We had someone round to do a bit of work on the house last week. We’ve used him a few times. Really nice bloke. We were chatting about me working from home, looking after the kids, while Liz had the ‘proper job’. It happened to be quite a tough week, as Liz had been out or away with work every evening, so she’s barely seen the kids, and I’ve had full responsibility for all the hardest bits – getting ready in the mornings, getting them to bed.
Anyway, it also happened to be a quiet week for me work-wise. It happens sometimes. My work as an architectural photographer is quite niche, and my business has always had ups and downs. So I was there doing all the household chores and talking about what I’d do for tea that night. And he said “so you’re the wife then.”
Now, it wasn’t said in a critical, condescending way at all. In fact, he’d just been saying how he’d love to have more time with the kids, and less work. If anything there was some envy there. And I agreed with his statement with a laugh.
I think it sums up entirely where we are at as a society though. Few seem to have any issues with such role reversal (at least not my generation or younger). But looking after the house and the kids, and earning less than your partner, is still often seen as the woman’s role, even if that role is not seen as any less important. We have a long way to go. Only when it is no more seen as a woman’s role than a man’s will the equality race be won.
In other words, being perfectly OK with role-reversal is not enough. The term role-reversal itself needs to become meaningless.
Little boys playing with toy kitchens and parents being fine with that because they don’t want to gender stereotype is not enough. Little boys playing with toy kitchens and parents not giving it a second thought because there is no sense in which kitchens are for women is the goal.
Of course, there are differences between men and women that may never be eliminated, but as someone said (I can’t find the exact quote) – “don’t talk to me about less women than men wanting to be engineers until there are no societal barriers for girls to do so. Only then will we know if that really is the case”. Something like that.
Equality between men and women had always interested me because it’s one of those features of our world that I find ridiculous. Like racism. One of those things that (assuming we survive as a species) will be looked back on with a shake of the head, like we do about slavery and segregation and women not having the vote.
Of course, with two little girls, it has also all become a lot more personal, as I think about what kind of a world they are
growing up into.
To finish, a quote my wife found. “When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated, and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.” (Lean In, 2013)
Well, I’m not going to argue with that.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography