A few years ago my husband came home with one of his work colleagues who was in town from Chicago. My Mother happened to be over because she was taking my daughter to something (Broadway show if I ventured to guess)

I was doing whatever, and my husband and F sat down in the living room and talked. My Mother called me into the kitchen:

Mother: Don’t you offer him coffee?

Me: ?

Mother: You’re the lady of the house. The lady of the house offers coffee to guests.

Me: K is the man of the house. He can offer his friend whatever he wants to.

Mother: dismissive language and body movements…

Want another anecdote?

OK

About fifteen years ago when my daughter was about three, my sister in laws husbands brothers wife had a baby. (OK- I couldn’t think about how to show this connection so I hope you get what I mean). My Mother in Law calls me up.

MIL: Did you get A a baby gift?

Me: Who?

MIL: A. M’s brother in law. He just had a baby.

Me: No. I didn’t get them a gift. I barely know them. I didn’t even know she was pregnant. I don’t even know if I knew he got married. Who did he marry?

MIL: You have to get a gift.

Me: (in my head- WTF) He didn’t get me a gift when I had a baby.

MIL: Men don’t know how to do those things. That’s a woman’s job.

Ok- so what did we learn here other than I have overbearing people in my life?

There are still people who define things on the basis of sex. Should a woman be responsible for providing refreshments and buying gifts? There is nothing wrong with offering a beverage to someone who came to your house. There is nothing wrong with buying your sister in laws husbands brothers wife a gift…

But does the responsibility lie upon the feet of the woman?

Is it still “expected” for a woman to do these things?

Now I want you to think about your own life. Have you ever inadvertently assumed something was the responsibility of either one sex or another?

There have been a bunch of jokes recently about parents teaching their kids, how difficult it is, etc. But the really funny thing about these jokes is that the vast majority are of the Mother teaching the kids. I don’t know if I’ve seen one that shows the Father playing teacher. Now is it because Father’s are much better at home tutoring their kids? (Challenge if that’s the case…) Or is it because we just assume the Mother will be teaching? Are Mother’s teaching because it is assumed to be “their job”?

When women and men go out- who usually drives?

Who is supposed to take our the garbage?

Have you ever told son “Watch out for your sister?’ Do you tell a girl to watch our for her brother?

Are we clinging to gender stereotypes just because?

What are we telling our children when we continue to cling to traditional gender roles?

What are we telling ourselves?

 

 

 

 

51 thoughts on “Dieci- Messages

  1. Are you watching Mrs. America!
    Of course the idea of gender is still present because no one can distance themselves from the fact that sex and gender are not the same thing.
    This topic used to infuriate me and I was not above waving gender studies textbooks in the air just to make my point:
    Sex is biological- defined by the presence of male or female reproductive organs.
    Gender defines a set of socially adopted characteristics meant to categorize the way a male or female is supposed to behave.
    Yes, the idea of gender is a social construct. It tells a woman she must be and do a, b, and c. Gender tells a man he must be and do x, y, and z.
    Our society persists in intertwining the two things, sex and gender. I literally argued with people in some of my sociology courses who could not understand that the two ARE NOT synonymous.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I can’t relate as a parent but I do believe in equality and doing what you want because you want to do it not because of your gender. Although I will relate that when I proposed to my wife she asked that I ask her parents approval for her hand in marriage, they both wondered why I was being old fashioned and it was their daughter LOL not me. But in marriage Jess and I do things like chores and such equally, there is no gender gap. We both work as well and separate checking although joint savings and she did take my last name but as I said she is a traditionalist to an extent.

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  3. I’d be mad if my MIL told me I had to buy someone a gift.

    The gender role situations are difficult to navigate. My husband has a ton of first cousins. Many of them are older, with kids older than ours. For years I would get wedding shower invites for people I did not know..they were all daughters of his first cousins. I’m not really a fan of inviting all sorts of random people to your bridal shower. I would decline the invites. A few times I would grumble. I think my husband would get irritated. But there is no way my husband would participate in any of the nonsense. Sorry if I am going off on a tangent here with the gender role situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not a tangent at all. It’s a real issue. Women are expected to go to showers and such whether or not we know the bride or mother to be. Men never have those obligations, and many are like…well…it’s a party…why wouldn’t you want to go? And my mil? All sorts of passive aggressiveness going on there….

