Reader Feedback: Gender Roles

It's been a while since this site has done some reader feedback. Yes, we really do read what you have to say here! This site isn't an echo chamber, and I personally hope it never becomes one.

Angie wrote in to the Mancoat Forum to ask for our opinions on gender roles. That's a real can of worms right there. The term "gender roles" has been one of the rallying cries of the feminist intellectual elite during the last 40-odd years. So, without further ado, let's dive in!

Angie writes:

I’ve been reading your forum for a while now. Even though I’m a woman, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I’ve been reading feminist websites, but I don’t agree with what they say — the first thing that turned me off was all the man bashing (Funny, it has the same effect on me! -- Solaris) and how they’re advocating for the transformation of women into men. I don’t hate men — I’m engaged to a wonderful man, and I believe that everyone should be treated with respect, compassion and warmth.

Because I don’t agree with the feminists, I started looking for women that are against feminism. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely identify with and appreciate the earlier feminists — those that fought for the right to vote, for reproductive rights, for education rights; in sum, those feminists who believed in equal rights. I find modern feminists too aggressive, hateful, bitter, and too violent; and they fight for special rights, and for women’s superiority. As I searched for others who disagreed with modern feminists, I stumbled upon the men’s movement. The more I read, the more I agreed. I believe that we are different, but equal — like a key and a lock. As a woman, I like being feminine and I don’t wish to be a man.

However, reading men’s and feminists’ opinions, I started soul searching. Before, I thought that I knew what being a woman means, but not anymore. I’m absolutely certain that my boyfriend is the most important person in my life, whom I adore, and I prioritize my relationship with him over my career (I’m a certified accountant). I feel like my career can only give me so much satisfaction and it can’t even compare to the satisfaction I get from my boyfriend. Therefore, I would choose my boyfriend over my career any day, if I had to choose (hopefully I don’t, as I enjoy working). I also enjoy and approve of traditional gender roles — that of the man being the provider/protector and the woman being the nurturer.

Nevertheless, I don’t agree with submitting to a man because I am a woman — I have my own opinions and desires, which may be different from my boyfriend’s, but I don’t understand why my needs are secondary to those of a man. I am just as equal as any man is (equal but different). Also, why would any man want a doormat who he can push around and with whom he cannot have an intelligent conversation?

Because I am so confused right now, I wanted to ask y’all what a woman is, what are gender roles and how important are they? (just please don’t tell me that I should submit, that’s something I cannot agree with)

Thanks in advance for all your help.

My Reply

OK Angie, you've asked what appears to be an honest question in a respectful way, so I'll give you the best answer I can (also respectfully).

This will take a little explaining, so please bear with me.

Men, generally speaking, have never been interested in having the proverbial "doormat" wife. "Doormats" are hard to care for because they are unable to pick up the responsibilities that come with running a home and family (let's be honest - "doormat" and "career" and pretty much mutually exclusive). What many men would LOVE however, is to have a wife who doesn't fight with them ALL THE TIME. A significant percentage of women (though by no means "all") regard every trivial thing their husband does or doesn't do that irritates them as a cause worthy of going to war over. Many of us here have seen it time and time again; men worn down to a mere shadow of their former selves by the women they are supposed to love.

I firmly believe that the "submissive female" is little more than a myth conjured up by feminists and social engineers to wave at young women as a sort bogeyman to represent what they claim men want in a wife. The truth is that men of a certain intelligence take joy in their intellectual pursuits, and many would LOVE to have a wife they could share their interests with. The reality of the situation rarely resembles this desire however. Understand that the experience of many men here regarding women in the workplace is that they are a serious drag on the resources and morale of the company. Enough women treat their job as an inconvenience at best and a favour to their co-workers at worst that it puts to death any notions a man might have of meeting a woman in his chosen field with whom he can share his interests. In short, after a few years of experience in the workplace, many men no longer expect to actually find a women with whom they can have the kind of intelligent conversation you mention. Women have done themselves a significant disservice in this regard.

This all comes back to the concept of what you refer to as "gender roles". Men and women have different things that make them happy. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The human brain tends to generalise, so if a majority of men or women make a particular lifestyle choice, we tend to expect that the "average" person we meet will also have made the same choice. For example, most other men assume that I like beer and that I have a favourite beer. They are usually surprised, and some are even a little suspicious when they find out that I simply don't like beer. Traditional gender roles are nothing more than the majority of people following their natural inclination. Even the early feminists like Simone de Beauvoir knew women were naturally inclined to seek home and hearth, and Simone in particular regarded marriage as a choice that women should not be allowed to make as it undermined their position as proponents of female empowerment.

Many women have come to believe that they are somehow deficient or poor examples of womanhood if they haven't demonstrated how liberated they supposedly are. Being seen to have a career seems to be more important than actually being interested in what you are pursuing. Fundamentally, it is women who have lost out in the gender war, as they are no longer able to simply follow their natural inclinations without having to justify it. Most women will look for a man who can support them when the time comes to choose a partner. You only need to notice that 90% of women who marry choose a man of higher socio-economic status than them to see the truth of that assertion. If it is true that women expect their husbands to support them financially, marriage can therefore only be based on equality if both spouses have equal, but different responsibilities. If a man takes on the responsibility of funding the partnership (especially if it is at the woman's request), what responsibilities should she assume? I suppose that's something for each couple to determine themselves, but this is precisely why gender roles are important. They act as a useful guide for determining how jobs and responsibilities should be divided up between a couple. A marriage simply cannot be based on complete consensus in all things. People are not identical, the two sexes are even less identical, and the strengths and weaknesses of one sex are complemented by those of the other.

Ultimately, the decisions which keep the family and the house running have to be made by someone. Being able to trust your spouse to make sound decisions or discharge their responsibilities with due diligence is critical to the health of a marriage. Women have lost that trust in men thanks to the hounding of feminists, so perhaps they need to be a little more... submissive... to get it back.

Postscript

I realise I didn't exactly answer Angie's question, but I feel I got close. Angie's issue seems to be more of a problem reconciling herself with her apparently more traditional views and the discomfort she feels admitting to that. Well here it is in a nutshell Angie. You don't have to be a doormat in order to be feminine. You don't have to be a kick-ass sassy have-it-all go-getter to be "modern". Just be comfortable that you have arrived at the point you are now by honest intellectual reasoning and sound judgment. When it comes to your own personal philosophy, that's all anyone can really ask of themselves anyway.

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"A ring that says you'll be together but not have sex. Isn't that called a wedding ring?" -- Butters, South Park Season 13, Episode 1: The Ring

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