Manet's Chez le Père Lathuille
Our readership has called us in for questioning. "Who are you," they ask, "to talk about friendship between woman and man? You are hopelessly one dimensional. You're both women!" This question isn't a jab against the female sex. It is not a shameless plug for the dialectic mode of reasoning. It is an exploration of the legitimacy of a woman-led social dynamic.
In a commentary on "Social and Domestic Relations" in Democracy in America, Tocqueville writes, "No free communities ever existed without morals; and, as I observed in the former part of this work, morals are the work of woman. Consequently, whatever affects... their opinions has great political importance in my eyes."
Tocqueville brings up an interesting and extremely politically incorrect point. He identifies woman as the source of society's morality. The key is he claims that woman is the source of morality, not the embodiment of morality. Woman is not necessarily more moral that man. Woman is, however, more aptly suited to take on the moral education of her society as her burden. We interpret this quote as an indication that Tocqueville took sex differences very seriously. His position, while it may appear limiting (man depends on woman in his development toward independent practical reasoning?!), resonates with something still relevant in today's culture. Men and women are different, and have different, biologically-influenced strengths and weaknesses. It is the task of the woman to guide man in those things at which she excels. We'll put it out in the open- we think that woman
So men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. Take, for example, the folklore that men respond to the physical, while women respond to the emotional. Pish posh, one might say- woman can be just as sexually responsive! They are just as physical! However, only about 30 percent of Internet pornography consumers are female (Internet Pornography Statistics, 2008; Nielsen//NetRatings, April 2005) Women might also engage in such and similar activities, but they enjoy more freedom from addictions to socialized means of objectification. (Yes, we did just call porn an objectification. More to come...) This example is not meant to dissuade the interest or concern of man in porn-related debates; it is meant to demonstrate a particular advantage that woman enjoys (her relative freedom from addictive, physically sexual addictions) and propose the legitimacy of her involvement in said realm.
In traditional cultures of courtship, woman is the object of a pursuit, a biological and social chase. Her position, that of "object of the game" allows her to set every rule. Whether or not one subscribes to this particular model is irrelevant- woman has the capacity to wield an incredible amount of influence over the rules of male-female interaction. In any male-female relationship, woman has every power and every right to "set the tone." Indeed, her role as primary educator might even extend beyond the male-female dynamic. Into the family? The inculcation of virtue in children, perhaps? Their socialization? We'll leave the exploration of woman's potential propensity for education for another day. For now, consider this. To quote the best summer blockbuster ever (Spiderman), "With great power comes great responsibility." It seems that, in one realm at least, woman has quite a bit of responsibility over the tendencies (if not morality) of fellow man.
We encourage our fellow women and men to comment.