Friday, July 31, 2009

Battle of the Sexes

I’m bound to get someone’s ire up with this post, I’m sure.

First off, let me say the following: (1) I believe men and women are different, but neither is superior. (2) I realize you can’t generalize about all members of a gender, but I think certain gender tendencies are well established. (3) My “gay-dar” isn’t perfect but close to it (probably comes of being married to a gay man for 15 years when I was younger).

Okay, so let’s get to it. Davie and I recently watched the second episode of this year’s “HGTV Design Star” competition. The challenge in this ep involved the ten contestants divvying up into two teams, and each team redoing a kitchen. Teams were picked “playground style,” and ended up with Team Amy (consisting of four women and one guy, Dan, who is probably gay) and Team Nathan (consisting of three men—one of whom, Antonio, is definitely not gay—and two women). You can see Team Nathan (left) and Team Amy in the photo.

Both teams had some good (and bad) design skills going for them. Both teams had a guy (Dan and Antonio) they had to rely upon for carpentry. So it became clear quite quickly that the winner was going to be determined mostly by project management skills.

Team Amy was led by a female and had a preponderance of females. Team Nathan was led by a male and had a preponderance of males. What a fun social experiment. Now I don’t feel that “project management skills” are gender-linked in any way. But given the right conditions, “focus” can be.

Team Amy fell prey to having an unfocussed leader. More than once, Amy’s emotions collapsed under the time pressure. Another member of the team was too scatterbrained to accomplish her share of the work. There was no cohesion. As the project unfolded, it was Dan who took over leadership. He tried to keep people on task, and also served as a steadying influence. In fact, at one point I had to cry, “These people need more testosterone!” And Dan, regardless of sexual orientation, definitely had that. Sigh…there’s nothing that irks feminists more than the sight of a man having to comfort his female “superior” when she dissolves into tears.

Team Nathan didn’t have much better of a leader, sadly. Nathan didn’t have much in the way of organizational skills either. However, without some of the emotional distractions occurring for Team Amy, the largely male team did stay on task and conduct their project more logically. And speaking of testosterone, it was the very heterosexual and aggressive Antonio who ended up taking charge and keeping the team in line.

So in the end, Team Nathan completed the kitchen re-do, largely successfully. (It needs to be mentioned that the room’s best feature, a faux hammered metal backsplash, was the brainchild of one of the women.) Meanwhile, when time ran out, Team Amy had left countless tasks incomplete, hadn’t had time to clean up, and didn’t have a chance to put out any accessories. Yikes.

Is it really fair to credit this failure to estrogen and the female nature? Not completely. I’d be the first to say that the average woman is just as capable as the average man of bringing a challenge to a successful conclusion.

However, in this particular case, I truly believe we saw the feminine nature proving to be a disadvantage. The price women pay for their well-developed emotions and their sensitivity to the world around them is this: sometimes we find it too hard to turn that off, ignore the pressure and emotional conflict, and power through to closure. Meanwhile, the same tendencies that can make men insensitive oafs oblivious to what’s happening around them, can be a real boon when closure is the goal.

None of this demonstrates to me that men are better than women. What it shows me is that the success of our species depends on the participation of both genders in reaching goals. Together we not only bring different skill sets, but sometimes completely opposite ones that complement each other perfectly. Team Nathan didn’t win this round of Design Star because it had more men; it won because team members of both genders brought a better balance of aptitudes to the task.

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