Traditional Roles: Slavery for Women, Lordship for Men

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“As long as yuh cooking and jamming… is all good.”
This was the cheeky statement from one of my male friends, when I started a discussion on Facebook about traditional roles in the home. Now, he said that’s what “a wise man in UWI’s ‘small’ cafeteria once told the ladies”, but, if you ask the average West Indian man what the appropriate role for women in a marriage or relationship is, you can bet on a similar answer.
For some women, the institution of marriage is just another form of slavery. Men may face the pressure of providing for their home, but women worry about who’s going to do the chores and take care of the children when that time comes. In last week’s article “Marriage: Attractive, Archaic or Irrelevant” by Afiya Ray in Outlish, a man she interviewed said, “I had my wife on probation for 13 years before I decided to go through with this marriage thing… I was able to see that she could wash and cook and her body held up after our child”.
For obvious reasons, this made some people steups, and while it doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of all men out there, it does remind us that women are judged on their ability to ‘take care’ of a home, in addition to their Coca Cola bottle shape. On the other hand, do men battle with expectations of them being a pseudo butler or that their women will think differently of them, if they can’t fix a bad pipe? I think not.
One friend told me that a ‘friend’ of hers recently told her that he didn’t think she was the kind of woman to come home to cook and clean, since she ran her own business. While he was proud of her ambition, he considered her ‘non-traditional’, and, thus, not necessarily traditional wife material. What pissed her off was that he seemed to consider it to be a big deal, because his mom always ‘took care’ of his father.
“I’m not saying the man can’t cook or clean either,” he added. “But the woman has to do more work.”
Some might say that’s 1950s’ thinking, but in 2011 men and women continue to argue about house roles. For example, when a male friend recently posted a Facebook status, saying that he needed to find a wife ASAP because doing laundry was such a pain, I expected him to get some flack, but the barely contained anger in the responses from some of his female friends surprised even me.
My theory is that most men want a woman who will do what their mothers did for their fathers. It’s important to note, however, that the majority of these men didn’t grow up with their mothers as CEOs and executives working 11-hour days. I can understand when a man wants, or expects that kind of treatment, because it’s the only example he knows, but admittedly the thought of doing everything I saw my mother do is daunting.
From a practical perspective, women know the importance of maintaining a clean home and a full belly. However, I think the bone of contention lies with being defined by traditional roles.
While traditional roles may be a sore point for modern women, for older women, it’s considered the secret to success. When I asked my aunt, who has been married for over 30 years for her opinion, she told me:
“Keep his belly full and his balls empty. Take care of yourself because he ain’t blind, he will look, but he must be able to say that what waiting for him at home is better than what is being offered to him outside.”
I haven’t met a man yet who disagrees with that statement, and I don’t think I ever will, but while I think it makes sense my inner feminist is still a tad peeved by it. This is mainly because I think it implies that the onus is solely on the woman to make a relationship work.
As a single, twenty-something-year-old woman, I sometimes wish that I had a man around just so I wouldn’t have to do everything in my apartment. Putting together furniture, hanging photos, lifting boxes, disposing of dead mice? Gross! In fact, I’ll gladly do five loads of laundry or cook for ten people before I pick up a hammer.
Most modern women, myself included, expect that our partners will be able to shoulder some of the domestic responsibilities around the house, like cooking and laundry, instead of relaxing, while we do housework. To tell us that this expectation implies that we are not “the type to cook, clean or take care of a man” is an insult.
My aunt, who I mentioned before, and her husband both work, but if he wants stew chicken for dinner and he ‘gets home’ before my aunt, which is usually the case, he will take the chicken out of the fridge, defrost it and season it, and he will do the dishes afterward. He also helps in other areas, like remembering to put his whites and darks in the appropriate basket so when it’s time for her to do laundry, she doesn’t have to sort his clothes. For sure she handles the cooking and “jamming”, and the responsibilities of five children, but not without his help.
I think most women would welcome this arrangement, and that any man whose wife or girlfriend has a career would think that sharing responsibilities is only fair. However, it is human nature to stereotype and assign roles based on gender, so frankly I don’t even know if moving away from traditional roles is truly possible unless circumstances demand it. I personally think people should be allowed to do what they’re best at when it comes to domestic chores regardless of gender. If both parties in a relationship work, getting all the chores done will have to be a team effort, especially when you throw kids into the mix.
In situations where either party doesn’t work and stays at home full time, I think it is fairly safe to assume that the “house husband” or “house wife” will bear the lion’s share of the domestic duties.
As far as I’m concerned too many people get all caught up “in love” and forget that “see me and come live with me” are two entirely different things. No one, male or female, should assume that their partner would have the same attitude to traditional roles as they do. People need to be honest in the courtship phase about how important traditional roles are to them. Fellas need to realize that no woman they meet is going to be or do things exactly like mommy, and women need to articulate to their partner what kind of help they expect around the house, early on. When it comes to traditional roles in the home, a little cooperation around the house can go a long way to getting quality “jamming ” on the regular.

housework“As long as yuh cooking and jamming… is all good.” 

This was the cheeky statement from one of my male friends, when I started a discussion on Facebook about traditional roles in the home. Now, he said that’s what “a wise man in UWI’s ‘small’ cafeteria once told the ladies”, but, if you ask the average West Indian man what the appropriate role for women in a marriage or relationship is, you can bet on a similar answer. 

