If you want to crush the spirit of any young, single, feminist, just tell him or her about the egalitarian myth.
I heard of this concept when I attended a seminar at a counseling conference. The seminar was on how to tailor counseling to fit the needs and demanding schedules of working mothers. The speaker gave suggestions such as getting the client books on tape if she doesn’t have time to read or encouraging her to take longer showers if showers are the only time during the day that she gets to be alone. Okay, I’m thinking, not revolutionary, but helpful.
The the speaker goes on to share a little about her own experience as a working mother and the ways that gender roles in her marriage changed after children. She tells us she and her husband were both committed egalitarians, but once they had kids everything changed. She started doing stereotypically “female” tasks and he stereotypically “male” ones- the egalitarian myth.
Ouch. Are you kidding me? All that time defying stereotypes and *POOF* gone with the first child- along with a flat tummy, nights out on the town, and full control of your bladder (or so I’ve heard).
Okay, I’m thinking, so what you’re saying is that even though you and your husband are both working and both parents, the existence of kids has dictated that it’s necessary your husband sticks to weekly lawn care and car maintenance and you stay on top of the cooking and laundry daily? Even though you have a doctorate and a successful career similarly to your husband, somehow you’re still the one changing dirty diapers and cleaning the toilet while your husband, what, goes out and hunts for the evening’s meal?
Hmmm. This is so interesting (and crushing to my delicate feminist spirit).
Now I’ve been a committed egalitarian (in theory, obviously, since I am not married) for as long as I remember. Though I believe a male should be the head of household, I also believe that this is misconstrued, misinterpreted and misused in many ways and in many marriages. Again, I confess I’m speaking out of ignorance as a single person. However, I do believe that it is Biblical to be egalitarian in marriage roles. I have a hard time consenting to a rule book that says I’m in charge of the housework, dishes, and laundry that I hate for no reason other than the fact that my 23rd pair of chromosomes is made of two X’s. I would rather be mowing the lawn any day.
Still, I can see how this egalitarian myth thing could play out…According to parents everywhere things just don’t go the way you’re expecting when you have kids. No more time to paint your nails, frequent coffee shops, vacuum under the coffee table…you just survive, and on much less sleep- particularly if you’re still nursing and have a baby stuck to your breast every three hours.
All this to say- I’m wondering what the egalitarian myth might look like in my marriage someday (assuming I get married), and quite frankly, I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to defy that myth…
I’m interested in hearing what you have to say about this. Particularly if you are married.