November 19, 2018


The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women


Along with a snoring she-troll in a fluffy yellow robe, I'm sitting on the sunset porch of Promontory Hot Springs, after a long dunk in the hot seawater pool in the women's bath-house when the door to the men's bath-house opens with a wham and out is booted a shouting woman, naked as a snake, propelled in such a way as to stagger down the three ritual steps of the bath-house, where she slips in some mud, wind-milling her arms to stay upright. Oblivious to her bareness, she continues to curse imaginatively, scoops up a handful of mud and flings it at the door, which opens again quickly and an armful of clothes shoots out like a Major League pitch and hits her square in the face. She slips again and falls on her ass in the mud, the obscenities unabated by yards of fabric.

No time to escape. She turns in our direction and says, "Those dirty bastards threw me out!"

"I suppose they could have just explained that it was the men's bath-house," I shrug.

"Who the hell has the right to say that we have to use one bath-house or another?" she immediately demands. "I'm nobody's prisoner to be told where I can bathe or where I can't!"

"Are the facilities better in the men's house?" I ask, even though I know the answer is 'no.'

"Is 'better' all you can think about? 'Better' is not what this is about! It's this enforced segregation of genders that is wrong. Women and men should be free to mingle whenever they want!"

"Ganner's Bath House up the coast has a communal area, doesn't it?" Yes, I'm baiting her.

"Ganner's is not the spa I favor! Promontory has the best facilities on the Coast! Why should I have to be segregated at one spa and not another?"

"I thought 'better' wasn't the issue."

"The issue is making women separate from men! I believe in equality between men and women, not an enslavement of women by men!"

"I wasn't enslaved by men when I bathed in the women's house; perhaps things have improved since the last time you were here?"

"Every time women are kept apart from men is an affront to the movement for equality in all things!" The woman shouts, pulling her dress over her head.

"Equality? Do you mean that you think men and women are the same? That there is no difference?" I'm wondering how much more teasing she can take before she comes up onto the porch and takes a swing at me. I'm also wondering how the troll can sleep through this.

"Both humans, both the same!" the zealot screams, pulling up her knickers. "The only difference between men and women is genitalia, an external manifestation, a matter of skin! Separation of activity and gender division of work, those are just insidious subjugations of women perpetrated by patristic despots!"

Patristic despots in a bath house, what will they think of next. You know, there really was a time not too long ago when women and girls were not permitted to attempt some sorts of employment, education, and recreation. And the reasons for denying them went no farther than gender discrimination. I'm sure that at one time, the "men go out and bring food back" and "women take care of kids and household" was arranged primarily because the woman had breasts with which to feed her infants. And maybe too because the man tended to be larger and stronger for dragging home the woolly mammoth roasts.

People form habits, and habits get turned into customs, and customs become solidified sometimes until they harden into rules and laws and prohibitions and demands. And then too, people feel a need (is that built in?) to defend their habits and customs, and defenders can get pretty nasty if their habits are threatened. Unfortunately it's true that there's been a lot of struggle for women and girls to be permitted to hold meaningful positions outside the home, and they still tend to be undervalued in many cases. I like to think we're all working on that as we can.

So is the difference between men and women just one of skin and the shape of parts, and a few hormones thrown in for good measure? You think I'm going to say something profound here, like that there is a kind of polarity to the sexes, a mystical spiritual archetype that says the woman is structured both in body and soul to be a vessel of creation, and the man to be the outpouring of creation, or maybe that how men and women approach Life is reflected in those spiritualities, but you're wrong. I wouldn't say that on a bet, because then there would be a furor over which is more important, necessary, and in charge, the vessel or the outpouring, which is dumb because neither is worthwhile without the other. If there were no more women, there would be no more men. If there were no more men, there would be no more women.

What I don't get at all is why some women insist on having to take part in everything that men do, like this harridan at the bath house. I'm inclined to think that she was ejected less because of gender than of temperament.

"Don't you believe in equality?" the expelled woman shouts at me.

