Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Our Gendered Lives

My in-laws are currently visiting. They arrived on Sunday afternoon, and will be leaving tomorrow morning.* The time before their arrival, and their visit, has lead me to make some observations about gender in my life.

1) Before coming to visit, my mother-in-law asked my husband to tell me that I shouldn't worry about having everything spick and span, as she was not intending to bring the white gloves. Note: she did not just tell my husband, she specifically told him to tell me. This makes a certain amount of sense, since I tend to notice cleanliness more than my husband (I'm sorry honey, but we both know this is true), but instead of making me less worried it made me more worried. Additionally, it made me a bit mad that we would be held to different standards. Of course, I am judged by the state of the house, but he isn't.

2) This "righteous" anger was quelled a bit, when I realized I, too, have similar judgments. While cleaning the house, I cleaned all of the baseboards and window sills, which were quite filthy. Noticing their filth, I thought to myself, "Wow! ____ _____ sure didn't keep her house very clean." When I related this to my husband, he admitted having similar thoughts directed at the previous male owner of our house, but with regards to the yard and construction of the house. Ah - how the social construction of gender gets perpetuated. Grrr.

It is very frustrating to realize that you are part of the problem. I suppose that's the first step towards recovery. Just as with race, recognizing stereotypical beliefs in oneself is the first step to changing them. Maybe, if I work hard enough, I will not reify gender when visiting my hypothetical, future daughter-in-law. I'll just pick some other arbitrary standard to hold her to. ; )

*I should point out that I really like my in-laws. We just have very different worldviews from time to time.

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