Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Careers and Gender Assumptions

As part of our marriage planning class, Jason and I took a long personality assessment. First we filled in multiple choice bubbles about our own answers (which inspired some scan-tron nostalgia). Then we did the same thing, with the same questions, about our partner. Then we met to review the results of how we see ourselves versus how our partner sees us with one of the Marriage and Family Therapists who leads the class.

Luckily, this assessment didn't present any real surprises or major concerns for our future compatibility. We know each other pretty darn well and we know what we're getting into. We balance each other well, with his optimism and calm approach contrasting my neuroses and tendency towards negativity (or, as I call it, realism and planning for the worst while hoping for the best). It works, and now we have a therapist's seal of approval too. (Actually, they don't give seals of approval, though that might be handy for couples with in-law issues.) 

One thing we will continue to work on is the way in which stress (my stress) impacts our relationship. I am generally a stress-mess. My shoulders are knotted and gnarled with stress. My health deteriorates with stress. And a lot of that stress comes from my job. Don't get me wrong - I have a great job doing something I enjoy and believe in, and I get to work with other brilliant committed people. I'm very lucky. But the tradeoff is hellish hours, never feeling good enough, and feeling like I never accomplishing enough.

So I was initially amused when the therapist tried to elicit more information about my long hours, stress, and transition to management by asking "do you work in retail?" In the moment, I didn't think much about it because I was focused on the the real issue of how we deal with the impact of stress in our relationship. But throughout the day I started thinking back to that comment and getting a little ticked off.  And then I got really ticked off.

Retail??!!

Let me be clear, I have nothing against careers in retail. I've worked my share of retail and barista jobs back in the day, and I always treat shopping support and service workers with human respect. Heck, depending on where you work (high end designer stores) the best salespeople can rake in upwards of $60,000 a year on the floor from commissions, making it a viable career-type job. But still, I don't think she was asking if I work at the Tiffany's boutique just down the road.

I'd like to think her comment was related to confusion about my business casual attire (our office embraces California Casual. I was wearing dark jeans with a cute shirt and blazer) contrasted with my discussion of responsibilities. Even better would be if it was some sort of compliment on my incredible fashion sense (bwahahahaha!) possibly related to the amazing gold shoes I picked up at a resale shop for $12. But really, I know her comment was related to my being a woman. I think her default must have been to assume that women work in the service sector or caretaking roles, which might lead to a conclusion that management + late night hours = retail professional.  Yes, it's possible. But it's also possible that I work in a challenging office environment where I've worked my way up the chain and have earned my project management rights... just like she'd be likely to assume of a man. No man working long hours would ever get asked if it was because of "retail."

I am a smart woman with a high-powered job. My hours are long because I have a boatload of responsibilities advising major corporations and not because I'm dealing with inventory shipments at 9pm. My stress is the sort of stress related to impossible levels of multitasking. And if Marriage and Family Therapists in forward-thinking cities are still using bullcrockey gender defaults to frame their understanding of people and their relationship dynamics, then it limits all of us in imagining what our marriages can be and what our particular, healthy relationships might look like.

Overall, I have to say I've truly enjoyed our marriage planning course and think it's provided a lot of real value, especially with the hard questions and topics that we work through as couples and as a class. And the best parts are the conversations that continue at home, when we expand upon the topics from class. But I've noticed a disturbing tendency for the class' two therapists to discuss Men and Women in broad-stroke gender stereotypes and to see communication and challenges as traditionally gendered.  But I don't neatly fit into the gender mold and neither does Jason. And neither do most LGBTQ couples. Nor do a lot of us.

While there are certainly some biological differences between the sexes, I'm convinced that many of our assumed gender-related traits are learned via socialization and gender expectations about what it means to be a "good" girl or "good" boy. "Deviant" behaviors are punished by peers (boys who like art and music are "pussies") and behaviors fitting the prescribed gender narrative are subtly rewarded (Susy is so well-behaved, she gets an A!). That gender narrative is incredibly limiting and narrow, especially for a couple where the man is an artist and musician and where the woman is decidedly not well behaved, and it has no place in our broad-stroke discussions about how partnership functions and communication is enhanced.

