So here’s the deal. If a man thinks he should support a woman, he probably never will. If a woman thinks she needs the support of a man, her expectations may always be belied. And as all good rules must come with exceptions, there are caveats to this one as well but we’ll get to them later.

First, in order to explain my point of view, let me tell you a story. More than a decade ago, I had spent six months backpacking and paragliding in South America. My itinerary included shuttling back and forth a few times between Arequipa in Chile and Iquique in Peru. As soon as locals on either side of the border would find out where I was coming from, they would almost retort, “We’re so much more helpful than they are over there, aren’t we?” Non-verbal cues strongly suggested it wasn’t really a question. In spite of this pattern repeating identically on both sides, I was always surprised. And remember smiling politely. I had nothing more to offer because I hadn’t the foggiest what they were talking about. In my experience, I had found some folk on both sides who had been extremely helpful and others not as much.

If a man thinks he should support a woman, he probably never will. If a woman thinks she needs the support of a man, her expectations may always be belied.

It was a coincidence that one of the books I had taken on my journey was a particularly enlightening one called World Philosophies by Ninian Smart. One of the philosophies it talks about is a Chinese one – that of Yin and Yang – about how seemingly contrary forces may actually be complementary and even interdependent. Represented by the “tai chi,” it proposes that distinctions between good and bad and other dichotomous moral judgments are perceptual, not real.

A few months later when my trip ended, I felt compelled to write down some lessons learned. Now in retrospect, I believe it must have been my experiences across the Chile-Peru border and this newfound understanding of duality that led me to my conclusions. I realized that it wasn’t really about Peruvians and Chileans but rather nature and nurture. I believe you’ll find all kinds of people everywhere, and none of them perfect. If you leave your biases aside, you’ll see that the probability of finding mostly good strangers and mostly bad friends is the same as that of the opposite.

I believe you’ll find all kinds of people everywhere, and none of them perfect.

Which brings me back to the topic at hand  – that of women and men. Leaving aside the obvious biological differences – the caveats to my assertion – the connection of testosterone to physicality and women’s role in biological reproduction, aren’t we better off viewing people as a triad of values, attitudes, and behaviours? And if we do, aren’t men and women equal anyways?

So, shouldn’t support systems be based more on this triad than anything else? Wherein honest people not only support those that espouse a similar value, but also help others who don’t to see the light; ones who are optimistic help instil their attitude in those who aren’t; and those who behave kindly change ones who are not with their kindness. And ignore something as inconsequential to our overall well-being as gender.

Address Governing Officials

Stated differently, my starting assertion would then mean that a man who thinks he ought to support a woman in the kitchen might come from a position that toiling in the kitchen is not his responsibility in the first place. Or that a man who supports a woman in her career might believe that he has more of a right to pursue his ambitions. Or for that matter a man who lets the woman be on top at times might feel he has more of a right to such sexual expression. Wouldn’t such support run contrary to the equality that it purports to foster? If I were a woman, I’d much rather have the kind of men around me who support me by knowing I am equal. Period.

If I were a woman, I’d much rather have the kind of men around me who support me by knowing I am equal. Period.

There is one more thing though. One of my first mentors taught me that even though planning is logical, implementation must be socio-logical. So while my definition of support might sound logical, it doesn’t yet factor in the all-important aspect of society. In many if not most parts of the world, men continue to enjoy the privilege of patriarchy. And another aspect of societal evolution might be that practical equality is realised only when the ones enjoying privilege understand that the purpose of such privilege is not to acknowledge or cherish it, but rather to stand up, speak up, and fight for the equal rights of the disenfranchised. So perhaps then, that’s how real men ought to support.

Neel Mullick has authored Dark Blossom. With degrees in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon, USA and business administration from INSEAD, France, Neel is the Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family office technology company.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

Picture Credit: Telegraph UK

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