Being Taught Your Place in the Gender Roles Game

How many times have you heard, “You’re a (insert gender here), that’s not how you’re supposed to behave…”? “Boys will be boys.” I even roll my eyes muttering “boys…” at my children. It’s a conditioned reaction that we’re just used to. The gender roles are very clear. Women tend to women things and men tend to man things. That’s just how it’s supposed to be.

I have been given awful looks when I mention that as soon as it was age appropriate, I taught my older son to do laundry. “But, he’s a boy…” Yes, but he’s a boy that’s going to be self-sufficient. His wife will thank me. I’m not going to do my adult son’s laundry if he never gets married nor do I think his wife should be forced to do it. My younger son now helps with laundry for the same reason. I get the same awful lectures when I mention how I’m teaching my older son to cook. I give the same reasons of self-sufficiency. How do I know he’s going to get married? I don’t believe in marriage so why should I force him to be?

I thought we had moved away from these ideals of traditional roles, but they still seem alive and well. “Why did you fix your screen window? You should’ve waited for your husband to do that.” Why should I have waited? It never would’ve gotten done and I wanted to be able to let fresh air in without bugs. I’m more than capable of it. My Mom never taught me to be demure. Or maybe she tried and my Dad told me to ignore her. I don’t even remember. But I definitely don’t remember ever wanting to be a princess waiting for a Prince Charming. Though there was a time when I wanted to be Phoebe from Mystic Quest. My Mom taught me the basics of sewing. I could hem pants, patch clothing, and fix buttons. My Dad, Mom, and older brother taught me how to cook. My Dad taught me about tools and bought me a tool set for a Mother’s Day present shortly before my husband and I bought our house. I was fortunate that my parents never really pushed those roles on me, though I have no idea how to mow a lawn but I’m not sure if it’s because they thought I was too weak as a girl to do it or because I’m so clumsy that they didn’t want to bother. It’s probably the latter.

I don’t believe in teaching my children about those traditional gender roles. Sure, they see that Mommy works from home and takes care of the kids while Daddy goes to work. Mommy cooks supper for everyone. Mommy is the one that comforts everyone while they’re sick and Daddy does yard work. Daddy handles the pest control situation of removing dead mice that our cat destroys or killing the earwig that scared Mommy out of the shower. But I will teach them everything that I can to turn them into modern men. They will be able to do their own laundry, and even offer to take care of their partner’s as well. They will learn to respect women, that they are not there to be their slaves. They will not raise their hand to a woman or disrespect them when they say “no”. They will learn about consent. They will learn that being manly isn’t about knocking a woman down or “putting her in her place”. Women are not to be controlled or manipulated just like women should not control and manipulate men. Relationships are partnerships, not ownerships.

My boys will learn to be self-sufficient, respectful men who are going to change the world for the better. I want them to know that being sensitive and compassionate isn’t a weakness. That Dads can cook, do laundry, and take care of babies. That around the home, there’s no such thing as “man’s work”. That in the real world, they need to respect a female boss just as they would a male one. My hope, is that other parents do as well. There is such a focus on “teaching little girls”, but I feel like there’s not enough about “teaching little boys”. All kids should learn to take care of themselves. Girls should know as much about cooking as they do about fixing a pipe in the kitchen (within reason; some jobs are better left for professionals). Women shouldn’t have to wait for their husbands to fix a clogged toilet or a cabinet door. Kids should all have a well-rounded education in “how to function and be self-sufficient” no matter what their gender is.



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