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Confusion from an unmarried woman - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Confusion from an unmarried woman
Okay. I was reading an article--I know, I start a lot of things that way, but I read articles often as an excuse to scratch my head and go "hmmm"--and the gist of it was that it's right and just not to deal with gender differences in public life, which needs to be gender neutral. I agree with that. Then the rest was all about how "most couples" like gender differences in their marriage, about who does which tasks, who earns the money, how they each behave, and so on.

I have no idea whether or not that's true and don't care all that much one way or the other, but the place where my brain is caught is... is there some reason to write such an article? To give such advice? Is it even advice? I mean, if you are the sort of person who likes that, isn't that going to become obvious on its own? And if you're not the sort of person who likes that, is there some specific point to learning that "most people" like something else? Isn't that, you know, pretty personal and individual to the couples, who live together and figure out who they are and what they need, based on who they are?

I admit, I'm not married, my mother wasn't married, and I basically don't have any up-close experience with the topic. I'm just guessing from other kinds of relationships that kind of... you know, you have them, and you figure out how they work as you go, based on who the individual people involved are. Lots of give and take and figuring it out, and deciding what's important and what you need from each other and so on.

Shrug. I guess I'm just not sure what the point of knowing what "most people" do is, in a matter that personal and individual.

I feel a bit...: confused confused

24 comments or Leave a comment
durayan From: durayan Date: March 16th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps the point of addressing what "most people do" in their private lives was to acknowledge or comment on the differences between how people interact in the community at large, as opposed to how people interact within their families.

I'm inclined to agree with the perspective. Gender should NOT matter in the public arena. But I prefer my husband to lift heavy things and kill bugs. I think there's been ample analysis done elsewhere as to whether that "preference" (and gender roles) is inborn, or whether it is shaped by one's environment. I'm inclined to believe it is a little of one and a whole lot of the other (has anyone looked at girls bicycles lately? Why are there only two color choices? Pink or purple? What if my daughter really wants a blue bike? This drives me insane).

Still, having not read the article, I believe I would take that as acknowledgement that we as a society are striving toward one ideal, while living more in keeping with other standards.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. I had a red bike. I hadn't looked at girls' bikes lately.

It was an article that lauded this as a perfectly good thing; my guess is more that it's trying to assure people that they're normal, even if they don't fit the public egalitarian model that's pushed. But why should people need that assurance, if they're doing what's making both of them happy? And if they're not happy, then what point is there in saying, "Well, other people are happy like this"?
durayan From: durayan Date: March 17th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)
And here I thought the point of growing up and no longer having to attend middle school was to establish that one did NOT have to be just like everyone else.
darkthirty From: darkthirty Date: March 16th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
All such generalizations are no different than television imagery of what is "normal" - there's such a glut of generalization these days, as if the whole world's population were scrambling to be something they are not, - it's all the result of idealism and trying to fit the world into a grid - of great interest to advertisers and governments and everything has a name and a grade and a quality....'

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can at least see a marketer's point to general trends of differences. But I'd hope that by the time I marry someone, I know him well enough that I don't need to rely on graphs to figure out whether or not I get along with him!
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: March 16th, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because telling people what "most people" like is a way to subtly pressure them into thinking that their way, if it isn't the "most people" way, must be weird and/or wrong.

</ cynic>

I certainly agree with what you say; how people choose to manage the gender balance in their relationship is intensely personal. From what I've seen of my parents' marriage, and others, it doesn't matter how it works, as long as it works.

The article is probably correct in that there is still a lot of societal pressure to have a gender differentiation, and a traditional one at that, but that doesn't mean that most people deliberately choose that. Even if they do...so?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Even if they do...so?

Yeah. I think that's where I was getting flummoxed as to the point of having a whole article about it. How people divide up their household duties strikes me as (a) their own business and (b) not particularly interesting business.
sue_parsons From: sue_parsons Date: March 16th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think when it comes to relationships of any kind, since most folks ARE just trying to work things out as they go along, they are likely to ask others around them for advice. It is the same thing with having children. Although there are plenty of how-to manuals out there about parenting, a great many new parents solicit advice from friends and family when an unusual or just plain new situation crops up.

All individuals are different and, by default, so are any relationships they are unvolved in. What works in one relationship would be unwelcome in another. But there is some comfort in discovering what DID work for someone else, or, in the case of your article, what could be considered the norm. Numerous times this past nine months I have reassured my second daughter that her child's behavior falls within norms, and that Mom's reactions to her child's actions are natural. Often, I have resorted to showing her articles online which back those statements up. It simply makes her feel some sense of relief that many other parents go through this stuff, and that it's OK. And the same can be said of what couples experience.

