Why it is that so many men don't understand women is, as far as I can guess, a question that has been asked since human beings were first capable of asking questions. It occurs to me that I should have probably worded the title question differently, and included the word, "still", before "don't". Doing that would add a new dimension to the question, however; and as it is, the simple question, itself, might already be tricky enough to adequately and accurately answer.
My immediate reaction to so many questions that seem to "lump together" women or men into one club of "all-think-alike" people is to be frustrated (yet again) at a world that so often just doesn't seem to get it when it comes to the fact that individuals are, in fact, individual and unique. As a woman, my immediate reaction to this kind of question inevitably comes the reply, "Maybe if men would figure out that we, women, are human beings, and not aliens, a whole lot of men would understand a whole lot of women a whole lot better."
Without even trying to go back over all of history and all of the ways women either were, or were not, understood (and as a result, not respected); I'll address this question from the standpoint of contemporary society, particularly society in a post Women's Movement era. (This is where I think, again, that "still don't" might have been better wording to the title-question.)
Between the 1960's and Early 1970's and The Present
While I've always been very grateful to have had The Women's Movement change the world for women just about when I was reaching adulthood, it's always seemed to me that when The Movement broke down some one major, oppressive, wall of ignorance and lack of respect for women (which had existed throughout history), the landscape still wasn’t completely cleared for women because when that wall was broken down a lot of people seemed to start to build a whole new kind of wall that would be made up of smaller bits ("bricks", if you will) of ignorance and bigotry toward women.
It was a new wall, so it certainly wasn't as big and oppressive as the old one used to be. Still, it seemed to be in human nature not to allow there to be no wall at all, so this new wall was being built from new bricks. More sobering, the new wall was also being built from bricks taken from the rubble that was the remains of the old wall.
Here are a couple of easy-to-think-of examples of "old-bricks/new-bricks" or "old-wall/new wall": Old wall: "Women aren't equal to men and never will be." New wall: "Women can be equal to men if they'll just be more like men." Old wall: "If you're a woman and you want a happy marriage, all you have to do is go along with everything your husband says and thinks." New wall: "If you want a happy relationship or marriage, all you have to do is understand that men and women are from two different planets; and pay close attention to what the experts on the thinking of creatures from either of those planets tell you about how they think and do things."
To make truly understanding women (or, by extension, men) that much more difficult (apparently), it hasn't just been a matter of one old wall being broken down and replaced with some of the original bricks or else bad ones. It has, in some ways, also been a matter of tearing down whatever wall existed in the decade ushered in by The Women's Movement, and beginning to build an even newer wall - and again, either with some bricks made of old thinking or else some made from yet a new and different kind of thinking.
Here's an easy-to-think-of example of what replaced the wall left by The Women's Movement and built by, I guess, people who didn't like some of the bricks The Women's Movement had added: Post-Women's Movement Wall: "Women are not sex objects." Replacement wall: "Boobs and cleavage - the bigger, the better. If women don't have enough, and show enough, they'd better build more and show more if they want to BE enough." Another example: Post Women's Movement wall: "Women are not the household help of men. They are more than that. They can be even more than that." New wall: "If women aren't running a Fortune 500 company and/or if women choose to nurture their own young children, they're inferior (and far from "equal"); but if women do run a company or have some otherwise "impressive" professional endeavor/achievement they are inferior because they aren't being to their children what mothers are supposed to be."
What I think has gone wrong with so many elements of those newer walls has been a matter of bricks that are made of things so much a part of evolutionary hard-wiring that even people who are generally "evolved" well enough beyond their hard-wiring that they most often aren't at its mercy, there's still enough of that hard-wiring in place that the challenges in overcoming some of it (in men and in women) are generally a lot bigger for women. (If you're thinking, about now, that I'm going back-up the belief that men and women are hard-wired to think differently because they "come from different planets", hold off on thinking that. That's not where I'm going, and I'll to where I'm going soon - just not yet.)
Other bricks that have been used in some of the the newer walls have come from a lot of misguided ideas that have been passed around, and accepted, in society; and that have often been a matter of ego and/or profit (someone's own or someone else's), or else a matter of insecurity (someone's own or someone else's).
