The problem with this meme… (Some Thoughts on Gender Equality)

critique

I’m a 21-year old guy (almost 22). I am not now nor have I ever been a woman; I am not now nor have I ever been a housewife, or a wife of any sort; I am not now nor have I ever been a working woman, a working mom, a working girlfriend, a working wife, etc. Anything with the word ‘woman’ in it, I haven’t been that, I am not that, and I never will be that. Now, I have studied some feminist philosophy, and I certainly subscribe to the statement ‘the personal is political’. At the same time, I would never presume that this gives me the right to speak on a woman’s behalf. So in what follows, I’m not saying that this is what women think. I’m merely stating some observations that I have made as a guy who has studied feminist philosophy and cares about gender equality at home, in the workforce, in politics, etc.

I’m not particularly interested in the picture itself, although one could suggest that it’s objectifying to women, that this speaks volumes about how we still think of gender roles and norms, etc etc. I’m not concerned about that; pictures are difficult to interpret, and I’m no art major. I’m more concerned with the words in this meme.

In itself, there’s nothing wrong with a woman doing any of those things. I think it’s reasonable to sometimes expect your significant other to ‘give you a break’ every now and then, but then again I’ve never been married. I do know this much, however: at the end of the day, both people are tired. If the woman is a housewife, then she’s been bustling about taking care of the house all day long. Now she’s expected to make the man dinner on top of everything else? Is that a fair expectation? Why can’t the man give her a break and make both of them dinner? True, the man is probably tired too. But just because he’s tired, why should that automatically mean that it’s the woman who has to make dinner if she’s tired as well?

And if both people are working, then this is all a very unfair expectation. Do we really expect the woman to do all the cleaning and cooking after she gets home? Is that really a fair expectation? If both people are equally tired, it doesn’t make any sense to just dump the duties on the wife anymore than it makes sense to dump all of them on the husband.

And why should it be that only the woman has to clean? Let’s say all the housework gets done over the weekend — is it fair to expect that only the woman has to pitch in? Why doesn’t the man have any duties? Why shouldn’t we expect the man to not only wash his clothes, but wash his wife’s clothes as well? There’s nothing wrong with the wife doing the laundry every now and then, but is there really a good reason to expect that only she has to do it? Because honestly, the laundry is one of the easiest chores to do in the house. There’s really no good reason why all of the housework ought to fall on the woman alone or on the man alone — it should fall on them equally.

Nor is there anything wrong with the woman giving the man a massage. It feels pretty good. I love it when my girlfriend gives me a massage, but if she’s sore and tired, my hands had better damn well get to work, too.

Here’s the point of all that I’m saying: There’s nothing wrong with a woman ‘catering to’ her significant other, so long as the other person reciprocates regularly. There’s no good reason for it to be 100/0, 75/25, or 60/40. The only fair situation is where this ‘catering’ is a 50/50 thing.

(As an aside, I don’t know why we’re thinking of doing chores as ‘catering’. That’s just stuff that needs to get done around the house. Whoever is doing the chores isn’t really doing the other person a favor, strictly speaking. Really, the person doing the chores is doing a favor for everyone who lives in the house, themselves included. For instance, I just got done doing the dishes. I didn’t just do my mom a favor or my brother a favor, I did myself a favor too: now I have some clean dishes to eat off of!)

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