On a side note, it is also important to check out the reliability of the advice given. What was the size of the sampling? What types of questions were being asked? Was a sociologist or psychologist of some repute involved? Many articles rely on iffy data to sling a "hook" headline on the front of a magazine. If the intent was more to entertain than to inform, then I, for one, would move on. But what is sad is the number of readers out there who regard that type of article as science.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't even know if it was advice. It was just a woman saying, "Yup, lots of women like this and studies show..." I honest-to-God don't know if she was giving advice, making a political argument, doing a blog entry, or what. I don't know the point of knowing that "most people" like this arrangement!

artaxastra From: artaxastra Date: March 16th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that the "most people" is a subtle peer pressure thing -- if most people prefer it, then it's right. What's the matter? You weird or something?

One thing I hear all the time from straight audiences when I travel and speak, probably the most constantly asked question about "gay marriage" is "how do you figure out who does what around the house if both people are the same sex? How do you know who's supposed to mow the lawn and clean the litter box?" Because somehow this is genetic and everyone is supposed to "follow the rules" about who does it.

In real life, most couples, gay or straight, have to work this out. Who mows the lawn and who cleans the litter box depends on a bunch of things, and tasks have to be divided up by who has time, who hates what, who will negotiate anything to avoid the litter box, whose cat it is anyway, etc. But somehow we still have this idea that "most people", our neighbors, are doing it right.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
One thing I hear all the time from straight audiences when I travel and speak, probably the most constantly asked question about "gay marriage" is "how do you figure out who does what around the house if both people are the same sex? How do you know who's supposed to mow the lawn and clean the litter box?"




:squint at sentence, and it's still there:


Haven't these folks ever had siblings? Parents? Roommates of the same sex? Haven't they ever lived alone? Stuff has to get done, you do it! The person who cleans up? Probably the one who gets frustrated at the mess first.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 16th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, as a person who spends a lot of time trying to figure out social confusion (mine, generally, not other people's), I think there's a fine line sometimes between negative and positive peer pressure (and, as I'm not even comfortable with using "positive" and "peer pressure" together, I'm not sure if I haven't already fluffed up my observations).

We all have to learn certain types of group behavior - take your turn in the line and don't cut ahead of everyone else being a positive example. Generally, we learn this from the groups we associate with.

We also have to fight the urge to go with the group when we shouldn't - stand around and do nothing while a big kid beats up a little kid because no one else wants to be the first one to intervene. But this is also group behavior (and, interestingly enough, it can still happen when everyone in the group disapproves of what because of a perception of what "the group" is doing, a thing bullies learn to take advantage of).

Right now, our culture is in a state of flux. Everyone throughout history has charted a course between who they are, who they want to be, and who they feel they are expected to be. Right now, I'd say our society is sending a lot of mixed signals. Trying to chart that course is hard enough when you know where the markers are. It gets downright insane when you're not sure who you are (a gendered being or a gender neutral being who's been corrupted into thinking of yourself as a gendered being?) who you are expected to be (go with gendered based identities or reject them or chart a course between) and who you should be (is being comfortable with who I am . . . wrong? Is who I think I should be better or worse than who I am? Is it possible to be that person? Impossible? Etc.).

OK, so, our society sends a signal that we should all be on an equal footing in our public lives, but that's not likely to be the case in our private lives. Gender issues aside, I've read all that stuff about successful couples often having balancing strengths and weaknesses (along with common points, but that's not the issue here). Even in gender neutral terms, people who are attracted to each other are likely to have complementing strengths.

But, I can see how a lot of people might think that means something's wrong with them. You know, they're being DIFFERENT. And in a GENDER kind of way because the guy's doing one thing and the woman's doing another. And isn't that BAD? And sending the wrong signal to their children? And corrupting society for generations to come?

Since I haven't read this article, I don't know if it's meant to releave social pressure (for pity's sake, if you're happily married, don't start questioning your relationship based on who likes to kill bugs and who likes to cook lasagna! Or questioning it because you like to do both!) or impose it (you WILL like to cook lasagna! With peas! FRESH peas! From your own garden! Bwahahahah!!!).

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
But, I can see how a lot of people might think that means something's wrong with them. You know, they're being DIFFERENT. And in a GENDER kind of way because the guy's doing one thing and the woman's doing another. And isn't that BAD? And sending the wrong signal to their children? And corrupting society for generations to come?

