I began writing this article at the beginning of the week intending to look at the biological side of things and conclude that when it comes to mother nature women and men cannot be equal. Biology has trapped us in a cycle where we mature earlier sexually (making it easier for us to seek out older men) and decline both in looks and reproductive capability earlier (making it easier for our ‘older men’ to seek out the company of younger rivals).
The media circus which is now the Tiger Woods and Jessie James stories only helped bolster my ideas in this direction which was leading me to believe that maybe the Victorians had it right after all and the best marriages were those where the age difference between the man and the woman was not less than ten years.
Then, I got a proposal of marriage (from someone from Africa who professed he’s spent his life looking for a wife like me) and it was followed by two more (from Egypt and Abu Dhabi) and my orderly structured article was suddenly a superfluous piece of circuitous logic derailed by the fact that whatever I could argue about the biological clock of women (inexorably ticking from puberty) and the ability of men to look their best well into their sixties (because their hormonal tides wane slower) and how our need to intellectually prove equality was causing neuroses and strains (ala Jessie James and Tiger) to show in even the best of marriages, was overshadowed by the fact that we, women, are to blame for much of the inequality we face today.
Yes, we want to be equals. In practically every area of sports, work and life we work harder, longer and compete just as hard as men, just to get the same degree of recognition, let alone supersede them. But we also play our feminity, using our looks and our boobs to get where men cannot and we take that part for granted. I will not even venture too deep here on Facebook profiles where women present themselves in as explicit a way as they can manage.
Having worked as a model for five years I am more than passingly familiar with the fact that a batting of eyelashes and a simpering smile (never mind a short skirt, spike stiletto heels or a plunging neckline) have the ability to open doors which might otherwise have remained barred. I know it annoys some men when they think about it and I know it also annoys some women (it annoys me when I come across it sometimes because I believe we should use you our brains first and our looks second), yet I am also realistic. I know I also use my looks as a point of attraction when it comes to marketing my books, though, to be honest, the choice there was to be a woman as well as a popular writer and I happened to believe that being one should not preclude the other.
The marriage proposals made me do two things: First I re-examined a little my policy of pictures I chose to add to my profile. I have certain rules these days: nothing too revealing, no surplus of bikini shots (and I love both the sea and the sun) and a cross-section of pics which represent, fairly accurately, the things I do in my life. Although my Facebook fan page has grown as a result of my writing, it has become, for me, also the point where I hang out when I am online. I try to be as real as possible and as grounded as possible, making it a point to communicate with my readers as friends rather than fans, listening to what they have to say and sharing some of my life and philosophy with them.
The second thing I did was examine whether I and many of my friends really used our looks to not just showcase the fact that we are women and for us looking good and feeling sexy was as natural as it is for men to have strong arms and a six-pack, but to gain what, I suppose, might be called an ‘unfair advantage’.
I asked my friends the seemingly innocent ‘drinks in a bar’ question. As a girl who likes to pay her own way I expected that they too would say that if a guy bought them a drink in a bar they too would, in turn, buy the second round, and so on. I was shocked to discover that many wouldn’t and some would consider it offensive if they were asked to.
The argument they used was that since men are already expected to take the sexual initiative and do all the running, they should also do all the buying. In this weird conception of courtship, men have to pay to be allowed to spend social time with, us, women. Such behavior, entered into by women who are successful in their own right, seemed to fly against our modern notion of equality between the sexes. Admittedly my poll was too small in number and too focused in demographics (most of my friends are either models or in the modeling and beauty business) to really be meaningful but taken as a small sample of women who are seemingly empowered and in charge of their lives and careers it was a little shocking in that they were so quick to take advantage of their looks and sex.
Biology locks us, inevitably, into roles which we have to fight hard to break free of. Men are still the main breadwinners in many parts of the world. Women are still only seen as being good only for motherhood and keeping a house in many countries around the globe. Those societies which have managed to utilize women’s skills better have benefited creatively and organizationally. Yet the argument that it is men who are only too ready to keep us down is a facile one. Our worst enemy is ourself. If we want true equality, without giving up the right to look and behave as women, we need to also strive to attain that perfect balance where we look beautiful and feel sexy but also have a clear idea of our worth as persons and refuse to pay on the primal urges which only serve to perpetuate the biological disparities between the two sexes and lock us in the primal roles ordained by evolution.