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  4. My daughter is 4 years older than my son. I used to tell her to watch out for her little brother when they used to walk to elementary school together.
    Now that my son is off from school I have been having him help me with a lot of random chores around the house that his sister has never done with me before, lol.
    My husband usually drives and takes out the garbage. I have no problem doing either if the situation arises.
    For the most part the division of labor is as you would expect in our house. He mows the lawn. I do most of the indoor stuff. I don’t mind it that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s nothing wrong with dividing labor any way you want. But some people “expect” the guy to take out the garbage, and “expect” a woman to do everything else…in my house I’m more likely to take out the garbage but that because I’m a little nutty about getting rid of it. And I totally don’t drive because I hate driving…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmm. I think I would’ve offered the guy a drink because it’s my house and that’s just how I roll. I always offer people something when they come in, probably out of habit. The gift thing would bother me too. Despite what a lot of people would like to think, many things are still divided along gender lines today. Did you ever notice how many women still do the grocery shopping? I think it’s something like 75 percent.

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  6. We certainly do have tangled lives. I think most women and men do have both conscious and subconscious expectations that are dependent on gender and their own family background. It’s not something I get hung up on in general, but your two anecdotes did give me pause. I’ll only weigh in on trash. I have 5 older brothers. Either one of my brothers or my father took out the trash 99% of the time until it was only my mother living in the family home. When I got married, it was suddenly my job to take out the trash in my new relationship. My husband will take out the trash if I am out of town or sick and remind him. But to this day I feel a little niggle of “Huh?” as I take it out. I don’t mind the chore, but still…”Huh?”🤔

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was reminded of those two anecdotes yesterday when someone made a comment, and i realized that it’s hard to escape certain biases when you’ve grown up hearing certain messages. I’m sure I’ve unwittingly passed certain gender expectations onto my daughter…I just don’t know what they are, because I didn’t realize what I was doing

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  7. I was laughing through some of this – your portrayal of your mother conjures a white gloved woman who gets her hair done every week.
    Speaking to your gender role expectations: when my first child was born, my husband would take him to the park. People would tell me what a great dad he was for taking care of our son. Some people even referred to it as babysitting. 🙄 I always corrected them, saying “he’s only being a parent, babysitting would involve watching other people’s children.” The other example that still annoys me is when a man grills the meat and the woman does everything else: shops, plans the meal, prepares the side dishes, sets the table … and people tell him what a great meal he made. 🤷🏼‍♀️I know this is based on expectations and all, but I *think* some of these have changed over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fortunately, I was not brought up with those sorts of expectations. My brothers and I all had to do the same household chores in rotation. We were all expected to write thank you notes for gifts, etc. My husband and I do the same thing. I rely on him to do some things that he knows more about and I’m happy to let him wield the chainsaw, for instance, but those are exceptions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My husband isn’t particularly handy with anything other than balance sheets,so I do a lot of stuff that would normally be considered “guy” stuff. I don’t like to drive though, so that’s all him

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We always think of the right riposte after the fact, but when your mom talked about offering coffee to your husband’s guest, wouldn’t it have been fun to say, “What? He didn’t offer coffee to his guest? His mother must not have taught him any manners.”

    This topic is dear to my aging and bitter feminist heart. A woman takes care of innumerable tasks, silent and unseen, thanklessly. A man does one thing: “Oh what a good boy am I.” Oy. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I hate to say this but in my experience it is women who perpetuate these differences, not men. We do it to ourselves. Men don’t care if they’re offered coffee – and men do often offer each other a beer. The men I know wouldn’t recognize dust if they fell over it and do not set the expectations for how the house is kept. We do that for ourselves. Is it “society” or is it just us? I found that lowering my standards for myself and expectations of others helped a lot. My husband takes out the garbage because he’s stronger than I am, not because he’s the man. Helen Mirren is my age. When she turned 70 a few years ago she famously said something like, “I wish when I was younger I had had the courage to say, ‘I don’t give a f**k’.” I’m not sure how you say this to your mother, LA, but there must be a way! 😏

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I definitely think women perpetuate them, but so do men. Men benefit from them. My mother in law used to host Thanksgiving, and all of the grown women were expected to participate in some way. Her daughters and daughters in laws all worked.

      The sons in law were chilling on recliners watching football. The daughters in law were expected to bring side dishes, help clean up, etc. My husband would help with the clean up a bit.

