Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Battle of the Sexes

It occurs to me that Robert Jordan may be very unpopular among certain... ahem... modern circles for his views on masculinity and femininity.  Specifically, in his Wheel of Time series, there is a "magic" which is called the "One Power."  Both men and women can use, but they do it differently.  While the Power is made used the same way by both - weaving the elements of fire, water, wind, earth and spirit together in varying ways - they are also radically different.

Women wield saidar, while men wield saidin, represented as two halves of a circle, like the Yin & Yang without the dots.  Whereas saidar is used by being open, receptive, and yielding, guiding it as the bank guides the river, saidin must be fought constantly, walking the knife's edge while fighting what are described as mountains, avalanches and oceans of intense cold and intense heat.  They are so different that without aid, men cannot see the weaves of women and vice versa.

For various reasons, at the time of the story, saidin (the male half) is tainted by "The Dark One" and has been for 3,000 years, driving the men who can touch it mad.  Men who can "channel" (touch the One Power) do play a part in this story, however, though there are none formally trained.  This leads to the remarking several times, regarding why women can't teach men to channel: "A fish could as soon teach a bird to fly!"

Changing paths again, I find it intriguing that years before I picked up Eye of the World, I incorporated this into my language: .  It is a combination of the two elemental characters & , which represent fire and water, but also masculinity and femininity.  , which elementally represents a geyser or hot spring, also connotes the interplay between men and women, as exemplified in the interplay of fire and water.  There is a sense in which one or the other is too dominant (quenching or evaporating), one where both are weak, and one where both are strong, but balanced against each other, this last being the best.

Is it just me or have we lost that from society?  Say what you will for the women's liberation movement, I'm not sure how freeing it actually was.  Don't get me wrong, the vote, driving and equal pay are all important things, things that needed to change.  But in denying women an equal participation in society, we were denying the dynamism of the sexes, the rich interplay that exists when women and men get together, beyond just dating and marriage and what comes with it (and all to often before it these days).  The extremism of the 70's has fixed a symptom, but left the underlying rejection of the importance of our differences.

Instead of disappearing from society because they were considered irrelevant, not equal to men, women have been disappearing from society because they have been taught that they must be men.

Sorry ladies, on my worst day, I will be a better man than you could ever dream of being.  Of course, by the same token, I will never be as good of a woman as any of you, ever, even on your worst days.  It's kind of a beautiful thing, this reciprocal lacking.

I cannot begin to describe how rich my life has been made by my wife, of having her as a foil, as a sounding board, as the person who's willing to tell me when I say something stupid.  She was that even before we were married.

I also cannot begin to describe how rich my life has been made by my little sisters.  Before you ask, no, Sean and Ethan are my only two "real" siblings.  However, over my years at St. Thomas, I have found many fellow students who I like to think of as my little sisters, and both by their trust in me as someone worthy of listening to, and in their own oftentimes profound insights, I take great joy.  Don't get me wrong, I have many great man friends, many of whom enjoy waxing philosophic as much or more than I do, but it is different.

We need each other, and not just for the future of the species, but for the NOW of the species.

We need to acknowledge that there are jobs and professions that men do better at, the same as there are jobs and professions to which a woman is better suited.

We men need to acknowledge that just because women are always stubborn and confusing, we're missing something when they're not in the game.

You women need to acknowledge that just because men are always stubborn and confusing, you're missing something when they're not in the game.

So, in conclusion, thank you Robert Jordan, for your profoundly simple insight.

Men and women are different.

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