Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Attack of the Gender Roles

They’re the n-word of academia.

If a young woman in a modern college classroom even breathes a word about wanting to be a mother instead of (or in harmony with) pursuing a doctorate and a specialized moneymaking career, she will be instantly jumped on and firmly squashed by hoards of raging feminists accusing her of submitting to the patriarchal society they’ve fought so valiantly against for the past few decades. The phrase “gender roles” is screamed about and paraded around like a fascinating and horrible disease that only uneducated, unenlightened people succumb to. Heaven forbid a young woman to waste all the opportunities available to her and choose to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen for the rest of her life. 

In my experience, this response has become especially virulent in the English department, where analyzing ancient fairy tales and gothic novels is the perfect opportunity to show the historical oppression of women and to plug a feminist agenda by forcing students to analyze and discuss “liberation” texts by pioneers such as Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The professors might as well start their lectures by shouting, “Women, don’t you dare you get an MRS degree and become locked in the slavery they call marriage. There’s student loans to pay and you just spent four years of your life in higher education: you’re a fool to want to toss that aside for wailing babies and husbands that only care about dinner and sex. Get with it, ladies—this isn’t 1953. You’ve been liberated. Want to have sex? You don’t need to get married; just find several dozen decent looking hunks and experiment—after all, that’s what guys do to you. Got a nice body? Show it off and ensnare as many men as possible—it’s your right and privilege. Want to make lots of money? Go for it—make your man stay at home and do the dishes and diapers. And pregnancy? Don’t worry, honey—there’s a pill for that, and if those don’t work, a little surgical procedure will make everything all better. Now, turn to page 52 of The Yellow Wallpaper.”

The basic message is this: avoid motherhood and the domestic life at all costs. If you MUST be a mother, fine, but get a solid degree and a settled career first, and as soon as the kid can breathe on it’s own, toss it in daycare and get on with your life. You’ve done your duty to procreate; now start thinking about yourself for once.

What has happened in our modern society where we make girls ashamed to want to be mothers, where children are seen as burdens, where men are portrayed as lusting dictators that enjoy locking their wives and girlfriends in the bedroom attached to the kitchen? I’m sure the males out there don’t enjoy being stereotyped as lecherous despots any more than the ladies like being boxed in as docile homemakers. But God forbid you asking the men for their opinion: I will never forget the one English class I sat through where male literary characters were torn to pieces as being evil, dominating hedonists, all while nearly reducing to tears the young man sitting beside me. He couldn’t have spoken a word, however, without getting shot down by a barrage of dirty looks and shrieks of “patriarchy!” 

Such a cutie! And the baby is cute too...

To put it bluntly, we’ve castrated our boys and masculinized our girls, and the result is that a lot of young people today are walking around very confused. A girl is afraid to be seen in an apron washing the dishes in her dorm kitchen. A boy fears getting kneed in the crotch if he holds the door open for a girl. And when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I have to paste on a fake smile and lay out my exciting and lucrative career path in biomedical studies and scientific journalism, even though the inside cover of my human anatomy textbook is scrawled with baby names and various vegetable varieties I want to grow on my farm someday.   
“Gender roles” isn’t a dirty word; it’s just a phrase that cheapens the honorable occupations of provider and homemaker. And from a purely scientific perspective, it makes sense for men to do hard work and for women to perform more domestic duties. Male bodies, designed with dense bones, larger vital organs, and increased muscle mass are ideal vessels for physical labor, while the female body is perfectly suited to nurture, feed, and comfort children (and give backrubs to a girl friend in need). They’ve even done studies that show men don’t generally like being at home folding laundry and disciplining children (check out Steven Rhoad’s book Taking Sex Differences Seriously).

Masculinity and femininity are part of our natures and especially part of our souls. Our bodies are good, and the things they were designed to do are good. So please, academia: stop making men afraid to assert their masculinity, and stop making women ashamed to want to be mothers. It’s getting on my nerves.


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