      I had no problem participating for the most part. One Thanksgiving I had worked the overnight shift the night before and had no chance to sleep. People knew this and it was not recognized in any way. Without really thinking about it, I knew that I still had to participate in a “gendered way”, or there would be trouble,

      MIL and I ended up having a fight about something a couple of years later. She and FIL had dropped in one day without notice. I was working in the backyard and did not come in and play happy hostess. MIL made snarky remarks behind my back to husband about this. My husband would have never felt the obligation to drop what he was doing to come in and play happy host.

      So husband told me what his mom had said. I called her up and she said something to the effect that I did not try hard enough to fit in. I called her on the double standards, why did her sons in laws not have to do anything on Thanksgiving, etc. She truly did not get it.

      I did not necessarily expect my in laws sons in laws to do anything on Thanksgiving. But I thought it was rotten that my husband’s family as a group would snark on the women if they weren’t doing their part but not on the men.

      LA you should block me from your blog. I could probably make hundreds of comments as I think about old hurts from the past, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keep commenting! If probably helps you to get it out, and helps others who are in the same boat! Too many of us feel we’re alone in situations like this. If we discuss it, we all feel better and less alone

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s actually a good example of us women setting high expectations for ourselves that nobody else cares about. If we all decided to have more modest family gatherings food-wise, would the men complain? Would they adjust fairly quickly? My DIL cooks her turkey from frozen, pre-stuffed and it tastes just as good as the one I carefully thaw out over three days, stuff with homemade stuffing and worry over. Lesson learned. Same with pies, etc. If you love baking, make them. If not, buy them; the store-bought ones are delicious. I have female friends who try to insist on helping clean up the kitchen, kind of like it’s a female ritual and we should all be on the kitchen together. It also implies that she’d be helping ME, not my husband. I just do not allow it. My husband and I are quite capable of cleaning up together afterwards. Efficiently and with everything going in the right place!

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  11. I may or may not have offered a drink depending on what I was doing. If I was in the middle of something I would have probably said a hello but that’s it. Also if I was not part of the visit I would probably not thought of offering a drink as I would assume my hubby would do this. Now, my mother would have been like your mother although mom offered drinks if it was water, coffee, or tea, dad offered the drinks if it were cocktails!! Must have been the gender thing back then?!?!?!

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  12. We’ve tried not to raise our girls to follow gender norms, but there are still things we both do. For example, my husband takes out the trash and sometimes I’ll leave it there because I know he’s going to take it out. On the other hand, he cleans the house, not me, but I do all the laundry…mainly because it takes him days to wash the clothes, and I like for it to be done in one day.

    Most other things, we share (e.g., driving, cooking, washing dishes, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband is decent about housework, and I tend to do a lot if the non traditional stuff like putting together furniture, and the tech stuff and basic home repairs…though we have a handyman in our building, so, you know….

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  13. Yeah, no. I agree that your husband should be able to take care of his own friend’s needs and no, miscellaneous third party relatives don’t need gifts unless you have a close relationship. I used to ask my husband to take care of car issues but that’s because he was a maintenance mechanic and knows about machinery but now that he can no longer do these things himself, he calls the mechanic when we need one. I handle the finances because I’m better at that (for the most part). I think duties should be divided by capabilities, not by gender. He does the dishes and occasionally the laundry because he’s retired and I’m still working.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My husbands an accountant with multiple degrees in stuff like that. He pays the bills. I do the investments because I’m a tad better than he is at that….

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  14. Anyone can take out the trash, or cook a meal, make the coffee in a house. But they need to get done, and you can take turns or you can just pick and be consistent. I don’t make coffee because when I do, no one wants to drink it, not even me. I put out the trash, and I clean the shower and I do what I have on my internal list. If she wants me to do something, she’s not shy- I will hear about it, and that’s the way I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Mondays is bathroom day, that means shower, toilet and make sure drains are draining Super duper! It just worked out that she loved it when I cleaned the shower so I kept doing it.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. What gets me, lately, is that my husband and I practice ‘traditional’ roles around the house, yet I do a ton of ‘masculine’ activities like being a firm disciplinarian, mowing the lawn, fixing mechanical issues, etc. He has no problem with my driving, but would purportedly love if I wore dresses and didn’t vote.I

    Is that disjoint me being more feminist, or him being unreasonable?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This has come up in our family more than once. I have taken on more roles that I suppose my husband could do also, but as a control freak I want things done properly as we are nearing our 39th anniversary I will admit to passing these to him, mostly to do with his family. My daughter and her husband seem to have a good balance on things. My son has always had this problem, he deals with children and absolutely adores babies and kids and his cousins have had children and he has offered free babysitting to all of them and no one has taken him up on it. He has been told by “professionals” that women are more naturally nuturing which pisses him off considerably. I would say it is probably slowly being phased out with each passing generation, but we reap what we sow.

