Thursday, January 27, 2011

Girl's Club

Hot topics seem to trend in and out. Hot button issues.

And lately? Gender roles and inequality seem to be on a lot of bloggers' minds. Many of my friends have brought up the topic lately. This is something close to my heart so, of course, I can't leave it at a short yet entirely too long comment. I have to tackle it too.

I've always been fascinated by gender roles. Always. From the little girl who didn't understand when my little guy friends didn't want me to play with their boy toys to the woman who struggles today, it's always been an issue for me.

As a little girl, I asked for Big Foot, the monster truck, for Christmas. Not the toy, the actual truck. I was 3. Needless to say, my parents got me the toy, which I'd put my Barbie in and have her drive all over my house.
3yo me SO wanted this!
That's what I've always been: a Barbie in a monster truck. And what's wrong with that? Why the distinctions of gender roles? We all exist somewhere in between those worlds, those two worlds which we like to think are distinct delineations of hormones and sex organs. But that's just not the case.

I don't bring this up a lot. Mostly because it's not necessarily relevant to my daily discourse. I was raised Mormon (dundunDUUUUUUUUN). Both my parents were converts and I think we all know how insane my mom is and how supportive my dad is. At church I learned to toll paint and make cookies and talk about values and that marriage and babies are paramount. At home I was told I could be whatever I wanted. What did I want? I wanted to be an astronaut, the President, and a ballerina.

All in a dress.

Let me know when they make dresses for astronauts.

As a teen, I was wildly rebellious. I discovered feminism. I burned my bras. I went to the extreme (as teens do) of what was an expression of my burgeoning beliefs. I was bored with church activities. The boys got to hike and play basketball while the girls learned to sew. What the fuck is that? So I talked the leaders in organizing a girl's white water rafting trip.

It's probably obvious that I left the church while I was barely an adult and I didn't come out of the closet as queer until my mid twenties. THAT story is not necessarily relevant to our discussion today. But what is relevant is that I always suspected I was slightly different than my peers and I knew palpably that that was okay.

In college, I studied literature that addressed gender and ethnic roles, whether in post-colonial lit or Chinese lit or modernist American lit. It is all related. And you know what I think? It all comes down to fear of difference and control of the subjugated. Gender roles enforce control of the ruling class in society and the subversion of a society's traditional can help a conquering nation subjugate native people. But the subversion of these roles within a society? Can begin revolutions. Which I think is insanely cool.

But what of that subversion? Feminism was supposed to free both sexes, at least according to Gloria Steinem. It was never meant to just empower women and leave men in the dust. It was supposed to blur the lines of gender and allow both sexes to choose their paths sans the restricting patriarchy.

I don't see that happening.

The other day, one of my fave bloggers Stay at Home Dad PDX wrote a post about how hard it is to be a stay at home dad in a world of women. Tell me how many times you've heard a dad referred to in disparaging terms. Bumbling and stupid, that's how we picture men, with a woman always coming to the rescue. We expect men to be captains of industry but sheer idiots at home.

Which, frankly, pisses me the fuck off.

I am not a mother. I am not a mommy blogger. I don't have any logical investment in this world. But women? We should be ashamed of ourselves for this. I suspect the reasoning for this girl's club is complicated.

I think it's partly about being threatened. About having a place in the world that belongs just to women and that men aren't allowed to take over (as they have taken over the rest of the world since time immemorial). But ladies? This is counter-productive. Some men are great at the traditionally homemaker schtuff. Cooking and cleaning and caring for little ones. How many of you SAHMs have complained about the thanklessness of your home jobs? Don't you think you could develop a little empathy for men in that role too?

And don't tell me that a man who's great with his kids isn't incredibly sexy. Okay, I could see how some of you wouldn't be turned on by that, but I lurve it and I know a great many women who do too.

But how many women suck at that? I know many gals who cannot cook, hate to clean, hate children (or don't have the patience or attention span to be home all day). How many women excel in the business world? And who have fought to break glass ceilings and climb corporate ladders? Don't we applaud these women? So why are we so exclusive when a man wants to leave that world and stay home or even to choose a traditionally female job?

Pot? Is that you? 

Women these days are under more pressure than ever to have it all. We've surpassed feminism too far in some ways and now it's not about choosing our own paths; we're expected to simply do both. While looking beautiful and well dressed. Are you kidding me? That seems insane to me. Nobody has that much time and energy in a day.

So if a man recognizes that maybe he's better at home and supporting his ambitious wife, what's the problem? Or a woman chooses to live alone and work full time, what's the problem? Or anyone of any gender decides to work part time to spend more time with their children (or their cats), what's the problem?

And don't get me started on queer theory and gender. That's a dissertation for another day. In fact, until I do get around to writing that, go read my pal Made of Words. But be prepared for queer nakedy pictures. I love it, but it's not exactly safe for work. 