I don't think our therapist meant anything specific in her comment, and I think it was probably a subconscious association. But if the people we rely on for help and advice about building healthy marriages are relying on assumptions about gender and interpersonal relationships, I think that's a problem. My marriage won't be built upon stereotypes and their assumptions - we're building it around us and our peculiarities, desires, and individual needs. And in our particular situation, many of the traditional tables have been turned: I'm the one working late, I'm the one currently earning more, I'm the one who's a bit more boorish about her opinions whereas Jason's the one making a home for us when he gets home from work with his garden and his delicious cooking and his household organization.

As our marriage gets closer, I get the uncomfortable sense that I'm about the get subtly punished again because I probably won't fit into the "good" wife narrative. My I-hate-folding-laundry behavior will be seen as unconscionably deviant. My inability to bake a cake (or anything, really) and the associated disinterest in putting a Kitchen Aid mixer on our registry means I'll be a terrible wife (and even worse for broadcasting my domestic shortcomings to our entire guest list.) And, even worse, I'm muddling through the implications of raising children while attempting to balance this high-powered career. Because suddenly my high powered career is no longer seen as good, and no longer assumed to be a point of pride for a bum-kicking career girl. It becomes another way in which I'm failing as a wife and mother, as defined my the standard gender tropes.

Retail. With one word, it suddenly hit me how hard this wifey gender thing might be. And sometimes, I get tired of fighting back to try and break the mold. And sometimes, I wish I hadn't destroyed my back playing rugby for so many years, so that I could fight back even harder. Yeah, that's right: rugby. So take that and stuff it up your gender-assumption piehole. A piehole which I obviously didn't bake.*


*though, now that I think about it, pieholes are actually mouths, so I definitely didn't bake any. But the line sounded so much better when I thought it referenced bake-able pie that could tie in with the Kitchen Aid mixer line. Mmm pie.

53 comments:

  1. Hey, we didn't register for a KitchenAid mixer either! I actually do bake, but not often enough or in large enough quantities to really require a standing mixer. I think for most people, the standing mixer is something that's super-useful the one time a year you use it, but is otherwise just a big hunk of metal taking up a ton of cupboard space. (Storage is at a premium in our current apartment.)

    Not much else to add, except annoyed solidarity on the assumption that you work in retail. And I also feel that I "fail" as a wife a lot because I moved to a new city away from my husband for work. Like Meg said over at APW this morning, you have to figure out what kind of marriage you want and believe in, but it's definitely hard when those around you aren't on board with your definition.

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  2. FYI: If you go this this website:

    https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

    Click Demonstration, then "Gender-Career IAT". It will tell you about your implicit associations about gender and career.

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  3. @Rachel - My career is in a niche field that doesn't really have many associations outside. However, I'm generally the only woman (aside from our VP) in a lot of meetings. And I've had people ask me if I'm the boss' secretary more than once. So I'm going with very very masculine.

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  4. my office embraces "austin casual" which is even more casual than "cali casual'---people at my office wear tennis shoes and t-shirts every day. i try to step it up a notch with jeans and a cute top usually. well, one time at the doctors office they asked me if i was a secretary because i had mentioned that i was on the phone all day. considering i have a masters degree, i was a little offended since i run my own department. i know i shouldn't let that stuff get to me, but i still do :)

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  5. I hate to be captain chill-out here, but it couldn't be at all possible that she just assumed "stressful job with long hours that makes your life a mess" = retail, right? (Because that's what I tend to draw from my experiences with friends, regardless of gender.) Of course not, she has to be attacking you and trying to fit you inside a gender role.

    I appreciate your ideas an opinions about gender, stereotypes, socialization etc; I just don't think they necessarily apply here to the point where it required 8 paragraphs of ranting. I think she made an assumption based on how you characterized your job, and you are now making an assumption that she's sexist.

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  6. Wow, I am a little shocked that a therapist, of all people, would make an assumption like that. Sigh.

