Understanding the other gender requires walking in the other person’s shoes

Though I swore I would not write a “lifestyle” column, here I sit, typing and listening to the timeless conversation concerning the myth that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” I cannot resist.

On the one side, the male participants in the conversation cite the typical complaint that females are “crazy” and impossible to understand. On the other side, the female participants reply that males are incapable of communicating or emoting.

Accusations and relationship advice fly freely without any progress toward a mutual understanding or compromise. Everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, is primarily concerned with voicing grievances, long ignored or suppressed by various partners and companions, to a chorus of passionate agreement.

I cannot speak for the experiences of identifying as a man, though I can offer some perspective on the experiences of identifying as a woman.

There is a certain cognizance that results from being recognized socially as female that is often difficult to verbalize or entirely intangible. I find myself struggling to explain to straight male companions why a certain film or book or statement bothers me, even though I am supposedly well-versed in the language of feminism. Even the fact that I am designated “emotionally irrational” in the aforementioned discussion merely by virtue of being a female I find to be degrading.

Everyone should ask themselves, “What is it like to be a woman? What is it like to take course after course where not one female is mentioned as a contributor? What is it like to put on a skirt and be viewed as a purely sexual object by unknown observers? What is it like to exist in a world where ‘girl’ is an insult, synonymous with weak, conniving, unintelligent and sexually remiss? What if a woman fails to meet the standards of beauty, to fulfill the role of diligent listener and pupil, and to exhibit maternal sensitivity?”

What if “crazy” is just another way of saying that women do not have the same perceptions as their masculine counterparts due to the expectations that have been applied to their gender? I think the term “crazy” has been attached to women because they express experiences that are not masculine. Perhaps many men cannot understand a feminine perspective because they have not had many, or any, feminine experiences.

Heterosexual men stereotypically dread the amount of “talking” they must endure from females. Women should be talking, as should men, about not only their gender, but also about all aspects of their identity. Men should be listening, as should women, to what is being said.

Most importantly, people should try to understand the person to whom they are listening by means of the cliché of walking in the other person’s shoes. In conversation with someone of another gender who seems unknowable, attempting to analyze where that person is coming from could be the solution to the problems of perceived irrationality and failure to communicate.

Carrie Bass is an art history senior. E-mail [email protected].