Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Where Women Fall Short

Born in 1957, I was perhaps uniquely fortunate to be raised by a feminist. And what might surprise you is that, in making that statement, I am thinking about my father.

I can’t say exactly what informed my father’s perspective, but he clearly admired women and seemed most comfortable in their company. It is probably for this reason that he chose to teach at a women’s college. It also is probably for this reason that my memories of him at social gatherings place him more comfortably chatting among the women than the men. Dad was just never one of those “guy” types. He was entertaining, conversational (when he would acquiesce to my mother’s encouragement that they go to that evening’s party), artistic, and well – I think he just always had tremendous respect for women. He believed in our power and our minds. He never short-changed us as a collective group.

While this is a wonderful aspect of my upbringing, it’s made it a bit tough in the marriage and dating departments. I’ve done both, and at the moment, I’m doing neither. It could be that I’m at once too picky and too capable of being complete without the benefit of a partner. It could be that my father helped build my own sense of a woman’s tremendous worth. We are a remarkable gender. We can handle multiple tasks with intelligence and compassion. We don’t necessarily get caught up in – nor are we therefore thwarted by – oneupsmanship. We are damn good company, and our craving of damn good company makes our gatherings fun. Women rock.

But in my years of observing our behavior and of comparing it to the behavior of men, I have to say there is one area where we are absolutely stupid, and where men’s perspective, in comparison, is highly evolved.

Here’s where women fall short: We believe that we can change men.

And here’s where men shine: They don’t give a moment’s thought to believing that they can change women.

I’d be willing to bet on it: any woman who reviews the relationships she has had will remember times she thought that her man would change. Not only that, he’d change for her.

I doubt men entertain such futile musings.

… Several years ago, I was involved with a man who was remarkably good company until we hit the expiration date on our relationship. Which is to say, we had a great couple of years. I enjoyed what appeared to be his absolute respect for women. We were on the same page 99% of the time. In addition, because he was a movie enthusiast (and because his enthusiasm was contagious), I raced with him one afternoon so that we might get to the local theatre in time to see the very first screening of Kill Bill 2.

I had seen Kill Bill 1 on DVD a few weeks earlier, so I was up-to-speed. I also was excited to see how the story would play out. I was learning that Tarantino is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

I loved Kill Bill 2, and because I own a copy of the movie, I’ve seen it a few times. But even before I had the chance to absorb its story through subsequent viewings, the underlying message of the movie leapt out at me: None of that mayhem – none of those bloody, violent killings – would have occurred if the lead female character had understood that men don’t change for anyone. The entire plot of that two-part masterpiece revolves around the place where we women fall short.

In the final chapter of the Kill Bill series, after he has injected her with the truth serum and before she finally ends his life with Pai Mei’s Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Bride) admits to Bill that, while she knew he was a killer, she never thought he would do it to her.

Guess again, sister.

For many of us women, the need for male companionship is basic and the rewards can be quite enjoyable. But: we need to let go of our belief that we are so special as to be given different treatment. We need to let go of thinking that “our man” will change simply because we’re in the room. We need to abandon what is perhaps a natural instinct to nurture (and therefore help grow/develop).

In its place, we just need to appreciate. Among other things, we should appreciate the fact that men never look at us and imagine who they might create from the assortment of characteristics we present. (Forget Henry Higgins, gals. He’s fictional.) Men don’t envision our potentials. They don’t hear of our past shortcomings and think, “Oh, she wouldn’t do that to me.”

Men see us for what we are and they take it or leave it.

They’re smart that way.


Anonymous said...

I think you're spot on and now I need to live it :-)

Karen Mortensen said...

Good point.

Robin Charlotte Humphrey said...

great post! thanks for stopping by my blog so i could find it! Very inspirational and I seem to be feeling a lot of this right now. Complete on my own etx

f8hasit said...

You've managed to verbalize what I've been bouncing around in my head for decades! Well done!

Except for the ending of the KillBill series (her weakness) I loved the entire "the girl can kick some ass" thing! (it also made me start back at the gym...damn, was she in shape or what! Crazy!)


cj Schlottman said...

