(Guest Post by Sweepy Jean)
Although women still fight many battles, we have come quite a long way in the never-ending struggle for equal rights. But for all the gains that we have earned in the societal and political arenas, how liberated are we in our private lives—and how liberated do we want to be?
Although I’ve been married for 26 years, I’m hardly an expert on relationships. But I have always believed that a strong relationship begins with strong individuals, sort of a “you’re-only-as-strong-as-your-weakest-link” kind of thing.
When I got married in the mid 1980s, the term “Ms” was just gaining widespread recognition as a legitimate title. In part, the terms “Miss” and “Mrs” were sexist because they defined women by their marital status, whereas with the term “Mr,” does not define men by their relationship to women. Even though I was proud and happy to be a new bride, I immediately identified myself as ”Ms” instead of “Mrs” whenever possible. I still maintain that practice.
Among other injustices, American women still do not earn equal pay compared with men in a similar job, according to the National Organization of Women (http://www.now.org/issues/economic/factsheet.html). But what about the perks associated with being a woman? We do get special treatment, right, or is that old-fashioned thinking? Did feminism kill chivalry?
The household chore divide - Back in the day, certain chores were considered women’s or men’s chores. To my credit, I taught my son and daughter with equal strictness how to do everything from kitchen duty to vacuuming to laundry—but not taking the garbage outside! In my head that’s a man’s job and I’ll only do it if I absolutely have to. Besides, quite honestly, taking the garbage out is nasty business and if stereotypes keep me from having to do it, I’ll gladly keep my mouth shut and reap the benefits. Is anybody with me on this?
Holding doors - On a superficial level, I don’t mind if a male stranger and I are approaching the door of a building at the same time and he goes in first, holding the door for me to walk in after him so that it doesn’t slam in my face. I would do the same for him if I arrived at the door first. But on a deep down level, I resent him just a bit for not letting me walk in first, although I would never think of doing the same for him unless he was holding a reasonably heavy package. I expect my husband to let me walk through doors first. He doesn’t have to open the car door for me; we’re usually in a hurry and don’t have time for that. In my experience, men usually carry on the tradition of letting women walk through doors first. Have you noticed the same thing?
Paying for meals/dates - As a married couple of relatively humble means, our money is intricately entwined, so it doesn’t really matter who pays for what when we go out on a date. Either the money is coming from the same pot or we alternate. But if I were single, I imagine I would expect the man to pay for everything. Do single women today actually feel the same way? Maybe some women prefer to pay their own way on a date?
So, how about it? Can we still be strong, independent, and liberated women if we still enjoy being treated like a “lady?” Or maybe one has nothing to do with the other? Let us know what you think.
Sweepy Jean is a poet and editor living in New Jersey. Her blog, Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, (http://sweepyjean.wordpress.com/) showcases some of her poetry and discusses the writing life, women's issues, and personal observations. Thank you so much, LaVonya, for inviting me to guest on your blog!