International Women’s Day reflections on ‘the fair sex’

Elizabeth Ellis The Good WifeIn salute to International Women’s Day on March 8, here is a compendium of thoughts on women and their sons, brothers and lovers.

Eighty percent of greeting cards are purchased by women. According to Nora Ephron, “boyish” is to be athletic, ambitious, outspoken, competitive, noisy and rambunctious; can throw a football. Girls do play hockey and basketball.

According to author Stefan Klein, women are “more fluent in speech, quicker in mental arithmetic and in their perceptions and often more skilled with their hands. Men are often better at mathematical-logical thought and spacial-conceptualitzation.” Women raise their daughters, spoil their sons.

“Research shows that women [police] officers are significantly less likely to shoot [and] to be named in excessive-force complaints and lawsuits.” (Source: Nat’l Center for Women and Policing, courtesy of MN Women’s Press)

Barry Lopez wrote of a link he saw between men who view pornography and their “resentful attitude toward the responsibility of family life; a distrust, a cursing of women that is unsettling.  Woman and machinery and the land are all spoken of in the same way — seduction, domestication, domination and control.”

“[The man-woman] is going to come down to one of two things, either you’re going to take off your clothes or you’re not.” (Nikki Giovanni) “It was [the women] who had nurtured their own hope, even if they could blame [men] for misleading them in the first place.” (Yiyun Li)

A woman worries she is incompetent, a failure, when love is not consummated. “At night alone,” Anne Sexton wrote, “I marry the bed.” The definition of happiness for woman can be the same air of shared sleep. “Since the days of the caveman, women have asked men the same three questions: ‘Where are you going? When will you be back? Do you love me?’” (O.S. Livaneli Bliss)

“A widow,” Annick Smith wrote, “begins to forget how good a man’s warmth can be,” and surely that is a blessing. A woman once wrote to Ann Landers complaining of her husband’s whiskers in the sink. Another woman wrote back suggesting she be grateful she had whiskers in the sink.

“As for the woman who thinks that going to bed with a man will make him love her,” Courtland Milloy wrote, (Washington Post, 2001) “well, that may be the biggest joke of all.”

“If you don’t think women are explosive, drop one.”  (G.F. Lieberman)

James Herriot wrote, “Few pleasures in this world compare with snuggling up” to his wife when he was chilled and she was warm in slumber. In Libya circa 1970, most common were complaints referring to their husband’s frequent absences from home and general lack of communication and affection, according to a diplomat’s report.

“You have sex and the minute you’re finished you know what goes through your mind? ‘How long do I have to lie her and hold her?’ All men think that. How long do women like to be held afterwards? All night, right?” (Nora Ephron)

Sisters felt their brothers were more closed (“doesn’t offer in-depth or open up”) than sisters were who equate being close with opening up. Brothers were quiet, hard to read, loners, more private, more likely to act than talk. (Deborah Tannen)

“How is it possible,” actor Steve Martin wrote, “to miss a woman you kept at a distance so that when she was gone you wouldn’t miss her?” Rudyard Kipling wrote, “What is a woman that you would forsake her?” Veronica Webb tells women of men, “It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

Elizabeth Ellis is a Baby Boomer with a BA, born in Minneapolis and mother of three grown children. She welcomes reader responses to