You Got it Boss, CoCo’s P.O.V.
It was only a few weeks ago that women all over the world burned their bras, danced to Spice Girls, and threw their pantyhose across telephone lines at the Women’s March. All of this #girlpower and shouting for #equality made me think about the evolution of traditional gender roles in modern relationships. Is the new wave, ladies’ pants suits (which will always be a terrible idea, yuck!) and stay at home dads?
In the 1970’s there were literally 6 men who claimed the “stay-at-home dad” title, as of 2015 dads represent 16% of the stay-at-home parent population, which is about 1.9M fathers (I don’t have kids but I still stay at home all the time, does that just make me lazy?).
Now here comes the part, where I lose all of my friends. I genuinely believe there is a space for traditional gender roles. I say this with caution because I recognize that many of us don’t understand the difference between traditional gender roles and sexism (insert eye roll from all my bra burning sisters). According to wiki (because wiki knows all and is the most authoritative source there is…) sexism is “prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender” whereas gender roles are “a set of societal norms dictating the types of behaviors which are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality.” Please note the portion of this definition related to societal norms; societal norms are constantly changing as we adapt to our new environments, hence gender roles follow suit (read: I am by no means suggesting women should make .30 cents on the man’s $1, while being accountable for all the cooking, cleaning, and caring for the crumb snatchers). I will always be an advocate for outsourcing cleaning (especially after seeing the Mr. Clean commercial that aired during superbowl).
But seriously, we determine what defines a gender’s role and traditionally there are just some things I think men are better at than women, and most of them are just things I have no interest in. As far as any man that I am dating knows I don’t know the difference between a Phillips and an Allen Wrench, this is not because I am “dumbing myself down” but because there are a million other things I’d rather do with my Saturday morning than try an understand why Ikea furniture comes in a million pieces for a four legged table. Ladies take heed when I tell you this LET HIM HANDLE IT!
Of course gender roles are not as simple as building furniture (unless we are talking about Ikea, because I have to use all of my degrees and common sense for that ish). Gender roles encompass so many things leadership, income, and just general behavior towards one another. I remember my older male cousin pointing out to me some years ago that I needed to “learn how to let a man be a man”. After putting my neck back squarely between my shoulders and bringing my eyes back down to their rightful place, I realized he had a very valid point.
I soon realized I couldn’t really distinguish between the male and female roles in a relationship and that I had probably spent a lot of time stepping on my then boyfriend’s toes and emasculating him. So here’s what I think happened…my mother is a single parent, and an early example of a woman’s undeniable strength. She played both the mother and father for my brother and I, never showing a sign of exhaustion or defeat (meanwhile I am exhausted the minute I wake up in the morning). According to the U.S. Census Bureau there were 12 million single parent families in 2015, more than 80% were headed by single mothers. 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.4 million — are being raised without a father. Seeing a woman do it all led me to believe that not only was I capable of doing it all but I should do it all; I left no space for ex-bae (I just coined this new term) to flex his muscle as the man. For quite some time and even at certain points now I have a difficult time sitting back and letting someone else take the lead occasionally.
This shouldn’t suggest that men wear the pants …well at least for me there is just such a strong appeal to having a man that at least knows how to wear the pants (this is a major key, DJ Khaled voice) and is willing to lead in a relationship. The idea of allowing yourself to relax in the safe space of your relationship because your man is capable of taking on the leadership role, ensuring your #squad is provided for and protected by him are all good in my book. And if that requires me stepping back to allow him to put together a bookshelf for the next 10 hours when I know I could have finished in 2 hours, because as a man that offers him satisfaction, by all means I will play dumb dumb and make his ass a sandwich and never suggest he read the directions instead of trying to jigsaw puzzle the bookshelf.
Men, don’t get too ahead of yourselves there are entire curriculums built on teaching people how to lead, your anatomy alone does not make you a leader. Understand and appreciate the value that your woman brings to the relationship as your equal, her opinion and voice matter, so listen (she is likely smarter than you). I think some men have a long way to go in understanding and appreciating the strength that women have openly displayed over the last several decades. For example, income, it is very possible that your woman may make more than you, as we outpace men in graduating from college. Please move beyond tying your masculinity to being the bread winner and understand that you can provide in a million other ways, be willing to do those things too.
So I guess it all boils down to this… gender roles are evolving but undoubtedly there are just some things that most men are better at than most women and vice versa, get over it. Ladies as strong and independent as we are lets ensure that we don’t create #noflexzones for our counterparts (I intentionally say counterpart because, in a homosexual relationship it’s still important to feel like the #shotcaller in the relationship, who doesn’t want to hold it down for their mate?). Gentlemen understand that leadership in a relationship doesn’t mean women will just listen and do what you say without question, her granting you leadership in the relationship means you have demonstrated the character and the “know how” that she trusts that you can guide the relationship in the right direction, it’s a gift that’s earned. Gender roles are tricky and constantly evolving but at the end of the day a relationship is a team effort, and like any team there’s a captain, and everyone plays their position, this doesn’t mean you can’t play the other positions, but you have yours and you play that well (listen, I don’t watch sports so that was the best sports analogy I could give). Jimmy, tell me what you think?
Don’t Worry I Got This, Jimmy’s P.O.V.
“Son, a man has to be a provider, protector, and priest in order to have a successful marriage. I don’t think you’re any one of those things.” That was the advice my dad gave me when I was considering whether I should take the next step with a former girlfriend. Growing up in a West African household, I grew up and probably up until recently subscribed to those gender norms. I think on some level most of us grew up and were socialized for men to have those gender roles.
I personally, haven’t had much trouble with gender roles in my relationships. However, I hear it is a common issue that arises in many millennial relationships. Most of the problems surround two things:
- Wage Discrepancy ( She makes 2x as much as the guy)
- Expectations of Intimacy
- Expectations of Household Responsibilities.
Most guys like to talk brave about how they don’t care if their significant other makes more than them. Most of that tough talk is about as real as the Chris Brown vs. Soulja Boy twitter beef. The male ego is fragile and men have been socialized to be providers, so when they can’t do it most men will catch feelings. I think when it comes to this it’s important for men to realize that you can be a provider in other ways besides monetary sustenance. Whatever way you can provide, if you’re with the right girl she’ll appreciate it. It’s also important for the higher earning woman not to make the man feel less because he can’t provide and be honest with herself as to whether she can accept “dumbing” down her lifestyle to accommodate his financial status.
When it comes to the other two, I think communication is very important. First you have to be honest with yourself, and then with your partner, what do you expect when it comes to intimacy and what can you live with and then communicate that to your partner. It is important to have this convo sooner rather than later so you can address major incompatibilities. If your partner is on the same page, great. If not, then well you may need to assess long term compatibility.
One last parting point, I did some research on gender roles and a common theme was that many women who are in long term relationships, lamented that they are currently with dudes who can’t take care of themselves. It’s 2017, as a man you should be able to cook, clean, and do laundry. Ain’t nobody got time to be cleaning up for you…