Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gender Roles

(Note:  This is just what I have observed, not necessarily what I believe, endorse or judge.  Any angry remarks can be promptly shoved up your ass.)

I once read an article about a Polish monk who was offering sexual advice to couples.  He said that most of Poland's problems stem, not from communism, but from chauvinism.  While women are by no means second-class citizens, I have noticed a distinct difference in people's views on gender roles.

Some of my students are well educated, have been to more places in the US than I have, hold well-paying jobs, and consider themselves modern.  Yet they still firmly believe in the traditional roles of men and women.  Men are supposed to hold the jobs and support the family, women are supposed to cook, clean and raise the children.  One memorably said, "For a girlfriend, it's better to date the pretty, thin girl, but for a wife, it's better to have to woman who can clean, cook, looks OK."  Clearly this is almost the opposite of the New American Wife.  Women are expected to cook anymore, and finding one that can cook well s considered a snag (only if she's got the personality and the look.)  I asked a student what the price of milk was in Poland, he replied, "I don't really know.  My wife does the shopping."

Pan Rothstein, my former Polish professor, remarked how marriages between American men and Polish women tended to work out, while marriages between Polish men and American women were doomed to fail.  American women are more independent.  Many don't want children, can't cook worth shit and aren't really bound to tradition.  This mindset is contra to the traditional Polish mindset and so friction can get quite high.

I was lectured on my poor manners when I failed to hold doors open for women.  I tried to explain that in the US, most men don't do this.  In fact, it can get you yelled at.  While it used to be a simple gesture, now it's taken on a symbol of male superiority for some reader.  Women don't like to be thought of as weaker (hey, it's no skin off my ass.  I get first dibs into the door and I don't have to be polite by holding it open.)

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