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Not quite a Stepford Wife

After last night’s class I started thinking about typical expectations of women and gender stereotypes.  In some ways I think I must have come from some Bizzaro World.  I grew up with a feminist mom whose main priority was her career.  There weren’t really gendered stereotypes being acted out in my home or family.  It wasn’t until I was 18 and spent a holiday with a boyfriend’s family that I understood gender stereotypes.

 

Christmas at my boyfriend’s family home in Ohio was probably one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.  After dinner, it was like some magnetic force pulled the men and women into opposite areas of the house.  The men retired to the den where they sat in front of the TV.  The women seemed to act out a scene from the Stepford Wives in the kitchen.  I was uncomfortable and even a little scared.  I had never witnessed this behavior before.

 

The men in my boyfriend’s family did not make me feel welcome in the den.  I was expected to naturally fall in line with the women in the kitchen and busy myself with dishes or something.  The ladies who were not cleaning or packing leftovers into little containers were at a small table talking.  I thought I could handle a conversation.  I was wrong.  They were talking about cleaning products, child rearing practices, and things that made me cringe.  I really started to feel like there was something horribly wrong with me… and my family.  My boyfriend’s family was perfect, normal, All-American, and I was a complete outsider who did not belong.

 

Another Bizzaro World sort of experience happened when I told people I was pregnant.  In class, we talked about the pressure women feel to HAVE children.  Well, my family was well aware of the fact that I was not interested in children.  My dad’s reaction to my pregnancy went like this: “But you hate kids….”  I thought “hate” was a strong word but, whatever, I understood his point.  He’s not the only one who used that exact phrase about me either.  So I was expected NOT to have kids.

 

I sort of grew up in a different environment than other people.  But when I got pregnant I started to feel that magnetic pull to join the women.  I didn’t want to be a Stepford Wife, but I did suddenly morph into a Mommy.  It is the most important role in my life.  Despite the fact that my mom (who is my role model and biggest influence) is a career-oriented feminist who will tell you that family is a second priority to her career, I find myself putting my role as a mom before anything else.  I could probably even manage to contribute to a conversation among the Stepford Wives of my old boyfriend’s family.  (Not that I want to though!  Gross.)

 


4 Comments

  1. kmsweet says:

    I really like that you shared this! My parents got divorced when I was young, so I grew up with a mom who had to work as well as take care of her kids and the home. Because she had to play both traditionally male and female roles, I never really associated different jobs with either gender; I just saw it as what my mom did. Then, when my dad remarried, I saw stereotypical gender roles being acted out. My step-mom had two kids and didn’t go back to work. I began to notice that my dad was always the one doing the work outside, and my step-mom was constantly cooking, cleaning, or taking care of her kids. Then when I looked to my friends’ parents, I saw that these gender roles weren’t really that uncommon.

  2. sgadille says:

    I really liked reading this blog. What stood out the most is how you put being a mother first and nothing is above that. That in itself is something that really is great to hear. And the way that you express it doesn’t take away from any of your other attributes as a person. Gender roles did exist in my house growing up and yes, I did use them to get out of doing things.

  3. ninazm21 says:

    You’re boyfriends family sounds very similar to my family. By family, I mean my extended family on my mothers side. Whenever we get together for a family dinner whether it be thanksgiving, christmas, a birthday or just a summer barbecue its very similar to what you described. Usually after dinner, all the females in the family clean up, do the dishes and pack up the food. While all of the guys will be either sitting in the living room watching a game or playing cards outside. Also, you will find a group of ladies who are not cleaning talking but they probably would not be talking about cooking or cleaning lol. The difference is after the cleaning is done we all usually sit together, the guys don’t make it awkward for the girls to join them. But, I just found it really interesting how you described a situation that was so familiar to me yet so unfamiliar to you.

  4. Jack Manska says:

    Interesting reflection, our immediate family does not subscribe to any gender stereotypes. However some in our extended family do and I identify with your early reticence. When I do find myself in situations as you describe I like to assist in the after dinner chores which turns the tables. Perhaps this makes them as uncomfortable as they did you.

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