What may be more insidious about the newer kind of walls, as compared to the old one is that the old one was right out there in society for everyone to see. It was a massive and seemingly permanent wall, and it took a whole lot of "man-like" behavior and fighting for women of The Women's Movement era to break down that wall to the extent they did. The new kind of walls that have cropped up in place of the old one aren't always out there in public view. We can look at changes in the landscape of the workforce, or changes we can see in laws and policies and even a lot of attitudes; and be under the impression that today we "know everything there is to know about women". Further, we can look around at an enlightened world and wonder why women haven't either moved on or climbed higher in this world.
The thing is, a lot of us who go through our lives and this world as women have discovered that instead of that one, big, wall behind which all women once were we can find ourselves, as individuals, behind those more hidden walls; and breaking them down is either impossible for one person to do, or else would mean that that one person would have to destroy parts of her life and herself in order to do it.
So what does all this have to do with why so many men don't understand women? I'll tell you:
So many men don't understand women because so often when women try to make themselves understood they aren't take seriously and/or are misunderstood. Moreover, a whole lot of women have long ago given up on sharing what's really on their mind because so much of the time even trying is useless. It's important to point out, however, that it isn't just men who don't understand women. Just as in the case of that old wall that once oppressed women and that wasn't just made up of what men believed, but also what women accepted and believed; today's walls are also made of ideas contributed by women who have believed or accepted what they've been told by a world that still hasn't gotten it right.
Some women have a more difficult time than others, and I can't speak for all women (because, as I said, we're all individual human beings and all have our own unique thinking and personality). I can speak, however, as one of those women who have had a more difficult time getting past any number of those individual walls that have been before my eyes by people who don't understand me. I tend to suspect that I'm far, far, from alone as someone who has so often had such trouble being understood, not only in approximately forty years of living as a woman, but in eighteen-or-so years of being a girl before that. Besides actually being one of those women who has that more difficult time with getting people to understand me, I've had my share of relationships with women family-members, friends, co-workers, etc.; and I've done more than my share of reading up on, and thinking about, women's issues. (The reason I point out my "credentials" to back up my thoughts on the men/women issue is that I'm aiming to reduce the inevitable chances of someone's thinking I don't know what I'm not talking about because I am, in fact, a woman.) So here goes....
When Men Learn About Women At All They Often Don't Learn From The Best Sources
As I said, one problem with women's being understood is that they have trouble getting anyone to take them seriously and/or not misunderstand them. That isn't necessarily the only problem, however, because one might ask why so many men (but also other women) don't take women seriously and/or misunderstand them in the first place. That, I believe, is because men either get their information from other men, from mothers who may or may not provide correct information, or from nobody at all because some mothers (particularly those of earlier generations than today's) haven't believed that fathers are the ones who are supposed to teach boys about men and women. So, there are a lot of men who don't understand women very well; and the only way they'll understand them better is to ask (and then believe the woman in question knows what's she's talking about and is presenting an accurate picture).
While it's not right to make generalized, blanket, statements about any generation; in general, as the generations have come along a lot more men have better attitudes toward women than men of previous generations did. There are always exceptions to everything. For example, my father (born in 1911) was a whole lot "better" about girls and women than a lot of fathers of his generation. My generation has more men who view women in a better light than my father's, and my sons' generation shows substantial progress in attitudes toward women. Even with that, however, it can be youthful males who are most guilty of knowing the least about women; because that evolutionary hard-wiring factor mentioned above can be an ever higher factor in younger men than in men who are older.
Women Must Deal With the Hard-Wiring Of Other People - And That Isn't Easy
A person can't help another person understand her if that other person isn't going to hear what she says, believe what she says, assume she knows what she's talking about, and/or generally trust that what she says is accurate and based on something other than what she "imagines" or she has perceived incorrectly.
Do you recall how when I mentioned evolutionary hard-wiring I said how I wasn't going where you may have thought I was, and how I'd get to where I was going later? Well, this is that "later".
The mention of hard-wiring, of course, can bring to some people's minds built-in aspects of any differences between males and females. This tends to lead a lot of people to thinking about what is now believed to have been learned (by science) about differences in male and female brains. Of course, with anything believed by experts in the field, there are usually the warnings of how there will always be exceptions and how nurturing plays some role in the development of the brain. The individual genetic make-up of any individual is most often mentioned, along with the reminder that one's genetic leanings aren't particularly, or always, the determining factor in how far anyone does or doesn't lean in one direction or another. Without yet addressing the matter of what kind of percentage might be involved when it comes to those "exceptions", I'll just say that when I refer to hard-wiring I'm not referring to any differences (real or imagined) in how women think versus how men think.
