If I were in the pulpit this week, I'd be preaching about the long, arduous and still un-won battle for gender equality and respect. Despite the long standing and erroneous biblical references to female subordination to the male, I hope most contemporary clergy are NOT espousing a patriarchal culture under the guise of religious doctrine.
I would also be talking about the Oscars. Recently, even Hollywood fell prey to tasteless and demeaning gender bias at the Oscars. For a well written and logical account of the Oscars gender bias, please see PeaceBang's article: "Girl's Remember Who You Are..."
The 2013 Oscars telecast was a teaching moment for women in the industry, or should I say, a moment when women in the industry got schooled, which is a different thing. The Oscars schooled uppity Hollywood women about their place, which is to be hot bodies to ogle. The takeaway, reinforced in joke after joke after joke was, “Girls, remember what you are, and what you’re good for.”
In the 1980s, the need for a reformulation of gender roles was captured in books like "The Hazards of Being Male," by Herb Goldberg and "Why Men Are The Way They Are," by my friend Warren Farrell. In the early 1990's John Gray brought us "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."
I wrote a short story (see below) during that time period to raise the question of societal expectations and gender roles. At it's base, the roles that are created in any society are the result of the expectations that are placed on children that in turn shape their self image and development into adults. These expectations and promoted via parents, role models and media influences. While a great deal has been done to advance the freedom of choice without gender based prejudiced when growing into a personal life role, we still have a long way to go. Read my short story below and see - are we there, yet?
“The Land of The Nams and The Nims”
Once, long ago, in a far away land there lived an odd group of people. They lived much the way we do, eating, sleeping, playing and such things, but in this land there where two types of people, the Nams and the Nims. Oddly enough, the only difference between the Nams and the Nims was a simple steel plate.
You see, when a new child was born, it was decided if that child would be a Nam or a Nim. The Nams were the rulers. They made all of the important decisions, did all of the hard work and were served by the Nims. Both the Nams and the Nims where born exactly alike, small hands, round hairless faces, big brown eyes and most importantly, with a small hole in their chest, right over there heart. It was a dangerous hole, because, as every Nam knew, if anyone touched your heart, you would surely die. Thus, those that were picked to be Nams had a steel plate fixed to their bones over their heart hole. This made it safe for them to rule, of course,”
“On one day, a young Nam named Ned was following the instruction of his teacher. ‘Remember, Ned,’ he said with a strong huffy voice, ‘Your job will be very important and you must always remember to hold your head high and work hard.’ ‘Yes, sir,’ the young Nam replied.
As they walked down the hall, two young Nims passed them and quickly entered a room off the hallway, laughing as they went. “What are they doing in there,” Ned asked? “Just silly Nim stuff, cooking, cleaning… Don’t worry about,” grunted the teacher.
At that moment another Nam ran up, “Master Teacher,” he excitedly announced, “there is trouble in the outer garden! A dragon I believe!”
Well, before Ned knew what happened, his teacher and the messenger had left him there, standing alone in the hall. “Figures,” he thought, “I miss everything.” Ned turned to head back down the hall to his room. When he passed the door the young Nims had entered, Ned heard them laughing again. Then Ned had a thought, a clever little thought. “I bet I can find out what they are doing,” he reasoned. Without another thought, Ned ran down the hall to the storage room and slipped inside. Making sure no one had followed him; he closed the door, and grabbing a chair, the young Nam climb up and into an air ventilation pipe. He knew he could find his way, and soon had crawled into the pipe directly back to the Nim room and was peering down the vent at them.
Teacher was right, they where cleaning, washing dishes, and stacking towels, and all the while, they would laugh and giggle with each other. He was a little disappointed, but figured that The Master was right. Nims were silly and less interesting than Nams. “It was good to be a Nam. It is good to rule,” he thought. Ned touched the plate over his chest proudly and started to slowly crawl back down the pipe. Then he heard a scream come from the room below. He looked quickly. One of the small Nims had been hurt. It looked like a tray had fallen and hit him in the head, cutting the Nim's face. The nim knelt to the floor and began to cry. Then Ned saw the most peculiar thing. The older Nims moved closet to the young nim and gathered in a circle. One by one, they reached out and, to his disbelief, touched the nim's heart hole. Ned gasped. “They are going to kill him,” his mind raced, “What should I do?” But, the little Nim did not die. Instead, as each one touched his heart, he began to feel better. The nim stopped crying, his face stopped bleeding and soon they were all laughing and singing again.
Ned looked down at the steel plate that separated his heart from all others, and wondered.