    PS. Your lack of registering for a Kitchen Aid mixer could (theoretically) mean you already had one. (Ex. I inherited my grandmother's.) So, I don't think anyone should make any assumptions based on your registry and items that may or may not be there. :)

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  7. Sweeet baby christ. You realize that said person might have just been thinking of the first job off the top of the ol' head that has long hours. I don't think the implication was that you're on your hands and knees in the kitchen -- perhaps said person just had "retail" on the brain (or made a generalized assumption because, for whatever reason, you did't give off any hints that you're an i-banker.)

    I love when people take friendly conversation and try to twist it into some kind of horrific form of gender discrimination without thinking about the intent of what was said from a neutral point of view. Not to be blunt, but not everything said in this life is set out to attack you, nor your status as a woman on this earth.

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  8. Most people are too busy navigating their own lives to analyze wedding registries and extrapolate a blueprint of the marriage based on the items registered.

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  9. @Anonymous - I don't assume she's an active sexist, and I stated that it was likely subconscious. I also noted that throughout the course the two therapists leading our class have made some sweeping statements about Men and Women that have really made me uncomfortable. And frankly, active sexism isn't the same as subconsciously buying into gender crap - which she did. Because there's no way in hell that she would have assumed a man's long hours had to do with retail. None. Not in a wealthy part of town with students who paid a hefty sum to take this marriage preparation class. Not in a class/community where most men have MBAs or Law Degrees or are otherwise pretty darn financially successful. We're pretty much the only couples in the class not having a "class appropriate" expensive wedding, for this part of town.

    And I didn't just rant about her. I really looked at what these gender assumptions mean on a larger scale when Marriage and Family Therapists buy into them. This one statement (and many others in class) are indicative of a perspective on the world that I don't prescribe to, nor fit in with, and it sparked a larger thought process. I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that these very gendered views - even subconscious assumptions - guide the people married couples turn to for marriage advice and counseling.

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  10. @Anonymous at 8:56 - I don't really think people will analyze my registry - I was using that line less literally to hint at the broader issues, since I DO think they'll criticize my lack of domesticity. Being a "good wife" and a "good mother" (which are supposed to go together in our societal assumptions) are usually connected with kitchen skills. Women who don't have time to cook (because of high powered jobs) have failed their families. Baking is the ultimate motherly art, and one at which I am entirely useless and without real time to learn... because I'm busy being successful elsewhere.

    My mother was punished for being a career woman and never felt like a good enough mother or a good enough Director. She was incredible at both. But she didn't make our school lunches or attend class field trips the way other mothers did. Our Moms were asked to help with school fundraising, not Dads. It's gendered. And the peer community (or your own expectations) can be incredible judgmental about your skills as a wife and mother based on choices about career versus cooking.

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  11. A different AnonymousSeptember 15, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Do the women in this community also have MBA's and/or law degrees?

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  12. I think the point is, as you have said, not that this particular person made a [potentially inintentionally] sexist comment, but that it is a symptom of so many of the assumed gendered career/relationship roles in our society. I agree with you -- no one would ask a man if he worked retail if the only thing they knew about his career was long hours/stressful.

    I think society consistently discounts the contributions women make inside and outside of the home. If a woman isn't devoted enough to homemaking/family life, she's failed as a wife and mother, but if she devotes herself wholeheartedly to her career, people tend to have a "oh, isn't that nice, dear" sort of attitude about it. She's trying to wear the pants, her partner's a 'pussy,' (please note that the greatest insult you can fling at a man is to refer to him as somehow womanly). However, work in the domestic sphere generally is undervalued and underappreciated -- so a woman can't win, in short.

    It's not about the moment in which this therapist assumed she worked retail. It's about the overarching theme that a woman's work is undervalued and a woman is assumed to underachieve a man. Look at the pay discrepancy for quantifiable evidence of this. So no, this therapist probably wasn't trying to be sexist, but the remark sparked an internal dialogue that is relevant to many women who are struggling to define their identities in work and at home.

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  13. I like the post, thanks for raising good questions! It's so true, the very act of marriage brings up all kinds of Stuff-- our Stuff and others' Stuff, and converstions about that Stuff we didn't necessarily agree to sign up for.