Without getting into a whole discussion that would amount to a re-hash of what most people already know about males, females, and the drive to further the species; I'll just point out that we live in a world in which anything and anyone associated with what is considered "feminine" has a more difficult time being seen and respected as "equal"; because hard-wiring, human nature, and society seem to have joined together and "established" that feminine traits and behavior, and the people who demonstrate them, are inferior and/or fragile or weak. Since most people don't like "fragile and/or weak" in themselves, a whole lot of people don't think much of those traits in others unless, of course, someone prefers weakness and inferiority in others for his own reason, which might be, for example, a preference to be "Number 1". Being "Number 1" goes back to that hard-wiring, of course; and many people are developed far enough past their more primitive instincts not to need to always be "Number 1". Many aren't, however; and sometimes even those who are will fall back into that more primitive behavior when dealing with someone who evokes one or another emotional response in them.
People's tendency to view traits and behaviors traditionally associated with "feminine" isn't always about seeing those traits or behaviors as "inferior". They can be seen as "superior" if the matter at hand involves being the sex partner of a man, nurturing children, and/or anything associated with "nesting instinct" (in other words, cleaning the house and cleaning up after anyone else who messes it up). Since women, by virtue of just being women at all, are already demonstrating an association with "feminine", they're already dealing with a world that thinks the aforementioned roles are the only roles in which women's traits and behaviors really matter much or deserve respect. Since it isn't just "official women" who have traits and behaviors associated with "feminine", however, and since people of both sexes can show any number, or degree, of these traits or behaviors; some women show more of them than others. Those are the women who have the most difficult time.
It's not just traits and behaviors associated with "feminine" that can result in an inappropriate response to people. Traits and behaviors associated with "masculine" can as well, whether they show up in women or men. The difference is that what is considered "masculine" is usually associated with power, strength, and intelligence. What's considered "feminine" is not.
Women who have or show at least a few traits of behaviors that are associated with masculinity can have a little bit easier time at gaining respect, provided they aren't dealing with someone who only respects women within the nurturing, sexual, or cleaning context. In the last few decades (perhaps more now than ever before) women have often been told that they "have their own kind of power" and should use that. What that has amounted to is more and more women showing more and more body parts in the apparent hope of using that "own kind of power". Women have also been told they have their "own kind of power" with regard to their role in giving birth. In the forty or so years since The Women's Movement, women who show too many traits and behaviors associated with femininity (but not as "nitty-gritty-tied-to" sex, childbirth, and nurturing) are generally viewed and treated as powerless and just-plain "less". Worse, they're resented, and sometimes attacked, when they express the expectation of being viewed and respected as an equal.
Physical traits associated with masculinity are generally height, broad shoulders, angular build and facial features, and a deep (sometimes booming) voice. Physical traits associated with feminity are, of course, the opposite - small stature, narrow shoulders, softer build and facial features, and a "smaller" voice. Men who have "feminine-associated" physical traits can have a more difficult time than those who don't. As far as women go, it doesn't help that traits associated with femininity are also traits associated with children. Not only do women have to live with traits that are associated with general weakness and inferiority, but they must also live with traits that tend to make others view them as "more grown-up children".
It's not just physical traits that pose a challenge for women. It's those behaviors associated with femininity as well. Without writing a whole book on those traits, the nutshell version of things is that if something is associated with nurturing it's considered "feminine", and if it's associated with trying to attract a man it's considered "feminine". In fact, if it has anything to do with a subordinate role of some sort it's considered "feminine". Things involving a person's being in this world on his/her own terms, and separate from any any personal role or relationship are generally those associated with masculinity. (After all, we all know the whole thing about hunter/gatherer and all that stuff.)
