Did you like how I listed women first in the title? The order rank of the genders is apparent in our culture, day in, day out. It seems only when we’re trying to be polite (“Ladies and gentlemen…”) or heroic (“Women and children first!”) does the order get reversed. In medical school, I’ve heard the male body is studied first, female second. Why, I query? No response. Doesn’t one have the babies and the other not, I continue? I learned in college “his” represents both “his” and “her” in academic writing, no need to bother with “they” or “them”. So why not “her” represent “his” and “her”, then, if it’s all the same? No response.
I don’t believe the genders were made to contradict each other and compete for survival. I think the idea should be laughable. Being different is okay; it’s not an invitation for some twisted version of this week’s “Survival of the Fittest.” Don’t make me wear shoulder pads, be aggressive, or take only two weeks for maternity leave. I believe we were made to complement each other and work alongside one another, each of our work important no matter how it’s parceled out and done. I think this compassion and respect became lost eons ago. And here we are. Ending sentences with verbs.
At my work, I’m learning to balance the lines between acting firm, fair and friendly. We’ll call it the three “f’s”. Normally–naturally, if a bit of pride may be snuck in–I’m a fairly friendly person (see what I did there?). Some see this as a green light to run me over, a la the Road Runner stampeding over Wile E. Coyote. “Meep meep! Deadlines, smeadlines, you plebeian! Do it yourself!” And then I’m left holding my Acme box, smoking tire tracks across my back, wondering if I kept the receipt somewhere…
Some people have grown afraid or wary of me at my work. I can see the mask of social nicety slip off when I remind them politely of upcoming due dates, tempered with a statement I am aware of their other work responsibilities. I offer assistance when necessary, take notes, try to learn others’ learning styles and steer meetings. I hold people accountable to their work, allowing for the inevitable wrench life throws at us all from time to time. And still yet, the mask slips, I see their eyes peek through–fear, annoyance, sometimes a mixture of both–and I’m left wondering if I did something wrong. Like Sherlock, I sometimes brood about this in my chair and I’m left to wonder: is this partially because I’m a woman? Are women still expected to not be so serious and fastidious in their work? So expecting? But wait, you’re an INTJ, you say? What is that–alphabet soup? Oh, you sneezed. Bless you!
I could be wrong, of course–but what if I’m right, even with just one person? How odd this is to me. People have such limited data surrounding others at work and yet they run with what ideas they possess like a child wielding a balloon, gossiping all the while. Why can’t we let people be people and not force them into binary boxes with hidden rules and expectations? There are arguments today that these two boxes aren’t enough either. If so, how long has this been the case? And where have “they” been hiding throughout history and from whom?
I’m intentionally writing strong and frail characters within my novels. I want them to be as close to life as possible, saving kittens from trees in one chapter and eating an entire bag of Oreos in the next. Pass the milk, please.
Strength and frailty. Don’t let us kid ourselves we’re only one or the other. We are messy, convoluted creatures, struggling to live and thrive. Your characters should be, too.
Happy writing. Have an Oreo.
Song of the moment: “Only Time”, Enya