    That said, I'd probably have said something similar if I were the therapist to either a woman or a man, given how many retail-laboring friends I have who are stressed out beyond reason at their jobs. In fact, because of my socioeconomic status and my group of friends, I'm likely to assume someone works in retail off the bat, no matter what they've told me about their situation. No harm no foul though, I certainly won't treat folks any differently if I find out they work somewhere a little less blue-collar.

    In this context, though, in a wealthy part of town, etc., it's legit to consider that the therapist was (as all humans do) acting on her own set of culturally informed biases, with all that entails. I think eventually virtually every woman will encounter gender stereotypes like the ones you're responding so strongly to.

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  14. This sounds an awful lot like my post from the other week about my mom's strangely antiquated views of my lack of wifeliness (I think I called it The Generational Divide or something like that.) I, too, would have been upset by the retail comment. Only I would then have felt guilty because I have family members who work their butts off in retail.

    As for the anonymous commenter who said, "Most people are too busy navigating their own lives to analyze wedding registries and extrapolate a blueprint of the marriage based on the items registered," that may be true of "most people," but "most people" is different than "Mom" or "Close but judgey relative." You'll have to trust me on this but close-but-judgey relatives WILL analyze the wedding registry and extrapolate. It's their job. They're close, and judgey.

    I am in a situation where I am the primary support for my family. I have the high-powered job with the long hours and the salary. I support my ex, not the other way around. Whenever this comes up in conversations, everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) cringes. You can see them recoil at the thought that I have the highest earning power and the most stressful job. Yet, somehow, I am still also expected to be the happy homemaker (I'm not; I can gracefully ignore and step over nearly any mess without batting an eye). It's sexism, pure and simple.

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  15. @A different Anonymous - Many do, or they have masters degrees. Or they have none (like me) but have good jobs anyhow. Westside Los Angeles, where I take this class, is a pretty high achieving community. If the women have babies, it's anyone's guess as to what happens then (there's a definite mix of SAHM and high-powered career women in this part of town.) So defaulting to retail/service sector assumptions, as reflected in an offhand comment that was never meant to do anything more than draw out conversation, is definitely gendered. Yes, men and women work in retail jobs. But no, I doubt many people would first assume that men's job-related stress would be retail-related.

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  16. To "A different anonymous commenter": Yes, as a matter of fact, I (and many of us) do.

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  17. These anonymous commenters are totally missing the point. Whether or not small remarks are on purpose or subconscious, gendered notions permeate our society. When a woman or man doesn't fit into those molds, others don't know how to react. It's like that riddle where a child and its father get in an accident and when they arrive at the hospital the doctor says they can't operate because they are the parent of the child. I remember being stumped the first time I heard it and then when I found out the answer was the doctor was a woman, I wanted to smack myself so hard. I'm a very vocal feminist but I was unconsciously gendering the doctor in the riddle.

    And on a more personal, less righteous point, I am totally with you on no baking. I don't have the time, patience, or the detail-oriented nature to follow a recipe to the T. No Kitchen Aid for us either.

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  18. I think you make an excellent point, particularly regarding the therapists - one would hope they of all people would be open-minded.

    As far as children goes, you will be looked upon askance by *someone* whether you choose not to have children, have them and continue working the same hours as your male workmates (never mind whether are not they are fathers), give up work altogether to look after them or attempt to forge some sort of compromise. But many people will also understand the difficulties of your position and sympathise, so you just have to forge your own path, and something tells me you're well used to that :D.

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  19. Well, I don't know how old your mother is or what sort of community she lived in, but I'm middle-aged and know tons of married working women my age who don't cook. Myself included. Their husbands do 90% of the cooking.

    And no one cares.

    They all have careers, but not necessarily high powered or long hours. They don't cook because it doesn't interest them.

    You are quite a bit younger. Unless the world has gone backwards lately or you move to an unusually traditional area, I don't think it's going to be the issue it was for your mother.

