In the early 1900s, pink was considered a color for boys. Wikipedia quotes an article from a 1918 trade publication as saying; “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink.
Imagine seeing a boy baby dressed in pink? Imagine dressing your baby boy in pink? How can these things feel so wrong down to the fiber of our souls and yet be so completely and utterly culturally constructed and random? But they are.
Despite my belief that gender roles are largely socially constructed, I do not practice what I preach. I don’t live my life as an androgynous being. Anyone who saw me would know I was a woman. Not a girly girl, but also not a woman who is trying to make a statement about gender. Just your average woman.
I don’t wear make-up or much jewelry, don’t do nail polish, refuse to spend more than five minutes doing my hair. That said, I enjoy looking nice, and let’s be honest, part of that is looking my gender. Unless I can somehow magically extract my own mind from its cultural context, I’m never going to look in the mirror at the long dark hair on my legs and think – I look so beautifully natural, time to go out for a night on the town.
I try to strike a balance in which I can feel good about myself in the real world, but don’t allow myself to be convinced that I have to mutilate myself, go through painful procedures, put chemicals on my face, take drugs or pills, or buy expensive hair and skin products (again filled with chemicals) to feel like a woman.
I guess you could say that balance is also reflected in my choice of mate. While Seth also looks like a man, his gender role is quite flexible.
Seth doesn’t have a macho bone in his body. I know more about sports than he does, and that’s not saying much.
He doesn’t talk shit about women or make nasty jokes or brag about sexual conquests (no really, I’m certain).
He is 100% comfortable with homosexuality.
He is wonderfully domestic. He is a better cook than I am, does more housework than I do, and he is every bit as competent with our infants as I.
I’ll never forget the first time my husband and I had my Dad and step-mom over for dinner. Seth cooked so I could talk to my family. My Dad was utterly perplexed. He just sat there stupefied, unable to understand what was going on.
I had arrived… I was not my mom!
I often hear women complaining that their male partners don’t “help” enough with children, do housework, etc., but these same women don’t seem willing to be flexible in their own gender roles. As long as we have the attitude that we can do it better, men probably won’t step up, because what man enjoys feeling incompetent?
We have to believe men can care for children and manage homes, just as we believe we can run companies and lead nations, rather than expect them to “help” while we maintain control over the domains of children and home. How would we react to that kind of attitude toward our entering the public sphere?
If you want a truly egalitarian life, don’t accept a partner who doesn’t, and don’t be fooled by the belief that there are no men out there with flexible gender roles. You don’t have to swear off gender all together, but be willing to practice flexibility yourself. Be the kind of person you want to find.
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