Tag Archives: marriage

Married and Sexist

Inspired by Pax Dickinson’s horrendous NYMag interview about his sexist Twitter history and Robin Thicke’s GQ interview about the “Blurred Lines” video, I wrote about the venn diagram of being married and being sexist:

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After extensive research, I have concluded that you can, in fact, be both married and sexist. For more on that, check out my essay at Role/Reboot.

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Filed under Gender, Media, Republished!

The “Proposal/Counter Proposal” and Other Things I Learned

When I sat down to start writing this Role/Reboot article about what straight people can borrow from their gay friends’ relationships, my roommate asked, “So have you talked to any gay people about this?”

Oh right, I should probably do that…

Turns out, my entire gchat list at 9pm on Tuesday happened to be gay friends, and they were more than willing to share. For one thing, they gave me some great quotes for my essay and some really interesting perspectives on equality, fairness, and making up your own relationship rules. More importantly, I learned about the magic of the proposal/counter-proposal, also known as the “propose, propose-back”. Wondering what I’m talking about?

Read the essay!

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Couple or Bust?

This was a tough one to write. I knew I wanted to talk about the idea of “the primacy of the couple” and different kinds of love.  I knew I wanted to include some of Eric Klinenberg’s Going Solo research about the demographic trend towards solitary living. Fun fact, single-occupant homes are the most common domestic unit in America. Here’s another: the average American spends more than half their adult life unpartnered. There’s a lot more. Read the book.

Also, read my essay for Role/Reboot (title, as usual, not selected by me):

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Fox News’ Big Whoops + Suzanne Venker’s Latest

If this doesn’t make your Saturday, I don’t know what will. In the latest insufferable piece by Suzanne Venker (more on that in a moment), Fox News accidentally selected a photo of a same-sex couple to illustrate an article about the value in traditional gender roles. They’ve since changed the photo to, literally, the boy/girl stick figures that adorn bathroom doors (if that’s all you’ve got left, I think it means we’re winning), but luckily Jessica Valenti nabbed a screen shot before they figured out their awesome error.

marriage

From Jessica Valenti

Whoops!

The article this excellent photo used to sit atop is classic Venker. If you’re not familiar with her work, imagine all of the least logical things you’ve ever heard anyone say about gender roles, all the worst mischaracterizations of feminsim past and present, all of the broadest stereotypes about men and women, and give that lumpy ball of icky ideas a pulpit.

Her piece is called, “To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal.’” A few key ideas, though please, by all means, read the whole gd mess.

The complementary nature of marriage—in which two people work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the qualities each gender brings to the table—has been obliterated. Today, husbands and wives are locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front and how they’re going to get everything done. That’s not a marriage. That’s war.

Feminism didn’t result in equality between the sexes – it resulted in mass confusion. Today, men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what.

Prior to the 1970s, people viewed gender roles as as equally valuable. Many would argue women had the better end of the deal! It’s hard to claim women were oppressed in a nation in which men were expected to stand up when a lady enters the room or to lay down their lives to spare women life

That’s enough of that, I think.

A few notes in response:

  • Replace “Gender” with “Person” and You Have My Attention: She writes about appreciating each gender for what they bring to the partnership table. If we swap that out for “person,” you might get me on board. I’m not saying there are not statistical differences in skill sets and preferences between genders, but I’m arguing that the variation between Man 1 and Man 2 is probably just as great as between Man 1 and Woman 1. In other words, bucketing ourselves by gender in order to make a partnership work is pretty likely to fail. So she wants to stay home with kids, great! But what if he’s the one who cooks? Oh no! How will we ever bring our best gendered selves to this marriage! Instead, bucket yourselves by, oh I don’t know, what you’re good at, what you prefer, what your logistical and emotional bandwidth can bear, what you compromise on, etc. All of that requires more communication than assuming she of the ovaries will be the nurturer and he of the big muscles will be the provider.
  • Protectionism and Pedastalism Are Not Equality. We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth remembering. If your primary argument is that ladies were treated more delicately back in the day, and that more of them survived the sinking Titanic (yes, this is actually in her essay), don’t you think that’s pretty weak? I do not want men to stand for me when I enter a room. I want them to listen to me when I talk. I want to be part of the conversation. I want to be an equal player in decision-making. They can keep sitting, that’s just fine. As for holding doors open, I have no strong feelings about who should enter buildings first, all I know is that if I’m carrying something heavy, help me out, you know?
  • Mass Confusion Isn’t the Worst Thing – I will give Venker this; I think there is a lot of confusion out there about what it means to be “manly” or “womanly” in this day and age. I write about gender on the internet and much of the feedback I get is about “not knowing the rules.” Should a guy pay for a date? Should a girl let him? If she offers to split should he accept? How do you flirt with objectifying? Is a little objectifying okay, especially if we all do it? This shit is confusing! And it should be! The change I want to see is for the conversation to reorient from how do I treat this person because they have XX or XY chromosomes to how do I treat this person like a human, i.e. with respect for their agency, their preferences, and their stated desires.
  • Every Partnership Isn’t Going to Look the Same - And this is also a good thing. In most of her writing, Venker consistently ignores non-hetero couples. It kind of makes sense; if you’re whole money-making MO is to be the voice of reason on traditional gender roles, you kind of have to cross your fingers and hope no one asks you about all those other couples that don’t have the parts that help you know what they’re “supposed” to do. But by ignoring same-sex couples (or any other non-Cleaver family arrangement), Venker is taking the rhetorical easy way out. Plenty of people have to negotiate the “mass confusion” she speaks of because there are no existing structures for who should do the laundry and who should pay the bill. These people have figured out ways around this horror show of a rules- free existence, and I think we heteros can take some lessons.