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  20. A different AnonymousSeptember 15, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    The reason I asked if the women in that community have advanced degrees, is because if that is the case, then I wouldn't think the therapist was holding unconscious gender views.

    She's been counseling other high powered women too. Right?

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  22. @A different Anon - yes, there are women with advanced degrees. But it doesn't change the fact that a man wouldn't have been asked the "retail" question. It's subconscious. If you asked her point-blank, she'd probably rattle off about how women can achieve anything they want (like she did, with her Masters degree.) And it doesn't change the fact that that she and the male therapist co-teacher make sweeping generalizations about Women and Men in class all the time (Women like romance. Women like to talk about their day without wanting men to fix things. Men want to fix things when you talk about problems... and so on.) I used this one salient example to talk about the broader issues and my frustration that a MARRIAGE THERAPIST needs to approach clients as individuals. The underlying assumptions are really hard to recognize, let alone break, but it's clear they're there. And they probably then have an impact on counseling practices

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  23. I'm curious if you told the therapist your thoughts on her assigned gender roles. Many times people don't know any better until someone has explained that there are alternative ways of doing things. I almost feel like it's my mission in life to open people's eyes to this kind of thing. But I also have to keep myself in check as my passion about it can come off a little rude....or as bitchy - depending on how one views a woman asserting herself and her beliefs.

    p.s. I'm a former rugby player too. I played flank and 8-man and I was the jumper. You?

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  24. @Davanie - Cheers! 2nd Row and flank and I lifted and was the jumper, depending on the year and team. I was also captain one year in college. I kicked bum, lots of them. I think one of my fave bum-kicking memories was playing scrimmage against our men's team and actually tackling a few of them. Oh the glorious looks of surprise...

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  25. @Bowie Bride I'm so proud of you for shouting out "sexist." I know you left the field feeling defeated, but I can't help but think you did a great thing. It probably unnerved the guy and everyone else there a bunch, hence the nervous laughter. It probably won't change his actions and language dramatically, but maybe your shout will ring in his ear for awhile continuing to unnerve him.

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  26. Re: "Well, I don't know how old your mother is or what sort of community she lived in, but I'm middle-aged and know tons of married working women my age who don't cook. Myself included. Their husbands do 90% of the cooking.

    And no one cares."

    ...yes, no one cares as long as someone is cooking.

    I agree that gender roles are changing - my dad did most of the cooking and in my current relationship it is shared 50/50. This works wonderfully when you've got a relationship where your preferences for cooking/cleaning etc. complement each other - but if you've got a relationship where you both hate to clean for example, and consequently your house is a mess, who do you think people look to?

    While we have come a long way with respect to gender roles, and men generally do share in the housework, I believe society still places the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the household is running properly with the women. Thus the endless guilt felt by working mothers everywhere.

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  27. @Anonymouses (anonymi?) -- Respectfully, you are the ones who need to "chill out." Becca clearly stated that she does not think this therapist is a raging sexist or that it was a personal attack on her, but that this was a subtle example of the assumptions we make about men, women, relationships, and careers. And, furthermore, she also said it was not the first time she'd felt like the marriage class had relied on assumptions about men and women as a foundation for their relationship advice.

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  28. @Bowie Bride - Hollywood, with all its onscreen and offscreen gender issues, never ceases to amaze me. And not in a good way. Living in LA is eyeopening. And these are the men writing the tv and movie stories that develop and reinforce some unfortunate cultural expectations about gender. You are kicking bum. And we'll take our small victories and cheer for your where we can. Even if we feel emotionally muddled about what it all means.

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  29. I seriously just wanted to scream YES when I read this! There has been quite a few times when we've met new people and been talking career that I have stopped them dead in their tracks. Yeah, that's right, I'm a civil engineering technologist, I love saying it with sass when they look at me. Honestly the first year was kind of fun, every old crusty construction man worker would tell me I would never succeed and I LOVED proving them wrong, but then it wore off and it was annoying.

    Then I got engaged and bam, right in my face, I was asked by a friend's wife, when I was going to give up my job and be a wife. I wanted to punch her, for reals, and we be friends. DO NOT assume just because I'm the one with the female parts that I'm going to stay home and be the "wife".

