Today I was casually cleaning up the house in lieu of my parents dinner club this evening. My dad being the conservative funny guy he is commented on how I should leave that chore for the women of the household. I normally would have not thought as deeply into that statement, but since I’m taking this class I immediately thought about the social norms associated with his comment. I’m a clean freak, which interestingly enough breaks the gender norm of guys not stressing about a clean house.
I don’t believe my dad intended to be sexist, but he is someone who abides by gender norms.
The “gender” thing that I observed today happened while I was watching The Intern. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, very cute, and hard not to love. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, Anne Hathaway is the CEO of a startup, and is the bread-winner of the family. Her husband is a stay at home dad, who sacrificed his career to take care of their little girl. This is quite different than most of our opinions of a “traditional” household where the man makes the money, and the woman is expected to stay home and take care of the child. Anne gets a ton of grief from the moms at her daughters school for not being there for her child, and she is constantly labeled as “bossy.” This film did a good job at portraying what stresses exist for career women, as well as stay at home fathers. Again, great film, 4 out of 5 stars easily.
This really bugged me. I was getting dinner with my girlfriend who is a self-proclaimed feminist. She wanted to go out to dinner, so we get to the restaurant, have a quality meal and the check comes. She automatically assumes I am going to pick it up. I say something along the lines of how its interesting why I always pick up the check, even though we are in the same financial situation. This sparks an argument about being a gentleman. This has really bugged me. This is a gender norm that is based on the fact that men are expected to be the bread-winners of the relationship. Since this is a new age where pay gaps don’t exist, and we are financially level, wouldn’t it be pro-feminist to trade-off?
Super awkward moment at work. This woman was talking about what she should get her partner for their birthday. For some reason I felt the need to jump in as I thought I could offer some advice. I asked “What brand does he like?” using the pronoun he, which led to a simultaneous response of “Why does it have to be for a man?” I had made the mistake of assuming that just because she was looking for a gift for her partner that she was heterosexual. My advice, always clarify the gender before offering relationship advice.
My friends and I were at a bar the other day. There was a good spread, and everything was going along as usual. We were at a table just conversing, minding our own business, when this woman comes up to us, and starts flirting with one of our friends. She seemed pretty intoxicated at the time, so my buddy brushed her off. We all found it odd that this woman had approached my buddy, instead of vice versa, since it’s generally the over-indulged guy sloppily hitting on the girl. Again, this is just yet another instance of gender norms, and how when they are broken, it leaves y0u feeling a bit odd for a reason you can’t explain.
This assignment has made me look at my life through a feminist lens. It has been interesting as I don’t normally pick out gender normalities from everyday situations, and if I did, I would probably lose my mind since they appear in every conversation. Anyway, I’m going to give my 2 cents about what I’ve learned from this week long experience.
Gender is a social construct. It starts from the day we are born, from so called “girly colors” which you had to avoid at all costs, to “being a pussy” which is in reference to acting in a way that’s not considered manly. Throughout the week I encountered many conversations where people were almost proving their gender by discussing hookups from the night, or talking about buying a new dress. It didn’t just come up as of recent, gender norms have been drilled into our society since the beginning of time with strict gender roles in the household, and in the public eye. Guys and gals were expected to act a certain way, or they would be disowned by their families, or banned from society. I would like to say that this has completely been ridden from our society, but this is still common across households.
I come from a pretty standard home I would say. My father is the bread-winner, my mother used to be stay at home, but she is a full-time teacher now that my siblings are all out of the house. I would say that the spending is pretty much a free-for-all, but my father takes care of the bills, and taxes. My brother is studying computer science, I’m studying business, and my sister is studying social work, so our majors are pretty much dominated by our respective sex. Despite coming from this traditional household, my whole family can be summed up as progressive Jewish Democrats. That being said, even though my dad makes the money, my mother still has great influence on decisions. I feel as though the conversations with them are pretty gender liquid, I do hold some stuff back from my mom so she doesn’t worry about me, but in general it’s a very open household. This week I noticed my mom does most of the cleaning, and my mom cooks on the stove and oven, and my dad runs the grill. Again, very traditional household.
This was a great exercise. Thank you.