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.)