"No, I don't," I tell her. "No two people are the same, so they can't be equal to each other. Every day is distinct, so I am most likely not even equal to myself as I was yesterday."

"Then you're nothing but a pawn of the system," she roars triumphantly, "a mindless tool of the oppressors! Someday you will regret your submission to a patriarchal imprisonment!"

The she-troll opens her eyes and says, "You're full of shit. We have separate bath-houses because men are disgusting and oughtta have to live in a separate town. Now get lost before I come down there and pound you." She closes her eyes again and recommences snoring.

Oh, sure. If you're a troll, that's all you have to say. Now that's inequality.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-07-02

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In the same series:

The Accursed
The Aser Stories: Sidelong
The Aser Stories 80: Cabin Fever
The Aser Stories 79: Just Don't Say It Before Spring
The Aser Stories 78: Judgment Call
The Aser Stories 77: "Are We There Yet?"
The Aser Stories 76: A Bone to Pick
The Aser Stories 75: Coalition Forces
The Aser Stories 74: Flying Monkeys
The Aser Stories 73: Elspeth, Ad Nauseam
The Aser Stories 072: Starve a Cold
The Aser Stories 071: House Call
The Aser Stories 70: Dinner Dates
The Aser Stories 69: Fire in the Hole
The Aser Stories 68: The Silk Fable
The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life
The Aser Stories 66: For What You're Worth
The Aser Stories 65: Taking a Shot
The Aser Stories 64: Second Chances
The Aser Stories 63: The Second Step
The Aser Stories 63: Second Thoughts
The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story
The Aser Stories 59: Ace in the Hole
The Aser Stories 58: Knowledge is Power
The Aser Stories 57: Animal Tracks
The Aser Stories 56: Oz Can Keep Them All
The Aser Stories 55: Small Comfort
The Aser Stories 54: Letting Go
The Aser Stories 53: In a Spirit of Healing
The Aser Stories 52: Stinkin' Kids
The Aser Stories 51: No Words For It
The Aser Stories 50: The Friend in Need
The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover
The Aser Stories 48: On the Fly
The Aser Stories 47: Just Thievery
The Aser Stories 46: Take My Shaman ... Please
The Aser Stories 45: Hot Stuff
The Aser Stories 44: Courtesy Call
The Aser Stories 43: Adding Insult to Injury
The Aser Stories 42: Natural Selection
The Aser Stories 41: Funny Business
The Aser Stories 40: Happy Endings
The Aser Stories 39: Working Dogs
The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides
The Aser Stories 37: Dumb Animals
The Aser Stories 36: Harsh Words
The Aser Stories 35: Endangered Species
The Aser Stories 34: Common Language
The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture
The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?
The Aser Stories 31: Money Talks
The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy
The Aser Stories 29: Raccoons
The Aser Stories 28: The Ghost of Garfer Miller
The Aser Stories 27: Dynamite
The Aser Stories 26: Junk Mail
The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages
The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment
The Aser Stories 23: Image Is Everything
The Aser Stories 22: Is As Does
The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining
The Aser Stories 20: Families and How They Are
The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women
The Aser Stories 18: On a Silver Platter
The Aser Stories 17: Point of View
The Aser Stories 16: Easy Street
The Aser Stories 15: Moguls
The Aser Stories 14: A Mile Toward Change
The Aser Stories 13: The Price of Freedom
The Aser Stories 12: A Question of Nudity
The Aser Stories 11: Rabbit From a Hat
The Aser Stories 10: Awards
The Aser Stories 09: On A Roll
The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children
The Aser Stories 07: Crosspasses Market
The Aser Stories 06: Judge, Jury, Shaman
The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness
The Aser Stories 04: The Wrong Question
The Aser Stories 03: The Labor of Love
The Aser Stories 02: Soup du Jour
The Aser Stories 01: Popping the Big Question
The Aser Stories 40a: Customary Behavior
The Aser Stories 36a: Madly In Love
The Aser Stories 03a: Descent to the Underworld

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