Thursday, February 07, 2008

june cleaver in training

When it really comes down to it, I'm a pretty old fashioned girl. At the risk of being burned at the stake, here are some things I believe to be truths:

  • A woman should do the majority of the cooking and cleaning.
  • A man should always ask a woman out and never vice versa.
  • A man should always make the first move, and never vice versa.
  • A woman should take care of a man domestically, and a man should be the breadwinner.

I don't know what it is about me that makes people think I'm a feminist. Is it because I enjoy working? I just try to make the best of an enevitable task. Is it because I wear pants rather than skirts? I hate my calves. Is it because I swear like a sailor? I just like to, that's all. Everyone always seems so surprised - and ultimately disappointed, but we'll get to that later - when I betray myself and let on that I'm much more old fashioned than anyone, apparently, has ever thought.

Just a few weeks ago, I was chatting with some women at work, and one of them mentioned how sick her husband was and that he was at home moaning on the couch at that very moment. She looked right at me and said, "But I don't feel bad for him - I shouldn't have to take care of him when he's sick. Don't you agree with me?" I backed out of the question politely... I have a knack for emergency subject changes... but later in the day, the topic came up again. "Becky thinks I should be home waiting on my husband hand and foot, don't you, Becky?" she provoked the group at large. "Becky's one of 'those' type of women, aren't you, Becky?" I smiled and went about my day, slightly embarrassed by her lack of tact, but not ashamed of my personal choice of values.

In college, I wrote a poem called Rosie's Advice for an English class. It was about how I constantly felt like I should be more of a feminist - how I felt like something was wrong with me for wanting to cook and clean and let a man do all the heavy lifting. I was a freshman at the time and didn't realize that the professor was a diehard feminist. The day that he returned our graded poems to us, he made an example of mine. I had to read it to the class and talk about the feelings that went into the writing of it, and he - along with the others in the room - critiqued it aloud. (Sidenote: feminist though he was, I still got an A on the poem because I have big boobs. Apparently he wasn't that much of a feminist... or he just recognized a good rack when he saw one.) A fledgling friendship with a woman who would later turn out to be my role model began in that class with the notion on her part that I shared her views on feminism. She was surprised to find that I didn't.

Most recently, I was going out to dinner with my mom and dad, and whoever was on the radio at the time made a joke about Hillary Clinton's candidacy. My dad and I laughed and shared a glance via the rearview mirror, while my mom playfully yelled at me from the front seat. "Don't laugh at that! You don't have to laugh at it just because he [indicting my dad] thinks a woman shouldn't be president." My dad just rolled his eyes, but I spoke up. I told my mom that I didn't think a woman should be president, either.

If she was driving, we would have ended up in a ditch, so severe was her reaction. She asked me - several times - in disbelief - if I was serious. Being a woman myself, how could I honestly say that a woman shouldn't be president? I ran through a couple of points, she rebuttaled each one, and then dropped the ultimate bomb on me:

"I'm so disappointed in you, Beck."

In 25 years of life, neither one of my parents has ever said that to me. I felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me, and it took me a moment to catch my breath. She apologized a second later, said she didn't mean she was disappointed in me, perse, but more in my belief. She said she thought she raised me better than that - I said there's nothing wrong with the way she raised me, that I'm proud of and grateful for the fact that she (and my dad, too) raised me to make up my own mind, form my own opinions. "I just didn't think that would be one of those opinions," she said.

In the end, we agreed to disagree, and I - of course - wasn't angry at her reaction. I think it's a common feeling amongst women today. When most women encounter someone who could single-handedly render the Women's Movement useless, I think the natural instinct is to rebel, to fight for what they value.

I'm very grateful for the women (and men) who long ago fought so hard to give me the right to work, vote, and earn a comparable wage. I'm grateful for the respect they earned for us, and I love that they've given me a plethora of choices. But I think the Movement was all about choices, and if I don't have the right to make up my own mind about gender roles, then I think the Movement itself is, in turn, made obsolete.

