Womanhood Series 2 – This Woman’s Work

Woman's Work

This Woman’s Work is one of my favourite songs.  I like the Kate Bush version but when Maxwell puts his signature neo-soul vocals to the lyrics I’m like, yes this my jam!

I was listening to a lecture about differences in the way men and women think.  The speaker used the analogy of spaghetti and waffles – men think in straight lines like a waffle and women think in spirals like spaghetti. 

The lecturer used this analogy to explain why male-female interactions can sometimes go disastrously wrong. I don’t know how much I subscribe to this view because at times I can be a bit of a waffle.  For example when I go clothes shopping, I’m all waffle! I execute it like a military operation; no time for messing around – get in, extract item and get out. I live by the shopping moto, when in doubt, leave it out. That’s not to say I don’t have spaghetti traits too; and whilst I believe there are some fundamental differences in the way men and women think, these difference can sometimes overshadow the things we do have in common.

Woman's WorkThe lyrics to This Woman’s Work tell the story of a helpless man waiting outside a delivery room after hearing the lives of his wife and unborn child are in danger.  Unable to access and experience this part of his wife’s world, he waits for news.  In similar ways women find themselves standing outside ‘this man’s work’ – waiting for the news of whether we’ll be granted access to male dominated areas of society.  Furthermore, because men are encouraged to selectively numb certain emotions, women are also unable to access male vulnerability. According to social scripts ‘REAL’ men should only display three emotions; strength, aggression and control.  This is echoed in the lyrics of the song when the man is unable to reveal the full range of his emotions – “I should be crying but I just can’t let it show”.

I feel that male-female interactions are complicated by analogies like waffles/spaghetti because it encourages men not to let spaghetti like behaviour show and women to behave less like waffles. Pointing out difference between the sexes and the language of ‘us and them’ dominates current narratives. Because of this we can overlook areas where male and female struggles overlap; finding purpose and establishing identity is one of these areas.

Woman's Work

Myles Munroe critically outlines the balancing act women face in a world where her position at home, in the workplace and wider society is forever changing.  Munroe lays out the case for why women are struggling with the question of identity and the impact this has on her finding purpose.  He states,“…when the purpose of something is not known abuse is inevitable”  

In the case of men, research shows that suicide is the biggest cause of death for men between the ages of 20-49.  Men appear to be facing a ‘crisis of identity’, underpinned by social expectations of what it means to be masculine.  They’re encouraged to selectively numb feelings that make them appear vulnerable or ‘weak’. However, disregarding vulnerability can also lead to not acknowledging feelings of pain, “I should be crying but I just can’t let it show”.

Woman's WorkIn my personal experience the struggle for female identity and moral panic over men becoming the ‘second sex’ creates antagonism between the sexes.  The ‘crisis in masculinity’ is blamed on females becoming more successful; whilst the struggle for female identity is blamed on male oppression.  Though both arguments are valid and necessary, the language of ‘us and them’ only leads to drawing battle lines; man = enemy of woman and woman = enemy of man.  We end up spending a great deal of time focusing on the things that make us different at the detriment of overlooking things that make us the same.  There’s no need to stand outside each other’s world, when some of the struggles we face are the same!

Yes, women may be from Venus and men from Mars but they’re both planets, right?  So I think we should get innovative – let’s create spaces where we allow access to each other’s experiences; who knows, we may even make something delicious from waffles and spaghetti.

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