Power differentials

It worked like this: I’d have a long-term girlfriend, and a series of affairs (with guys and girls) on the side. The girls always knew about everyone else, and the boys didn’t. Or, if the boys knew, they didn’t hear it from me. Why did the girls know, but the boys didn’t? Honestly, my rationale doesn’t make any sense to me. But, the girls were secrets. My family—and frequently the girls’ families—were adamantly anti-gay. In fact, I didn’t even meet an out lesbian until college, though I’d been dating girls for years by then. Relationships with girls were secrets we kept from everyone else, but also, at times, from each other. What I mean is, we were hardly honest about the depth of feeling between us. We were hardly honest.

Was I wrong? Well, obviously everyone deserves full disclosure. So, yes, I was wrong. My choice, I think, came from an interest in self-preserving discretion, but something else as well. I was attempting to combat the power differential of my relationships with boys being perfectly acceptable, while my relationships with girls were disallowed. I was trying to give the relationships with girls secret power because in every other way those relationships were off balance. Ridiculous, right? I was trying to give them a kind of equality. The girls will know everything because the boys get everything. Equality, of course, doesn’t work that way. However, play through: If everyone had full disclosure, would we then have equality? No. My relationships with girls would never be treated the same as my relationships with boys. Not by my family, not by my school, not by society, not legally, etc. The disparity is everywhere.

And here’s the thing about equality, if we had universal health care, and it didn’t cover reproductive health, that would be equal, right? If reproductive health weren’t covered for men, and it weren’t covered for women, that’s legal equality. Nobody gets it. So we’re even. But women need reproductive health coverage. We REQUIRE it. At some point, we’re going to have to discuss the fact that women and men do not have the same requirements. That being treated fairly, and being treated equally are not the same thing. These differences aren’t nuance, or special rights, they’re basic biology. There are differences between men and women, and those differences aren’t weakness. They must be accounted for, the way we account for differences in landscape when we decide which crops can be planted, and which animals farmed, and houses built, and jobs required. These differences are facts, and they shouldn’t go unmentioned simply because the dialogue about them is difficult.

2 thoughts on “Power differentials”

  1. Contrariwise, if guys don’t have to bear children of rape, women shouldn’t either. If guys don’t have to pay for their pregnancies, women shouldn’t either. It’s like trying to split a bill where both parties pay $10, but the balance is $25: I can pay $10 and you get the rest, or you can pay $10 and I get the rest, and it makes all the difference in the world.

  2. I like it, Tim. If our equality is not based on the lowest common denominator, then we’re golden. If we aren’t begrudging about the distribution of safeguards, and if we understand our responsibility for children is an issue beyond gender lines, we’ll move forward.

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