In a follow-up to her article in The Atlantic, “The End of Men,” writer Hanna Rosin has a post up on CNN about responses to a talk she gave recently that continued the theme of changing gender roles in American society. She said comments on her talk included calling it “obnoxious,” which she attributes to its content:
“Most people who see one of the tag lines for the talk — “end of men” or “rise of women” — assume that my talk is merely the latest volley in the gender wars: men up, women down; now women up, men down. Many commenters even call me a “radical feminist.”…[but] I came to the conclusion that we have reached this new point in history, where the power dynamics between men and women are shifting rapidly, not by preformed ideology but by connecting the data points: college graduation rates, job projections, marriage patterns, pop culture images.”
She goes on to say that as traditional gender roles become obliterated — there are now more women in the workforce than men, and more women earning college degrees — both women and men will have to become comfortable with the idea of doing things that they traditionally associate with the other gender.
At first read, I automatically presumed that I was at the forefront of this kind of progressive thinking — I work full time, my fiance and I share cooking duties, and we alternate taking the dog for her morning exercise (I assume this sharing will also, one day, apply to our kids).
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I may have a longer way to go than I’d like to believe. After all, I rely on good old gender roles as an excuse to not take out the garbage or take the very same dog downstairs to pee at 10pm. I do most of the grocery shopping, not because I love it so much but because I feel, in some ways, like it’s my responsibility.
And I’m realizing that the more I’m motivated by traditional gender roles, the harder the cycle becomes to break.
After all, I can’t expect my finacee to do everything, nor can he expect that from me. So if he takes out the trash or changes a light bulb, well, I should probably do something to contribute around the house too. How about I cook? And then, well, he’s moved the old TV into the garage…I guess I can do the dishes that are sitting in the sink. It’s only fair to both contribute, after all, and so life slowly becomes a separate-but-equal distribution of tasks.
So what does it mean? Does it mean that I have to start doing things I don’t want to do? Probably. Does that make me dislike the notion of fluid gender roles? Honestly, yes. A little bit. So the question we all have to ask ourselves — or I have to ask myself, and you have to ask yourself if you’re like me — is, why do it? What’s the point?
The best answer I can come up with is that there has to be room for fluidity in order to find individuality. Maybe at the end of the day, I’ll end up doing all the cooking and he’ll end up doing all the home repairs anyway. Or, maybe it will go the other way. But if we’re just mindlessly performing tasks because at some point in our lives we learned that they are “women’s roles” or “men’s roles,” we’ll never find out which we would genuinely rather do.
So I guess what I’m saying is, I’ll see you outside tonight at 10pm.