Happy belated International Women’s Day folks. How was it for you? Did you spend your time getting warm fuzzy feelings from your feminist twitter feed? Did you sit and ponder how far the women’s movement has come… but how much work there is still to be done? Or, did you sit at home thanking God for your boyfriend who happily washes his own underpants and socks. Because according to a recent online dating survey it is in the area of love (I’m talking romantic hetero-normative here) in which the women’s movement had has it’s biggest successes, with romantic relationships still being the ultimate goal.
The survey focuses on the distribution of domestic chores, illustrating just how much house work men are now willing to do and how shrinking numbers of women see their natural role in life as being wives and mothers. Er… Hello? Didn’t we know this already?
In making a song and dance about traditional gender roles in relationships and how couples nowadays are happy to eschew them, this ‘research’ is a) stating the obvious b) alluding to the fact that if equality in the household has been secured, the work has been done, the goal has been achieved and c) subtly illustrating that on some level, to not prescribe to the traditional gender roles is a radical relationship to find yourself in. Obviously, this research has been conducted with a specific aim in mind (i.e. to get people to signup to their dating site) but still. The arguments and conclusions insinuated bug me for various reasons, some of which I’m going to share with you now. Are you sitting comfortably?
Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man.
Did you know that, according to this survey, only 11% of men think that it’s a woman’s natural role to be in the home? Did you realise that 84% of men would happily share cooking and household chores. Of course we did. It’s 2013- this is what we expect of everyone nowadays, male or female, right? Men don’t need a pat on the back for cleaning the loo once a week. I spent 6 years co-habiting with a man and on many occasions I was told (not by him) that I was lucky to have a boyfriend who cooked dinner 4 times a week and remembered to clean his poo marks out of the lav. I was to be thankful for the fact that he remembered to take out the recycling. Isn’t this type of distribution of domestic labour a given nowadays?
Surveys like this do nothing but perpetuate the gendered binary which clearly defines certain chores as male and female. It suggests that if you have a man who is willing to take care of HIS OWN CHILDREN, you have an enlightened man, you are an incredibly lucky girl … better keep a hold of that one. Bullshit. You have man who is doing what he should do and he doesn’t deserve any extra praise for it. And, lemme tell you, you don’t have to sign up to a dating site to find one of these special men either… don’t waste your money… you’ll get nothing but cock shots (I’m speaking from experience here). Save your £30, better still go down the pub. I know plenty of websites where you can look at cocks FOR FREE
The Power of Equality.
If we’re led to believe that having a relationship which gives us the night off from cooking 3.5 times a week is the ultimate, where does this leave the wider issue? Does this lull us into thinking we have achieved equality? That it is in fact a woman’s world? I spoke with a friend of mine who is hesitant to call herself a Feminist because she believes her life is unaffected by the fact that she is female. Further probing revealed that she meant within the work place and she settled with calling herself ‘a part-time feminist’, but I don’t think this is an uncommon belief with regards to society as a whole. I know a few people, men and women, who do believe that we have equality. It is, in my opinion the biggest success of the patriarchy- that a large proportion of people don’t see there is a problem. Men and women alike are victims of this system but women more so. I thought I’d illustrate my point with a few titbits from my twitter feed in the last week:
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): An amazing article by @RosmundUrwin in the London Evening Standard on Friday 8th illustrated that ‘an estimated 66,000 women and girls in Britain have undergone FGM […] and that 30,000 girls are currently at risk’.*
Take back the tube. On Friday 8th @elliecosgrove protested against sexual harassment on the tube after she was sexually assaulted and EJACULATED UPON by a random man.
Violence Against women (@Vday) Did you know that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime? One in three.**
Women and Politics. ‘ Nuff said.
Do any of these things suggest we live in a society which treats women and men equally…?
All you need is love.
So, what is it that women really want? Equal pay? Autonomy over their own body? The freedom to walk down the street without hearing such lovely stuff as ‘tits!’ or ‘bend over love, you want summa this’? What about not being shamed and blamed when they are the victims of sexual assault? Pppff. No, no, no- all of this is irrelevant… once you have a nice boyfriend who, when he does the dishes, washes, dries AND PUTS THE POTS AWAY, you have made it, my dear. You need not look any further. Yeah right! Excuse me while… *head desk*.
Everyone knows that you cannot get all of your happiness from one single relationship. Being in love and being loved does not make everything in life ok; in some cases love is not enough. And being a single person doesn’t make you any less worthy or make your life a total shit heap, either. I am 31, I’m single, I have been single on and off since I ended a 7 year relationship, 3 years ago . I am sick and tired of having to explain why I’m ‘still’ single (FYI: IT’S COS I’M PICKY, OKAY!). It is as if singledom has some sort of expiry date, a sort temporary ‘resting place’ in between your romantic relationships. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I am equally as annoyed with people making assumptions about my reproductive choices based upon my single status. If I hear one more person say ‘Ooh, you’re 31. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Better get a move on old girl’ I will vomit all over my rather fetching leopard print Converse (I love these trainers. I will be SO SAD if them get covered in puke).
Truth be told, I’m not sure if I want children, and if I were in a relationship I’d still be unsure. What I’m trying to illustrate is that my single UNLOVED (ahem) status has nothing to my reproductive choices, it is no measure of my worth as a young woman, nor does it make me a ‘failure’ even though, this is what society would like us to think. It’s ok to be single, in fact in some ways, I actually prefer it. I think more people of my age should try being single.… preferably the hot skinny indie boy who lives at the end of my street (mwahahahahahaha). But, seriously, how many people are trapped in crap relationships because we’re bombarded with a sort of social propaganda which puts coupledom on a pedestal and perpetuates the idea that to be single is to be defunct. I certainly know a few people in this situation and I bet you do too.
If the ‘equal’ partnership in the form of monogamous romantic love with a man is the ultimate prize for women where does these leave gay and lesbian relationships? Or polyamorous relationships? Our friendships? Our relationship with ourself? Aren’t these relationships important too? To all of this I say a big fat YESSSSSSSS! Such research findings may have been fluffed up to appear progressive but really they’re not. All these surveys do is further the idea that the worth of women and men is to be found within the traditional structure of domesticity, albeit through a smug liberal lens.
* London Evening Standard
** 2003 UNIFEM report entitled “Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women,” 2008, the UNITE To End Violence Against Women Campaign.
Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.