11. The Conundrum of Men and Women: Innovators & Imitators

[related sto­ries: Gen­der Puz­zle / The Inside Track on Hap­pi­ness / Foun­tain of Youth / Let­ter to an Imag­i­nary Lady .. ]

Yin and yang, the war­rior and nur­turer, hard and soft, strong and weak, men and women. How hard we tried to per­suade our­selves that they were one. Repulsed by the pet­ri­fied shells of old cul­tures with their stereo­types and rigid role mod­els, we declared our­selves free. Earnestly we searched for the per­fect part­ner of equal qual­i­ties. Searched so long in vain.

Out in the back­blocks of unre­con­structed macho males and pump­kin scone women they never had a prob­lem. They played the eter­nal sea­sons of struts and gig­gles, infat­u­ated romance, white wed­dings, bawl­ing babies, eco­nomic drudgery, drink and abuse, spread­ing waist­li­nes, kitchen divorce and dad’s shed up the back­yard. Was it so dif­fer­ent, after all, from some mid­dle-east­ern reli­gious pro­scrip­tion on the gen­ders?

Late, too late to play the game again, we real­ized our mis­take. Regret­ted that nature had been polit­i­cally incor­rect and unfair in the appor­tion­ment of tal­ent. Maybe there was some­thing after all in that old idea of two halves of dif­fer­ent colours mak­ing a bal­anced whole. Yin and yang. It was that most recent and dra­matic of human inno­va­tions that finally per­suaded us. The com­puter. Did we say human inno­va­tion? No, there’s the rub. Male inno­va­tion.

Here was a mas­ter­ful exten­sion of the human brain itself, devised by men against all the cur­rents of female deri­sion. Its growth and devel­op­ment showed a con­tin­u­ous and enor­mous appetite for yet more inno­va­tion. Women stayed away in droves. When the machi­nes were placed under their noses, made “use­ful” for social activ­ity and employ­ment, women used them dili­gently, used them as dead tools. Schools, uni­ver­si­ties, begged women to learn pro­gram­ming, to become cre­ative. They flatly refused, and abused boyfriends and hus­bands for “play­ing”. Icons were dis­played to shield such indif­fer­ence to ideas. It was after all a woman, Lady Lovelace, who invented pro­gram­ming before there were com­put­ers to pro­gram. But the evi­dence against major­ity female par­tic­i­pa­tion is over­whelm­ing.

Then we thought back through the his­tory of human inno­va­tion. Was it purely male chau­vin­ism that attached a male inven­tor to vir­tu­ally every inno­va­tion in the arse­nal of his­tory in every cul­ture? No doubt there were pow­er­ful ten­den­cies to prej­u­dice in those old cul­tures which so repelled us, but the human spirit, when it wills, has a way of bend­ing even the most recal­ci­trant insti­tu­tions to its way over time. No, the evi­dence is again over­whelm­ing. If it were up to women, we would still be swing­ing through the trees. Real inno­va­tion is a minor­ity activ­ity in any gen­der. But within that minor­ity, men are the inno­va­tors.

So women, who needs them? Babies need them, kids. Indus­try needs them to do the drudgery that indus­try runs on. And it seems, men need them, to make what­ever tree they are swing­ing in seem like a home. The catch is that women have been decid­ing in large num­bers that they don’t really need men, except as studs. So maybe we can have coun­tries of women and coun­tries of men, who take group tours to visit and breed once a year. Men might get sub­tle about this, and offer the women a coun­try of vir­gin forests, to let them prove that they can rein­vent civ­i­liza­tion…

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