Imagine a game in which the ultimate goal is to pop out as many healthy babies as possible. The winners of this game pass on their own genes, replicas of themselves so that eternal life is achieved. We are the the winners of this gene game, presumably the best suited to thrive in our land. As we shall see, males and females employ very different strategies to ensure the survival of their line. Males try to mate with as many females as possible because their sperm is unlimited, and their contribution to creating a child is quick and pleasurable. Women, on the other hand, have a finite number of eggs. When they are pregnant, they have to carry a child for nine months, which is taxing on her body.
Also, it would not do them any good to look for multiple mates during this time because that would not increase her chances of passing down her genes, as primates don’t have litters of offspring. The bottom line is that it would be wise for females to pick a mate that will stick around to help rear the baby because babies are fully dependent on their parents to feed and protect them. This is one of the major factors that set into play sexual dimorphism. The goal for males is to have sex; for females, they seek a provider, so they are picky in finding a mate. Being that females are now the desired resource, males compete with each other to be the chosen suitor. As Okami puts it, “because of differences in minimum parental investment resulting in women being the more valuable reproductive resource, and because of the ubiquitous existence of polygyny, competition for access to mates, with few exceptions, has been more intense among men than among women over human evolutionary history.” One way to stand out is to demonstrate is ability to protect the female and acquire food, all of which favors a strong, sturdy body. In choosing females, males look for a curvaceous, youthful body, which is an indicator of fertility, as women need 80,000 calories to bring a baby past the third trimester. Just by these standards alone, it is clear that males can immediately determine what he deems attractive, whereas women take more time to see which suitor proves reliable.
These assumptions carry weight in how males and females interact in today’s society – – one that is blatantly unfair within the household as well as at the workplace. First, let’s consider stature. According to Helen Fisher, “tall men are more likely to acquire prestige in business and politics.” A tall man commands respect and gives off an air of confidence. The effect of this was clearly seen in the opinions of television viewers who watched the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960.The people who watched the Nixon-Kennedy debate say Kennedy clearly won, while a majority of radio listeners said Nixon was the clear winner. The fact that men are taller than women is further exaggerated by cultural norms of personal space. Women sit with their legs crossed and generally make themselves small. Men let their arms drape into the next seat and tend to have their feet separate, sometimes having one leg propped on the knee of the opposite. This indicates that he has wider boundaries, basically more territory. On top of that, men are more likely to invade the personal space of women. For example, a man may graze the hip of a woman he does not know as he passes her in a club. Nonverbal cues such as these reflect men’s tendencies to display behaviors associated with dominance and power.
This average size and strength sex difference has affected the social and sexual experiences of both sexes in a number of ways. Women are typically smaller, physically weaker, less aggressive, and the sex which bears children. Historically, women have occupied roles of planting, gathering, and infant care. The activities assigned to women according to this division of labor are unlikely to lead to social power, status, or wealth . Even women who hold full time jobs have to deal with inequality in the division of household labor. In an article written by Joanne Stohs in 2000, it was found that women who hold a full time job still spend 12-15 hr more per week on household labor than their partners.
From an early age, boys are encouraged to participate in competitive activities such as sports. Even simple games such as toy trucks turn into some sort of battle between boys. Their games center upon winning and losing; whereas girls play more cooperatively. These two different types of approaches in an adult group discussion would not mesh well. In a study done by Elizabeth Aries, it was found that “women who spoke up at one discussion-group meeting would intentionally speak less at the next, so as not to appear dominating.” This concern for appearance could prove detrimental in the way that males who are less self-conscious would then be getting their issues addressed and needs responded to. The quality of one’s education and even whether one gets promoted can be at stake here.
Although the United States is boasting a diminishing gender gap in salaries, women face a constant battle in walking the fine line between becoming successfully independent or being known as a man-eating, ruthless bitch. Yet a man who speaks loudly at a business meeting is rarely disparaged. Even at the elementary school level, girls are reprimanded for behaving inappropriately while boys just get a chuckle for displaying the same rowdy behavior.
A second area that women have to fret over is their physical appearance. Take the case of Darlene Jesperson, a bartender in a Nevada casino who received high employment evaluations but was fired because she didn’t follow one of the company’s policies for women: to wear make-up. The fact that whether or not her face was powdered took precedence over workplace performance is a prime example of the mixed messages sent to women, who are not taken seriously but are encouraged to primp themselves for entertainment value. It is appalling that this burden is seen as a purely female predicament as illustrated by the following quote: “A woman’s professional image can easily be damaged at after-hours events.
One of my law firm clients told me they once had a female partner whose everyday dress was classic conservative, but who arrived for a gala in a tight, low-cut evening gown. Her credibility and integrity suddenly came into question” (Gonthier 43). The pressure to appear attractive cannot be understated, even at the workplace. Yet what is deemed attractive is usually something that elicits a sexual response from the opposite sex, which is deemed unprofessional. Women certainly face a double edged sword when it comes to juggling a career while trying to retain her femininity. In the words of Wittig, a woman in today’s society experiences a “surrender of freedom, identity, safety, rights, visibility and ownership of their own sexual nature.” Negative reinforcement needs to be removed from those that break gender stereotypes. Women who hold high positions and exude power should not be maligned as being a dyke or a bitch; just as men who express their emotions including vulnerability should not be emasculated.