Opinion: Strategies to Survive in a World Designed by and for Men

Remington Write

Bringing out our inner Scheherazade

The view from within The Alhambra in Granada Spain /Photo byTammy Remington

Remember Scheherazade who saved herself from death at the hands of the monarch, Shahryar, by each night weaving an ever more thrilling and exciting story that kept the king so enthralled that he spared her life each morning?

Her stories became the basis for the ageless collection of stories from the Middle East we know as One Thousand and One Nights.

Let’s acknowledge that The Patriarchy punishes men as severely and maybe more severely than women. In fact, for well over a century, women have organized and stood up for themselves and one another in ways that men haven’t. If anything, the self-policing among men has heightened and if you’re a man who likes to wear anything tight, anything colorful, anything remotely feminine, you are going to take heat.

Or get killed.

That said there is no way around the fact that virtually everything in society, every policy, every type of design, every institution, every school of thought, every art and every business and every field of scientific inquiry has been developed by men for men. From air conditioning in office buildings to medical procedures to the design of furniture; all were conceived and brought into being by men for men. Adjustments are made for women.

Or not.

This is changing slowly but it is changing. Here, at least in the “developed” world, there is less of a need for a million Scheherazades using millennia of careful, subterranean strategies to get by in a world not designed for us. Women are taking their places in board rooms, design studios, labs, and government offices and are beginning to create a world that is designed by and for people (in the meantime, this Scheherazade has been known to keep a space heater in her office all summer long).

Still, there are myriad ways in which women in every society and every environment strive to keep themselves and their children safe in the inescapable presence of a person who is bigger, stronger, and really can kill her and her children with his hands if pushed.

Men are dangerous.

Cue the howls of “Not ME!” and to you who have never hit or pushed or threatened a woman (and that includes punching walls), I come back with this: You could.

We can’t tell that you won’t.

We don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if you’re safe. Especially those with children. There may have been a time in some women’s lives, those raised by loving and gentle fathers, when they entered a relationship with a man not ready to fight or flee. Many people, however, grow up in families where men have been violent at some level. Maybe it was “just” yelling or verbally belittling but often it was furniture being thrown and outright physical abuse. And, however loving and gentle any father may have been, his daughter is almost certainly going to be in some relationship with a man during her life who she has to keep calm, keep happy, reassuring him and placating him and spinning enthralling tales to keep herself and her children safe.

What's the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States? Homicide.

Here are some classic Scheherazade strategies to avoid that fate:

Making sure food is ready and is his favorite. Keeping the children quiet. Keeping the house clean even if the Scheherazade also works outside the home. Running interference with annoying neighbors. Lying to family, friends, and people at the grocery store. Not working outside the home if that’s his issue. Having more children. Stopping having children. Having no children. Letting him drive always. Not suggesting he ask for directions when lost. Keeping the weight down. Or up. Not voicing opinions that go opposite of his. Not crying. Not swearing. Wearing makeup. Not wearing makeup. Not spending too much time with friends. Going to movies we don’t like and not saying we don’t like them. Being ok with never going out. Having sex whether we want to or not. Wearing high heels when we do go out. Not talking to other men. Listening to his complaints sympathetically. Being careful not to drink too much. Not complaining. Lying about what we spent money on even if it’s money we earned ourselves. Not nagging about things he said he’d do and hasn’t. Not doing them yourself. Asking his opinion on anything and everything.

Doing as we’re told.

The strategies in that paragraph are not every woman’s experience (obviously). Some women have never had to go to these lengths to keep her king from beheading her. But nestled into the brain stem of every smaller, physically weaker person in a relationship with a bigger, stronger, and sometimes unpredictable mate is the certainty that measures may need to be taken to stay safe.

While we may very well begin to see sanely air-conditioned office spaces and ergonomically designed car seats for different-sized people within the next fifty years or so - always assuming we haven’t managed to wipe ourselves out first - the dynamic between men and women regarding personal safety is unlikely to change. And we can thank our old friend, testosterone, for that because men evolved with that handy little hormone raging through them for a reason. It’s why we don't have to rely on storks or cabbage patches to provide us with babies. Ok, it's also why we have war. No system is perfect.

Low odds we can reverse several millennia of evolution any time soon.

That said we can keep drawing everyone’s attention to this phenomenon and maybe someday our daughters won’t have to develop their skills as master storytellers to ensure their physical safety.

Sure, that's possible but let's not hold our breath.

Comments / 0

Published by

Covert dilettante with an omnivorous capacity for wonder. Writing because I can't not write. Always watching for the hidden patterns and connections. I don't know I cannot fly..........and so I do.

New York City, NY

More from Remington Write

Comments / 0