4.16.2009

On my pink soapbox, burnin' a bra. 'cept I hate pink.

This rant has nothing to do with editing. But:

I think part of feminism is recognizing women's failings. The standard of blameblameblamelamentlamentlament isn't very productive, because it allows us to avoid looking at the problems, and our own role in them -- and our own role is what we have most control over, and can most easily change. So best to start there before turning to criticizing society.

Now, this said, two disclaimers: I know many strong women feminists, and simply by living so independently and by being such badass women, they help change things and provide inspiration to less badass women like me. Secondly, I cannot and will not speak for my parents' or grandparents' generations.

But for my generation, I think we are largely holding ourselves back by clinging to traditional roles. Yes, these roles are hard to transcend, but that's what makes it worthwhile.

I read an article in Self magazine last night in which a woman was writing to an advice columnist about how now that she started working part time her husband was griping about the hassle of shifting household chores. Shifting, probably meaning he actually has to do some now. And she wants to know, what can I do to ease this transition and the columnist says, explain to him how this is good for both of you and blah blah blah. What?! A husband is upset that he now has to participate in household chores while his wife works (only part time)? Well, since the '50s are over, it seems this husband should be told to suck it up and that he had a nice free ride for a while, which is now over, and that ovaries are actually not a requirement for washing a dish or changing a diaper.

But I don't think that husband is 100% to blame here. The wife in question clearly expected to do the majority of the housework from the beginning, and thus enabled the husband to believe that he was entitled to a free pass. And when things change, she further enables him by carefully treading to complace his ridiculous objections. How would it been if she would have talked with said husband about dividing the housework fairly from the beginning of the marriage? At this point, it is up to us to set the standards and set these precedents.

I have another friend who views herself as a strong, independent woman. In many ways, she is. But she still refuses to transcend traditional roles -- she wants a man to woo her, to ask her on dates, to pay for them. She refuses initiate
a date, but waits for the man to come to her. What kind of message does this send to men who are trying to participate in a feminist world? Well, it confuses the shit out of them. Are we equal, can we do the same things as them -- or not? Do we want chairs pulled out for us, or will we be offended?

Looking at myself, I too like to feel wooed and like it when a man offers to pay for me on a date (though I often refuse). But why do I want this offer? I tell myself I think it is a nice gesture for both parties (women should offer too), and that I am a poor graduate student. But I think it really ties into supporting traditional gender roles.

Look, I can buy a guy a drink at a bar, or buy my boyfriend flowers. (I once dated a guy who wanted me to buy him flowers; I thought that was very kickass.)

I think many feminists at this point would tell me that I am not helping the cause by criticizing women. I agree that society is a problem, but we make up 51% of society. And many of our actions and attitudes serve only to reinforce traditional gender roles. How can we make progress when we are part of the problem?

I think we all need to examine our own beliefs and intentions and simply ask ourselves where they come from. Am I cooking dinner for my boyfriend because I enjoy cooking (and do so for my friends too), or is it because I just expect to cook dinner? Next time a female friend complains that men never ask her out, or tells how her boyfriend took her to a nice dinner, or talks about all the laundry she does, just ask her why.

7 comments:

  1. I don't think that having a guy pay for a meal if he has asked you out on a date is a bad thing at all. Certain things are just more traditional than others. I would like to think that chivalry is not yet dead. On the other hand, the man mentioned in the Self article certainly should understand that he is a part of a partnership, and has to help out around the house. Did the article say what his job was, though? He could be working 60+ hours a week, and his wife could be working part-time out of her home. Everything is relative.

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  2. Wow! You had a boyfriend that liked receiving flowers? I think that's pretty kick ass too!

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  3. I'm in your mother's generation. The book "Gender & Grace" by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen helped shape my perspective about relationships and roles. Or I should say, my perspective of not wanting even to put the words "roles" and "relationship" in the same sentence. Van Leeuwen describes what I call a "shared life." One is strong where another is weak. One makes money while another volunteers. Etc. A shared life makes that possible regardless of what feminists or traditionalists have to say about the way the relationship looks. And it takes a lot of communication. All worth it.

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  4. hm...was that woman you were referring to ME (the gal who does not ask guys out?)
    I do ask guys out for coffee once in awhile. but then I consider it not a date. hehe.

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  5. Betsi -- no, not you. It is totally a date if you ask guys for coffee though. :-)

    I like the perspective. I will have to check out the book... um, after this semester though.

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  6. Oh I must comment on this, I love how so many of our female classmates and professor have. The article title got me right away - though I am sad that you don't like pink, I find it to be such a lovely color.

    I will use my own experiences as examples because I think you made a lot of valid points that I would like to support.

    My fiance and I have had a huge money shift in our relationship. When we first started dating he had a full-time job and I had none, so he paid for everything. Well now I am the majority breadwinner and all of his money is used for scholastic purposes, so I pay for everything. I know he feels bad that I do (he comes from a VERY traditional household), but I am of the mindset that our money is shared, not his or mine, but ours. Also, he has spent a fortune on me when I was jobless, and I am not trying to pay him back, I am just glad I can support him when he needs me.

    My parents have a pretty equal partnership, they each do their own laundry, my dad takes out the trash, they alternate doing dishes and cooking meals, though my mom does the bulk of the cooking and cooking is not her favorite thing to do, but I've only ever heard her complain once.

    I would say that my parents raised me to view my relationship with my fiance much like theirs, as did his parents for him. The problem is that we have learned different roles, but we do our best to be strong where the other is weak as Prof. Follis said. Sometimes we are strong or weak in the same area, which is where problems can arise, but as Prof. Follis also said communication is key.

    I wish that woman would have just talked to her husband instead of writing to an advice column. Yet, maybe the good that came out of that letter is in this blog exchange, or in a conversation sparked somewhere else. I do hope so.

    As for buying flowers for your boyfriend - I think that is great. I would do that for my fiance, but he would probably like them better if they were made of Legos :o)

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  7. Amanda, I love your comment, thanks for the perspective. I totally agree about the money situation too, I have been on both ends of it.

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