    This gets me so fired up. I seriously will post about it after the wedding because I could go on for a very long time. But you get a total slow clap from me...

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  30. Good points, well written post. As a professional woman in a career (medicine) full of men up top, but with shedloads of women working their way up through the lower training ranks, I see and hear this kind of thoughtless, flippant sexism all the time. It never fails to piss me off.

    Just a thought, from an almost trainee psychotherapist. There are therapists, and there are therapists. Especially in the area of family and marriage therapy, because the whole field is not coherently regulated. Not everyone's training will have been as rigorous, or have encouraged them to challenge their thinking to the same extent. So, I'm not as surprised as you are.

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  31. @Agirl - Sigh, I know. I seriously considered becoming a therapist for a while, but was disheartened by the for-profit/student churn nature of many of the graduate programs. And I didn't have the money or time to restart everything with a science-based PhD or PsyD program. It's unfortunate, because I also worked with a first-class therapist who really helped me get on track, and the poorly regulated programs devalue the profession as a whole.

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  32. Something I find really interesting in this discussion is the sports talk. There was a time, early in my career, when I used to read the sports news before heading into work so that I could fit in with the guys, but after a few years, I decided, eff that. I don't like sports. I do like baking, and I do love my children. I can still be an executive without having to give up my personality or my gender. So I suck at softball, and I will squeal if someone tries to tackle me, so what. It would have been just as offensive to hear that jerko third base coach tell a male player to stop swinging like a girl than it was to make a jerky comment about the "girly" way the woman swung her bat.

    I find this sports thing fascinating because I have never dated a man who was actually a sports fan (with the sole exception for Tony's brief interest in sports during the World Cup). In my experience, men who are not good at or interested in sports are made to feel less "manly," just as women are made to feel apologetic for not being sports enthusiasts -- and therefore being (gasp) girly. No matter which way you cut the sports metaphor, it makes sexist assumptions.

    Why can't it just be that some people like sports, and some people don't?

    And yet, when I watch my children, I think that there must be some sort of genetics working there. Because my daughter is the artsy one. She is the reader and the talker and the story maker. Her very first game that she invented herself at age 1 was "hats and purses." My son is all "boy" -- cars, trucks, trains, planes, balls, bats, bikes, running. Art schmart, he wants to play baseball. And he has been like that since he could lift his head and focus his eyes.

    All of this leaves me wondering, how much is society's presumptions placed on their shoulders and how much is just plain genetics? (I purposefully chose gender neutral toys, clothes, books and colors until they started picking their own things and naturally grabbed the gendered toys and clothes and colors. It was totally bizarre and happened surprisingly early.)

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  33. Yeah women in science and math also really throw people off, in the same subconscious way that was described here. For example: my husband and I both did our undergraduate degrees in physics and both went on to do something different in our careers - I work in a different area of research science while he works as a software developer. Recently, a cousin was starting a science degree at university and everyone in the family made sure that he spoke to John, since "he knows physics and math". Somehow they forget that I did the same degree. Really stings.

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  34. GREAT POST! I might write more later, but I've gotta run and take a conference call for my very demanding non-retail job.

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  35. @Hickbride and @Nina - yeah. I work in a science-y and engineering field. I am not an engineer but others in my office are (I work on complex regulation/compliance implementation while they manage the technical side of our projects). I'm science-conversant, and see it all the time. My close girlfriend, who's a civil engineer, commiserates with me regularly.

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  36. Sigh. Gender roles and expectations can be so subconscious and frustrating. D and I try hard to approach our roles in our relationship openmindedly (oops - that isn't a word, apparently. I'm leaving it regardless.).

    While he was in grad school, I did almost everything. I worked full time, I paid our bills, I did all the housework. Architecture school is brutal and I didn't mind taking over.

