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Week of: July 22, 2001

Celebrate Diversity of Men & Women

by F.R. Duplantier

We're constantly assured that there's strength in diversity, but we're forbidden to apply this modern maxim to the one area of life in which it is undeniably true: the relationship of the sexes.

Once we paused to hold the door,
Letting ladies go before.
Now manners vex
The fairer sex,
And we dare not anymore.

When I was a kid, I was taught -- by my mother -- always to open doors for adults of either sex, to give up my seat on the bus for my elders, and so on. I was stunned, about ten years ago, by an incident that occurred to me in a New Orleans office tower at the end of a downward elevator ride. The only other passenger was a young working woman. When the doors opened in the lobby, I instinctively paused to let her out first and she glared at me like I was some kind of masher. I intuited immediately what the problem was, and I wasn't about to make a scene over a gesture of courtesy (not oppression), so I exited ahead of her. Of course, I'd have deferred to an older man as well, or to a child or a friend, or to a deliveryman or shopper with packages, but a person determined to be aggrieved can misinterpret anything. What a miserable way to go through life. And what a shame that men are compelled to forsake good habits.

Once, while driving through a particularly rough section of New Orleans, a friend of mine and his wife happened to pass a scantily clad young woman on a ten-speed bike. This friend, a confirmed feminist, made the mistake of expressing sincere concern for the safety of a woman riding through such a neighborhood in that state of dress. His wife roundly rebuked him; women, it seems, have the right to stroll buck naked, unnoticed and unaccosted, even through a jailhouse full of sexual predators. A religion teacher at a Catholic girls high school, she later abandoned this meek and accommodating man -- for another woman.

Thanks to the persistent intervention of reality, the hostile egalitarianism of the sexes may at long last be on the wane. One of the more entertaining features of life at the outset of the 21st century is getting to hear young parents acknowledge, shamefully or triumphantly, that, yes indeed, boys and girls are different. Few of these postmodern moms and pops are yet sufficiently deconditioned to celebrate the striking dissimilarity between their male and female offspring, but they know from firsthand experience that it cannot be denied, and recognition of the difference (so long suppressed, despite its self-evidence) is a good start.

Boys and girls are different, all right, and so are men and women -- ain't it grand! And isn't it about time that we shook off our unisex delirium? Instead of trying fanatically to blur the distinctions between the sexes, let's go back to accentuating and celebrating them. Everyone, all together now, repeat after me: "Vive la difference!"


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