Okay, so I’m done with that. She gets me a little riled up, you know? Can we go back to making fun of Fox?

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Further Thoughts on Bling

Thanks to everyone who sent stories, gchats, comments, and responses my way after yesterday’s Role/Reboot engagement ring piece.

There were two substantive threads that came out of my follow-up conversations that I kind of wish I’d addressed in the original essay:

On Dudes

A number of people pointed out that I neglected to really consider the gentleman’s perspective on the engagement ring issue. How do they feel about the cost of a ring? How do they view the tradition? Does it feel burdensome and unfair? Or does it make them feel manly and mature? Both? If I purport to being all about equal partnership etc etc, where was the male perspective on this ancient tradition? Super valid points, folks, so valid that I’m contemplating a Part 2 specifically focused on how men approach the traditions and conventions of proposals. If you want to chat, shoot me a note/tweet/post etc.

“Ultimate”

Another facet of this conversation I neglected (this one more intentionally) is the emphasis on “showing off” the ring. You’ve all seen it; a woman walks into the office tentatively waving her ring finger around, waiting for someone to notice. When the first person does, a free-for-all ensues, a stampede of coworkers to see who can get closest to the gem and emit the loudest, most appreciative  “ooooooh!”

Some women I talked to described the feeling as “like you’ve won a prize.” People treat you like the newest lottery winner, possessor of a trophy marking some sort of status earned. The bigger the trophy, the more admiration bestowed on you. Here’s an example from the old standby, People:

For women, the indication that someone wants to marry you and is willing to prove it with a big diamond is still considered your biggest achievement. Really? An engagement ring trumps Olympic medals?

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Thoughts on Bling

A week ago, I would not have told you that I had any sort of strong feelings about engagement rings. I generally think super expensive, super ostentatious stuff is overrated, but that’s a ship that has sailed on the wedding industrial complex.

Then, through a series of conversations with friends, a lot of internet reading, and a handful of texts with my mom, I realized that the engagement ring tradition is actually one I want no part of. Here’s why:

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Sunday Scraps 67

1. TELEVISION: Someone took the time to make a Lego-animated recap of The Wire. It’s disconcertinly accurate, down to McNulty’s boozing and Lester’s dollhouses (via The Atlantic Wire).

2. NAMES: File this under things “Things I Worry About A Lot.” NPR investigates what happens when hyphen-girl meets hyphen boy and they try to name their offspring.

3. CRIME: Great, complex New York Times Magazine essay on the fate of Greg Ousley, who killed his parents at age fourteen, was tried as an adult, and is now a “model” prisoner.

4. BOOKS: Do you like books? Do you like the history of books? How about the history of the deckle edge (that rough, uneven way that some printers style book pages)? Then this piece from The Millions is for you.

5. BEAUTY: Just a little reminder that we could all be supermodels if we had the resources, and cheekbones. Or, at bare minimum, supermodels are really just very tall normal people when you take off the make-up.

6. TECH: TimesCast interviews Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, about her new project, Pinwheel.

Related Post: Sunday 66: Library propaganda, Nancy Pelosi, dying languages, etc.

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There’s a Twist!

What do you all think of this Renault ad?

“Times have changed.”

I like the idea, but something about the execution seems off. I kept expecting the dad to be escorting the daughter down the aisle to find another woman waiting at the end. Having the daughter walk the dad is a cool twist, but it seems like there is one too many twists for me to keep track of.

In theory, undercutting a whole bunch of cliches all at once destabilizes all sorts of norms and keeps viewers on their toes. That’s great from an advertising perspective, because it holds the audience’s attention and requires a few extra brain cells, which might aid message retention.

In practice, I think it’s a little muddled.