A lot of what is today associated with "feminine" versus "masculine", however, isn't necessarily rooted in hard-wiring. In some cases, there can be more of a chicken/egg kind of thing with what's considered to be masculine versus feminine. An easy (and infuriating) example is how in recent years, when some people want to talk about Americans being "softer" or "weaker", they'll refer to that unflattering view as "The Feminization of America". If, for example, America doesn't take military action as soon as someone thinks it ought to, the jump is made first to idea that the country is "not standing up for itself" and then to the idea that such weakness is a matter of "feminization". People who use this particular phrase don't even consider the possibility that there is such a thing as women who do stand up for themselves, their loved ones, and their home (country). It's odd that when it's so often the female members of a species that are the most likely to attack anyone or anything that threatens their babies or nests, and when it's so often the male who goes out finding food (and yes, resorting to violence for food and/or supremacy), isn't it odd that not standing up for oneself and/or one's family and home seems to have become associated with the females of the our own species?
This goes to the fact that some of what is automatically associated with femininity or masculinity has been created by, or at least contributed to, by society's (not evolutionary) workings.
When it comes to some of the things that can be built into people, it doesn't particularly help women (who already have such a hard being taken seriously, believed, and treated with respect) that a lot of men take in information visually, rather than through auditory means (which is how a lot of women take in information). (As always, there are exceptions.)
My ex-husband (who remains a friend, and whom I've know for thirty-six years now) recently politely explained his problem with conversation. He's an engineer-turned-software-designer, so he's "technical minded". He was saying how he takes in information visually and can't take much of it in at all through auditory means. He said, "I just need to see something. If I'm just hearing something all I hear is 'bla bla bla'. So, basically I was being told that I shouldn't attempt to communicate by talking because it would be heard as "bla bla bla". From what I think I've figured out, however, is that when people hear only "bla bla" it's usually when what is being talked about is not something that interests them; and much of the time what interests some people are only their own problems and the subjects related to their own areas of interest.
Whether a person is truly incapable of hearing anything at all other than "bla bla", or whether he's just not interested in the "bla bla" that he's hearing (or at all in anything that person doing the "bla-bla-ing" might have to contribute), doesn't really matter. All signs put to some people's being sent the message that they shouldn't bother trying to talk to some other people (or at least not say more than some other people deem should be required).
There's an egotistical arrogance and sense of superiority in the person who believes he knows how many words it should take for someone else to say what s/he needs to say; because this goes to assuming one knows everything the other person must possibly have to say, and ruling out the possibility s/he has anything new or enlightening to contribute. It's all just a way of essentially saying, "I know everything I need to know, and you don't have anything in your head to add to what I already know. You have other stuff in your head that I don't know, but that stuff isn't important stuff or stuff I care about." So, in yet one more way, women who try to communicate (and maybe communicate in a way that will help them be better understood) are up against the all too familiar situation of dealing with someone who sees them as "less". It isn't just men who hear "bla bla", and it isn't just women who "spew" (we've all that heard that term used) "bla bla". It's just, perhaps, that when bla bla is spoken in a softer or higher voice it's that much less likely to come through clear than a more booming voice will.
I can see the humor in the fact my attempt to answer the title-question has resulted in what will, no doubt, be experienced as "bla bla" by any number of people who've deemed that the answer to that question shouldn't take so many words. What's not very funny, however, is that as a former girl, and now woman; I figured out a long time ago that if I ever even wanted anyone to understand me (or girls or women in general or mothers), my efforts to make that happen would have to come in the form of written words because so many in the world haven't yet figured out that a softer voice or smaller shoulders are nothing more than that - a softer voice and smaller shoulders. Those things aren't an indication of my strength as human being, my intelligence, or my level of maturity.
On the other side of the coin, neither do my nurturing instincts, kindness, affinity for writing, or choice to put other people's needs first when that's my responsibility (all associated with femininity) indicate that the only kind of power or respect I have a right to in this world is some "own kind" - not the same kind that so many other people in this world automatically acquire without fighting and without being the one to have to do the unflattering thing of "committing bla bla".
Why so many men don't understand women very well isn't necessarily because no men ever listen to any women. Some men do. It's more, I think, because so many people-in-general are far less likely to pay much attention to what women (at least the ones who show too many feminine-associated traits or behaviors) say or try to say. In other words, the very people who could best help the world understand women better are the ones least likely to be taken seriously.
Through all the time that women has existed in this world, can you imagine how shocking it is that in 2012 so many women remain so misunderstood and/or essentially invisible?
