Friday, 19 April 2013

How can I raise feminist boys when I'm in charge of the housework?

Swings and roundabouts
There is a gender imbalance at the Palace of Bundance. One against four, me against them. 

There is often a sense of the adversarial in the matter... And that makes me rather sad.

I try very hard to set the best example I can. Not sighing, rolling my eyes and saying "boys" when there is chaos and noise. Encouraging and instructing them in the traditionally female tasks. Teaching them to look after themselves, and pointing out and correcting slips into casual sexism and objectification.

But I fear it isn't enough. Not by a long chalk. 

Of the five of us, I'm the one who makes most of the choices on domestic matters and actually does most of the work. I'm not complaining about how or why that happens (not in this post anyway) it's just how it is in our house and, I suspect, many others. 

But how, if that's the example I'm setting, can I blaze a trail of equality for my future men to follow? What else can I do? 

I want my boys to grow into a world where men and women are valued equally - at work and elsewhere. 

I want them to be given the same respect as their female peers, and vice versa. 

I'd like them to be shocked by casual sexism in the same way I am. And for it to be as blindingly wrong as racism and homophobia. 

Sexism still sickens me - yet I wonder if I'm failing in the fight against it. 










16 comments:

  1. Tough one, Ellen, but maybe less a responsibility for you than for the adult male in the household. That's who your little ones look to when they are finding out how to be a man. However, I do think we women do have responsibility when we sometimes corner and defend the household tasks because we sneakily like them done in a certain way. I know I do - the Prof always clears the table and washes up and then I can't resist wiping it all down again because I like it done MY way!

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    1. Jeannie, you're spot on. To get the tasks shared we have to give up control and that's the really hard bit.

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  2. The thing that men do more than women (on autopilot) is brag and tell stories. Learn to show off and "chest thump" a little, and all of a sudden housework wont be such a lowly occupation.
    For the record I was raised in a "role-reversed" household, and that was the big difference between dad and my mate's mums... all the stuff he did was an adventure or an accomplishment... like "man-flu" in reverse.
    That's the area where real gains can be made, how much you show off, rather than what you actually do.

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    1. Thanks Andrew. That's an interesting way of looking at it - making it somehow 'macho'. I'll have a think about that.

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  3. This is such a tricky one, and think it applies the same if you have daughters. When you find the solution let me know...

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    1. *whispers* I suspect the answer involves getting men to share responsibility and us letting them.

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  4. Tbh I don't think it's a matter of feminism but of raising your boys to clean up after themselves. Making sure you don't do all the cleaning, washing, tidying away that they help as well so it's INGRAINED into them.

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    1. You might be right - I've initiated a family meeting so everyone starts sharing.

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  5. It can be done, my husband is the product of a 1950s household (despite being born in '78!), so divided were his parents' roles. His mum did not work. His dad did not clean, wash, or cook. Even now, his father has cooked about two meals in his entire life.

    And yet, my husband and I are such complete equals when it comes to child rearing / household responsibilities, you'd think he'd been raised by a community of feminists!

    The key is probably to raise them to be kind, considerate of others, and to clean up after themselves. Hopefully the rest will flow from that.

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  6. As a mum of 2 girls it can be just as difficult. Out of necessity my husband is currently working away from home Monday to Friday so all the "domestic and household chores" fall on my shoulders. This is reinforced by the grandparents who think he must be so tired he needs a "nice rest at the weekends !"
    I used to be such a strident believer in equality but somehow feel it has all fallen by the wayside due to economic reality.
    I run my business to show my girls that you can be a wife and mother and still be part of the business world but sometimes feel I am just putting added pressure on myself.
    Sorry, just a wee bit of a rant there :-)

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    1. It's incredibly difficult when practical/economic decisions get in the way.

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  7. Actually, I think you have an advantage in that you only have the one sex. You don't have any girls to give the 'girls' jobs' to, so everyone is going to have to muck in and have a go at everything.
    We have quite an unusual distribution of jobs in our house, I do all the gardening and car stuff and DH does the washing and cooks for us ( I cook for the kids).
    I don't know what the result of this will be for our kids, but I'm hoping they will all be prepared to have a go at anything.

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    1. Perhaps that's the thing - we need to get rid of the notion of 'girls' and 'boys' jobs.

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  8. Those poor boys will never have a chance to be men. All because of you Mom!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, but it would be better if you said who you are.

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