Do Women Want to Be Treated Like Men or Do Women Want to be Treated Like Equals?

Donald Miller

Whenever I make a statement or ask a question about anything regarding gender, the response I get is deafening. To be sure, this is a very sensitive issue. However, men do need to know and understand what women want, exactly, and if women want equality, that’s great, but if women want to be treated like men, that’s another thing all together. The truth is, men don’t treat each other all that well.

I read an interesting article the other day about a lesbian couple who decided to go straight. How? One of them got a sex change.

Fascinating enough as it is, the part of the article that peaked my interest was that the woman who changed her gender didn’t much like the world of men. She liked being a man, but she no longer liked the way the world treated her. She said men don’t compliment each other, they don’t encourage each other, and when they shake hands, they grab each other firmly and look each other in the eye without smiling. It’s like they don’t know how to get along, she said. (I have long believed that women are, socially, higher developed or designed than men in some ways. They seem to understand the true language of humanity, that somehow validating a person’s identity is paramount.)

*Photo by Victor, Creative Commons

I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the article. I actually like the way men interact. As a man, I find it more direct and to the point. I find it annoying to always have to think about how people feel about things. But that’s not what I’m getting at.

What I’m getting at is a question the article posited without meaning to. That is:

Do women want to be treated like men or do women want to be treated equally? (And make no mistake, the question is important.)

If we’re saying women should be paid the same as men, I’m in. If we’re saying women should be given the same opportunities, of course, I’m in. But if we are saying women should be treated like men, then unfortunately, I’m out. And I wonder if most women would be out, too.

The idea that there’s some secret men’s club where we are all for each other and waging a war on women is simply false. As a rule, men are not nice or kind to each other. We do have our friends and we play our favorites, but for the most part, men are competitive and intense and are often marking our territory. I don’t know a single man who isn’t more kind to women than they are to men. Men are tough with each other and much more likely to fight with each other than they are to fight with a woman.

I confess I’ve long believed the soul is gender neutral. What I mean is, our bodies and minds, our biology and biochemistry may be gender inclined (or mixed, and common sense have proven) but our souls are of the same, non-gendered orientation. And for this reason, gender issues have never interested me any more than issues relating to the physical body. Now I know some will say our bodies and souls are connected, and of course this is true, but I think of our souls as eternal while our bodies replaceable. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were no gender in heaven.

Nevertheless, the issue is still important because we are talking about a framework within which to dignify or indignify a fellow human being, which has enormous and eternal consequences for the soul.

Even as I type this, I feel like I’m burying mines in a field I’ll be expected to walk back across.

My question is, then, for the women:

Do you want to be treated like men in every area of your life? And if not, is it confusing for you to want to be treated more kindly and tenderly in a social area, but more straight-forwardly in the sense of economic and cultural equality?

Let me be more pointed: As women, do you want for men to say you’re beautiful? Because if we treat you like men, we will never say you’re beautiful. We don’t really care. And we won’t make you feel small or special or precious, either. We won’t protect you because, quite frankly, you need to protect yourself or you’re a wimp. Do you really want us to treat you like men?

And then there’s the secondary questions. There’s the questions about the fact women are paid much less than men. And that’s ridiculous. It’s a shame and a crime and a travesty. But let’s not pretend women want to be treated like men because they don’t. What they seem to want is equality. And those terms need to be parsed and understood. And who will lead this parsing and understanding? Women. State clearly what you want. We need to know because the current communication is, to say the least, confusing.

So, the questions for the women reading this article are:

1. Do you want to be treated as an equal?

2. Do you want to be treated differently than you would as a man?

3. What is the difference between being treated as an equal and as a man?

Of course, it should be noted all people are different and that we are making generalizations about gender. That said, how do we even talk about this issue without making generalizations? The conversation must start somewhere.

Grace is appreciated.

-Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • Pingback: Donald Miller: Since you asked. | Accidental Devotional

  • Pingback: So, who IS this man? (a book review) « Sarah Over the Moon

  • Pingback: People are not check boxes

  • Pingback: “Do You Want to Be Treated Like Men?” | Clarissa's Blog

  • Pingback: What Women Want « Jessica McCracken

  • Pingback: bridgetde

  • Susan Suard

    Your questions are largely irrelevant, as they seem to stem from your incomplete experience of masculinity and subsequent skewed perception of femininity. As a female, I, too, prefer direct communication and self-sufficiency. I have very strong urges to protect those whom I love, especially my husband. While it’s nice to be complimented on my appearance, I would much prefer to be complimented on my thoughts. The idea that I crave to feel small is honestly, so insulting, I don’t really even know where to begin. The idea of being “precious and special” is incredibly inviting, but it is small. And I do not want to be small. I want to exist outside of you, and any other man’s opinion of me. You see, Donald, these perceptions of what women want are essentially based out of the subtle and dangerous idea that men are a reference point for the value of a woman. I don’t need a man to think I am beautiful, small, precious, or special to be worth something. That is the thread that lies between the lines of your honest quandary. Perhaps you have experienced a lot of mixed messages from women in your life. You seem to have an underlying assumption that women don’t know what they want and are unable to communicate clearly. Since you have been honest, I will be, too. I have often been frustrated by women wanting to be “nice”, and thus not communicating in ways that are effective and respectful. However, I think the phenomenon stems from patriarchal socialization rather than biology. All this to say, I hope these thoughts are direct and manly enough for you. Come to think of it, perhaps I should consider a sex change.

  • Maddinacho

    I am a women, and personally I do want to be treated like men. But for most women they want to be treated equally – all my life I have been a tomboy and my brain is naturally more masculine. This is why we can never get it quite right…