Some People (Not Just Men) Don't Understand Some Women Because They Don't Simply Ask About The Smaller Things
As a woman, I can tell any man (or anyone else) that if he wants to understand me all he has to do is ask. It will make it easier and quicker for both of us if the question is a specific one, and don't forget to ask about my reasoning to the answer (rather than just assuming that I'm "being run by emotions"). Keep in mind that what doesn't make sense to some tends to look "emotions based". Keep in mind that something make not make sense to you because I have included more information into my reasoning process than you realize exists (and I don't mean "exists in my head"; I mean "exists in the world").
Then, if my reply to the question leads to your still not really understanding, ask another question for clarification...
...AND, if my answer is ever something that surprises you, or that you never would have considered, don't just assume that's because I'm "wacky" or "fluffy-headed" or otherwise less sensible or smart than you are. (If you're tempted to think that what I've just said doesn't make sense to you, or seems too "weird" or "strange" to be based in reason - go look it up on the Internet. If someone you respect more says the same thing maybe it won't come across as quite as wild and wacky to you.)
Many men don't understand many women because too few people understand women at all. Too many people are far too sure that they understand women. Too many understand so little that they don't even know enough to consider the possibility that they understand close to nothing about women. What's worse, a whole lot of people see at least a few of the things women deal with; but have no clue as to the extent, or degree to which, some women have to deal with some things. The fact that a lot of people see some of the ways women are misunderstood almost works against a lot of women, because those people tend to believe they've "seen it all" and "understand". Sometimes there's nothing worse than people who think they understand what others live with when they simply do not.
My message, as a woman, to the world: People, stop buying everything your buddies at the bar, some magazine, your parents, and/or even experts (skill and qualified or otherwise) tell you about ‘how women are’ or “how women think’!!! Believing what you’re been told or what you’ve read about how “all women” are, or do, anything is slowing down a lot of progress for women in general. As it is, preconceived notions about anyone (ANY human being who isn’t you) sets backs communication and understanding to the point where it can be hopeless. Preconceived notions usually come from the stuff we’re told by “the world”. Ill-conceived notions, on the other hand, tend to be the ones who come up with yourself after mix up all the preconceived baloney someone else convinced you was fact.
In order to understand the degree to which some women live being misunderstood (and only because so many misguided ideas about women are so deeply ingrained in individuals and society in general), I'm going to get personal here.
Twenty-however-many years ago (or maybe more), I read quite a few books that were aimed to point out different ways men and women communicate and/or think. A couple of them that I read showed a list of traits for men and one for women. When I read those lists I'd think, "This isn't right," with any number of the things shown on the list for women. Then, I'd look at the list for men and think, "Oh, there's what I do." At the same time, I'd notice that some of the men I knew had traits that showed up under the women's category. Now, I know that there will always be exceptions, and I know that one person's handful (or so) of family members and friends don't make much of a sampling. At the same time, I was thinking about how if even just one person saw this high a percentage of inaccuracy in some things on those lists, what were the odds of my being the one freakish individual who happened to live among another bunch of freakish individuals (especially since neither I, nor any of the people I had in mind, were really very freakish in terms of generally being "normal" people).
I noticed that in some cases, it seemed as if the person's traits fell under the sex of the parent who had most likely been least critical of him. My husband and I both fell more under the list for the other sex, and I was familiar enough with both sets of parents to notice the matter of one parent's being more critical than the other. Also, however, I wondered if the role parents of each sex play in the development of children of either sex were factors.
Eventually, I ran into a book that pointed out the different combinations of different types of parents, and whether or not each parent was strong and/or critical made a difference in the type of misogynist a man might turn out to be.
Note: One of the many books I read at the time (which was in the 1980's) was by Susan Forward, Ph.D. and was "Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them". I believe that was the book in which I saw outlined the different types of "sets of parents", but I've just tried to find the exact material online by viewing parts of the book and haven't been able to do so. I'm not going to further pursue that because what I'm writing here is not based on any specific book, and I've done no specific research for this particular discussion. The only reason I'm reluctant to cite Dr. Forward's book, however, is that I am not entirely sure it was this particular book in which I saw the material to which I'm referring. In other words, if someone goes to find the material they may be going to the wrong book.
