No, it was the herring who did the juggling.

No, it was the herring who did the juggling.
Tiny little ginsu knives. Really very dangerous. One false move and they could have filleted themselves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Traditional gender roles and other frustrations

Several things have frustrated me in the week or so since I last posted. For example, I have spent more time huddled in pain than any other state (and I'm including sleep in this). I have also found myself rather frustrated by the beaurocratic nonsense involved in the paperwork for going off work on sick leave. I mean, yes, I do understand that forms and such are neccessary for things like this. But I would think it would be sensible to streamline this kind of paperwork because it is being filled out by people who are, by definition, sufficiently ill that they can't work. Here I am trying to get well and instead I spend several days heading off to doctors to get forms signed, filling out the same information in several different forms, trying to figure out which forms go to the employer and which to the insurance company, and trying to track down a fax machine with which to send off the various forms.

Alright, that's enough of health-related frustrations for now. I'm going to move on to one of the other areas that continually irriates me: the religious right. (Actually, the example that particularly irked me today is more "right" than "religious right.") Anyway, I ended up on this page after following a link from one of the very funny and snarky blogs I follow (possibly World-O-Crap or Sadly, No!). While the post itself was irritating, it was actually the writer's response to one of the comments that frustrated me the most.
I’ve repeatedly said in this entry and elsewhere that it is bad parenting to abandon your family and force your husband to be Mr. Mom. Either that, or you simply think a nation of Mr. Moms and husbands becoming the wives is a good thing. A lasting society is one where men occupy male roles and women occupy female ones. A matriarchy and Mr. Mom/career woman society will never survive and none has at any time in history.
It is one thing when men express beliefs like this, but my goodness it both saddens and pisses me off when I hear/see it coming from a woman! I find it reprehensible but at least moderately understandable why men would be invested in maintaining rigid gender roles; sure, they have to go out and earn money (boo hoo) but at the end of the workday they arrive home to a house that is clean, laundry that is done, children who are fed and clothed, and dinner waiting on the table. This situation clearly has benefits for the men involved. The women, not so much.

I have often tried to understand what it is that women get out of living a life in which there are no options other than traditional gender roles. I've tried to put myself in their shoes, to really try to get why some women very strongly believe that their breasts and such limit them to only one role in life, but I've not been successful thus far. Instead, I just get freaked out at the thought of being so dependent on someone that I wouldn't have the ability to pay my mortgage and such on my own if need be.

Granted, I come from a family in which my mother raised my brother and me entirely without help from my father; things had been going along fine, Mum was taking care of the kids and the house and my father was out making money...until one day he just up and left, leaving nothing behind but a tiny amount of child support. My mother had no post-secondary education and suddenly had the sole responsibility for two toddlers. I am incredibly lucky that my mother is smart and resourceful and self-sacrificing. However, she herself suffered greatly in many respects in order to provide for her kids, because she never had any money to spend on herself, and she had to juggle full-time work with full-time parenthood. I am incredibly grateful that my mother is an excellent juggler** , but as I got older I began to realize how traditional gender roles had let her down. I ended up having a very strong desire to be able to completely support myself, and so I guess it makes sense that the idea that other women actually think that I should have no option but to be a good little housewife and mother makes me feel like this:

Then there's also the religious aspect to this, the belief that you have no choice but to live your life as a baby-breeder and taker-carer-of-men or else God will send you to burn and gnash your teeth* in the firey pits of hell for all of eternity. But I am far too tired to get going on religion right now.

Oh, but one last thing: It isn't even so much the idea of "men go out and work while women stay home" thing that irritates me, but rather the assumption that these standard gender roles should or even have to apply to everyone that makes my fists clench. So what if I myself can't understand the desire to live as Suzy Homemaker? That doesn't mean that there aren't perfectly happy Suzies out there, and my inability to understand their beliefs in no way invalidates their lives. If women choose to stay home and have babies, fine. There may be things about traditional gender roles that make me uncomfortable, but I do not believe that my discomfort should lead me to make pronouncements on how everybody else should live. I am free to express my thoughts on gender roles, obviously, but even though I truly believe that inflexible gender roles are icky and potentially harmful to women I don't think I have the right to say "nobody should follow traditional gender roles." I think a more balanced and respectful statement would be something like "I believe that society would be best served by individuals choosing their roles in life, and that both men and women would likely benefit from the abilities to support themselves and their families both financially and practically." I know there are people who truly believe the exact opposite of me (i.e., that inflexible gender roles are beneficial to society and that a failure to follow them is potentially harmful to society). But even so, I don't understand why some people feel comfortable making statements like those quoted above. It just seems so fraking arrogant. And arrogance tends to make me feel like this:

(I'll take any excuse to post a Metalocalypse picture.)

* Matthew 13:49-50: This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Such a loving God, eh?

** I love you, Mummy.

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