Sunday, August 19, 2012

Should Men Be Willing To Sacrifice Their Lives For Women?


Within the binding rules of patriarchy, men have certain jobs to do. Men are assigned a role of domination on  major fronts. On a physical level, some might argue that men have the tougher role between the sexes. It is men who tend to handle areas of brawn and labor. For the most part, is is men who work construction, men who work in mines. For the most part, men are our firefighters, men are our machinists. 

Essentially men are most often, physically stronger that women. I have no problem admitting this. Patriarchy encourages men to be the aggressor, which may contribute to a man's initiative or desire to fight, defend, or overpower. Even so, the fact remains, that men actually develop muscle and bulk in a way that women do not. Even most female muscle builders, develop smaller muscles than their male counterparts. A woman's lack of testosterone contributes to that.

Being that women are most often physically weaker, plus the fact that patriarchy takes advantage of that fact; women are often seen as the sex that needs physical protection. Because of this, society believes that one job of men is that of protector.

Sometimes I wonder if it must take practice for men in the military and men on our police forces to work alongside a female partner without the feeling that the woman might slow them down or that they will have to look out for them, more than they would another man. I know that if I were a woman, working along side a man in that arena, I would feel like I had a lot to prove.

On July 20th, James Holmes entered an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and opened fire on unsuspecting patrons. Matt McQuinn, 27, Jonathan Blunk 26, and Alex Teves, 24, used their bodies to protect their significant others. Each man died. 

The tragedy of the Aurora shooting is certainly not the first time men have come to the rescue of women. As a feminist, as a woman; I cannot help but wonder what drives a man to protect women. Is it the engrained idea of gender norms that prompts a man to take such risks? Or is it possible for gender to be removed from the equation?

In college a psychology professor provided my class with a book that was meant to spark conversation and debate. The book spoke to author's belief that being born male meant having embrace certain obligations. One was that men must be protectors for women whom they don't even know. That if a woman is in jeopardy, a man must immediately assist or put the woman's safety first before his own. This certainly created stern chatter within the room.

I've always had a difficult time speaking up in class. In true introvert form, I kept my mouth shut as my brain was flooding with thoughts. Not only did I not have the energy to speak my mind, I didn't have the energy to defend myself. I knew that jaws would drop if I were to admit that I didn't completely disagree with the author.

A man's belief that he must sacrifice his own life for a woman's is partly due to patriarchal forces and partly due to the very real fact that women are often physically weaker than men. 

As a teen and early adult, I worked at a Borders Books and Music store (may they rest in peace). One month the staff was in a tizzy as there were news reports of a man attacking women in near by parking lots. The managers encouraged the female staff to walk to their cars with a male staff member. I found it interesting that the men were volunteered for this, and not asked. I remember wondering if the men felt obligated or if they felt that the request was fair and logical.

I think the belief was that an attacker would not strike against a woman who was paired with another person; particularly if that person was male. But what if an attacker didn't care? Suddenly, two lives are at stake.

In August of 2011, I wrote a piece on this blog entitled, Chivalry: It May Not Be Dead, But Should It Be?. I speak to the definition of chivalry and question if chivalry is a necessary act. Some women (myself included) feel uncomfortable or even insulted by the idea that a man must treat a woman, "like a lady."  Treating a woman like a lady, suggests that a woman is limited to a man's definition of "lady." Chivalry ultimately stems from a sexist view point, even if the intention is to show affection and respect.

A man sacrificing himself for a woman in need, can be considered an act of chivalry. A woman assisting a woman in need is some how deemed an act of sisterhood or simply a benevolent gesture. Person to person, heart to heart. If we dig deeper we might entertain the idea that a woman might assist another woman because there is the on going idea that women needs protection, no matter what. Or perhaps a woman shielded by a man, might feel that it was indeed his job to leap over her.

Is it possible for a man to shield a woman from bullet fire with the straight forward mindset, that a person is to help another person because we share this planet and every human life has value? I'd like to think, yes.

McQuinn, Blunk and Teves, are no doubt heroes. Their friends and families have every reason to beam with pride. I myself, feel humbled and proud of those men.

Being that I am not connected to shootings on the same emotional level as the citizens of Aurora, I suppose I have the luxury of being able to examine these rescues largely, on a sociopolitical level. While others are mourning; I am analyzing. This is not to say that I am not affected by what happened or that I am insensitive to the effect that the event has on the city of Aurora.

It is up to men if they want to examine the concept of self sacrifice. Some may not even find the topic important, as self sacrifice is common place, or perhaps they feel they will never find themselves in a situation where they have to shield a woman from bullets.

The solution is not for men to pull back, when they see a woman in danger. The issue is that we must dodge the myth that masculinity and heroism are one.

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