Struggling with Equality

Here’s something you may already know if you have some knowledge in the social sciences:  Certain criteria must be met for a society to be considered “civilized.”

Government, a given, is required to keep social order.  Some argue that a religion is also necessary to explain the way of the world, but it isn’t required.  A system of writing for recording things such as government records, historical events, diaries, and works of fiction is crucial.  Fiction ties into the next one, the need for arts and architecture.  A society’s art and architecture express its values in a creative way, and reveal what the society thinks is beautiful and strong.

There are several other less obvious characteristics of civilization, but the one that strikes me as the most important (and somewhat disturbing) is the necessity of social classes.  Today in America there are distinct classes–upper, middle, and lower, based on income.  It’s a bell-curve, with most of the population falling somewhere in the middle.  Classes don’t have to be based on money; in older societies class was determined by social status, which was determined by one’s job.  Government officials were at the top, followed by artisans, merchants, peasants, farmers, and slaves.

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)
Image via Wikipedia

Conceptually, social classes can be broken down into two realms: those with power and those without it.  The government will

always be on top.  The other social classes organize themselves according to a society’s values and ideologies.  This shows that in order to be “civilized,” a society needs to allow itself to be ruled.  This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it means that ideas of equality from great thinkers such as Karl Marx might be pure idealism.

So, government is necessary for structure, and inequality is necessary for stability.  I’m totally not against government, but as a person with liberal beliefs it saddens me to think that some people will always be socially “better” than others.  I do believe that no person is really “better” than anyone else.  Because of this, I sometimes become skeptical of those who are in positions of power.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton

This is why I believe in democracy.  No one is better than anyone else, so no one person should have absolute power over everyone else.  Even though social differences exist in democracy, it allows everyone’s voice to be heard.  I’m not trying to preach about government…but given that a completely equal state may be impossible, a political system that involves all people the best it can is the best bet.  We are equal, yet we must be unequal.  Chew on that…

What is Gender?

Recently, I took my final exams for the semester.  Because of exams, I got to leave school earlier than usual.  I went home, ate lunch, and walked back to school for track practice.  I had rehearsal for a play afterward, so I brought along a bag for my shoes, water bottle, script, and other miscellaneous items. It wasn’t a sling bag or backpack, but a special “tote”-type bag some friends brought back for me from their trip to Boston.  Some kids I encountered on the way to school decided to laugh at the bag because it looked really feminine.  That got my gears turning…

Gender isn't an exact science.

I am male.  I was born male, and will always be male.  But what does being male really mean?  The first things that come to my mind are physical traits: longer limbs, broader shoulders, a deeper voice, and all that.  With some further thought I realized that besides physical traits, the only things people use to distinguish between male and female are materialistic.  Makeup is for girls.  Baseball caps are for boys.  Statements like those aren’t only false, they’re judgmental and limiting.  Some girls totally rock the baseball look, and many boys have discovered they like the way they look with a bit of makeup.  Society has drawn a borderline separating the sexes, a line that neither gender is “supposed” to cross.  Why not?  People are judged by society-generated stereotypes and are told how to be a man or how to be a lady.  It’s not natural.  Doctors don’t tell the sex of a baby based on whether it pops out of the womb wearing a skirt or a jockstrap.

I don’t see why it’s bad for someone to express bits of both masculinity and femininity.  I’m am definitely not transgendered; I am perfectly comfortable being male.  I do, however, have a feminine side that I am equally comfortable expressing.  I just cannot wrap my head around why that’s such a problem.  I’ve observed that people are even harder on boys (that might be because I am a boy…what do you think about this, girls?) when it comes to stepping over the gender line.  Boys seem to do it less, so when one does it’s seen as a huge deal.  It really shouldn’t be.  If you ask me, it’s worse when one chooses not to express oneself out of fear than when one does so in a “controversial” way.

In my eyes gender is a physical thing.  I don’t think stupid things like makeup, clothes, mannerisms, and tastes can force the soul into a gender mold.  People may try, but it’s wasted effort.  Expressing yourself in ways more commonly associated with the opposite sex doesn’t make you homosexual, transgendered, or weird, it makes you a multifaceted, true-to-yourself person.  Be yourself.