Let me start by saying something that unfortunately still seems to stir controversy these days – men and women are equal. There are few things in which men or women are “just better”. Most of such notions come from gender stereotyping. There’s no reason whatsoever why a modern couple should follow a traditional model of gender distribution of household chores (that is a man doesn’t do anything in the house, while a woman does everything). We have a choice in terms of a partner and things we want to accept in a relationship. It’s high time we stop playing victims and change “I have to” into “I choose to”.
I remember a lot of sexism from my childhood. One instance of this was when a family member was heavily pregnant and her brother and I were in the room. She asked me to sweep the floor and given that the guy and I were of a similar age I asked her why I was the one who’s supposed to do it. He looked at me as if I was crazy and she did too, reaching for the broom to sweep the floor herself. He didn’t even move so eventually I took the broom from her. A real man in his understanding will not degrade himself with female duty. As a real man, however, he’ll stand and watch an eight months pregnant woman do physical work. The other situation I’ll never forget was when I played “The Sims” (a computer game simulating real life, for those who don’t know it) with another young family member. She stopped me from letting a male character prepare a meal. At the age of seven or so she said that it should be a woman who does it. When I asked her why, she said that it’s just how things are. It’s not 1950s and things just aren’t certain way. We accept them and let them be or we don’t.
We go to schools like boys do and yet after school the expectation is often of us and not of our brothers to help out with household chores. We recreate such expectations in partnerships and marriages later in life and some of us end up being highly functional robots who after work pick the kid(s) up from school, take care of them, cook dinners and clean dishes. If you’re a housewife, while your husband works and that’s what you both agreed on then fair enough. In this scenario you work as he does, just doing other things. However, very often such a situation has nothing to do with agreeing on anything but rather with expectations coming from gender stereotyping, simply unfair in the world where both partners work. You don’t have to dance to the same songs that women in your family did. You really do have a choice and it doesn’t seem that some women realize that. Have you ever heard this sentence from someone close to you or even said to yourself: “I’d like to change the way I eat, but I’d have to cook two meals for me and my partner”? You don’t have to cook two meals, you choose to. In fact, you don’t even have to cook one. If your partner doesn’t want to eat what you make, he can cook for himself. If he can’t cook he can learn as you did. We’re not born with innate cooking skills. Men have two hands too. The same rule applies to any household activities.
We should establish reasonable rules with a fair share of chores. If you enjoy cooking and your partner cleaning that’s still a nice distribution. Maybe you can opt for taking turns in doing certain activities. You shouldn’t try to take everything on, though. Of course it’s easy to dismiss such suggestions by saying that our partner is used to the fact that we do this or that thing or that he has this sort of a vision of what men and women should do. It’s up to us, however, to question such expectations. If we’re constantly tired because we’re a professional and a housewife it’s not serving us or our relationship. If our partner prefers to obey the unwritten and unjust expectations of masculinity and femininity rather than see us happy and help, then maybe it’s not the right partner. It’s also possible that he wouldn’t mind helping but we just silently accept our role of a household martyr, without even trying to discuss it.
We cannot change the world and in many places women will be treated as inferior human beings for many years to come. What we can do, is to apply the rules of equality to our own lifestyles, rejecting what doesn’t serve us. By showing people that there are alternatives to the traditional and expected way of running a household, we can change the world step by step. To do so we must realize that we all have a choice and that “have to’s” in our heads are nothing more than expectations of others that we can but don’t have to meet.
So Dear Rinser, what do you think about the issue? Do you treat your man as your Master? Or do you strive for equality in your household? Do you see a lot of female martyrdom around you?