Ah. Yeah, that's probably the best guess--reassuring people who like this arrangement that they're not bad people.
(no subject) - feylin17 - Expand
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Since we are all trying to avoid gender roles, I think the article could have been arguing that we shouldn't worry if any show up in our marriage. I didnt read the thing though. :)

That's probably it. It was on townhall.com (a conservasite), and I was just confused as to what it was trying to accomplish, exactly. More like blog entry than anything else, I guess. ;)
akashasheiress From: akashasheiress Date: March 16th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you. I have very little tolerance for Mars-Venus type relationship manuals, or magazines with How-To-Figure-Out-Those-Stupid-People-With-XY-Chromosomes.

I mean, what's the point? How about, you know, just getting to know each other.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I mean, what's the point? How about, you know, just getting to know each other.

Exactly. If I'm married to a guy, I'd want to know the particular guy. That would certainly include guy-related traits, but in the same way it includes traits related to other parts of him, and hopefully, I'd find out all of them the same way... by spending time with him and getting to know him through the stuff he says and does.
psychic_serpent From: psychic_serpent Date: March 16th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have no problem with people coming to an understanding within their relationships about who does what, whether or not the relationship is legally recognized or the "roles" have any connection to traditional gender roles. What I do have a problem with is the need many people evidently have to feel "normal" by trying to make certain that everyone else is doing exactly what they're doing.

We don't give a damn about gender roles around here. We both cook and whoever doesn't cook cleans up (at least when I have two useful arms). I have the power tools and pay the bills and weed the garden, enlisting help from the others if it's been let go for a while. Other chores we originally divided up when we moved in together based on what each of us found to be least onerous. (I can't sift the litter boxes because of my dust allergies, which is also why he sweeps the floors.) The only reason I went back to work part-time after having my son was that I was nursing him and my husband made more money. We generally make decisions like that based on WHO we are, not WHAT we are. And we don't let others tell us what to do. Gender roles, schmender roles. They're for the birds.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
We both cook and whoever doesn't cook cleans up

Oh, hey! That was exactly how my mom and I did it. It always seemed sensible, like "whoever has an idea to go out for dinner pays for it" (inviting a guy on a date and then thinking that it's his job to pay stymies me as much as the housework question... if I ask, doesn't that make me the hostess?).
psychic_serpent From: psychic_serpent Date: March 16th, 2006 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Quite right. Or whoever has the available funds. Before we moved in together I had the well-paying job (comparatively speaking) and paid for most of our dates. After he finished school and got a really good job we used my furniture to put in our apartment, he paid the rent and for dates and I paid the utilities, since I already had accounts. We did what made sense for us.

I guess he didn't think of this stuff having anything to to with gender roles when he was growing up because his mom was the one who supported them (his father is a science fiction writer--he sold regularly but never really made that much money). His dad was always the one who was there when he came home from school and his mom was the one who worked in an office. It had nothing to do with gender, just what each of them happened to do.
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: March 17th, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
This reminds me of all the blathering parenting articles. (I'll never forget the one that reported a Harvard study showing that touch was good for babies ~ I could just head my uneducated Irish grandmother saying "They needed doctors to figure that out?") This modern malady of being unable to live our lives without the guidance and "stamp of approval" of the alleged experts is, I'm sure, lucrative for said experts but rather stifling and foolish for those of just going about the business of living.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 17th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think some people are insecure about that. I have a soon-to-be-married friend who is worried that she doesn't know what her "role as wife" is going to be or is supposed to be, which makes me go "huh?" (For us, it's more like he kills bugs because I'm afraid of bugs, I do laundry because my clothes are far fussier and easier to ruin; I earn more money because my job pays more, he does the grocery shopping because he's far fussier about food).

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the insecurities arise from not having personal experience with marriage. My bf and I both have long-married parents, so we've never given much thought about How To Be Married. (Since our models for Married Behavior are exactly the same as our models for Grownup Behavior, we just go about attempting to be grownups like usual). But my friend with the insecurities has parents who divorced early, so for her marriage is Other, it's this big mysterious thing...

But then, you don't have first-hand experience with marriage and you don't feel that way, so maybe it also has to do with how secure the individual is. I've noticed a lot of articles in general seem to assume their audience is insecure.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 17th, 2006 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Why write such an article?

Having not read said article, I'll take a stab at answering that question. Could be the author feels a need to counteract such asshattery as this castigation of stay-at-home moms for _letting down the team_:

"The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government . . . Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust."

"A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one’s capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one’s own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives."


Faced with a preponderence of college women choosing to stay home and raise the kids, she decides that any woman happy out of the workforce is either duped or delusional. She got an ABC news interview and a fair bit of press last month. :P

Got my blood up and sure made _me_ want to write a rebuttal. Just google Linda Hirshman if it seems too silly to be true.

Just cause, you know, you asked.

the Fish

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2006 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Why write such an article?


Yes, that explains the entire thing.
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