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As I sit at my desk, sipping on a soy chai tea latte and preparing to write, I find myself thinking about all the people who believe the term feminism should be replaced with a word that's less divisive. Frankly, whichever word we use to define the belief that women should not be oppressed is going to be fraught with negative connotations, put there by people seeking to undermine the movement's progress and by "feminists" who misrepresent the point of the movement by saying crazy things like "all sex is rape." Which led me to thinking about another term I do believe should be removed from our vernacular: The Opposite Sex. We should replace it with “The Other Sex.” The former denotes a warring situation; we oppose each other. The latter denotes an egalitarian relation; it says we are peers, not foes.
I've never been a big believer in the popular notion that men and women are opposites, the sensationalist “War of the Sexes” our culture still employs to dismiss relationship issues and accept one's own faults as simply inherent to their gender.
Obviously, there are a few significant natural differences between the sexes, like the fact that women can get pregnant and men produce more testosterone. For the most part though, men and women are more alike than they are different. Generally speaking, we all need/want the same things in life: food, shelter, acceptance, love, understanding, achievement, recognition, fun, and freedom. For most of human history, culturally-enforced gender roles and myths have been a plague and kept us from evolving in harmony. Maybe we wouldn't have needed feminism in the first place if we weren't raised to see the other sex as opposites, and we'd grow up appreciating each other's differences instead of seeing the dissimilarities as weaknesses.
People find comfort in being able to place everyone in clear-cut boxes, so they can assume characteristics and make judgments. This is easier than taking the time to get to know people as the unique individuals they are. It’s one of the reasons some people have a hard time understanding or accepting “gender non-binary” or “inter-sexed” as legitimate labels; they’re too non-specific!
One of the biggest mistakes people make while dating is entering every new relationship with beliefs about gender stereotypes. Every person should be a blank slate when you first meet them. You don't want your new crush to treat you with gender prejudices based on their own experiences with others who happen to be the same sex you are. Why should you pay for the sins of others?
When we raise our children to see the other sex as opposite to them, they grow up having a difficult time relating to each other when they start dating. They grow up to say “I don’t understand men” and “What the hell do women want?” When we raise children to fit into neat little boxes of gender-specific roles they grow up to marry someone they can barely connect with. The husband goes hunting and watches football while his wife cooks, cleans, and runs an in-home daycare. The husband complains she rarely wants sex and his wife complains he’s like a “third child.” And then we wonder why the divorce rate is so high. Why do we set up our kids to fail at relationships? We are supposed to be setting them up for success! While the causes of failed relationships are complicated, and not based on this one thing alone, can we at least start with telling our sons that girls are the other sex and not opposites?
My husband and I relate to each other on many levels and don't live separate lives. He and I are both plugged in and involved in household chores, childcare, and cooking. We are partners in every sense of the word. We don't see each other as the opposite sex, because we both rejected rigid gender roles and can therefore relate to each other as human beings. It's as simple as that.