“The woman you described there…”

 

(Excerpt from a letter to a friend)

 

 

    As I get older (physically, i.e. sexually), and as the feminist propaganda has forced me to think about these things, and as I learn more in general (apart from listening to my hormones), the more it seems to me that the difference between men and women is irremediably inherent, and that the woman you describe there is not just a type, but fundamentally the type, though sometimes concealed by the requirements of marriage, or civilization, or having to earn a living, or lack of opportunity for expression, or lack of courage for expression.  She appears in several works of Kingsley Amis, too, of which I recommend to you most particularly Stanley and the Women; but she is already present in Lucky Jim.

 

      I probably do not believe in so extreme a statement as that all women are that way, nor must you believe I think all men are just the opposite.  Once you put words on the characterization it becomes false, as you well know; and only art can give the true picture, which is in each case individual.  Generalizations must lose a lot.  Just the same, public policy is impossible without generalization, and so is education.  Art may take these women one at a time, but legislation concerns "women," and so we have to know what that category entails.

 

      The newspapers constantly report "research" into the difference between the sexes, mainly either bullshit or obvious, not to mention simplistic as well.  Reading this stuff teaches one more about the difference between the sexes than the author of the stuff itself claims to have uncovered.  A recent article, by a woman (sociologist, no doubt, but merely called professor), points out the differences in the purpose of conversation:  Women convey subtle and complicated messages full of nuance, while men merely report.  This leads to trouble, she says, in that men tend to miss the essentials of what the woman was driving at, while women often take offense at what seems insult or arrogance, reading the man's tone rather than his words, and reading it as if it had been uttered by another woman.

 

      The writer of the newspaper article didn't go very deeply into the matter, but the sociologist reported upon probably did.  I have made the same observation myself, as has every other thinking man (and probably more than a few women), but I have always thought of this difference as a defect in the women who exhibit it.  When I (or Einstein, or you) make a report I expect it to be taken as no more and no less than that report. When someone asks me a question, I tend to think he wants the answer, and so I give it.  When the questioner is a woman I have often been trapped into giving offense, by this simple misconception.  Only too late do I realize that it is not my belief that was wanted, nor the truth if I happen to have it, but rather a discussion, or sympathy.

She         "What's wrong with the sink?"
He          "Well, I'd better have a look."
She         "But I have to cook dinner."
He          "Well sure, but I have to..."
She         "But why don't you do something?"
He          "Well, I don't know what's..."
She         "I knew I shouldn't have asked you."

    She neither wants to know what is wrong, nor really wants it fixed just then; she wants sympathy, a discussion of the awfulness of having a sink get stuck at a time like this, a speculation that the plumbing industry doesn't really have the answer to anything, even after all these years.  If two women were in the kitchen, the dialogue would go more like this.

She (1)     "What's wrong with the sink?"
She (2)     "Golly, what a mess.  Wouldn't you know it had to be at dinnertime?"
She (1)     "But what am I going to do?"
She (2)     "I'll set the table.  Don't worry."
She (1)     "I'll put the pots here for now."
She (2)     "They really don't make them to last, do they?"
She (1)     "Golly, what a mess."

    Both conversations began with the same question in the same words and spoken in the same tone of voice.  It is obvious what has gone wrong in the first conversation, and now the question is, what use can we make of the obvious?  If men naturally could answer questions in the caring and satisfactory way that "She (2)" did in the second conversation, we would never have had a scientific revolution, an Aristotle or Euclid.

        The newspaper Sunday supplements, when urging men to be more regardful of women's real needs and desires, do not realize that they are asking half the race to forego all civilization (and its inevitable discontents, including the war of men against women).  I wouldn't do it if I could, and while now I have lived long enough to understand this difference between men and women, and therefore might be able to converse in the second manner if I really tried, I believe it is hopeless to teach men in general to do this, at an age early enough to make a difference. 

 
        That I cherish my own side, in this difference of attitude towards logic and relevance as taken by men and by women, is not really the point (though most women would say it is).  I argue that it is inevitable in any case; it is part of our genetic heritage and as essential to the survival of our species as the shape of our sexual organs.
                
              Ralph A. Raimi, 1991