I love strong women - women who can hold their own and aren't afraid to leave the safety of The Way Things Have Always Been. And I have the utmost respect for them. But sometimes I have to wonder... what makes their choice better than mine? Just because it's more progressive?

7 comments:

Phil said...

Remember when i was gonna make a mural about that professor?

MissHum22 said...

I don't think you're right or wrong - you're just Becky. And Becky will find someone who likes to play the part of breadwinner, so she can be a domestic goddess and live true to her nature and be happy!

I am a stay-at-home mom, myself. I am not a coddler, but I take care of pretty much everything and I am okay with that. Keeping the home is so important. It's the foundation of our lives - where we nourish ourselves, find solace. It's where each member of the family originates their idea of what warm happy memories are. Mom's chicken soup, the smell of dryer sheets, etc. It all gets rooted in our psyche and gives us the base in which we look at the world at large. It takes a huge amount of self-sacrifice, even if you're not ambitious and in my humble opinion, it is worth it. That's why we're flat-broke, but hey! (However, I admit, I get annoyed when my husband gets all sick and whiny - sorry! - but it's like, hey. I never get a turn to be sick. I work work work through colds/flus/morning sickness & can't quit. when is it my turn to lie in bed and ring a sickbell?? ha ha)

The only part where my feelings diverge from yours is that I think the rule needn't be applied to only women or just women. Some women are not maternal or domestic at all and they would create a "heck" hole out of their home. Some men aren't made to be breadwinners. And those people can either switch roles or both go out to work but make sure they hire a warm loving person to maintain their hearth, lest they become disconnected to what is really important.

I have no problem with a woman being president... but I'm still pulling for Obama!

annie. said...

Um. Hello. You vacuum-pushing, high-heel wearer. (To the rest of the readers: that's from her famous poem; I'm not being a jerk.)

You, Bec, are fabulous. We do not agree on our stance, but you're absolutely right: the good news is that you have rights and no one can take them away from you. So, if you want to hold opinions contrary to the popular opinion, then YOU GO GIRL! Hillary would be proud of you. ;)

KiKi said...

Ooh, Gloria Steinem is going to have your head (making shame on you motion with my fingers). LOL.

You are definitely entitled to your beliefs and values, I don't think anyone should knock you for them. I find a middle ground myself; in my culture the male is responsible for providing for the family's fiscal needs and the woman is responsible for nurturing the family - but that is the ideal, with a lot of gray areas in between (like young girls should be raised as encouraged and not prevented from education, employment, voting, holding office, etc.).

You have the right to be traditional aka old fashioned. I don't get why anyone would mock what you want to do.

becky said...

Phil - Of course! It was after you saw him buying cheese in Pick n Save. I believe there was also talk of his gang persona?

MissHum - I think you're 100% right. Now that I'm reading over this post again, I sure do sound like a righteous jerk! I really do enjoy working, and if I ever get married someday, I'll most likely continue to work. And I'm fine with that. (I also completely feel for you about how you're expected to keep doing the million things you do every day when you're sick, but your husband is excused from everything. I've had my fair share of boyfriends who've adopted that mindset under illness, and it really isn't fair. I guess I just didn't like being backed into a corner when my coworker approached me like that.) Thanks for such a thoughtful comment - I really appreciate you reading!

becky said...

Annie - You know I love you. That poem never would have come into being if not for you! I don't know if I ever told you this... but I wrote it one night after leaving your room in Justin. You had that Rosie the Riveter poster on your wall.

KiKi - lol I know - Gloria would probably punch me in the face. I totally agree about the gray areas. It's that way in my family, too. And I definitely do think that girls should be raised with the belief that they can do anything they so desire. That's how I was raised, and I think it's the only way to go. Thanks for your many wonderful comments and for reading!

Frema said...

So I wonder what you think about Luke staying home with Kara and me going back to work? :)

Just kidding. Kind of.

Truthfully, I'd love to be the one to stay home with her, but I make better money, so there you go. I'm just glad one of us is able to be with her during the nine-to-five hours.

Also, I may not be the cooker in our family, but I'm definitely the cleaner. :)

Lastly, the woman at work was totally Leslie, wasn't it? :)