Friday, December 29, 2006

Blah Blah, Coley's a rambling ass.

Last week I went to lunch with a few guys from our IT department. We had a conversation that has been turning over in my brain for a while. No real conclusions, just some mullings.

Basically the whole conversation boiled down to the Mormon (and other groups as well, but my experience was always with the Mormons) constrained gender roles. I know all groups have specific ideas about gender roles, but I think the Mormons are a little nuttier about it than most. For example, my little sister dressed as a “gangsta” for Halloween a few years ago. She was adorable, baggy pants, visible plaid boxers, huge T-shirt, some “bling” and a do rag. Halloween was on a Sunday that year (which means The Sabbath, so no going out, at all) so the Mormon teenagers had a party planned. My sister wasn’t allowed to wear that costume to the party because it was considered cross-dressing, and therefore, unacceptable. Yeah, seriously.

One facet of the conversation dealt with family and moral roles of genders. In Mormon culture, men work, and lead the family. They are in charge, and women can make their wants known, but the man has final say. (You can see right here why I left this religion at a very early age.) Furthermore, while the men are ultimately responsible for the morality and eternal salvation of their families they really can’t control themselves; women are supposed to quietly guide their men. Never disagreeing, per se, but when a man fucks up in his marriage (infidelity, abuse etc) the whole community pities the poor man, and blame is placed with the woman.
The idea here is that men cannot be held responsible for their lust, tempers and wandering eyes. While they should strive to be faithful to their wives, really if a hot piece of ass is presented, they can’t be expected to turn it down. So as women, we should all change our behavior so as not to accidentally tempt men and lead them to immorality. Or so the Mormons would have us believe.

Another facet of this conversation, revolved around traits and behaviors we associate with either men or women. One man, we’ll call him S, mentioned that when he tries to be more kind and understanding to his kids he found himself behaving in a way that he identifies with women. To him, and a lot of people, showing compassion and understanding is a very “woman-thing.” We kind of talked about that, and the others agreed that when they made a point of being nice, they emulated women.

We took that a step further and discussed some traits we associated with men. And S brought up the fact that a lot of women who’d been successful at their jobs, he really identified their behaviors as “masculine.” And furthermore, when he felt like it was time to assert authority, whether at home or at work, he was “being a man.”

This lead me to thinking: if nice is a womanly trait, and harsh is a manly trait, what do we as a culture really think about men? That they are brash, harsh, aggressive and completely irresponsible for their actions. And what do we think about women? That they are nice, weak and vile temptresses.

Not really my idea of a person I’d like to spend time with. But at the same time, we, as a whole, reward those who exhibit man-like qualities. As S mentioned, the women who’ve made it to the highest levels of success at our office were seen as behaving like men.

What a sad statement about our culture.

I guess this is shit occupying my mind while we plan for kids. I’d really like to raise kids who will be who they are and do what they like, rather than be who culture tells them to be and do things because it’s the predetermined boy/girl thing to do. I want daughters who will play football AND play dress up. I want boys who will take dance AND play with Tonka trucks. I don’t want my boys thinking that they are truly “men” if they are kind and gentle people. I don’t want daughter’s who think they have to be mean to get ahead in life. And vice versa. Unfortunately, the rest of the world will influence the hell out of kids too. No matter how much I encourage my kids to feel, and be kind and be strong, the rest of the world is going to tell my boys that Men Don’t Cry, and Women Should Stay Home and Raise Babies. It just pisses me off.

I like to think that I challenge some gender norms in how I live my life. But at the same time, I know I make assumptions and have some rigid gender roles in my head too. I guess, all I can hope for, is that I’ll be open-minded enough to look past all that shit and teach my kids that they are ok, no matter what gender roles they choose.

Yeah, rambling whatever done for the day.

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