Babe Ruth is arguably the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. But . . . says who? Some man, probably, and probably judging by masculine standards. In fact, baseball itself was invented by men and is probably suited to their strengths. Even the idea that there can be a “greatest” baseball player might be a distinctly masculine notion. How can we even begin to evaluate?
“Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player.” This statement needs a certain world-view, a certain paradigm in order to be true. Let’s deconstruct that paradigm a little.
Suppose that contemporary with The Great Bambino there was a blind, 1-armed, epileptic midget with bipolar disorder and dementia playing in the same league. It’s a stupid premise, but think about it for a minute. Wouldn’t the midget supersede The Babe as “the greatest” just by holding his own in a league with great players like Babe Ruth in it?
We can dial it back a bit and say it was just a regular midget. Or, even further, we could just say it was a short man, with naturally weaker upper body strength. Let’s also suppose this man was a single parent and had a hormonal imbalance. Can you see where this is going? If this weak man can even hold his own, he’s pretty great.
Babe Ruth just played to his strengths. We wouldn’t normally consider a hammer great just for hammering nails, a cat great for catching mice, an umbrella great for simply opening up and deflecting the rain.
Now lets look at history in this context:
A white, wealthy, land-owning male from a politically well-connected family becomes president of a country in which non-whites and non-males do not get a say as to who should become president. So?
An exceptionally big, strong man performs very well in a game that was originally intended to test a mans size and strength. OK.
An smart man is given the best education a society can buy and a job, after that, that gives him lots of free time to think about the world and he ultimately comes up with a really good idea. Duh.
This exercise is not to belittle any human’s achievement, only to put those achievements in their proper context. It is not to say that women are the greatest child-bearers. It is to say that if a man ever does manage to push a baby out of his body after nurturing it inside himself for 9 months, he will be, without qualification, the best child-bearer ever.
Our standards are skewed, in other words.
The proper context for judging a woman’s achievements would involve accounting for the greater complexity of her function in human biological and social interaction. If a woman cannot hit a ball as hard as a man, perhaps it is because a man’s body only has to hit the ball, while a woman ‘s body has to hit the ball while being capable of nurturing a human life form inside it and then subsequently expelling that life form from her body through her vagina and then continuing to sustain it via nutritious secretions from her mammary glands via the tips of her breasts.
This may sound silly, but it is critical to understanding the discrepancy in “achievement” between men and women. We don’t judge a truck as having bad handling or gas mileage because it doesn’t perform like a coupe. We recognize that a truck also has to tow, haul, go off-road, etc. It has a more complex function.
In the same vein, a woman who is preoccupied with childcare (or husband care or just not getting raped) cannot ponder the mysteries of the universe or strategize battle or business plans or invent or innovate as efficiently as a man who essentially has all of his time, energy, and resources to devote to such a task. It’s just not a fair comparison, no matter how satisfying it might be to think of ourselves as belonging to “the stronger sex”, “the warrior class”, “the smarter, more creative half of humanity”, or whatever else. No matter how nice it is to have job security. No matter how much we want to maintain power and control over what is effectively the most valuable, most coveted class of objects in human history: womens’ bodies.
It’s not a valid comparison!
The upshot is not that women (or minorities, or left-handed people, or people with short hair) are “equal” to men (or non-minorities, or right-handed people, or long -haired people). But, strip out that heavy suspension, that load-bearing frame, tune that transmission for some mid range torque, slap on an aerodynamic body, etc. and that truck might give that coup a run for its money.