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breaking down stereotypes

Okay, so I've always hated gender stereotypes. The little girl in a pink dress and pigtails playing with dolls, being called cute, learning to cook and sew and keep house with mama - even when I was very young I fiercely rejected anything having to do with the stereotypically feminine. It's only in recent years that I've started breaking down that wall, admitting I like gardening and sewing and that having a clean and organized home is important to me. (Cooking's still a ways off, though ;P)

However just now I had a very startling and disturbing realization. By rejecting the stereotype on the surface, I was in fact accepting the underside - accepting that housework is "women's work", and that that is somehow unworthy. I looked at the stereotype as a whole and said I wanted no part of it - but I still allowed it to be real in my head, with all the insidious assumptions that go along with it.

Consciously, of course, I know all those assumptions are bullshit. I wouldn't be where I am if I truly believed they were valid - hell, I'm effectively a housewife right now. My art doesn't bring in any significant income, and however much I hope that will change in the future, right now I live off my husband. And because I'm at home most of the time, I do the laundry, do the dishes, clean the house, all of that typical "women's work".

But the problem, the thing that got me thinking about all this, is that I keep self-sabotaging this work, on an incredibly subtle level - the level of stereotypes, of assumptions that we never admit we make. I work on big organization projects rather than vacuum, or put things away. I mentally whine about the mess, while laboring under this weighty resistance against actually doing anything about it.

When I do truly get into cleaning, believe it or not, I enjoy it - it's peaceful, Zen, quiets the strident, repetitive voices in my head. And while I remind myself of this every chance I get, it hasn't been making much of any headway against that unreasoning resistance. Sure, some of it is ADD, some of it the fact that housework can feel like a never-ending and depressing fight against entropy. But that just didn't fit for the larger picture, what was underneath.


But now that I know it's there, I can begin to break it down.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2004 09:20 am (UTC)
*nods* I know what you mean, not about "woman" stereotypes per se, but about the concept in general. I wouldn't worry about the cooking however, all the best cooks I know are men anyway :P
Oct. 20th, 2004 09:26 am (UTC)
Good for you! I think many feminists subconsciously let stereotypes affect them, even while consciously rejecting them. A sovereign, imo, does what she Will, and has also great freedom to do as she will.

We have so many choices today and that's the difference. You don't HAVE to do housework, but you choose to, and it might help to remind yourself of that.
Oct. 20th, 2004 09:32 am (UTC)
Okay, so I've always hated gender stereotypes.

Yeah, and it's amazing how that cuts both ways, ain't it? Hate/avoidance turn out to be just as sticky as buying in.

Bottom line it to what works for you and it all works out. No gender crap involved ;0
Oct. 20th, 2004 10:16 am (UTC)
^5 sistah!
As the sole(human) female in a household of 5males ranging in age from 16 to 38(none disabled, physically or mentally) I often feel I have an invisible "maid" sign tatted on my forehead. I played with dolls as a kid, but I also played with my brothers Tonka trucks, dug in the dirt and climbed any tree within a 10 block radius. In a dress.
I work in a predominantly female dominated field, and the majority of my close friends are male. Ive always been told by my guy frinds that "you think like a guy" which they seem to think is a compliment..
Gender roles/stereotyping are also so much a part of the modern concept of "marriage" as to be almost completely subconscious, untill you realize that the hot sexy wild freedom and outrageousness that you found so attractive Before is now totally unacceptable behavior/dress/attitude
"I wont allow "my" husband/wife to act/look that way, what will people think of me?"
Its an almost Pavlovian reaction to the terms"wife" or "husband"
which is why Ive been divorced 2 times and will never "marry" again. And why David and I refer to each other as Mates.
Oct. 20th, 2004 10:17 am (UTC)
Men who like to cook and do it well are either presumed to be gay or complimented as great chefs - even if it is meatloaf for gods' sakes. A successful meatloaf does not make one Emeril.

(Of course, the great secret - that being able to cook well is a babe magnet- has not percolated through the skull of masculine society at large. Yes, my other charms got Kathy to say "Yes," but a secret family recipe for Swiss Chocolate Cake was also a major factor)
Oct. 20th, 2004 05:09 pm (UTC)
I love to cook!
And I was not aware of the great secret. But I bow at its might! :)
Oct. 20th, 2004 10:18 am (UTC)
Hey! If you ever want to take a cooking class around town, let me know. I'd love the company. 8)
Oct. 20th, 2004 03:09 pm (UTC)
It's funny - I'm also the "breadwinner" in our house, but I find myself being drawn to housework. I guess I'm having normal "grass is always greener" feelings, but right now, I'd love to be a stay-at-home dad.
Oct. 21st, 2004 08:58 am (UTC)
Naiah and I have been talking a lot about the Zen of everyday life, including housework... I completely agree; once you get into it and relax, instead of feeling resentful at any level over having to do it, it almost frees your mind, like a form of meditation.

Not that I'd want to do it all the time, of course. :-)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


firesea: self-portrait
Heather Keith Freeman
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