Girls & Boys, Roles, Expectations, Equality and Hypocrisy.

“I could never be with a woman who wanted a career. Any woman I was with would have to obey me, stay at home and cook for me, if we had children, I would prefer she stayed home to care for them, this is how a woman should be, it’s her role, not a man’s.”

*Runs from the approaching pitchforks*.

Disclaimer: This is not actually something I believe.

So put away the pitchforks; of course the above statement can be labeled as complete chauvinism and I would agree with the label. If any politician or public figure made such a statement in public they would be flayed alive by the media and no doubt by large swathes of the well meaning politically-correct public. And yet, privately and quietly, public discourse and standards seem to be not quite in touch with what seems to be a not uncommon private discourse unspoken between men and women.

I was raised in a family where both my parents shared the workload when it was needed. As working class parents who struggled for much of their lives my parents did what was needed to be done. My father was, in the traditional sense, most often the breadwinner, but there was no pretense or false bravado or false pride there from what I saw; my mother worked for much of her adult life, it was important for  her personally to do so. They both did what they could so that as a family we got by. I was raised with a possibly idealized ideal of a relationship between two people who were very much equals in the relationship, sometimes, one would seem more equal than the other, it would fluctuate, one stepping up to the plate when needed or the other didn’t or couldn’t, the other doing the same in turn. More often than not, they stood at the plate together. Both my father and mother were powerful role models.

With this background, the idea of men and woman being anything but equal has always been intellectually an anathema to me.

So, I’ll lay my cards on the table here: I have no problem with working for a female boss. I have no problem earning less than my female partner and believe the idea of unequal wages for the same job to be imbecilic. I don’t feel threatened as a “man” when a woman is smarter, more focused and generally more ‘together’ than I am. I, as a human being, can and do feel weak, needy, vulnerable, emotional, confused, lost, angry and in need of care – I have no problem seeking that care from a woman when I need it.

So it’s safe to say, I’m not your classic chest beating Alpha-male. Moreover I’ve made some bad choices in life, or in other cases, simply not made choices, I’m doing at this later stage of my life what I should have done when I was a younger man, I’m not financially secure, I’m not emotionally “together”. Still, I’m doing what I can, like Bo-Bo the clown, I take the knocks and I try to get up again.

Yet, does this make me less of a man?  Society says it makes me less successful, but less of a man? “Ahem no no no, you’re a fighter, keep it up”…. “Its how you play the game that matters….”

I call shenanigans, I call bullshit:

Many out there, both in the male and female camps, would say “yes”: it does make me less of a man. Herein is part of the split between societal mores and private expectations.

So, with half the cards on the table, I shall lay out the rest: I like all members of a society have been raised by and grew up with members of that society. So…

If I marry a woman, I would like her to change her name to mine. I do feel a hint of inadequacy when I’m not able to provide and protect for someone I feel I should be providing for and protecting. I do feel as if I must put on an “Alpha-male-esque” face often for both my female and male friends. I feel like I need to present myself as a strong male figure quite often.  Roles that are “supposed” to be male have been programmed into me, and while I feel I have shed or at least intellectually shed a few of these, the emotional “twinge” factor still remains.  That factor flies in the face of reality and common sense much of the time.

I am in these things, a hypocrite. There are no two words about this. And so often humbled in this manner, or in other cases called out on it by astute observers, I seek to mature, evolve and reach some kind of “enlightened” state more in line with the politically correct “equality” discourse. But is this even possible?

A man probably shouldn’t, nor would any “equality respecting” male utter the opening paragraph of this rant. Or would they? Maybe it’s just me… Yet I’m sure there is a whole bunch of women who would find that statement utterly offensive on some level.

Yet, women do it too, saying variations of: “I couldn’t be with a man who couldn’t be a provider or who earns less or doesn’t earn more than I do. He needs to protect me and look after me, this is a man’s role, this is what he should be.” With this statement, placing the man back in the traditional “breadwinner, provider and protector” role as surely as the opening paragraph thrusts a woman back into the traditional “housewife and subservient” role. Is this not also a statement born out of traditional mores and stereotypical gender roles that our “politically correct” discourse implies we should have moved beyond at this stage? How would society react if this was uttered by a female politician or public figure? Of course you don’t usually hear either statement made publicly in western society or the mainstream media anymore, precisely because they are both so out of step with what society thinks are acceptable standards; however is this statement not as offensive as the opening male chauvinistic paragraph?

If you say it isn’t, than you hold men and woman up to different standards and we are not equal. There are different rules and standards.

Truth is; that statement should be just as offensive, and it is. Just as any man who uttered the opening paragraph or part of it and then claimed to believe in equality would be labeled as a hypocrite so to should the latter statement be considered hypocritical. Men and woman are either equal or we are not. We shouldn’t have predetermined “roles” but rather act as equals in response to and in anticipation of situations and circumstances as they confront us. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

But we do, and we will. The fact is that in interpersonal relationships we all have our hypocrisies and double standards and these are out of step with what we and society intellectually and ideally think we should be aspiring to. This is, of course, how society REALLY is, not how it says should be. Men and woman do hold each other to different standards; we do expect different outcomes from one or the other, we do expect different behaviors. The truth is, we can fight inequality in wages, public offices and in rights before the law, but personally, between ourselves in the quiet we’re still carrying around the evolutionary scars of male and female roles, and that’s a lot harder to shake.

I am a hypocrite.  But I want to get over it.

Where do you stand?

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~ by benephobia on October 7, 2010.

2 Responses to “Girls & Boys, Roles, Expectations, Equality and Hypocrisy.”

  1. I think it’s personal. The problem with, as you say, a politician saying the opening paragraph, is that politicians need to represent something that most of us can relate to. So, maybe they would say they think it is important for one caregiver to stay at home and bring up the kids.
    I personally, think I benefited from having my mum at home and would want to give my kids the same. But I might change my mind. Or I might not have kids at all. This is what being politically correct should allow us – freedom of choice. You can choose to be a housewife/househusband, provider or equal partner. It’s a personal choice, and you shouldn’t be judged for your choice to have a career just as you shouldn’t be judged for you choice to be a stay-at-home mum/dad.
    All you have to do is find someone who shares your opinions. Easier said than done.

    • Aint that the truth.

      I still see a double standard in this stuff though. Of course you are right it boils down to personal choice. Me, I go for what works.

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