Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bring in the Firemen

We had a bit of a scare last night and wound up calling the fire department to come check out what turned out to be some burning food.

Embarrassing? Very.

But what horrified me even more, as I watched three firetrucks, one ambulance, and about a dozen firefighters invade my neighborhood and home, was the feeling of, "Omg, you really need a guy to deal with things like this."

In retrospect, it seems irrational - there was nothing about the situation that I shouldn't have been able to handle by myself. But in the moment, circumstances (the smell of gas, smoke coming out of the vents, a kitchen full of smoke...) made us women panic and call 911 where a guy would probably have just thrown open every possible source of smoke, careless about the fear that "something" might happen, and discover that it wasn't anything major.

The truth is that, given the circumstances, I know we did the right thing in calling the fire department. Better safe than sorry. But that doesn't make me feel any better knowing that these "circumstances" included the fact that we females were just too panicked to handle it on our own.

I'm left struggling with the question of whether women really are more emotionally fragile than men. My feminist side is yelling, "NO WAY!" while this other voice is poking at me saying, "Um, remember last night?"


  1. Not sure my post went through so I'll try again:

    From early childhood on, girls are socialized into a dependent mode. Boys are encouraged to do things on their own, requests for help are considered whiny, fear is met with disapproval, while in girls fear is more often met with sympathy.

    Boys are allowed much more freedom to explore their environment.

    As adults the world is still a less safe place for women. The fear of rape lurks continuously in the back of most women's minds. The psychological toll that this takes on women's sense of safety and self sufficientcy in the world and in other areas of life, has got to be significant.

    Economically speaking women are less likely to take risks as well. women are more likely to end up impoverished than men if things don't work out, and the stakes are higher, women as a class tend to bear more responsibility for their children than men do, just as society expects them to.

    This being the case, it's almost laughable when adult women try to turn on the charm with men by emphasizing their helplessness. But still, strength is associated with masculinity, which is ironic considering my last paragraph. It's just that female strength is less recognized as such.

    See my post Learned Helplessnes

  2. (there ARE some downsides to male independence however... such as the proverbial guy who'd rather drive 5 hours out of his way than ask for directions...)

  3. >I'm left struggling with the question of whether women really are more emotionally fragile than men.

    And if you are? Why does this so agitate you?

  4. Kisarita - You're right about the socialization bit. We are socialized to be the weaker sex.

    I've been told that guys are intimidated by me. I don't think guys particularly like strong women.

  5. Holy Hyrax -

    Because the implication is that women are weaker than men.

  6. Here is the funny thing about all this. You are frum. You ride high on the differences between men and women as expressed in halacha and seem to basically agree with the premise of Judaism that women and men are different. So perhaps in this you just ARE weaker? Maybe its NOT socialization but (gasp) that maybe just maybe women naturally ARE more dependent in certain areas. That you ARE more fragile in things? I'm not saying you are a nervous reck of a sex, but this just ultimately how you are created?

    Try as hard as you may, with large words from the academic world and variant "socio-economic" explanations of why women in general simply are not like men when it comes to sex, that its harder for them to have one night stands and 'hookups' without feelings of connections and/or betrayel... It's simply because that is how you are. And God bless you for being this way. It's not a criticism of you as you might think.

  7. Hyrax -

    I'm not taking it as a criticism. I asked the question honestly, even if I wrote it in a comedic post, and I appreciate an honest answer.

    Yes, I believe that men and women are different. But that doesn't mean that I believe that women are weaker than men. It's a niggling thought at the edge of my mind that I don't like to acknowledge, especially considering the halacha that women can't act as witnesses in Bais Din due to their "delicate" natures - but I do not want to believe that it's true.

    So maybe you're right, and women are the "weaker sex," but I'm not prepared to acknowledge it - even to myself.

    Does that make me weak? ;)

  8. oh please. women do not have delicate natures.

    that's a cultural stereotype, and to prove that, let me point out that it does not extend to black women. When talking about black women, the stereotype in the back of our minds is of the old black battle ax.

    Be honest, Am-I- Isn't it?

    "All the women are white. All the blacks are men" -Bel Hooks

    "That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches... nobody ever helped me into a carriage or over a ditch... And Aint I a Woman?!" -Sojourner Truth

    hyrax, this post had nothing to do with sex. What does sex have to do with having a sense of mastery enough to check one's own oven?

    If there is any different betw men and women, it's that men can be counted on to tie any irrelevant topic to sex!

  9. PS regarding your example, smoke filling the room and all, I'm not so sure you did the wrong thing. Perhaps, the macho guys who would have said "I can handle it myself" would be more akin to the guy who refused to ask for directions. Sure, it may have turned out to be nothing serious, but it just as easily could have been.


  10. Kisarita,

    I think you are the one that has gone off topic. Sex was just an example of where we are totally different. If you can't see that, than that is your problem. Her issue is are women more emotionally fragile. What the hell does this have to do with opening up carriages or anything? The fact that a black women does not need a man to open her carriage door is irrelevant to her nature as a woman. Do you REALLY believe that a black woman approaches sex (FOR EXAMPLE) like a man???? Like I said, maybe YOU are the one that is overly solialized (obviously from sociology classes ) to think that men and woman have no differences.

    Its also interesting that you would try to fight one stereotype with another.

  11. On the contrary, I agree with you that men and women come from very different cultures.

    And if you actually read what I wrote, you'll see that I AGREED that women are more fragile... Because they are socialized to be!

    (although in areas in which they are NOT socialized to be fragile, such as single mothers raising children alone, they are strong).

    Now let me re-explain Sojourner Truth's point.

    Sojourner made this speech shortly after the civil war, at a conference for women's right to vote. (Most early American feminists began their careers as abolitionists by the way).

    At the conference she was challenged by many opponents, who thought that women should continue to be dependent on men because they were too fragile.

    Sojourner pointed out that this man was simply repeating a culture stereotype which applied to which only women of a certain class and upbringing. Surely if it was an essential part of womanhood she as a woman would have been thought clearly too fragile to work in the fields etc.

    Got the connection now?

    (For my part, I still fail to see any sort of connection between sexual behavior and the issue at hand).

  12. So we are in agreement except that you believe everything a woman is, (ie, the deeper differences between the both) are simply due to society teaching her to be, either more fragile or more emotion.

    I say the opposite. Woman and men are simple DIFFERENT. Nothing to do with society. We just are. Your examples of opening doors, etc. was a bad example since I am not talking about cultural manners and decorum. Even a strong mother that is forced to raise her child alone, is still a woman with the same inner emotions as a victorian era socialite.

    My example of sexual behaivors was simply an example of how society, today, is actually teaching women to be the opposite of what she really is. That as much as you think society is responsible for teaching women to be fragile, I say society (at least in the relationship arena) is teaching them to be like men.

    Actually, come to think about it, nothing I said had anything to do with the question of dependency at all. Only the differences inherit(not taught)in a woman and the man.

    Maybe since you are not a man, and never looked at a woman from the other end of the looking glass doesn't realize how, for example, in a relationship, which of the sexes is often more emotionally fragile. And it has nothing to do with society. On the contrary, society is the one that is trying very hard to rid women of these differences (making you think it was socities fault from the get go), hence the billion dollar womans magazine industry.