Monday, February 21, 2011

REAL Gender Equality

Just as I committed to blog more, two rather massive and messy projects at work got dropped on me, which meant I was back to working nights and weekends.  That, along with some other commitments I had made proceeded to suck up all my time, and then my daughter decided to get her two year old molars, and we went into a few weeks of nosleeparanza.

Needless to say I sat here and stared at the screen a few times, started more than a few posts, and then went to bed.

The combination of life with a toddler, lack of sleep, a commute, tons of work, life in general and endless snowstorms made my brain shut down for all but the most basic day to day tasks.  It  wasn't quite of the 'drool from the corner of the mouth' variety of shutdown, but close.  

But then yesterday I read a blog post on Slate about women who outearn their husbands, and it caught my interest, and switched my brain to the 'on' position, even if just briefly.  This coincided with some interaction between my absolutely wonderful husband and my absolutely wonderful father-in-law (okay, slight edge to my husband, as I tend to think he's about the greatest guy on the planet, give or take the Dalai Lama and a few others). See, my father-in-law is fabulous, without a doubt one of my favorite people.  But he's a leeetle old fashioned, and the idea that my husband and I are dependent on my income tends to make his palms sweat in fear.

It's not that he's not proud of my husband, quite the opposite.  It's that, like many men, much of his identity is wrapped in the idea of 'provider'.  And for him to be jobless at my husband's age, with a family and a mortgage would have been an absolute crisis.  So I think he's having a bit of trouble wrapping his brain around the idea that not only are we fine, but we're better than fine.  We're even, um, good.  Really good.

Sander would love to be back at work.  He misses it - a lot.  And he's looking hard.  Signs that the tech sector is easing up and starting to hire are around.  That's good. 

But in the meantime, I feel extraordinarily blessed to have a husband who takes being a father   as seriously as he does.  Without a doubt, I have a complete co-parent at my side (if not even a better parent, I often admit), the kind that other women profess to want.   I married a renaissance man, and the trade off of that is that our roles are not traditional ones.   Which is just fine with me.  Really fine.

I should probably admit that I am probably more well-positioned to accept our non-traditional roles than most.  Raised by gay "moms", gender roles were never my strong suit, given that toilet-fixing and other male-type roles were being done by women.  I was a US Marine, and I can tell you right now that the suggestion that I wasn't a full equal to my male counterparts wouldn't go well for the suggester.  I had two female and two male attendants for my wedding, and got just a teensy bit pissy when the pastor suggested they process in male/female pairs with arms linked during our rehearsal - I was only going for it if my husband's all-male attendants left the church with arms linked as well.  Needless to say, I got my way.  It's not that I cared so much about how they processed so much as I was annoyed at the idea that they should be paired because they were mixed genders.  If I'd had 4 female attendants it would have never come up.   

So, I have pretty strong feelings about gender equality.  And that includes who should be the breadwinner.  If women want to be equal, it must cease to matter, and we must acknowledge that our families financial well being is as much ours to ensure as our husbands.   That's not to say that all women should go into the workforce -far from it.   But rejecting the automatic equation of male as breadwinner and woman as nurturer is the only way things should be is one way women win equality. And that means that those husbands who earn less or not at all aren't 'losers' or 'unmotivated' - they are equal partners working towards that family's well being.

And the idea that a man's value is defined by his ability to generate income has to go too.  It isn't that no one should move towards a well-paying career, and I'll be the first to admit that there is real satisfaction to be gained from work.  I happen to really like my job, and when I do something well, I love it.  But the role of men has to be broadened in our minds.  If someone wants to sign up for the traditional arrangement, great.  Just support our slightly different one to the same degree - societally, legislatively, and so on.

Women are often great nurturers, and men are often great breadwinners, but neither of those things are the measure of their genders.  Far from it.  And I for one would take my husband, currently curled up with my daughter watching Sesame Street than any old master of the universe.  

I am one lucky woman.


Cyndi Springford said...

You are one lucky woman. Your hubby is the real deal! But, it works both ways as he got himself quite a catch too. :-)

Jean said...

Wow. You can be assured that your "absolutely wonderful but old-fashioned father-in-law" will be reading this blog today, even if I have to read it out loud to him! You couldn't have said it better, Rachael.

Love from your adoring mother-in-law.