WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Of strong women and weak men

My friend Arve who's got scrupulously clean toenails was quick to note that the emergence of "strong women" had also resulted in the emergence of the "weak men" of this generation.  Interesting. But, well, I wouldn't go so far as to call the men and the boys "weak.” I'd like to think men and boys are just temporarily confused about how to play out gender relations now that women and girls have changed the terms of engagement.

But just the same, what Arve said stuck in my mind and at odd moments in the last week, my mind kept revisiting the power base in gender relations.

Truth is, I really shouldn't be stopping to think of anything else right now, and I'd really rather that Arve didn't give me something to think about. You see, I finally took that plunge and started work to earn a doctorate degree. And while I have always been interested in social psychology, the only course offering available is counseling psychology.

Talk about suicidal. Now I know what a "crash course" really means. Imagine two sessions of group therapy every Saturday. I'll be lucky if I got home feeling like a roadkill. At least I'd still be feeling. These days, I get through the rest of the week so drained and empty and all talked out. And just when I begin to feel half alive, Saturday rolls in again. Right on cue.

Aaargh. I really don't want to be a therapist and constantly touch on someone's toxic shame and toxic pain. Especially as to be able to do that would require that I dig up mine first. Then my body starts reacting. Double aaargh. That almost had me begging to go back in denial and limit my headshrinking on this column instead. Six weeks at it and I'm kind of beginning to see Tom Cruise's beef with psychiatry.

Ah, but what the heck. Never do anything in half measures. Finish what you start. In for a sentimo, in for a peso. Take it like a man. Whatever.

So every Saturday, I'm mining my psyche again for things left undone or better left unsaid. For how long? Well, gee – I'm giving me five years at the rate I'm going. By the time I'm done, I would be ready to be an adult. Ha! That or nuts.

Oh, there you go. I guess that's why it took me a long time to take the plunge. There's something about the long road ahead to where you don't really want to go that gives one a very long pause. But finally, here I am swimming in a sea of pain – mine and my group. The last thing I'd want to do is to unload that on anyone else. So if you've been looking for me on this channel, hey – trust me, you really wouldn't want to hear from me these days. Except maybe when Arve gets me to thinking about something other than the pain.

Strong women and weak men, she says. That's like saying there's only one source of power and interaction between sexes would always seek a balance in the domination-subjugation continuum. Give-and-take in the age of the win-win solution. It's positively archaic.

But Melba laughed as she told me about the time she had a class of police officers role-playing power relations. They all pretended to grovel at their wives' feet. Nap laughed louder as he recounted how his senior students scripted a role-playing exercise on gender relations. It had the women giving peremptory orders to men. And the men complied with much alacrity to everyone's delight.

Jeez. Arve was right?

And is this really what we women want? Men groveling at our feet and jumping to do our bidding? You want a man like that? Honestly? Gee, someone like that would put me off men forever.

Paging Clint Eastwood! Why, you ask? Well, the characters he played did not need a woman to boss around. Makes you think, huh? You better give as good as you got if you want to keep up.

Oh, why can't a man and a woman be strong together? Why do people believe that for one to stand tall he has to be standing on someone's carcass? Why is it that some people can only take off when they would have clipped someone else's wings? Why do people work out their relationships that way?

Power, as I understand it, is the capacity to do work over time. We all have that. Each and everyone of us. And hey, it's not dependent on what you got between your legs. True power gives you the ability to stand alone.

Imagine then a world of people who can stand alone who choose to stand together. Wouldn't that be the most beautiful thing you ever did see?

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail@mindanews.com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says).