A lovey wrote:
Wondered your thoughts on this
Defying Gender Norms In Relationships This post is part of the “Modern Male Brains & the Young, Powerful Women Who Love Them” series compiled by Dr. Louann Brizendine, neuroscientist and author of the recent book, The Male Brain. The series explores how the next generation of women relates to love while balancing complex, stressful lives.
After years of not actively searching, I have found deep love and happiness with an incredible person. He requires very little prodding to rise above his patriarchal upbringing, is elated that I make more money than he does, and is toying with the idea of taking my last name, just to highlight the absurd gendered nature of this practice. He is my “partner in crime” every day in every way.
Prior to this relationship, I had only ever dated older, “accomplished” men, but I found the love of my life in a brilliant, confident, much younger man. Go figure.
I owe my good fortune of finding such a compatible partner to not settling for a man who hasn’t evolved beyond contrived social scripts of what men and women are “supposed to do.” I refuse to blindly follow societal conventions that say that women have to get married and procreate. There’s just too much data showing that these choices don’t make us happy. In fact, happiness levels are the same for couples whether they are married or simply in a long-term relationship, and kids are one of the primary causes of depression in adults. Then there are the obvious points — that adoption is a great choice given planet over-population, and I don’t want to be part of a societal institution (marriage) that involves the state unjustly excluding consenting adults. These “radical” choices have acted like Neanderthal repellent over the years. A litmus test of sorts.
Unfortunately, we don’t socialize many men to be truly compatible partners for women who reject their second-class status. We raise our little boys to disdain everything that is “feminine,” but then act surprised when they grow up to disrespect women/anything feminine. The idea that women aren’t quite full human beings is woven into our societal DNA, and it’s very difficult for men and women to recognize and rise above this shoddy upbringing. But life is way too short to be in a relationship where your partner doesn’t consider you to be as fully human as he considers himself to be.
Of course I cannot argue with the writer here and I do applaud her ability to find a mate that suits her philosophy so perfectly. I had thought that the hubby was not too far off this mark himself when we got together. And like the author, everyone was worried about our “partner in crime” coupledome precisely because we wreaked social havoc in our circle of loveys before we got hitched. Also, as many of you know, I was not too enthused about the idea of getting legally bound, again. But circumstances being what they were (the crazy ex, and all) we decided that at the very least, marriage would afford me some legal protections. Truth be told, it worked. I walk into a courtroom with the hubby and familia all about, and the societal constructs of married-stay-at-home-mama status garners a lot of support at time when my kids and I most need it.
Having said that, gender-norms in the day-to-day play of life make me want to gag. While the hubby did not give up his name in our marriage-rite, he did give our son my last name rather than his own. If you want to see how hateful and awful the in-laws could be, try explaining that the patriarchal name will not carry on in this part of the family. They haven’t acknowledged my presence on the planet since they got wind of that tidbit – because they cannot believe that it wasn’t my idea. In fact, I actually advocated on their behalf – knowing how pissed they’d be. And that is one small step away from gender norms that have far-reaching consequences. Try managing insurance coverage where everyone in the family and on the policy has different last names. Our carrier screws up all the time because, as a SAHM, I am also a dependent on the hubby’s policy just like the children. Therefore, when I contact the insurance co., the hubby has to be on the call as well, to approve my decision-making authority – even though we have submitted paperwork to that effect like a jillion times. And that all stems from a simple gender-disruption like a namesake. Schools, businesses, organizations, and even some other families cannot seem to figure out our family unit just because we do not use the socially approved patrilineal tradition for naming our children.
Even in our household, where I am the decision-maker on most topics, our lives are deeply influenced by factors outside our little paradigm. Where we live is effected by the hubby’s job which is still largely a good ole boys club. When I walk into the office a certain lil’missy attitude abounds. I know they try to contain it for my feminist benefit, but habitual sexism dies hard. And the worst part about the situation is that they are not outlandish chauvinist pigs; they care about the women in their own lives (mostly); it is the women outside of their circles that are often belittled or undermined in communication. Unlike most of the other wifeys of the office, I am an uncomfortable fit. I am brazen and outspoken, so that even the other wifeys are not too keen on me, but the women on staff generally get along with me or at least respect me. It does feel unnatural when at office-family gatherings all the wifeys have been chummy and hanging out with one another, but have so blatantly excluded me; but I get invited to lunches and cookie swaps with the female members of the staff who I adore.
And lets not get started about parenting issues! The author of the article does not have children and can’t even begin to wrap her mind around how that will work – despite her professed desire to adopt rather than birth children which effectively makes little difference with a screaming baby in the midst; after all, someone has to care for the child.
So what do I think of the article? I humbly offer the author best wishes in her efforts to strike a mostly unchartered path toward gender equality. I still have strong hopes that my trailblazing ways will have a positive impact on her opportunities and choices about all things gender-normative and relationship-laden. Life doesn’t always fullfill our most sincerest and deepest held philosophies, even when we try our best to make it happen, but I do hope she can find a balance that she can live with. For me, some days are better gender-equality-esque than others.