    When he finished, we had to work out a whole new system. We sat down and talked about the stats on shared work (women do most of it, even when we work equal or greater hours). We didn't assign chores, but we sort of settled into roles. He does the laundry most of the time, answers phone calls (I hate the phone) and sits down with the bills, I do the cooking most of the time. I do more cleaning and he does more fixing. Is it equal? Not totally. I'm sure I do more because I care more.

    And that's where my ingrained expectations come in. I'm incapable of having people over (especially parents) if I don't have a clean house and homemade food. I feel like I'll be judged (not us as a couple, but me as a person). It's easier because I like entertaining, I love cooking and I like a clean house, so I tend to fit the expectations pretty closely.

    And then I feel bad because my natural inclinations fit the traditional role. And I wonder if they are really my natural inclinations or if I've been brainwashed. And I wonder if it matters as long as D and I are satisfied with our personal take on gender roles.

    I'm not going anywhere with this, by the way. Just commenting to express my own frustrations as someone who actually does fit the traditional role pretty well but would BITE anyone who suggested that I am obligated to fill this role.

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  37. I always love seeing how many comments you have before I even read the post. The more "controversial" your posts are, the more comments from our lovely annon friends.

    My relationship dynamic?

    "the man is an artist and musician and where the woman is decidedly not well behaved"

    To each their own.

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  38. I'm in a male-dominated industry and the discrimination pisses me off sometimes. For example, this Friday - all of the MEN in the office get to skip work and go on a 2-night fishing trip (fully paid for by the company).

    Yet the women still have to come into work on Friday.

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  39. Oh, and I didn't even mention career issues. I'm in science but I'm a lucky duck currently working in academia, which is so much more equal gender wise than industry. It isn't perfect, sometimes it sucks hard, but having worked in technical industrial research, this is a million times better.

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  40. Hooray for you for recognizing this bizarre gender bias, and calling it out. Why the heck didn't she ask if you were a lawyer trying to stay afloat in this economy (esp. given the elite area in which the course takes place)?

    These assumptions frustrate me to no end, and I've actually discovered that they are WORSE ever since I've been partnered and started wearing a ring. Somehow, being a wife seems to be subtly devaluing in the professional world. When I didn't wear a ring, my accomplishments were my own; now they are assumed to be tangential to my partner's (eg., when he considered a position in another part of the US, his contact suggested that his partner come and "hang out" - with no recognition that I might have my own professional agenda that was not amenable to 'hanging out.')

    So much of this is so subtle as to often leave me speechless. I'm glad you are calling it out, and you might consider mentioning to the therapist that you found her assumption unnecessarily essentializing and sexist.

    Also, in response to Anon at 8:56: I think the world may have gone backward a bit. Feminism is less on the radar than it was when I was in college in the early '90s. "Post-feminism" is the agenda of the day, which simply means that sexism is more subtle and underground (see Becca's experience).

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  41. I'm getting married in a year, and have recently been sucked into the world of blogs, I especially LOVE the ones where someone is brave enough to open up their life and thoughts about the wedding planning process.

    But the one thing to remember when reading a blog it is THEIR BLOG! Their view on the world. Something the therapist said had an obvious effect on the lovely LA Love... and she used her blog to explore the feelings it created. If you disagree and are not going to be constructive about it, don't name call, don't knock down the person who is brave enough to put her experiences out there for others to reflect on.

    Those are my two cents.

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  42. This has been on my mind a lot lately. The boy's field (entertainmaint) is highly sexist. Totally feeling Brit's pain. When he and I got serious and bought our townhome a few years ago I was bombarded with all sorts of assumptions, most along the line of me=gold digger, him=high powered provider. Once, when we were at a dinner meeting, I had an agent ask me (verbatim) if I "do" anything besides making myself look pretty and showing up for the boy's events. I really wanted to spit my food in his face, but I politely told him that I was software engineer. Which confused him.

    The boy and I have long discussions about this because it's hard not to get desensitized to the crap and sweep it under the rug, especially when his field largely thrives on the objectification of women.

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  43. I cannot believe she said that. The worst part is that when you are young and enjoying success in your career you get this kind of crap, and then let's say, for example, you have a baby, and let's say, for example, you stay home and have hormones and fall in love with the baby and decide you'd rather have 5 children than work, then you get a different kind of crap. Over and out. I'm of an age now to be the witch in the fairytale. You guys carry on figuring out how to be prince and princess at once:). Thanks.

