The top three categories to measure strength and weakness were the same for men and women. The fourth was entirely different, but the last one was similar. Society defines strength in men and women very differently despite giving the same name to each category.
Men and women must have and assert their wills to be considered strong. In the weak, however, there is a broad divide. The weak-willed woman is considered by many to be a prize, while the willful woman is reviled. No one shows any deference to the weak-willed man, who is considered less manly in will’s absence.
Ironically, temperance is advocated by very few, but expected by all at the relationship level. Display of strong will is attractive in finding a mate, yet the self-same inflexibility is the rock against which many a relationship has run aground.
Overwhelmingly, a strong belief system is an attractant when seeking a mate. Adherence to that belief system is equally important. Here, the strong have choices:
- Yoke themselves to someone of equal strength within the same belief system.
- Take in someone without a belief system or one weak enough to be broken.
- Engage someone with equal strength to convert (Mate or self) from one belief system to the other.
The one with the weak belief system often seeks out the strong for validation, structure, guidance and/or salvation.
Men and women differ in what comprises character based on societal beliefs and stereotypical gender roles. What they have in common:
- Faithfulness (not fidelity)
- Common sense (not intellect)
Where they differ is listed above in parenthesis. Women are expected to be monogamous and must not be broadly ignorant. Society commonly accepts men’s infidelities, but condemns them for less-than-average intellect, even in light of specialty expertise.
Both are expected to have faithfulness, meaning being true to the responsibilities of the relationship. Necessarily, these responsibilities are as diverse as the characters involved with one another.
Strong men and women are expected to have common sense. This sense must transcend all layers of life from the most critical decisions to the most mundane choices.
Prudence & Insight
While different characteristics, both prudence and insight go hand-in-hand but are not measured the same in men and women. Societal gender roles play a large part in defining the differences.
Men are expected to make the right choices as a matter of intellect, manhood and leadership role. Women should choose responsibly based on the emotional impact of their decisions, experience in human nature and counsel of others. The stark difference is men should know, and women should ask.
Honor & Courage
The most surprising result was women should be courageous, and men should be honorable. Often, honor and courage are considered a package where one cannot exist without the other, but not when considering the gender specifics of strength.
While societies generally do not equate honor and infidelity, men are expected to be consistent and persistent without making a mockery of their belief systems. Women, in spite of the last section, are deemed strong when they venture alone into unknown or dangerous territory.
Both genders are considered weak when they fail at courage, but only men are considered weak when they fail at honor.
Why does society view men and women differently when comparing the same traits? How do these traits make men and women compatible when the characteristics are not in equal measure?
© Red Dwyer 2011
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