences between ordinary men and ordinary women in general may be arguably small, but at the upper levels of brawn and brute strength, men occupy more than ninety-nine percent of the population. Nature is not concerned with fairness or ideology.
What is often ignored is the lower extreme. Here, women rule supreme. For starters, men are hugely more likely to be imprisoned than are women, and are much more likely to commit suicide. Boys perform much more poorly than girls in the early years of school, cannot read as well, and drop out at a higher rate. The resulting lack of life skills among lower class males has devastating consequences, for themselves and for society.
It is here that all the quick-and-easy explanations vanish. We can understand that women’s bones are more fragile than those of a comparably heavy man’s, making football into a deadly sport for any woman at the highest level. So what? Few of us play professional football. We live in the real world of jobs, business and school.
The explanations for male inferiority at the everyday level of work and family, however, involve a universe of factors, each of which multiplies the others, until the maze becomes too difficult to navigate, even for the so-called experts.
One of the first factors to consider is technology. Gone are the days when many jobs required brute strength. Lifting fifty-pound loads repeatedly for hours on end is now done by machines. So has digging ditches, and likewise, many other jobs that women could not do as well as men. Had they been able to, the greedy entrepreneurs would have hired them at lower wages, and fired the men.
Women can, however, operate heavy construction equipment, effectively enabling one woman to do the work previously requiring a hundred men.
Another factor is economic. Women can now out-earn their husbands, and in so doing, need not accept their former role as household servants. If the man threatens to walk out, the woman might very well pack up and leave first, and find better circumstances in the process.
Yet another vital factor is that society itself has undergone swift and radical changes, even going so far as to decrease that one indisputable area of difference between men and women –reproduction. Contraception and abortion have enabled women to unshackle themselves from the inconvenience of unwanted pregnancy.
This new found freedom has, however, also shackled women as much as it has liberated them, and done more harm than good for them. With contraception came an increased tolerance for premarital sexual activity. That, in turn, increased tolerance for out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the very thing that contraception had promised to reduce, but counter-intuitively increased.
The result of this has been an outrageous statistic of fatherless children, which in turn increases poverty. Fatherless children tend (but certainly not in all cases) to behave more criminally and more promiscuously, not only perpetuating these social ills, but accelerating them.
It is a shame, then, that gender inequality has been subject to so much disinformation. Movies like GI Jane are taken by many young people to be reflections of reality, so much so that when reality bites, the inequality is blamed on the unfairness of a male dominated society. Women like Hillary Clinton scorn the practice of paying women less than men, and yet Clinton herself follows this practice with her employees. When liberal professor Lawrence Summers dared to explain some of this as being inherent in the desires of women to pursue different careers than men, he was booted out of his job. Liberal tolerance has its limits, and the limit is essentially zero.
Gender equality should be about rights, dignity and respect, not about quotas in elite Army combat units. To achieve true equality, we must first recognize the natural differences— the good and natural differences— between men and women, even between boys and girls. We must reconsider some of our politically correct taboos, for example, the one that forbids educating young boys in classes separate from young girls.
That is no easy task. The progressive left will oppose progress of any kind, by every means available. To them, equality means hammering down every nail that rises above the others. In order to lift society above their perverse definition of equality, men and women must work together, as equal partners, and we must do so in the real world.