I grew up thinking there were two kinds of women.
My neighborhood was filled with the first kind. They wore flip-flops with flowers on the top. They made Kool-Aid and kept fresh carrot sticks in water in a cup in the refrigerator for after-school snacks. They vacuumed and made dinner and took walks with their husbands when they came home from work.
My mother was the second kind. I didn’t know of any other women like her. She had the most marvelous spinning desk chair in her office. Her own bathroom in that same office. She had “teams” and “functions” in the evening. She wore a suit every day. If there were carrots in the refrigerator, they certainly weren’t cut into sticks and put in a cup of water. And Kool-Aid was generally frowned upon. But tea? Now that was a “civilized” drink. Tea ran rampant in my house.
As for men? They also seemed to come in two varieties. My dad went to work like all the other men. But he had a side I didn’t see the rest of them show. He painted. Sketched. Cooked better than my mother, usually without a recipe. Gardened like nobody’s business. I got the impression that men were supposed to be multi-faceted. Only, most had missed that memo.
This history comes to mind as I mull over conversations I’ve had in various circles recently. I hear women of all ages espouse platitudes like: “What do you expect? He is just a man.” Or, “That’s just how men are.”
These weary-sounding phrases, to me, are foreign. Perhaps because my parents did not live up to any of the stereotypes people like to throw around. She ran a business better than he did. He cooked and cleaned far better than she ever did. I guess they met somewhere in the middle. They made it work.
“Men” are a collection of individuals, no? And they will be whoever they are. But that does not mean we have to excuse behavior, attributing it to some genetic code programmed into a certain sex. If you married an ass, then you married an individual ass. His maleness does not make him an ass. I know plenty of males and they run the gamut from Neanderthal to Renaissance man.
I dated a man who knew if I cooked, he should clean up. And, despite his best intentions and really good behavior for the first few weeks, fell back into his childhood habits rather quickly. He was used to a mother who picked up after him, did his laundry, handled all the domestic chores. The key difference between her and me? She did not have a career. So, after a long day, he expected me to handle the domestic affairs, even though I’d just pulled the same workload he had in the office. While never explicitly expressed, his actions (or lack thereof) told me what I needed to know. The alarm bells went off pretty fast for me. I never said to myself, “Well, what can you expect? He is just a man.”
What prompted these ruminations this morning? I opened up my morning news to find that Arkansas has passed a law allowing husbands to block their wife’s abortion, even in cases of spousal rape. A wife will be charged with a felony if she has an abortion against his wishes. Let’s be clear. I wish abortions, as a procedure, would end simply because mistakes cease to occur. But given human nature and the uncertain tenets of medical science, mistakes will happen. Given that fact, what I like even less is telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. Particularly when someone else has forced themselves on that body and impregnated her.
And then, I was treated to Bernie Satrom, a North Dakota representative who said businesses should be closed on Sunday. He suggested wives could bring their husbands breakfast in bed rather than shopping. And another ND rep said his wife easily spends his week’s paycheck in a day of shopping on Sunday, so this law would give husbands’ wallets a break.
Just a few thoughts from me as we try to avoid women’s rights being taken back several decades. Let’s not make excuses for individuals based on generalizing the traits of an entire gender. I see men of all types right now—those who are trying to revive a bygone era that allowed them privilege and those who are fighting for women to remain equal.
My father would have been in the latter group.
And he would be proud to hear me say–let’s not settle for someone simply because we think no one better is out there–whether it is a boyfriend, spouse or political candidate. Men run the gamut. You might want to hang out on the more enlightened end of that gamut, ladies. Unless you’re the type who likes to “serve” your husband and spend “his” money.
Most of us tend to end up with not what we deserve, but what we accept. If we are very wise, those two become one and the same.