In any case, I'd run into the breakdown of the different combinations of parents, with focus on whether each parent was strong and/or critical. A question I have today is this: If those factors and combinations of parents are related to whether a son turns out to be a misogynist who behaves in one way or another; isn't it equally possibly that even just those two traits alone, but in lesser degrees, might also lead to misogyny (but in a lesser degree) in sons, or perhaps even daughters? In other words, might a perfectly balanced daughter with generally wonderful and loving parents lean more toward adopting some behaviors or traits of a father, if her mother has a stronger "presence" than her father and is the parent who most often expresses disapproval (criticism) of the child? Assuming that what goes on with the parents is within what is normal and generally healthy, might this kind of thing lead some daughters to think or interact more like their fathers; and some sons to think or interact more like their mothers?
Also, based on a number of people I knew well, I saw an apparent connection between birth order combined with the child's sex. So the combination of parents would be one thing. Whether the first-born child was a girl or boy was another, and whether (for example) a second-born child was the second or first of his sex for the parents appeared to make a difference (at least with those people I knew) with regard to which child seemed to identify most with which parent (at least in general).
The point is, a whole lot of what I'd read about how women think/communicate versus how men do appeared to me to be, quite frankly, "baloney"; and I thought there was the chance I had a fairly good idea as to why. Later, when I became the mother of three children (one adopted son, one son by birth, and one daughter by birth); and when I aimed to raise "a person first" (but one who liked what sex he happened to be), I'd see more reason to 1) believe I may actually have been correct about what I'd thought previously, and b) question a lot of what some experts were saying about differences between the sexes (AND, for that matter, about birth order when birth order didn't factor in the sex of the child or the likelihood that child would adopt one or the other parent's behaviors and/or thinking style). With books on birth order, as with the others, there is always the explanation that "there will always be exceptions". That covers those instances when someone's personality doesn't match what the book would attribute to a person in that place. Again, there is most often not anything very specific about percentages of people who would be exceptions. Birth order books are, however, a subject for another time.
The more important point is that when it comes to book and articles about how women (or men) think, or what they are, as “one, big, club”, over-simplified lists of what men think and what women think that don’t factor in some of major differences (in one’s life or situation) that can play a very large role in how one person thinks regardless of his/her sex; I’m going to guess that a huge percentage of what is presented as “in most cases” (rather than “only in exceptions”) is just grossly incomplete, misinformed, and/or inaccurate.
I, personally, am not in a position to be able to accurately state what percentage of some of the stuff that shows up in books and articles and old wives’ tales about women is wrong. I only know that based on myself, and based on a good number of people I’ve known over the course of my life as a woman; a whole lot of what shows up is simply out-and-out inaccurate. Logic and reason (women actually do have and use those cognitive skills) tells me that I cannot possibly be the only person in the world who has observed what I have, based on myself and others I’ve known. Logic and reason also tell me (oops, look!! There they are again!!) that simple lists that say what men are like and what women are like are very likely to be wrong as much as about 50% of the time, if not completely than on x number of traits/behaviors presented, as if “written in granite”, as what one sex or the other is or does. (Look around. Do you think in the all the same ways as everyone else you’ve ever known of your own sex? If your reply to that question is “yes” then look outside your own circles because I guarantee you that nobody who looks beyond his own small circle of family members or buddies will reply “yes” to that question.)
What I can say with absolute certainty is this: The first time I ran into those lists about how women think and how men think, and the first time I noticed that I and a lot of others I know didn’t fit neatly under the side we were supposed to, I actually thought to myself, “I wonder if I’m one of those people who is really ‘a man in a woman’s body’”. It took only a second or two for me to realize that wasn’t likely to be the case. After all, I knew I was heterosexual. More significantly, perhaps, I knew how much I’ve always enjoyed being my own sex; and I’ve always pretty moved and felt about as feminine as anyone could feel. I’ve certainly never been “the frilly, girly, type” but being feminine doesn’t always involved frills or “being girly”.
All I knew was that I wasn’t seeing accuracy in so many of those “expert” assertions. Ironically, when I’d been a child and teen; it was my father who pretty much took for granted that I “had a good head” and “was likely” to be whatever I wanted to be in this world. It was my mother who had the expectation that I think for myself and, equally important, be a strong and independent individual. I didn’t have all that many problems “being-understood” problems when I was a kid. Those problems arose once I grew up (particularly since I grew up in a time when “expert word” about the differences between women’s and men’s thinking was spreading fast and furiously among anyone impressed enough with the word, “expert”, to a) accept what experts said, and b) want to join in with those experts and at least appear to be that much more “educated”.
