Country Women – The Manly Woman of Honor, Part I

Country Women - Shepherdess and Her Flock, Daniel Ridgway Knight

by Jack Donovan on October 25, 2009

On the heels of Welmer’s post about women in combat, I’d like to add a few thoughts I’ve had about women, “female masculinity” and honor over the past several years. To begin, I’m going to talk about some different types of women I’ve observed.

I deliver exercise equipment to people’s homes for a living, and as an amateur sociologist—aren’t we all really amateur sociologists?—that gives me an opportunity to see people in their natural environments. The clients I deal with, or at least the ones who are home to take the deliveries, are predominantly women.  I make deliveries all over the state, and I spend a good deal of time in each house. An average day might have me delivering an elliptical trainer to a new mom in suburbia, then a treadmill to marathon-running professional woman in town, then a home gym way out in the country. I’ve built several home gyms in barns. Occasionally, I’ll even install something in the lavish gym of a mansion, where I deal with that increasingly rare creature known as a “lady”—a refined, polite woman of authority for whom running an estate is at least as demanding as your average middle management job.

I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the way these women from very different walks of life assert themselves around working men. Upwardly mobile professional women tend to impatient and dismissive of the physical aspects of the job; they’re pushy and treat men like underlings. The “lady” has what I’d call the female equivalent of Game. She makes you want to do things for her. When I meet a lady I find myself waiting on her hand and foot, going above and beyond simply because she makes it seem like the thing to do. Most of the suburban stay-at-home moms are relaxed and easy to work with, even when they’re particular.

There are many variations on these types and exceptions to every rule. My favorite women to deal with, though, are the country women.

Here’s the thing—most of these babes can drive tractors and know more about engines than I ever will. I’ve had them offer to help load something up onto their all-terrain vehicles for me and drive it out through the mud to the barn, like it was no big deal. Country women are not afraid to get dirty. Most can probably handle a weapon—or judging from the gun safes, are at least used to having them around. They pull their own weight. They are not spoiled.

What I’ve noticed is that even though they do all of these manly things most of them seem more comfortable with traditional gender roles and with men in general than many of their urban and suburban counterparts. They seem to be at once less threatened by men, and more respectful of them. They seem to be aware of sex differences, perhaps because they’ve worked side by side with men. They don’t have a chip on their shoulders. They are feminine in a natural way, but they are strong when they have to be.  They know how to act around the boys. They know how to be strong women without asking men to change to accommodate them. They want their men to act like men.

It’s easy for spoiled urban and suburban women to live in a fantasy world where men and women are essentially the same, because so little is demanded of either men or women. Men and women are (almost) equally protected from bad guys and nature by the police, firefighters, ambulances, the military, and The Law. Men and women probably are equally good at pushing paper around and sitting through conference calls. In fact, women might even be a bit better at necessarily passive-aggressive, bureaucratic office politics and middle management. I’ve seen a lot of young men, myself included, go cubicle-crazy, like boys in school waiting for recess.

These are just my observations. Our society, which produces far less than it consumes, is doing away with the kinds of jobs that men prefer and do best. Very few jobs put men or women under the kind of stress that widens the gender gap. They have become so exotic that we follow shows like Dirty Jobs, Ax Men, Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers on the same channels we learn about foreign cultures, ancient history and cavemen. But our pleasant, protected society is also likely, in fashionable parlance, unsustainable.

If Americans ever decide to stop farming out all of the hard work to other countries, one has to wonder how long feminism in its current form will last. Will women really want to do those jobs—so far away from Starbucks and office potlucks? If our society becomes more balanced and begins producing its own goods again, if that is suddenly where the jobs are, women will want to stay home with the kids. If that happens, I bet country girls will have a lot to teach spoiled modern women both about how to be strong women, and how to let men be men.

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