Holy Gender Roles, Batman!


Hey, sometimes I feel the need to rant about my personal views on life. M’kay.

So, for those of you who don’t know me (HA!), I was raised to be extremely self-sufficient. My grandmother sometimes tells me she’s worried she’s too hard on me because she’s determined to make sure that I’m smart enough to make my own way in the world. My mother raised me pretty much single-handedly and she only had a high-school education, but she’s certainly not stupid and worked her ass off. So, suffice it to say, there will never be in a time in my life where I will ever need anyone else to support me, and that’s how I think it should be. But I was in the car with a dear friend of mine the other day, and we got onto the topic of her sister-in-law, who is a dear, sweet girl, but ran into a marriage at the first conceivable opportunity, and has never in her entire life supported herself in any way, shape, or form. To preface the remaining bit of this rant, let me just state that I know her life is her own to lead, and her choices are her own cross to bear, and I have no right to pass any judgment on how she lives her life. But women like that just baffle me, and the entire conversation got me thinking about the dichotomy between men and women when it comes to self-sufficiency.

We live in a day and age where a marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership, with no one person supporting the other more than vice versa. At least, that’s the theory, and I have a sneaking suspicion that that’s part of the reason why the divorce rate is so high. But I don’t see that as often as I’d like to. I’d like to think any marriage that I ever get myself into would involve equal support, equal contribution, and that if something should happen, I would never be in a position where I would be screwed out of comfort or the ability to take care of myself. I don’t ever want to need alimony or child support or to take half of his money because I didn’t earn it. Again, this all goes back to how I was raised – a woman makes the choice to marry, to bear the children, and to support herself. If I couldn’t do the latter two on my own, I would certainly not get myself involved with the former. I’ve heard too many stories of women who boast of their husband’s financial status, who live under the impression that he is going to take care of her for the rest of his life, and is absolutely baffled, not to mention royally screwed, when he hits the cliche midlife crisis and runs off with a twenty-year old. All the usual mistakes are made – the man assumes the younger woman loves him for his personality, not his money, the now ill-to-do wife is left with nothing but broken promises and nothing to fend for herself with. There have been women in my life who have never worked a day in their lives because they went straight from their parents’ house to the marriage bed, and when the marriage crumbles, they are left with nothing – no work experience, no ability to maintain their lifestyle, nothing. 

Now ask yourself a question – how often do you see that with men?

How often is the man the submissive partner in the relationship, who feeds off of his wife’s breadwinnings? How often does the wife dominate in the money-making end of the marriage, and then leave her husband for a younger man when she gets bored with him? Not particularly often. So really, people can talk about equal roles in a relationship, but as far as my observation goes, women are making a pretty poor name for themselves when they get themselves into situations like this knowingly, living under the fairy-tale illusion that marriage equals their permanent protection. That they have no need to protect or support themselves because there’s a man who will be there to do it.

The fuck is this? The fifties? I thought feminism was supposed to have progressed! But these stories are still common. Before, it was my grandmother telling me about an aunt of hers who was so certain of her place in the world because of her husband’s money. When he divorced her and left her with nothing, her certainty didn’t save her. She had no work experience, no savings, and nothing to save herself with. She ended up having to live with her daughter. And now, it’s my friend telling me about her sister in law, who’s over thirty, ran into marriage with a guy she knew for six months who makes a good amount of money that allows him to buy her a house to move from her parents’ place into, and has never worked more than 15 hours a week in her entire freaking life. The writing on the walls is all there. In the beginning of a marriage, all of the intentions are good. But the divorce rate didn’t reach 50% because people kept their promises. It is true that a man should be more faithful to his wife, and his promises, than his need to prove his virility, or whatever the hell the reason is for leaving her for another woman. But a woman has her own role to play in her protection. A woman should be able to work a forty hour a week job. She should be able to get health insurance for herself, and any children they may have. She should have a nest egg, and all the preparations she can get if, for whatever reason, she finds herself without her husband there to save her. All kinds of things happen, besides divorce. He loses all the money in a ponzi scheme, he loses his job and there’s still a mortgage to pay, or, heaven forbid, he dies and there’s no life insurance. What then? What on earth are you gonna do to help yourself? These are all the questions that have been drilled into my head since childhood, and as a result, I find the idea of being dependent on a man absolutely repugnant. It actually made me cringe when the sales clerk at the consignment store made three burly moving guys take my tiny, 20 pound tea table to the car. Something I’m sure they did for insurance reasons, but it doesn’t change the fact that I felt completely repulsed by the notion of someone else doing for me what I could easily do for myself, had I simply made the effort. So maybe, in many ways, I’m lucky that my grandmother was so hard on me. Maybe it did suck a bit of the romance of marriage out of my brain, because I have to look at everything logically and I always have to prepare for the worst, which is not conducive to a romantic outlook. I have difficulties with dating men because so many of them wanted to take care of me, which I don’t want. I want to take care of myself. The idea of being someone like my friend’s sister-in-law makes me physically ill. I’m not trying to hoist myself and my way of thinking onto any kind of pedestal – I know plenty of women married to good men who respect their independence, women who know how to take care of themselves if the worst should happen. Strong women. But it makes me sad that despite all of our advances into gender equality, this is still a one-sided scenario. 

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