Friday, July 18, 2008

Gender And The Jobs

A Paradise Valley view not too far from our home:

If that doesn't allow you to breathe a big sigh of relaxation and ease, I don't know what to do for you. Watching horses graze is poetic to me because they are intent on that patch of clover and grass. Sometimes their eyelashes are so low as they graze that they appear to be sleepwalking. One horse is usually noticeably at attention, guarding so the others in the herd can graze worry-free. If there's a gelding, he's elected. But even a group of mares will take turns.

A blissful view in our own backyard:

A friend told me about some research he read in which it was somehow proven that a mother has a huge serotonin rush after looking at a picture of her own smiling baby. I submit that a picture of a relaxed or sleepy -- better yet, sleeping -- baby is a much more powerful drug. I could nod off just looking at those sun-soaked babes up there.

My dream-come-true Joseph's Coat rose peeking through my other dream come true: a white picket fence:

There's a heck of a lot of work in tending flower and vegetable and herb gardens. This may be why you don't see more pictures of my garden -- I just haven't been weeding at all this year. So the Queen Anne's lace and dandelions are sharing space with the roses and lavender and pineapple sage and it's just a big hillbilly jumble. But it still makes me happy. In fact, I wander around at night with the soaker attachment on the hose and water the weeds and the flowers and enjoy that particular scent of herby goodness and never even think about whether I should get out the hoe. The EGE did weed my raspberry beds, and that was lovely of him.

But most of the summer, the EGE has been working himself to the bone while we all play gardening and waterfight and horses and chickens. This has me thinking on the subject of gender roles.

I have never been married (hah hah) to the idea of Henrietta Housewife and Jobful Joe. Throughout our 16-year (next month!) wedded life, we have shared the traditional and non-traditional roles pretty equally. (Well, the EGE does hate to do dishes, but that's incidental to the big picture.)

Last night a wonderful mentor of mine stopped by our farm to bring us a gift of new towels. (Yay! Towels!) Linda's a neighbor, rurally speaking, and I've known her my entire life. Still riding horses (and fixing fences and mucking stalls and bucking hay) at 63, her ranch savvy surpasses any that I might hope to attain. I can remember when I was a teenager I used to watch her work horses and marvel at her strength and poise and command.

When Linda goes to town, she is the picture of a country doctor's wife (which, in fact, she is). Every blonde hair in perfect place, her pedicure polished and her clothes meticulous and stylish. But on the ranch or running around our valley on her missions of kindness, you'll see that she can pretty much outwork anyone half her age. Her jeans and t-shirts and boots may have been blue or white or black at some point, but they are usually covered in a fine mist of horse sweat and sandy arena dust. If you are a horse person, you think this smells good. If you aren't, you want to know whether Linda has a particularly rugged twin sister.

So the other day a mutual friend said to me, "Linda works like a man." This was meant as a compliment. And it kinda got to me.

I haven't thought very much about feminism since my undergraduate days, when it annoyed me to no end that there had to be such a movement. In my tiny little world, there were Lindas, and there were soap-making stay-at-home dads, and they were all good. Or bad. Or whatever they were, but they certainly weren't defined by their gender. When I went to work in the news business, I was shocked to learn that my editor hesitated to send a "girl" out on a fire call, even when there were no other reporters available.


I didn't think I was a feminist, but I was.

Then a couple of years ago, when the EGE was starting a business (read: building his client base and working really hard but not making much money) and I was working a lot of hours in the white hot real estate market, we attended a New Year's Eve party at the home of some very good friends. All of the dozen or so children present were playing and the adults were enjoying homemade salsa and guac and lazing around toasting random wonderful things, when a man I consider one of our "people" started to apologize to me that he had listed a rehab house with another real estate agent.

Well, what he was really doing was trying to get me to say this other (male) agent wasn't doing a good job. But it started out as an apology, rambled around to criticism of this other agent, and then ended spectacularly badly with a gender jab. "It just doesn't seem right that you're the woman and you're working so d--- hard." (Upon which his gorgeous, multi-degreed stay-at-home wife and mom to his four children elbowed him HARD in the ribs and said "You didn't say anything about that when I was working two jobs putting you through grad school.")

So we are still friends with this couple, close enough to say the dumb stuff when there's been too much champagne, but I kinda look at them differently to this day. I can't wrap my brain around the fact that someone I love who could be that entrenched in gender roles. (Prolly even harder for his wife.)

We are raising four girls here at Farm Suite. I just don't know how hard to hit this issue. It's still rolling around in my brain, and I'm guessing not gathering a lot of moss.


Chickie Momma said...

I tend to take the middle road. It's comfortable there. LOL When I get upset about being treated like a woman (when the manly men type think I can't run a pressure washer), I stop and think about all the times I wished I'd got treated like a woman (such as when the guy at the grocery store lifts my heavy bags into the car for me so I only have to lift them one more time when I get home).

The other day, the high school boys at camp said that they definitely believed in equal rights, and that's when I got beaned HARD with a dodgeball. HA! It's got it's pros and cons, but basically I instill in MY girls that if they think they can do it, and they want to do it, then there's no man who can get in the way of them doing it. (Unless it's my husband and we're still perfecting that delightful word SUBMISSION) WHEW! What a post...

Becca said...

my mom was never an ardent feminist but she always told me I could do anything I wanted. When i wanted to do shop instead of homeec in eighth grade, my parents went to the principal to demand that I be allowed to do it. It's sad that they had ot demand but it proved to me that I could do anything I wanted even if I had to fight for it sometimes.
Its funny now that I play the total mom role in my marriage, and I do all the "girl" jobs by choice because I like to take care of my family. But when my husband is away I do his stuff to, because I can.
I would say when raising your girls, just lead by example.

Barb said...

I'm raising two girls here at the Cooper Clubhouse and oddly enough for how I'd planned my life, I find myself in a really traditional marriage with traditional gender roles (except my husband is the most involved and probably the best parent I know.) But in terms of Man makes Money and Woman makes...well, Whatever, we're there.

I kind of hate that.

But I went back to work as the Editor of a regional magazine and it was just impossible to do (for me) without my family suffering.

I kind of hate that, too.

And you know what I REALLY hate? That Jane (7) said to me just the other day, "Wow, when *I* grow up, I want to stay home and cook dinner and knit, too."

It seemed like the wrong time to show her my impressive Pre-Child resume. Or to remind her of how much of my day is spent scrubbing toilets and doing laundry.

I don't know. I alternate between thinking I should DO more and thinking that I should ENJOY what I do now more.

And then thinking that maybe, just maybe, I should stop judging my life by what I DO.

Agent K said...

Hmm, the image of moss growing on your brain was a gut buster.

As the A-typical American housewife, I don't know what to say. I have always wanted a highpaying job and would rather that The Inspector stayed at home (to get a taste of what I go through, daily) but I don't think I would REALLY trade this life for another.

I am with Lex, I am sitting smack in the middle of the fence. It's cozy here. :)

farm suite said...

Barb, you are *so* the person I want to grow up to be.

I too am judging myself all the time by what I do, and it really should be about who I am.

farm suite said...

Oh, and Agent K, you are just my hero. 'Nuf said.