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  17. When I was married, I did the cooking. It’s just how things worked for us and so what? But of course, this didn’t make sense to my father who asked why that was. Basically, he was like “Isn’t that her job?”. To which I replied with something along the lines of “This ain’t 1956,”.

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  18. @JaneFritz…I couldn’t reply under your original comment for some reason. I do think men are invested in keeping up with certain traditions. Maybe not so much today(or at least it isn’t so mainstream), but there are men out there who think a woman is “less than” if she doesn’t do the whole shebang.

    My mother in law is no longer living. I think some of what she did came from a good place. She had virtually no family of her own, and a lot of this she learned from my FIL’s family. Ironic.

    My own family had their own religion laced views of gender–such as my dad and his family thought it was inappropriate for unmarried women to live on their own. Those sorts of things were very hard to deal with.

    Then I got married and had to deal with a whole other sort of expectations…challenging.

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  19. There was only regular old sexism when I was growing up, and I was still given inappropriately difficult things to do mostly because of dysfunctional household. In my house now, I am the one responsible for plumbing, heating, household repairs, things resembling weapons, martial arts, tarot readings, cooking, feeding the outdoor animals, taking care of any dead bodies we find of any type, technological upgrades and html this and that, crisis management, and am technically female. The technically-male person brings in most of the money, does tai chi, helps carry stuff because it makes him feel manly, is more emotional, and feeds the cats too much because they can coerce him into it. *shrug* I think we all just grew up to be what we will be, but having parents and other adults push us in different directions can make a mess–if I were some cliche ‘girl’, my partner would not have been able to manage the house, and there would be no heating etc.

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  20. These are all excellent questions. I try to be aware of the stereo types I may be perpetuating. Mostly I succeed, but not always. My kids are all adults now. I have three, two in relationship one who is still single. My youngest once said to me in anger, “Mom, you’re such a fifties mother”. I took it to mean I did too much in the way of housework and kowtowed to her Dad in her opinion anyway. Bear in mind she was angry when she said it. Mostly she respects my views and values. But that statement sure made me stop and think. It is incredibly difficult to shake the gender assumptions we grow up with. I fought the “fifties Mom” way of being most of my life My mother was very much a caregiver. She sacrificed a lot. Partly this was due to her nature and partly due to her religious upbringing. It is only the last number of years that I have discovered just how like her I am. And that is not entirely a bad thing. She was also very wise and a strong woman. I think we are all a product of our upbringing, but it is important to try to really know oneself and to let go of ways that no longer serve us. . Over the years a lot has changed. Due to hubby’s health I have the responsibility of pretty much every household task whether seen as a “male” job or a “female” one. It has forced me to reevaluate life in general and given me cause to take a close look at myself. Life really is a journey. I wish I knew back when I was raising my children what I know now. Hindsight is 20/20 daily life is not. I could write a lot more on this, but need time to think it through. This is a very thought provoking post – great job!

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    1. That’s exactly it. We’re conditioned to think that certain behaviors are right while others are wrong ….I don’t think we even realize we’re doing it much of the time

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  21. In some ways, I think it’s kind of embedded in us to do those things you mentioned. Maybe it is an expectation because we women tend to think about giving gifts, throwing baby showers, cards for birthdays, etc. Men don’t usually think about doing that, unless it’s for the women they are dating, engaged to, in love with, etc. Just my experience. As far as traditional roles, I think that is left up to the person and/or couple on how they would like to work out their responsibilities in the home.

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  22. This is a wonderful post! Seldom do we realise that we are, subconsciously, consciously, dividing tasks, expecting that this is what a woman is supposed to do and this is what a man is supposed to do; stereotypes and prejudices that we carry in our DNA, that is passed onto us. Say for instance, when a husband’s friend comes home a wife is supposed to offer a cup of coffee and that goes unnoticed but when a wife’s friend comes home and the husband offers to make coffee, this is greeted with ‘oohs and aahs’! I fail to understand why do we continue to live ignorant to the shackles that bind us. Men can be sensitive. Women can like the colour blue. Boys can play with dolls and girls can play with racing cars.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. We don’t have gender roles in our house – I do everything! 😂 Just kidding. My hubby does get involved sometimes and one of the things he’s best at is cleaning up the kitchen. I tend to do most of the decorating and I cut the grass and often take out the bins. Sometimes he does a load of laundry. I feel like I have been guilty myself of taking on certain responsibilities just because I am the wife. I would definitely encourage my kids to discuss roles before marriage and not take on any particular roles just because of gender stereotypes.