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  44. yep, i definitely encounter this today.

    Andrew recently resigned from his terrible, crappy paying job. and i recently got extended to a three year contract to my wonderful, well paying job.

    if we got pregnant- guess who'd be the stay at home parent?

    his parents would DIE of mortification.

    his mother will actually ignore anything we ever tell her about our routines to say things like:
    "well, what is LISA making for supper tonight?"

    I agree with Barefoot's analysis on "anon"- re: post-feminism. sad, but i feel, true. much more subtle and subversive, which means that it's really much more difficult to confront.

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  45. Ooooohhhhh I'm so glad you brought this up!!
    Reading through your post made me feel so much better :) The boyfriend and I have spoken about this subject lots and we keep going back to the same result - I'll eventually be the majority breadwinner.

    Although there are still people who assume traditional gender stereotypes, I'm surprised that your therapist would automatically jump to that assumption.

    Make that money, honey! :)

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  46. grrrrr.... i read one line somewhere middle and had to comment.

    my mom was asking what i eat for lunch at work each day. i told her i sometimes bring leftovers in or i'll stop at subway. then she asked, "what about josh?" and i said, "i don't know. he can make his own lunch." she was very surprised by my response and it made me feel guilty. then i thought about it - josh ate lunch before we were married and he'll continue to do it now. it's not like he's sitting at his desk waiting for me to trot in with a sandwich and an apple. WTF, dude. i will admit the past couple of days i've made us both PB&J sammies in the morning, not b/c i felt it was my wifely duty, but i would have felt like an asshole not making two. that's just common courtesy. :)

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  47. Wow. That gets under my skin in all sorts of ways. Go you being awesome!

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  49. i never quite know how to respond to posts like this. I always get nervous someone who reads my blog will see my 'right on you go girl' comments and think 'who does this girl think she is? she loves cooking and cleaning and keeping home'. i also am married to someone who has a much less stable job than me, of the two of us i am the one gets shit done. it pisses me off when people make assumptions, i do hope the therapist regretted what she said right after. please know you're awesome, you can balance it and you just have to tune people out.

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  50. oh brother.

    i think your point here, LA, despite whatever anons come along... is that no matter the therapist's intent or frame of mind, she reminded you of an interesting aspect to getting married. yes?

    it's going to keep happening, as long as men are still in the majority of prominent well-paid, admirable positions. women will be assumed to be nurses while men are doctors. women are kindergarten teachers, men are college professors. i think, though, that it had less to do with our preconceptions of what a woman can do, and more to do with what women have been allowed to do. glass ceiling and whatnot.

    mine is more of a frustration with our tiered workforce than sexist perceptions of what women can/can't do.

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  51. Just want to chime in about the therapist thing, being one myself.

    I agree with elizabeth - what's more important is that the therapist reminded you of an interesting aspect marriage, one that you feel passionately about. Comments like hers will continue to be made in the future from all kinds of people - people you trust, people you admire, people who are genuinely trying to help you (ahem, therapists), and people who are smart as hell.

    So I think a more interesting thing to consider is NOT the fact that therapists make sexist assumptions, but more: What does it mean for you when people you respect/like/love etc., consciously or unconsciously make sexist assumptions? Which is exactly what Becca seems to be doing here.

    And just to reiterate the obvious: Therapists are people, too! We eat unhealthy food, struggle with fidelity within our marriages, are influenced by sexist societal constructs, and text in our votes to American Idol (when no one is looking) just like everybody else! Sheesh.

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  52. Walking Barefoot said: "Also, in response to Anon at 8:56: I think the world may have gone backward a bit. Feminism is less on the radar than it was when I was in college in the early '90s. "Post-feminism" is the agenda of the day, which simply means that sexism is more subtle and underground."

    You should have been in the workplace around 1977 to 1985. From my longer perspective, it's nearly impossible to discern any going backwards.

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