Oh, Katie Darlin',

Your are wise beyond your years! There's a reason for the Y chromosome; it's what makes men, well, men. Unfortunately, women are, well, women. We are nurturing my nature (no pun intended), and we often learn too late that we cannot change ANYONE - not men, not other women, not our families or friends. That fact alone, in my opinion, is one of the reasons so many marriages fail. Relationships are a series of negotiations and compromises, and until we get that through our heads, we are doomed to fail at them.

Thank you so much for following me.......I so look forward to your comments. I can feel your warm and generous heart in each of them.

I would like to (try) to put a link to this post from The Red Sweater. Okay with you?


Katie Gates said...

Claudia, yes, by all means, go for the link! (And thanks, as always, for the comment.)

Ms. Understood said...

I love this post. That is it in a nutshell. And it really is something that we should treasure. The guys we are involved with, look at us and think, "This/she is what I want." What an ego boost. What a blower it must be for them knowing we look at them and think "If only I could change . . ." If we could just lean on that fact and be happy, a lot of relationships wouldn't go the figurative Kill Bill route.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Jayne Martin said...

Okay, Katie, why the hell didn't someone tell me this 40 years ago? You were so fortunate to have such a wonderful father. I had an absentee and that has continued to influence my view of men.

Fortunately, I've reached a point in my life where I'm happy with myself and even happier being single, and thank God because I truly sucked at the whole dating thing.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie, I love ‘Kill Bill’ - the sound track is brilliant - how true are your words and how glad am I that I didn’t once believe I could change my husband (we met aged 19 and 20) It would have been an unrewarding task me thinks, lol! 30 years down the line, he is more like ‘himself’ than ever if you get my drift. He’s never wanted to change me as far as I am aware but equally, I don’t think he expects me to change, hence, my sudden liking for baked beans or mushrooms when I haven’t been able to abide them for years is met with total bafflement.
“But you’ve never liked baked beans!” he accuses. Well, ‘never say never’ :-)
Thanks for your comments on my blog too!

PoetessWug said...

Katie, while I agree with some things you say, I can't agree with it all! Maybe it's because I never saw the movie...but anyway, my husband and I have been married 28 years. We were together for a few years before that. 32 years all together so far. Oh yes, I've tried to change him, and believe it or not, he HAS changed...a lot! But with his nudging, I have too! I think that's how good relationships work!!! You have to keep requiring better from each other, and then working to improve YOURSELF along the way.

I think the big problem comes from selfishness, expecting that YOUR way is the ONLY way! If you run up on a man with some self esteem, that behavior won't fly! :-)) But let him know that you're in it together, and you're willing to change too, and WALLAH!(Written words can sound harsh sometimes, but that is not at all my intent with this comment...Just wanted to add my opinion since I've been there, done that, for a looooong time!)

Green Monkey said...

ewwwwwwww THAT was good and I love how you ended it.

also enjoyed reading about your dad :)

and I need to practice the "appreciate" part.

Sherry said...

I think I'm also here to give the alternate perspective. I married young, soon out of college and have been married to the same amazing guy for 20+ years. We raced around the globe, settled down, adoped a baby now mostly grown. I truly NEVER once thought about changing him. He had an odd family and a dad that wasn't nice.

Somehow though, even without a role model he became a good man. I think women make the mistake of trying to nurture a man like a child instead of nurturing the relationship. Many young women I meet do not understand the difference between being an independent thinker and a selfish one.

I am fiesty and headstrong and I doubt I could ever change. I'm just fortunate I found a man who just accepts me for who I am. Ditto.

Food for thought, an interesting post.

Robynn's Ravings said...

For me the work has been: What can I live with and what HAS to change to keep the relationship tenable? And there were things that HAD to change. Neither one of us had a role model for being a healthy husband/father or wife/mother. We had to reinvent ourselves and it was damnably hard work at times. Now 24 years later, it's still hard but worth the work and paying big dividends.

I was raised without a father so it never dawned on me that women couldn't do whatever they needed to. I didn't realize there was such a thing as sexism until I left home at 15. I DID realize fathers made all the money and that money was as absent as they were. And as a stay-at-home mom it's still SUPER weird and disenfranchising not to get a paycheck with my name on it, even though my husband never makes me feel as though I don't contribute in other ways. My coup de grace was homeschooling our eldest well enough for her to excel and get a fullride scholarship to an honors college. That was a bit of a pay day, I must say. Just wish I could have seen my name on the check that paid for school!