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  24. Many people are locked into gender stereotypes, but I ignore those people. In my experience they’re looking for external validation. Do what you want in a way that allows you to manifest your best self. Of course I’m a free spirit, so you’d expect that idea from me!

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  25. In my household, it’s a case of who is better at the task that decides who going to perform it. For example, I’m not a very good cook so why should I be the one to fix the meals? That doesn’t make any sense. My husband is a better cook. When it comes to cleaning though, my husband is a number one slob so I’m the one who does most of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s a smart approach. But how many households have the same thoughts? You could say there are households where the woman does everything better, but that doesn’t mean the guy can’t try….

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  26. I grew up with some massively heavy gender roles and it created a near visceral hate for so many traditional “women’s work” types of household jobs. Suzy homemaker I am NOT even if I am a stay at home mom (a role decided for practicality reasons and not because that’s what women do). I have tried to ensure that I didn’t pass those mindsets along to my kids, but so much of it is so ingrained, it is subconscious. Our house is an odd blend of traditional and non-traditional when it comes to that. My Hubby does most of the outside yard maintenance and I do most of the cooking (yes, including grilling) and laundry stuff. But… he also helps with much of that and some of the cleaning while I do a large majority of the “tools” kind of maintenance projects around the house including minor construction and plumbing.

    Starting at a pretty young age, I made my kids at least help with their laundry (folding and putting away) and moved on to doing their own by themselves not too long after. They also are responsible for rinsing their dishes and they put away the dishes out of the dishwasher when it is done. They have all helped cook, though my daughter is much more interested in it and wants to help, but that is her choice, not something I’ve demanded. They are also responsible for keeping their own spaces cleaned, including bathrooms.

    The gender role thing is a peeve of mine (as I mentioned on your other post) because I grew up with it. It drives me up the wall and ticks me off so much. Don’t even get me started on sports. When my daughter wanted to follow in her brother’s steps and play baseball, not softball, I didn’t hesitate to try and get her signed up. Let’s just say that started a not fun argument in my family.

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  27. Funny I have been thinking about those stereo types lately. When I married my first ex husband (don’t ask) I was in my last year of nurses training in 1969. He worked, I went to school and did on site training and exams. I was surprised when he said I should clean. I should grocery shop. I should do laundry. I should I should. He went to work then spent the evenings screwing his new love (who he eventually married for life). And I was the deficient one. Don’t need to tell you my rather vulgar response to this now lol

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    1. I understand any thoughts you have on that situation…..but yes….no matter how we think we’ve advanced, I often wonder….have we? In the ways that really matter?

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  28. I have three daughter so this is a subject I’ve had discussions about for many years. The short answer is gender stereotypes still exist in too many relationships and homes. I think every married relationship assumes their own responsibilities for a variety of reasons but it should never be based on gender. I told my daughters, who are now grown and have children of their own, from the time they could understand, that they were going to college to get an education, become independent, find something they love to do and never have to depend on anyone for anything. Gender related or otherwise. I made sure they played sports, learned how to change a tire, negotiate their own way at car dealerships, paid their own bills, including insurance and did everything I could to never make them feel that what they or I did around our home was because of gender. They saw me, with me wife, clean house, vacuum, cook, wash dishes, etc. I can’t tell them without showing them. We only break this cycle if our children teach their children. Sorry for the long reply.

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  29. Being brought up in third world countries, I didn’t see household roles taken on by my parents until my late teens. A highly competent woman I met at that impressionable age (whose parents were a master builder & a dressmaker for a London fashion house respectively) set the standard for me, and I learned to carry out most tasks – regardless of their traditional role designation – which made sense as I lived alone for many a year. Looking back, what I demonstrated to my daughter during her impressionable years was a determination to stick to my principles while my ex, being the most incompetent person alive, burst trash bags all over the kitchen floor, or beating a week’s worth of work shirts with an unplugged-in iron instead of ironing them – but I probably ended up doing most things myself to save our sanity. I like to think she saw competence being the governing force rather than traditional gender roles.

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