For some women, the institution of marriage is just another form of slavery. Men may face the pressure of providing for their home, but women worry about who’s going to do the chores and take care of the children when that time comes. In last week’s article “Marriage: Attractive, Archaic or Irrelevant” by Afiya Ray in Outlish, a man she interviewed said, “I had my wife on probation for 13 years before I decided to go through with this marriage thing… I was able to see that she could wash and cook and her body held up after our child”.  

For obvious reasons, this made some people steups, and while it doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of all men out there, it does remind us that women are judged on their ability to ‘take care’ of a home, in addition to their Coca Cola bottle shape. On the other hand, do men battle with expectations of them being a pseudo butler or that their women will think differently of them, if they can’t fix a bad pipe? I think not.

One friend told me that a ‘friend’ of hers recently told her that he didn’t think she was the kind of woman to come home to cook and clean, since she ran her own business. While he was proud of her ambition, he considered her ‘non-traditional’, and, thus, not necessarily traditional wife material. What pissed her off was that he seemed to consider it to be a big deal, because his mom always ‘took care’ of his father.

“I’m not saying the man can’t cook or clean either,” he added. “But the woman has to do more work.”

Some might say that’s 1950s’ thinking, but in 2011 men and women continue to argue about house roles. For example, when a male friend recently posted a Facebook status, saying that he needed to find a wife ASAP because doing laundry was such a pain, I expected him to get some flack, but the barely contained anger in the responses from some of his female friends surprised even me. 

My theory is that most men want a woman who will do what their mothers did for their fathers. It’s important to note, however, that the majority of these men didn’t grow up with their mothers as CEOs and executives working 11-hour days. I can understand when a man wants, or expects that kind of treatment, because it’s the only example he knows, but admittedly the thought of doing everything I saw my mother do is daunting. 

From a practical perspective, women know the importance of maintaining a clean home and a full belly. However, I think the bone of contention lies with being defined by traditional roles. 

While traditional roles may be a sore point for modern women, for older women, it’s considered the secret to success. When I asked my aunt, who has been married for over 30 years for her opinion, she told me:

“Keep his belly full and his balls empty. Take care of yourself because he ain’t blind, he will look, but he must be able to say that what waiting for him at home is better than what is being offered to him outside.”

I haven’t met a man yet who disagrees with that statement, and I don’t think I ever will, but while I think it makes sense my inner feminist is still a tad peeved by it. This is mainly because I think it implies that the onus is solely on the woman to make a relationship work. 

As a single, twenty-something-year-old woman, I sometimes wish that I had a man around just so I wouldn’t have to do everything in my apartment. Putting together furniture, hanging photos, lifting boxes, disposing of dead mice? Gross! In fact, I’ll gladly do five loads of laundry or cook for ten people before I pick up a hammer.

Most modern women, myself included, expect that our partners will be able to shoulder some of the domestic responsibilities around the house, like cooking and laundry, instead of relaxing, while we do housework. To tell us that this expectation implies that we are not “the type to cook, clean or take care of a man” is an insult. 

My aunt, who I mentioned before, and her husband both work, but if he wants stew chicken for dinner and he ‘gets home’ before my aunt, which is usually the case, he will take the chicken out of the fridge, defrost it and season it, and he will do the dishes afterward. He also helps in other areas, like remembering to put his whites and darks in the appropriate basket so when it’s time for her to do laundry, she doesn’t have to sort his clothes. For sure she handles the cooking and “jamming”, and the responsibilities of five children, but not without his help. 

I think most women would welcome this arrangement, and that any man whose wife or girlfriend has a career would think that sharing responsibilities is only fair. However, it is human nature to stereotype and assign roles based on gender, so frankly I don’t even know if moving away from traditional roles is truly possible unless circumstances demand it. I personally think people should be allowed to do what they’re best at when it comes to domestic chores regardless of gender. If both parties in a relationship work, getting all the chores done will have to be a team effort, especially when you throw kids into the mix. 

In situations where either party doesn’t work and stays at home full time, I think it is fairly safe to assume that the “house husband” or “house wife” will bear the lion’s share of the domestic duties. 

As far as I’m concerned, too many people get all caught up “in love” and forget that “see me and come live with me” are two entirely different things. No one, male or female, should assume that their partner would have the same attitude to traditional roles as they do. People need to be honest in the courtship phase about how important traditional roles are to them. Fellas need to realize that no woman they meet is going to be or do things exactly like mommy, and women need to articulate to their partner what kind of help they expect around the house, early on. When it comes to traditional roles in the home, a little cooperation around the house can go a long way to getting quality “jamming ” on the regular.

 

Check out the rest of this week’s issue (2/05/11; Issue 55):

Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!


Dzifa Job

Dzifa Job is a freelance writer and the voice behind the blog Musings of an Empress (www.dzifajob.wordpress.com). Her writings have appeared in One Love Houston, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly In Sports, The Integrationist Quarterly, and Caribbean Axis. Dzifa is a graduate of Syracuse University, and holds a Bachelors degree in Public Relations from the Newhouse School of Communications. A Trini, living in New York, she spends her downtime writing, training for fitness challenges, and going on adventure vacations.

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