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I Don’t Like Places That Discriminate Against My Friends

A few months ago, we had a bad experience at a local bar when a waiter referred to my latina friend as “the tan one.” What may have just been poor word choice turned ugly when the owner of the bar half-assed an apology (“I’m sorry you are so sensitive, etc”) and refused to acknowledge that his employee’s words were problematic.

We haven’t been back to the bar since.

I don’t like spending time in places that make my friends feel ostracized, excluded, or uncomfortable. Even if the issue isn’t “mine” (i.e. I’m not latina), I don’t want my patronage going to institutions that discriminate against people I care about. It’s why I have a hard time shopping.

Earlier this week, Lisa Wade at Sociological Images wrote a really amazing explanation of all the reasons she’s not married. She was responding to Tracy MacMillan’s bizarre HuffPo piece from February, but I think her passionate reply stands alone. Here are a few of her bullet points, though they are all worth considering:

  • I’m not married because I don’t want or need the state’s approval of my relationship and  I certainly don’t want it interfering if we decide to part.
  • I’m not married because the history of marriage is ugly and anti-woman; because I don’t like the common meanings of the words “wife” and “husband”; and because even today, and even among couples that call themselves feminist, gender inequality in relationships is known to increase when a couple moves from cohabitation to marriage (and I don’t think I’m so special that I’ll be the anomaly).
  • I’m not married because I don’t want to support a discriminatory institution that has and continues to bless some relationships, but not others, out of bigotry.

That last one really gets under my skin in a good, thought-provoking, mentally-itchy way. If there was a restaurant that wouldn’t allow my black friends to eat there, I wouldn’t want to eat there. If there’s a bar that won’t let my gay friends drink there, I wouldn’t want to drink there. Marriage is obviously 1000 times more complex and important than where I choose to fork over $14 every Tuesday, but the principle is sticking point for me.

I don’t know if I want to get married, and this 500 word post is obviously not the place to parse that extraordinarily large question. And I know that every couple can shape a marriage into whatever structure pleases them and meets their needs, and I respect their right to do so. And maybe, if and when the day comes where I’m seriously thinking about getting married, it will no longer be an institution that discriminates against my friends. Who is to say.

Bottom line is, I have no bottom line. I’m just musing, is all, so let’s come back to this in ten years, okay?

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Guest Post: Role-Reversal with a 17 Year Age Gap

A few weeks ago, I wrote a Good Men Project essay called “Could I Fall in Love with the Bus Driver?” It was about the intersection of gender and class, and how I was rethinking my own assumptions about what kind of “qualifications” I had for a partner. My friend Kate (who has guest posted here before), wrote a response. Turns out, these are not hypothetical questions for her:

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I started dating Rick in the middle of my senior year in college. He was an under-employed real estate agent, stuck in the rut of the recession. He also happened to be 17 years older than me, and was divorced with a child. But he was so good-looking. And he made me laugh. I fully expected it not to go anywhere. I had plans, you see, and getting into a relationship was not in them.

You know what they say about plans, “the best laid…” Fast forward to graduation, six months later, and Rick and I were still together. He and his child met my parents that summer, and we ended up spending the holidays that year together. Soon after that, we were talking about the future, and my dreams (and my five, ten, and 20 year plans). Rick and I talked about the possibility of me moving, going to grad school, joining the Peace Corps or something else that would possibly separate us.

Rick doesn’t have a college degree, and values my education highly. He’s told me that no matter what, he stands by my decisions and I shouldn’t let him hold me back from anything. If I want to move to pursue my goals, the most likely scenario would be him coming with. This absolute support of me made me realize some things about what I wanted and needed in a partner.

As the good, middle class, well educated young woman I am, I always assumed that I would marry a middle class well educated young man, somebody my “equal” in terms of economic status and educational level. However, that type of young man, the type I dated in college, was more than willing to leave me to found their own start-up or join the Navy. I needed a partner who was instead ready to back me up, and follow me, instead of vice-versa.

It is really hard reversing gender roles. It is especially hard reversing gender roles with a 17 year age gap and a college degree difference. There were a few people who implied Rick wasn’t “good enough” for me, or “smart enough” or whatever you might imagine “enough” because of his circumstances. But those people who judge our relationship aren’t the people in it. They don’t see the back end, the unconditional support that I have from him, or even just the way he makes me giggle over the smallest things. The differences between us don’t damage our relationship, but make it stronger.

What I imagined in life was nowhere close to what I have ended up getting. Rick proposed to me a year ago, and we’re getting married sometime in the next year. So I guess I did kind of fall for the “bus driver.” The result? A wonderful, strong, fulfilling relationship with the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Related Post: Kate’s guest post about Cosmo, kink, and sexual honesty.

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