We think that we are so modern and so enlightened looking down from our lofty perch in the 21st century. The genders are equal. Women have the right to vote, they are employed out of the home, they are capable of doing and being anything they can imagine. The woman who stays home to keep house and raise her children is in the minority and now, rather than being considered to be downtrodden and unenlightened, a slave to a paternalistic society, she finds herself in the enviable position of having the financial resources available to allow her to stay at home with her children rather than sending them out to strangers while she works all day.
For most of us it takes two full-time jobs and maybe some overtime to keep everybody in socks and underpants and textbooks and braces. We women have gone past having the "right" to work. We now have the necessity and bear half the burden of supporting our families. But just because we vote, work, run for office, and divide the housework with our spouses, things are not so different now than they used to be. My family is a pretty average example.
Both my husband and I work. At home we both do chores. We both cook and clean the kitchen. We both do laundry. Stop by our house any weekend and either one of us might be mowing the yard. Although only one of us will be doing it the right way.
While it may be true that my husband has never scoured a bathtub, I have never gapped any sparkplugs. So it comes out pretty even. And yet we are divided, husband and wife, by a whole unspoken codicils of gender specific behaviors.
Sometimes, if I am bored and I want to crack myself up, I like to imagine what it would be like around here if I suddenly started acting like my husband, who, while he possesses a whole long list of virtues, is still just a man.
I imagine myself walking through the house on my way to the kitchen. Step, step, belch, AAHHHH! Step, step, belch, AAHHHH! I imagine myself getting out of the shower and hollering, "Baby, where’s my underwear!" Wonder how that would go over. I like to think about getting ready to go out to dinner with friends. I would be halfway dressed and heading in to do my make-up.
"Baby," I would say over my shoulder, "Get me a shirt ready to wear."
If we were going out to get in the car and my husband asked if I wanted him to drive I would say, with some vehemence, "Heck no! Do I look crazy to you?"
But if I am going to be fair, and I like to think that I am fair, I have to imagine things the other way around too. I have to try to imagine my husband acting like me. I have to visualize him rushing up the stairs just before we leave the house to change his clothes because what he is wearing makes him feel fat.
I imagine him telling me over dinner about how he was feeling kind of down in the dumps lately and thought he might feel better if he had a pedicure. I imagine him coming home with shopping bags and telling me that he found the slacks on sale for 75% off, but that he didn’t have a shirt to go with them, or shoes and since he had to get shoes he also had to get a new belt and then saying, "Well, I guess you wouldn’t care what I looked like or what people thought about me, would you! I guess if it was up to you I would just stay home all the time and knit!"
I am not criticizing my husband, nor am I criticizing myself. He is a man and I am a woman. We are equally likely to become president – which is exactly not likely at all. But we could either one of us try if we wanted to try.
What I am saying is that while we may have equal rights as citizens and equal responsibilities as adults and parents, we are different.
Men and women are just wired differently and have different outlooks and focus on different things. No matter how egalitarian society may be; even if we someday reach that halcyon level of enlightenment where men and women doing the same work earn the same money, we will still be very, very different creatures. Which really is just as well for everybody.