It was when the world seemed to have become so much more “enlightened” about differences between the sexes when I noticed that nobody seemed to notice people like me. Nobody with a healthy awareness that he is, by no means, an expert on a subject feels very comfortable speaking up against what “all the experts” seem to be saying. People who are most prone to just accepting what experts say are also those people who are least prone to think for themselves when faced with evidence or experience that conflicts with what those experts say.
Most of us are well familiar with what Christopher Columbus had to do to get anyone to even consider that (contrary to popular belief of the time) the world just may not be flat after all. Since I’ve never particularly been looking for anyone to kick in on the costs of my own journey, and since I’ve never been someone who particularly bothers trying to prove anything to anyone, I just accepted that I lived in a world that still didn’t have a clue about how women think.
It's not that I haven't tried, time and time again, to make someone understand me or some other women I know. I don't pretend it doesn't bother me to see someone assume the worst about another woman just because he doesn't understand her. I don't pretend, either, that not being understood hasn't resulted in more than its share of disaster in my life. The thing is, however, that when I've tried (as with when so many other women have tried) to be understood better, either nobody is interested or else somebody thinks he (or she) knows more than I do.
We women often have little choice but to go through this world and life with our femininity on display, no matter how much we try to play it down. Some women are willing to try to eradicate all signs of femininity in themselves (not just what shows on the outside but what's in their minds as well). Most of us do not. Most of us have our narrow shoulders and our measly 5' 2" skeletons. (5' l" to 5' 3" are the most common heights for women in this world, and yet women in that height range are still seen as "short women", which is different from being a "short person".) We have our feminine voices which may sound soft, gentle, or “too nice” when we're happy enough; and either shrill or b--chy when we're not. If we're mothers we're respected (up to a point) for being good ones, but we all know that being a mother only gets one kind of respect and only so much of it. Women who are beautiful or pretty may be respected for their appearance, but not necessarily for the “whole person” as an equal. Those who have impressive academic and/or career accomplishments are often respected for those, but not necessarily for being “equal as a person”. There are any number of skills, talents, or traits for which women may be respected, but they tend to be isolated from that “generally equal as person” (or even “superior as a person”) variety of respect.
Sometimes women are respected only when they’re what someone else believes they ought to be. For example, a woman who is nice will be respected for how nice she is by someone who expects “nice” from women. On the other hand, someone who equates being nice with being less-than-intelligent won’t respect the nice woman. Instead, that person will respect a not-so-nice one. This kind of “respect discrepancy” between people can exist for men too, but in general people (both men and women) tend to have more expectations of and standards for, women than for men. Something like being nice is often seen as “a positive extra” in a man. In a woman, it’s often seen as a sign that the woman isn’t strong enough, tough enough, or generally as worthy of respect as women who aren’t quite as nice. Emotional strength is often just assumed for men. It’s often not even recognized by some people when it’s a woman who has it. Assertiveness and confidence are generally expected in men. When a woman shows those traits/behaviors it can be seen as unlikeable or even as the woman’s being more assertive or more confident than she has a right to.
“I am woman. Hear me roar?” How about, “I am woman, so I don’t dare roar” Why? Because whether I whisper, speak in my ordinary voice, or roar; a whole lot of people will have already tuned out what I have to say because of whatever voice it is I choose to use.” Worse, perhaps, is the fact that even when someone has not turned out what I, as a woman, have to say in whatever voice it is I choose to say it; there can be the overwhelming odds that whoever I say it to will think he (or even another she) knows better than I do, is “less emotional” than I am deemed to be (even when I’m not a very emotional person in spite of my sex), is “more reasoned” or “more logical” than I am deemed to be (even when I’m about as reasoned and logical as anyone could ever be); or else just generally has a right to judge what I say as if I’m a child or else generally inferior to him or her.
Why don’t men understand women better? Because fewer people (men OR women) really listen to women than a whole lot of people realize. Some women manage to make themselves heard (even if not always respected for what they say) better than others. Women, in general, have made a lot of progress over the last few decades. I know that. I also know that not all women are as oppressed as some are, even in a country where women are supposed to be valued equally and have the same freedom as everyone else. At the same time, I know, too, that for all those who are not similarly misunderstood, and even oppressed, as some (even in America, where women are so often believed to have made so much progress); there are many, many, others who are.