During my first foray into journalism, a veteran reporter cautioned, "Never read your old stuff." I soon understood why:
1. Your style will mature and old voices will likely sound elementary and unsophisticated to you.
2. You've already read and written on the subject. Learn something new.
3. Rereading what you yourself wrote is a self-centered indulgence, teetering on narcissism.
Not to mention, the infamous adage, "You are your own harshest critic," most certainly applies to all writers.
Admittedly, while shying away from rereading my own "stuff," I occasionally peruse comments from readers.
On my most recent piece, Is Dating a Cold, Careless Game?, a reader offered the below:
Instead of constantly talking about Mars and Venus and how different men and women are, I wish we'd focus more on what common ground we have and how we complement each other. Doesn't that sound like it'd make life easier -- and wouldn't it make our differences easier to love?
Quite the insightful comment.
It got me thinking...
The Feminist Movement, at its origin, sought to help women gain equality in the legal, justice and employment systems: equal rights and opportunities when it comes to voting, the courtroom and the workplace -- all unquestionably necessary and admirable pursuits.
However, by the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, the Women's Movement was -- as any good movement does -- branching out.
A feminist submovement, with roots in John Stuart Mill's 1869 The Subjection of Women, began to gain traction. Members of this submovement advocated not only equal rights and opportunities, but absolute equality of the sexes. In referencing original premises proving men and women's equal rationality, many proponents extrapolated conclusions that gender was "accidental." That is to say, because gender has no bearing on an individual's capacity to reason, it follows that human nature is androgynous and equal.
So, basically, there's zero difference between men and women because we have equal reasoning capacity.
That is a dangerous extrapolation.
While men and women certainly have the same intellectual capacity to reason, by virtue of being humans, they also have very different qualities, by virtue of being men and women (also known as "humans," by the way).
Why suppress and deny these different qualities rather than celebrate them?
Understandably, a necessary backlash occurred in which women sought to celebrate their femininity: wear makeup, spend time on your hair, get sentimental, watch The Bachelorette, ogle babies, sob to The Notebook, wear bras... cast off those shoulder-pads, step into those heels, strut into the office and run it.
To be sure, no woman should be expected to champion every feminine convention (for the record, I loathe The Bachelorette), but you get the point.
A resurgence of "feminine pride" occurred throughout society as we re-established ourselves as affirmatively different from -- but equal to -- men. However, in doing so, have we perhaps gone so far as to lose our "common ground?"
Magazines like Cosmopolitan devote whole sections to answering questions like, "What does he really want?" in a sad, repetitive effort to offer women insight into the presumably unknowable minds of men. GQ does the same, offering men tips and tricks for everything ranging from "winning her over" to "making her happy." Bestsellers like The Game coach men on how to become scheming pick-up artists. As a result, dating is now synonymous with strategic manipulation.
What about, instead of trying to out-smart the other into a meaningless hookup or unwanted relationship, we try to understand? Understand that -- contrary to popular belief -- he likes being hugged as much as she does or that, sometimes, she just does not want to talk. What about understanding that each cares just as much as the other, and any front posturing the contrary is just that: a front.
Men and women playing today's no-strings-attached dating game have so exerted a brutish, self-serving independence that they have lost sight of one another's humanity, assuming manipulation and maliciousness at every turn. We would do better to reread the comments and work to "focus more on what common ground we have and how we complement each other."