In response to my column a couple weeks ago entitled "Be a Man" (which was re-named "Turning fire-belching dragons into Knights," ug) - I received the following email from a reader who simply signed himself "A man." For the life of me I can't figure out if it's a snark or not. Regardless, here it is. You decide.
Dear Mrs. Lewis,
While I appreciate that you regard the distinction between men and women as real and innate, I must tell you that I am sick to death of being told that men are innately animals and that women are innately of a higher order of being. It seems that you have taken the old rhyme about sugar and spice vs. snips and snails to heart and made a religion out of it. You and other "traditional" women seem to believe that women are owed, by their very nature, "manners and respect", and "a proper courtship and marriage". Why? What does a woman do for me? Why do I owe her anything?
I want to tell you of an experience that I had. A number of years ago I conducted a little informal survey among my coworkers. I asked both men and women the same question: "I understand what a woman get out of marriage--she gets security, support, a place to raise her kids... but what does a man get out of marriage?" Without an exception that I can remember, the women all answered "sex" and the men all shrugged their shoulders and said "I don't know". You should know that if men were only honest there is hardly a man alive who believes that he's getting enough "sex" to make marriage worth it. The reason he's (still) married is because--and ONLY because--he loves his wife and feels a responsibility for her.
You've got it all wrong. It is precisely women's "second-class status" as you call it that make men into gentlemen. You need to understand that a man's nature is to OWN things. The things that he owns he cherishes, protects, cares for, and, most of all, loves. Have you ever watched a man lovingly waxing his new car? Things that he doesn't own, he disregards; even destroys. The unwillingness of women to accept a man's offers of help, seats, opening doors, etc. is merely symptomatic of modern women's larger unwillingness to be owned.
This is most destructive in a relationship between a couple. If she sends signals that "I'm your equal", "I'm just as capable as you are", "I don't need your help", he will treat her as one of the guys. She doesn't need me, she's nothing special. If, however, she sends signals that "I need you to take care of me, I need you to protect me, I need you to provide for me and our family", he will be there in an instant and he will stay as long as that need is felt. Just as a woman's core instinct is to nurture, a man's core instinct is to protect and provide. When that instinct isn't met, he loses interest.
Mrs. Lewis, a male will be a man when he isn't told to shove off, when he isn't denigrated as an inferior order of being, and when he isn't told that he shouldn't view himself in the provider, protector role.