The Conundrum of Men and Women:
Innovators & Imitators

[related stories: Gender Puzzle / The Inside Track on Happiness /
Fountain of Youth / Letter to an Imaginary Lady .. ]

@14 May 2000

Yin and yang, the warrior and nurturer, hard and soft, strong and weak, men and women. How hard we tried to persuade ourselves that they were one. Repulsed by the petrified shells of old cultures with their stereotypes and rigid role models, we declared ourselves free. Earnestly we searched for the perfect partner of equal qualities. Searched so long in vain.

Out in the backblocks of unreconstructed macho males and pumpkin scone women they never had a problem. They played the eternal seasons of struts and giggles, infatuated romance, white weddings, bawling babies, economic drudgery, drink and abuse, spreading waistlines, kitchen divorce and dad's shed up the backyard. Was it so different, after all, from some middle-eastern religious proscription on the genders?

Late, too late to play the game again, we realized our mistake. Regretted that nature had been politically incorrect and unfair in the apportionment of talent. Maybe there was something after all in that old idea of two halves of different colours making a balanced whole. Yin and yang. It was that most recent and dramatic of human innovations that finally persuaded us. The computer. Did we say human innovation? No, there's the rub. Male innovation.

Here was a masterful extension of the human brain itself, devised by men against all the currents of female derision. Its growth and development showed a continuous and enormous appetite for yet more innovation. Women stayed away in droves. When the machines were placed under their noses, made "useful" for social activity and employment, women used them diligently, used them as dead tools. Schools, universities, begged women to learn programming, to become creative. They flatly refused, and abused boyfriends and husbands for "playing". Icons were displayed to shield such indifference to ideas. It was after all a woman, Lady Lovelace, who invented programming before there were computers to program. But the evidence against majority female participation is overwhelming.

Then we thought back through the history of human innovation. Was it purely male chauvinism that attached a male inventor to virtually every innovation in the arsenal of history in every culture? No doubt there were powerful tendencies to prejudice in those old cultures which so repelled us, but the human spirit, when it wills, has a way of bending even the most recalcitrant institutions to its way over time. No, the evidence is again overwhelming. If it were up to women, we would still be swinging through the trees. Real innovation is a minority activity in any gender. But within that minority, men are the innovators.

So women, who needs them? Babies need them, kids. Industry needs them to do the drudgery that industry runs on. And it seems, men need them, to make whatever tree they are swinging in seem like a home. The catch is that women have been deciding in large numbers that they don't really need men, except as studs. So maybe we can have countries of women and countries of men, who take group tours to visit and breed once a year. Men might get subtle about this, and offer the women a country of virgin forests, to let them prove that they can reinvent civilization...

All opinions expressed in Thor's Unwise Ideas and The Passionate Skeptic are entirely those of the author, who has no aim to influence, proselytize or persuade others to a point of view. He is pleased if his writing generates reflection in readers, either for or against the sentiment of the argument.

"Innovators and Imitators " copyrighted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2000

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