Thought provoking post. Well done.

Martha said...

I loved this blog, Katie. And we were so blessed to have a father who respected women so much. But I think there are men (although there weren't many in our circle of friends and acquaintances) who do try to change women. It is usually a physical change (bigger tits, different color hair, etc.), but the change that they want is more for their egos, while we women think the changes we want for men serve the greater good. To which I say, bull! I think one reason some women want to change men is because they don't have the right guy to start with. They want him to be someone he isn't because they have settled. But if you meet the right man (only took me three times), there is nothing to change because he is perfect the way he is.

WhisperingWriter said...

I like this. It is true. I admit, I did try to get my husband to be neater. I didn't really want to change who he was. I just wanted him to pick up his dirty socks.

Anonymous said...

I'll be cheeky now and add to my post that I think we have 'grown together' and rather than change we have compromised I suspect. Isn't that what we all do,grow, whether with or without a partner? If you are with someone then you (ideally) naturally 'grow' together. The trick is to do that rather than grow apart. Great post Katie, really has us women thinking!

dreamcatcher said...

As you say, acceptance is key. Thinking about 'potential' as opposed to what is right there in front of us makes all the difference. I am all for growth and development but there has to be the understanding that we are all on our own paths and move at our own pace. If we are able to be patient with our own process and do the same for our partner then isn't that the key to acceptance?

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post and lots of terrific comments here, too. My dad is also a feminist--one who absolutely adores my mother. He set the bar pretty high. Somehow I ended up marrying the absolute wrong guy. Did I think he would change? Yep. Mostly because he seemed to WANT to change. But alas, it became clear very quickly that he wasn't capable of it. I think it's absolutely better to be a happy single woman that to put up with anyone who compromises your values.

Alvious said...

Cousin Katie,
I really liked this post.
I know many women who've wanted to see their men change in someway or another, and it hurts me to see them frustrated when those changes do not happen. But I cannot say "yeah can't change people, what'd you expect?" aside being rude, it doesn't help matters.
As a man, I know change is difficult, there is always that aspect of knowing change is important, but involves the simple fact that in being honest with oneself about what needs to change about oneself, it is that we have to first say, in no uncertain terms, there is something wrong with who we are.

Just my own thoughts

Cheryl said...

Katie, I can't reach you any other way than to post here. The green yuck is called Refreshing Top O' the Mornin' Green Smoothie. The picture was taken before he added the fish oil. Yum Yum!

I read this post the other day and although I didn't comment, I loved it. My husband and I "completed" each other because our dysfunctions meshed perfectly. Took a long time and hard work to disentangle ~ to understand each of us was complete without the other. Ouch, tough times working through that. Two people joined together neither needing the other to be anything different from what each of us already is.

BECKY said...

Hi Katie! What a fabulous post! You are so correct! Men don't change!

I grew up in the same era, but we had totally different dads....too long of a story to go into about THAT right now!

I thought I was already a follower of yours, but as I looked through the pictures, I didn't see myself, so I think I just became your 100th Follower!! Woo-hoo! Do I get a prize?? Huh? Huh? Do I? (don't worry, just kidding!) :D

Anonymous said...

What you say about men is quite accurate. This is probably one of the main reasons it was easier for me to befriend a guy over a girl when growing up (even now). Girls, to me, were too judgmental and tend to play games. With guys, I knew exactly what I would get in a friendship. Great post!

die rennschnecke träumt said...


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

My husband and I have brought out good things in each other, in a long, gradual process of living and learning. But you're right. I think some women try to remake men to suit a pre-existing fantasy. I love the fact that your father was a feminist and gave you such a good sense of your own potential.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how I came across your blog, from a link somewhere, maybe SITS? I love this post! It is great your dad was ahead of the times and helped build self confidence into you!

Anonymous said...

Lets forget trying to change each other. I agree. We are different, but in the end we are all in this experience together. Men can be very compassionate, communicative and emotionally evolved.

So...who has unleashed their compassion more, MEN or WOMEN. And who started from a more nurturing base? I would suggest women did. But do they spread it out far enough?