Tuesday, November 22, 2005

i am woman, hear me choose

seems like, in the blogs and messageboards i've been reading, that people are trying to figure out the roles of the respective genders. seems like some men and women just want to know what expectations apply to them and where they stand, especially in matters of relationships and households. that's really interesting to me that there are seemingly so many questions and discussions about the subject now that rigid societal rules are more flexible now than ever before. seems like people are all over the board with their opinions, too. i bet if i got about 5 men and women in a room to talk about the roles men and women play, they could go for hours.

what do you expect from the opposite sex?
what should their reasonable expectations be for you?
is it ideal for a woman to stay at home?
is a man a punk if he takes his wife's name?
should a woman play it innocent on her first sexual experience with a man to avoid the ho label?

and so on and so forth. fascinating stuff. anyway, i was watching wif.e s.wap again last night. (love that show!)
leader of the household

one of the wives had her man waiting on her hand and foot with breakfast in bed. he worked all day, came home and did housework. she watched soap operas. and made sure her daughter made it to cheerleading practice. that's about it. when she switched to the other household, she skipped out on any share of the household duties. her host husband all but called her lazy. meanwhile, in the other house, his real wife was in the other house telling her host husband to get a backbone and wear the pants in the family by sharing in decision making for the household and for himself, and sharing his household responsibilities. she was basically insinuating that he was less of a man because he was not the leader of his household. meanwhile back at the first house, the dishes were piling up because the host husband and his guest wife were at a stalemate on who would do the housework.

you know, in the house i grew up in, there was a clear delineation of man's and woman's work. house maintenance, car maintenance, fixing, building, yardwork, and taking out the trash were my dad's job. dishwashing, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping were my mom's job. my folks are old school. and that's the division of labor that they basically agreed to from the beginning. i wouldn't say it's a completely perfect division, but it seems to be at the very least, functional at their house.

it's a new millennium now. it's been 50 years since that was the default.
things have changed

lots of things have changed. the economy basically demands a two-income household for comfort nowadays. many women work outside the home and have switched aprons for pantsuits and pumps, or even overalls and workboots. unlike my dad, men change diapers too now, and aren't ridiculed for it. i suppose that in this age of expanded women's choice, both women and men sometimes need orientation.

i do white collar work. i understand finance and current events. i check oil. i kill bugs. i pump gas. i've done yard work to keep my rent down. i assemble and move furniture. i painted my own kitchen. and (i am my father's child, after all) i have a little carpentry and drywall and wallpapering experience. h.ome de.pot doesn't intimidate me. i love the smell of fresh sawdust. oh yeah, and i take out my trash, too.

but last night, i cooked dinner. cleaned the kitchen and bathroom. swept and mopped. tended to my houseplants. and mended the buttons and the lining on my pea coat. it felt good. and while i was putting my sewing notions into my self-decorated bag full of yarn and crochet needles and knitting needles, it struck me, especially in light of all the cooking i'll be doing wednesday and thursday, that i love domesticity.

i don't want to feel like

a traitor...

is that because i like the tasks of their own merit? or is it because i am a woman, and i've internalized the idea that that's a woman's place, anyway - to the point where my self-worth as a woman is tied in to whether or not i can do (and like) such things?

now wait just a minute. i'm not supposed to say that i like domesticity, am i?

i'm not supposed to

say that... am i?

i'm supposed to say that domestic things are just chores, mere matter-of-fact tasks that have to be done. that the best case is to share them with my spouse, since i don't (well, since i'm not supposed to) like them. um, yeah - that's it... but would i be wrong for saying that if funds permitted, i would gladly sacrifice a career for children? or would i be just terrible for admitting that i view day-care as a necessary evil - emphasis on the evil? would women think i was dragging womankind back 50 years by saying these things? would men resent me for secretly desiring to be financially supported while raising our children and keeping a home? i know my mom wouldn't be happy with me for "wasting" my lengthy (and expensive) education on cookies and vacuuming. may the angry feminists forgive me, but i find more value in taking care of the homefront than i do in earning money for it. i find the latter to be the true mere matter-of-fact task that has to be done. i value my career opportunities mainly for the ability they give me to contribute to the household of my future. not so much for the career itself. wow. what year is it? 1955? sorry for being the anti-feminist. just wanted to be honest.

that said, lest any gender studies major come to rip me apart for this narrow discussion, i realize that feminism is about much more than who does what in the house.

i appreciate

the strides...

i realize that society is set up to make men and women play certain gender roles that are at times absurd and detrimental to the psyche and well being of both women and men. that we should all examine the ways we think about gender. that both women and men, girls and boys, would do well to challenge established ideas and traditions that demean the value and worth of women in society. i also appreciate the strides that have been made - i can own things in my own name, conduct business without my man's permission, get published without a male pseudonym, live without a necessary dependence on the benevolence or whims of a man - and that's great, and i'm thankful for it. i love having a choice. i just don't want to feel like a traitor to my gender for choosing to exercise it.

as with everything else, balance is good. i'm not trying to be a man or be better than a man. i understand and truly appreciate that there are differences. i'm perfectly happy being a woman. i like when men get the door for me or walk me to my car. but i also like not being shushed in conversation about current events or feeling like i offended someone's manhood when i sincerely offer to pick up the check. what i get out of the whole thing is that choices in life - options - are important for women to have as human beings who are no less valuable than men. and as long as women have a choice, and men respect that choice in the same way that women have had to respect men's choices since forever, then that's what counts.