Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gender roles

Sometimes I look at my role within my family based on the tasks I've taken on and see that it's pretty traditional. For example, I do the cooking and the laundry, both tasks traditionally taken on by the "woman of the house." Mr. Geeky takes out the trash and mows the yard, typical "man of the house" jobs. I often wonder if our children will fall into these roles themselves. They may, but I think we share enough household tasks that the few that are gender-specific may not matter that much. Geeky Boy and Mr. Geeky are responsible for loading and unloading the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen after a meal, something I know both my own mother and Mr. Geeky's did solo. I also do a fair amount of work in the yard. Mr. Geeky will often do laundry and I ask Geeky Boy to do his own fairly often as well.

A lot of couples we know and hang out with have reverse gender roles (not to mention the same-sex couples we know). For example, the man does most of the cooking even in households where the woman stays at home with the kids. I often joke that every man I dated before Mr. Geeky was a cook and I married the one guy who had no desire or skill in that area. It's okay, really. I love to cook and Mr. Geeky makes spaghetti and breakfast once a month or so. Geeky Girl did comment during our Top Chef-watching days that she noticed that moms did all the cooking in "real life" but that there weren't many female chefs on the show. That was a tough one to explain.

I've been a feminist pretty much my whole life. Certainly my view is that we should pursue equality for all people, and mostly I've focused on how women and their roles are devalued and I've worked to rectify that. But with a son, I've also started thinking about definitions of masculinity as much as definitions of femininity, and I find them to be just as confining and problematic. I've done a fair job of breaking down my own restrictive views of femininity, but I haven't thought about masculinity as much except in recognizing that I find traditional views of it distasteful. I think Mr. Geeky and I try our best to break out of traditional molds of these definitions, but it's hard not to fall back into roles and reactions that break down along gender lines. I continue to be amazed at how much our culture insists upon traditional views. I think I'm more aware of these at the holidays when home and hearth are central to the celebrations and the woman is central to the keeping of traditions. At least that's how it's portrayed in the movies.

Readers, how do you deal with gender in your household? Do you worry about the roles your children will fall into or how gender will affect what they pursue as a career or their relationships with others?