I’m writing this at 4:30am from a bus stop in Sloane Square, waiting to get home for some much needed shut-eye. It is another fifteen minutes before the next bus arrives and if there was ever a time to kill, now is the most weak, vulnerable calf of a time I have ever come across.
I took the decision tonight to travel up to Oxford for a dinner party, returning the same evening due to commitments in London the next morning. Hardcore, out of character perhaps but well worth it for the fantastically stimulating dinner chat which passed around the table. A tip I learnt from my father is to never let a dinner party pass without learning at least one new thing. What did I learn tonight? Nothing quite enlivens the room like a good old cogitation on the existence of gender roles today and the acceptability of house husbands. I guarantee it is a discussion everyone has an opinion on – if it fails to raise a response then chances are you’re probably eating dinner on your own.
We certainly had a spirited debate to say the least and Nancy, our resident liberal Californian vehemently stated (much to her boyfriend’s delight) that she would be incredibly happy to go to work whilst her partner stayed at home taking care of the kids, tending to the petunias and making sure her skirts were ironed (perhaps that’s not quite how the conversation went, but you’ll forgive the hazy blur of a tipsy, sleep-deprived brain).
However, why would this not be considered the case in the first place? Is simple biology the culprit? After all, men are neither capable of childbirth nor have the ability to breast-feed, both of which go some way to encouraging a woman’s nurturing instincts and stronger priorities towards their cultural gender responsibilities. Indeed, some go on to say that the fact that many women tend to be more attracted to “alpha males” explains a man’s drive for power and control, which are therefore partly the result of a female preference. So, is it in fact women who are to blame for their own subordination?
Of course not. If it is just because of an innate sexual disqualification as opposed to a male-dominated culture or social prejudice then women would still be in the position they were fighting to escape from a hundred years ago. Anyone in this day and age reading Robert Wright’s statement to explain feminism away (“there is not a single well-known feminist who has learned enough about modern Darwinism to pass judgement on it”) would cringe at its ignorance. No, whilst the root of traditional gender-roles can be found in nature, its firm establishment within the heart of social norms is a greater determining factor.
When it comes to gender roles however, Western Civilisation is now at a stage where self-determination is, quite rightly, a higher power than social convention. Today, certainly more so than sixty years ago, women and men (let’s not forget the men) have a much greater freedom to choose the role they fall into when it comes to relationships or life-choices, and are only limited by what they are anatomically capable of (although even this is gradually being chipped away).
Freedom to choose is the key, and the term “gender-role” is on the road to being left in the dustbin of history. A well known doctor once said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” We all make our own decisions, and society does not have to do it for us.