I realize we cling to these roles tightly because we're ingrained to believe they're the threads of our society. But I'm here to tell you two things:

1. If you pull those threads, we won't die. Subversion can be healthy for a society to stay alive. Change means we grow instead of implode. I mean, look at Rome.

2. Our society ain't built on all the grand hoopla they taught us in school. We're not built on a utopia; we're built on salacious scandal and subjugation (how's that for alliteration?). On slavery. On racism. On warmongering and genocide. On unyielding patriarchy.  On utter brutality and bigotry. I won't comment on the current political state right now, but just crack open any history book (despite being written in favor of the Great White Male) and see the mayhem.

All I'm saying is to question these roles. Question their supposed sanctity. Question why we hang on to them? Relax a little. It won't kill us to realize that blurring the lines is healthy and we all really live between the lines anyway.

18 comments mean you love me:

Sarah P said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

*applause*

I'm a ladyist, but I also love me the men. I don't understand "The Battle of the Sexes."

Men are really fantastic and interesting and complicated, too, and while we're all complaining about doing it all, they're doing it, too.

I could not have the career of my choice, two little ones and be in grad school without a really supportive and involved partner. Basically, he rules, and so do a lot of men. Yay, you.

Just Juli said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

*Applause* Well written, my dear! As a fellow "barbie-in-a-bigfoot" I have spent a good part of my life wrestling with stereotypical gender roles.

I am also fairly domestic and would like to be a SAHM. But one who teaches her kids about nickel vs. dime formations in football, and the joys of baseball in the spring.

And, while the SAHD group is very much a minority, I am impressed the the powerful collective voice they are developing online. There is a lot that us women can learn from men. And vice versa.

Nichole said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You are a bad ass.
This is exponentially awesome!
Gorgeous and powerful writing, my dear friend.

Oilfield Trash said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This has to be your best post (well best that I have read of yours). I loved it.

When I was married I would have traded both balls to be a stay at home dad. Raising kids, cleaning, and cooking are all I have to do? Thats easy-peasy for this guy.

Ella said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm one of those hates cooking, cleaning and everything else kind of girls but I totally want a big family.

I also am a career driven individual who tends to look out for numero uno (me) more often than not.

I also think its crazy the roles us women are thought to play. just like its crazy the standard that men believe they have to live up to..

Its just ridiculous.

I loved this piece. It was very powerful. :)

Jackie T said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I don't know why, but I was laying in bed this am thinking, "You know, I think if guys realized how effing sexy it is to see a guy being a good dad, our male youth would have such better role models, and those guys would totally get a lot of sex, probably."

I'm serious.

Brandy Rose said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love the way you put it. A barbie in a monster truck. Me too!

Ali said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hahahahahaha--thanks for warning people.

Colleen said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great job! I saw a guy at a coffee shop this morning with his infant daughter and it totally melted my heart. And about history books: question the hell out of them. Because they're written by people who often have a culturally skewed understanding of history. Or who dumb it down so much that the actual history becomes so far removed from the truth.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Sarah P- YES! men can be fantastic. being a strong woman does not mean hating men. :)

Juli- yes yes yes! all that you said.

Nichole- many thanks, lovely! <3

OT- THANKS! so nice. I hope you find that. :)

Ella- exactly. thanks! :)

Jackie- right? we're teaching boys all wrong.

Brandy- love it! let's go destruction derby in a dress!

Ali- haha!

Colleen- so sexy yes? and no shit. history books will never be complete or objective. never.

Nush said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

It should be about equality... both ways! I do not expect a guy to hold open a door for me, it is a nice thing if he does but I would just as well do it for him. Etc etc. I want to be treated with respect and no different than anyone else just cos I am a women, which in turn means I expect to do the same to anyone else (man or women).

Mmmm I could go on all day about this but in the end we should all have the same opportunities but also the same obligations to treat eachother with respect.

Adrienne said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Bravo, my dear!

We have a gender-bending household over here, and I love that. Life is better when we play to our strengths instead of concerning ourselves with gender expectations.

Pixie said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Brava, Brava! I agree wholeheartedly.

More people need to wake up and realize that feminism isn't about the female domination of the world, but rather about both sides playing to their strengths as equals.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Nush- yes! exactly.

Adrienne- thanks! I love that. :)

Pixie- thanks! and I so know right?

jerrod said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Whatever makes your life, your family, your life work... do that thing.

Only guy in here, eh?

Awesome. And I'm scared.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Jerrod? you're awesome.

and Oilfield Trash is a guy. you're not alone. ;)

alonewithcats said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

"I know many gals who cannot cook, hate to clean, hate children ... "

You know me so, so well.

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

love you hard!

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