It should be no surprise to the readers here that the human condition for both sexes is so different that they might as well be completely alternate realities. Different struggles, different modes of survival, different concerns, different psychologies and, most of all, different anatomy.
In its most basic form, the male human condition is about becoming a man worthy of reproduction through demonstrable strength, intellect, and/or dominance. That is a man’s purest quest, condensed. However, the female human condition is about holding onto the things that nature, genetics and circumstance have given her without her control.
For example, in regards to maturity, we generally don’t view a boy as a man based solely on his age. An adult man that acts like a boy is usually not considered a man. We intuitively understand that masculinity is about attaining certain attributes through personal accomplishment.
Conversely, we view girls becoming women as a matter of pure biology. Girls just mature physically by a process not controlled by the individual, thereby becoming adults. No action needs to be undertaken by the young woman to prove her new womanhood through action, nor does she need to prove her worthiness to reproduce. She is already worthy because she is the bearer of children. No extra effort needs to be done except when it comes to maintaining what has been given by circumstance.
Another example is that men can be born physically attractive, but physique alone is not enough to reach one’s maximum value. A man must also have other attributes, attributes that come about through hard work, like charm, wit, and ability. These things are rarely ever just given to a man from the start.
On the other hand, youth and beauty are given to women by fate and genetics. They do enhance themselves, but the canvas that they were given was not up to them. Women’s only real personal directive in the matter is to not let her gifts degrade from bad decisions (like Cinnabon, ugly tattoos and piercings).
Digging a little deeper (just a little), coming of age ceremonies generally reflect this. For a boy to become a man, he is obligated to show feats of strength or bravery:
“The origin of land diving is described in a legend of a woman who was dissatisfied with her husband, Tamalie (or some variation of the name). It is sometimes claimed that the woman was upset that her husband was too vigorous regarding his sexual wants, so she ran away into the forest. Her husband followed her, so she climbed a banyan tree. Tamalie climbed after her, and so she tied lianas to her ankles and jumped and survived. Her husband jumped after her, but did not tie lianas to himself, which caused him to plummet and die. The men performed the original land diving so that they would not be tricked again.
Furthermore, land diving is considered as an expression of masculinity, as it demonstrates boldness that was associated with the bwahri or warrior. Nevertheless, the men who do not choose to dive or back out of diving are not humiliated as cowards.”
Walkabouts, spirit journeys, name your trial of primitive man and it will probably be a test of will and body which displays masculinity. Contrast that to a young girl’s coming of age event, like a Quinceañera, a Debutante, or a Sweet Sixteen, where her new femininity (and value) is presumed at the start and without her agency.
Now, in fairness, it’s disingenuous to compare a tribal test of masculinity with a first-world celebration of femininity. There were some instances like the Navajo Blessing Way, which required girls to perform rites of passage to become marriageable women. However, in general and across cultures, the rites of passage concerning men and women functioned differently. Men were encouraged to prove their ability while women were encouraged to display themselves. This is not the cause that created differing male and female standards, as the cultural determinists would assume, but the rites of passage were merely a cultural reflection of our inner psychological expectations of men and women, which itself stems from the separate conditions that each sex faced.
The life for every man in every culture, from the wayward tribesman to the captains of industry, is the same three act play. His story starts as a boy in Act 1, having absolutely nothing granted to him and being ridiculed for his innate weakness and immaturity. Act 2 begins with the call to prove himself to become a great man, and it is here that he chooses to struggle toward his envisioned ideal man. Act 3 closes his life when he either achieves his goals, in which he is allowed to mate and is looked upon with greatness, or he fails and enters the dustbin of history.
From nothing comes a call to something greater, initiating the upward struggle, which is then resolved at the apex, one way or the other. This is the essence of the traditional Three Act Structure.
A woman’s story could not be any more different. A woman’s Act 1 starts as the involuntary process of maturity changes her from girl to woman, initiating the attention from others due to her newfound beauty and value. Act 2 has no challenge to attain something greater, but rather calls for her to maintain all the benefits that fate has bestowed on her for as long as possible. Then, in Act 3, the primary struggle of woman’s life begins as all that she has been given – looks, admiration, attention – start to fade away, and it is here that the resolution comes with acceptance that her best days are gone.
Her story begins with paradise at the outset, which precedes a slow fall from grace. Her struggle is to hold on to every last shred of what she has been given in order to hold out against the inevitable.
These stories are the essence of the human condition and have not changed for either sex since the caves. They have shaped our innate psychology for thousands of years, and, most of all, they are unbridgeable. They have completely different structures, motivations, goals, antagonists and resolutions. This is why the sexes cannot and will not ever truly understand one another, because we are each living in our own separate story.