Tag Archives: gender roles

Adam and Eve?

Here is a forward I keep receiving by e-mail. It is normally sent by a dear and well-meaning friend who probably thinks she will make my day with this, given as we are all such Supermoms! The forward is normally accompanied by comments like, “Familiar, eh?” or “Isn’t this SO apt?”

Mum and Dad were watching TV when Mum said, ‘I’m tired, and it’s getting late. I think I’ll go to bed’
She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day’s lunches.
Rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for dinner the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container and put spoons and bowls on the table.
She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button .She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger and put the telephone book into the drawer.
She watered the plants, emptied a rubbish bin and hung up a towel to dry.
She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom. She stopped by the desk and wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for an excursion, and pulled a text book out from hiding under the chair. She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope and wrote a quick note for the grocery store. She put both near her purse. Mum then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night solution & age fighting moisturiser, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails. Dad called out, ‘I thought you were going to bed.’
‘I’m on my way,’ she said. She put some water into the dog’s dish and put the cat outside, then made sure the doors were locked.
She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps and TV’s, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the basket, and had a brief conversation with the one up still doing homework.
In her own room, she set the alarm; laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack. She added three things to her 6 most important things to do list. She said her prayers, and visualised the accomplishment of her goals.
About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. ‘I’m going to bed.’
And he did…without another thought. Anything extraordinary here? Wonder why women live longer…?
CAUSE WE ARE MADE FOR THE LONG HAUL….. (and we can’t die sooner, we still have things to do!!!!)

Familiar? No. Apt? Antiquated maybe, but not apt. I find this passage offensive on so many levels. Normally, I would say, “don’t get me started!” and leave it at that. But now I’m a blogger, so I’ll just wind me up and let me rip!

Let me count the ways.

That this is our view of marital partnership anno 2008 is astounding. The Mom as a bonafide control freak, bustling around doing neverending chores (and of course still finding the time to slap on age-fighting moisturiser!) and the Dad, stretched out on the sofa, channel-surfing, reading the paper, belching/burping and I dunno, scratching his arse? Once he is done, WITHOUT A THOUGHT, he retires. At this point, the thought-burdened mother is probably still working in her sleep. Luckily though, she is wrinkle-free.

I’m sorry, but which part of this am I supposed to identify with? Are we seriously still buying into these stereotypes and worse, living them? Anything extraordinary here, the author asks? Hell, yes! It is extraordinary that this was probably penned in the past few years, in an age where one supposes women have broken free from oppressive shackles of chauvinism. It is extraordinary that it totally disregards the efforts made by so many couples to achieve a greater balance in family roles. Yet, if there is one thing that gets my goat more than open chauvinism, it is the cloaked variety. Bertrand Russell said it beautifully in his essay, “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed”, where he speaks of the romanticising of oppression. If you really wanted to know how far I could projectile vomit, you might want to start by waxing eloquent and deifying the role of the woman in a home. If you are an Indian woman in your late twenties or thirties, (or older) chances are this has been shoved down your throat enough. And hopefully regurgitated. The categories are few, stark, punishing and misogynistic. 1. Selfless, self-effacing super-achiever 2. Complete waster, neglecting home, man and children. You oiled your hair, prayed and aspired to number 1 for fear that you might be number 2 and (gasp!) a failure. Not really much room for movement, eh?

Its a nothing less than a crying shame if this is an identifiable reality for so many women in the world. Should I STILL be considered “lucky” to have a man do the dishes or help out with kids? How many more years will we speak in glowing terms of the superwoman who never took a moment for herself and wore herself to the bone in the service of her family, while we speak in tones of pride (mixed with a certain resignation) of the man who brings home lovely chunks of bacon, while being more or less an emotional absentee in his own family?

I can see you guys patting me on the back, saying, “Relax, man! It’s just a dumb forward”. But its never just that. It is the power of discourse. It is the way women measure themselves and each other. It is the insiduous and destructive power of unreal (and standardised) expectations. I am pained by the thought of a young wife/mother reading this and feeling even a niggling inadequacy.

But most of all, I am offended on behalf of the wonderful men and fathers I know. This is utterly disrespectful to men who, without fail, put their families and family life first. Men who don’t expect medals (sexual favours maybe, but no medals;-) for having woken up in the morning and wiped a baby’s bum. Who will pitch in cheerfully getting breakfast organised, lunches packed and driving kids to respective schools. They help train football teams, cheer their daughter’s ballet efforts and spend as much time as their spouse (if not more) being with their kids, getting to know them and hanging out with them. They aren’t necessarily stay at home dads, but they realise there is more to fatherhood than sperm donation – and by golly! – do they do their bit! As early as the 1950’s, my maternal grandfather was doing this. In those days when fathers weren’t expected to do much more than lie in an easy chair, drink tea served by their wives and shush their children, he rolled up his sleeves and actively raised my mother and uncle. He was interested and involved in every aspect of their lives and knew his children inside out.

I also know a lot of incredibly loving fathers (and mothers) who have excruciatingly long working hours. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a choice when it comes to work. (We should! We should!). Its not really about the time you spend, but I suppose how much you invest in getting to KNOW your family. I have seen dads working over 70 hours a week, who will still declare a Sunday sacred and pitch in with family chores, activities and fun. In a lot of relationships today, where both partners work, its obvious that there will be times when one person has to pitch in more with domestic chores. There will also be instances where either a mom or a dad decide to stay at home to be with the children and take upon themselves the lions share of the work at home. I would like to clarify that I’m not dissing people in these situations at all.

I’m dissing the tone of this text. The taking-for-granted going on here and the glorification of the “woman’s lot”. Annoyed senseless that its still gigglegiggle and haha-hehe when a man acts like he is visiting the family he belongs to. We wouldn’t be trying to imply there are so few good men, would we?

Ladies and gentlemen, end of rant.


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