Monday, January 27, 2014

Handymen and Stay at Home Mothers

Do you think that traditional gender roles still have meaning?

Recently on Facebook one of my younger female cousins posted that she and her unmarried friends were running into a lot of male poseurs who claimed to be looking for traditional women insofar as such things as cooking, cleaning, and possibly even who works and who stays at home. She found it a bit upsetting though that when she or her friends challenged these men on their proficiency at such traditional male responsibilities as fixing things around the house, repairing automobiles or other machinery and doing other unpleasant but old school male chores these men were either clueless about such jobs, had to pay other men to do them or claimed that in today's day and age such chores ought to be equally shared between men and women. Showing the somewhat "shady" humor which tends to run rampant in my family one of my male cousins pointed out that although he might not be able to fix a woman's car he was more than capable of unplugging her pipes. He even had references, heh-heh. When I liked my male cousin's post my female cousin goodnaturedly told both of us that we were on timeout. Snicker.

Anyway this got me thinking. My paternal grandfather was a general contractor. So many of his sons, both via knowledge passed down and their own curiosity gained a lot of my grandfather's do it yourself type skills. This included my father. It was a very rare day indeed that my father ever paid someone to do anything around our house or on his vehicles. He normally did it himself. Lots of people in his social peer group did the same both because that's just how they were raised and because they grew up in either extreme poverty or in lower middle class areas where money was very very tight. People were expected to make do with what they had or repair it until they could afford something new. I think that back in the day high schools had more shop classes. These have been stereotyped as holding rooms for people who aren't going to college but I think some people might be surprised at the number of college educated people who are still able to adequately perform some supposed blue-collar work. I don't seem to remember shop class in my high school but it's probably something I wish I could go back and take. Although sadly I have nothing near my father's mechanical skills and deeply regret not paying more attention back in the day I have still picked up some basic things over the years. I find a sense of accomplishment in being able to fix simple things around the house, change my home environment, save a few bucks here or there, or at least have a vague idea when a contractor is quoting me a ridiculous estimate. To me that is a critical streak of self-sufficiency that I think is important for both genders as adults but is 100% necessary for men. This could be why I'm not overly fond of asking for help when I think it's something I ought to be able to do on my own. Ironically I remember changing a flat on the expressway all by myself because that's what the Old Man would have done only to arrive home and be told to call AAA next time instead of taking such a stupid risk. HA! So it goes. Of course as my brother always says his idea of masculinity means that he makes enough money to PAY other people to do that kind of work. And so he does.

From the opposite perspective for whatever reason a woman named Amy Glass felt that she needed to ridicule not only stay-at-home mothers but also the very concept of congratulating people (women) for getting married and having children. She did so in what I considered to be a rather nasty way. 
Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.
Having kids and getting married are considered life milestones. We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren’t accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them. They are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world. They are, by definition, average. And here’s the thing, why on earth are we settling for average?
If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?
I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance. The dominate cultural voice will tell you these are things you can do with a husband and kids, but as I’ve written before, that’s a lie. It’s just not reality.
You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.
I don't see anything wrong with congratulating people on getting married or having children. Although it might not be your cup of tea, that doesn't mean you need to knock it for someone else. Whatever happened to live and let live? Although it could certainly be considered oppressive to reduce every woman's worth to solely her reproductive and marital status I think it's just as wrong headed to assume that a woman's worth is only and should only be based on paid work outside the home. The unpaid work that mothers and fathers do can't be valued but is critical to raising healthy productive human beings. For me to congratulate someone else for getting married or having children is not saying anything negative about those who have chosen to walk a different path. Again, I think that some feminists are too quick to over glamorize what they see as the male role and eschew what they see as a female role. Ultimately I think this turns into internalized (and practiced) misogyny, ironically what feminists loudly and reflexively accuse everyone else of doing all the time. I can't speak to what Amy Glass experiences as a woman but I do happen to know and be related to and descended from women who are exceptional who are married and have kids. So I happen to think Glass is full of it on this instance. And as you might imagine plenty of other people did as well. Some of them were women, strangely enough. Go figure. I guess when you tell millions of women that they are just average and will never be exceptional a few of them are going to be upset enough to come at your neck. Who would have thought.

What do you think?

Are men under greater pressure (internal or external) to be self-sufficient?

Is there anything wrong with congratulating women for marrying and having children?

Are gender roles here to stay no matter what we do?

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