Posts Tagged ‘gender roles’

Don’t Assume I Fix Things

September 15, 2010
An excruciatingly crude drawing of myself wielding a hammer with the words, "Please Hammer, don't hurt me."

I am man, hear me roar.

It’s a well-known fact around our household that I’m not the least bit inclined toward handymanliness, or, for that matter, rudimentary dexterity (as evidence, see the “drawing” to your right). I can’t even use duct tape properly; when I try to do anything with it, I end up with a tape wad torn at multiple weird angles.

For many years, this wasn’t a problem. When it came time for me to move out on my own after college, I made sure that the first apartment I rented was in a house owned by a retired guy who constantly tinkered with stuff as a hobby. Even though he and his wife lived across town from their rental property, he kept his workshop in a detached garage behind the apartment house. His wife banished him there whenever he was either making too much noise with power tools, or whenever it appeared he was about to accidentally blow something up. Since either of these two situations were occurring nearly all of the time, he was always around whenever something went haywire, and the result was that I never had to fix anything.

But all things must come to an end, and about six years ago my wife and I decided it was time to settle down and buy a house together, therefore magically transforming us into Responsible People. Maybe not quite Responsible People in the Middle America sense of the term, since we actually bought the house first and then got married a little later, but we were Homeowners, dag nabbit, at any rate.

We quickly realized we were in over our heads. For starters, neither of us enjoy anything to do with maintaining green-colored things that grow, yet we had a flower garden area in front of and alongside our new home. Since we moved in during November, we didn’t know what flowers would come up during the spring and summer, so we just decided to wait and see.

The flaw in this reasoning was readily apparent the following spring as soon as plants began sprouting. We didn’t see hydrangeas and tulips and nettles and dandelions. We simply saw green stuff, and we had absolutely no idea what was supposed to be there and what was a weed. So, after one year of botanical chaos, we had a landscaper come in, rip out the flower garden, and replace it with a collection of a few shrubs poking up from ground that is otherwise now covered in stones. Yeah, we’re classy people. But at least we’re Responsible Homeowner-type classy people, even if we don’t know chrysanthemums from kudzu.

Don't Assume I Fix ThingsThat’s nothing compared to the inside of the house. In our upstairs bathroom is a vanity cabinet that has three mirrored doors on it. At least, it’s supposed to have three mirrored doors on it. It actually has two. About a year and a half after we moved in, one of the doors fell off. We’ve never gotten around to replacing either the door or the entire vanity cabinet. We figure that it still works fine as it is right now, it doesn’t bother us, and we can always get around to replacing it if and when the time comes to move.

That, however, pales in comparison to the time we actually had to call my wife’s father to come over and change a light bulb. I kid you not. The bulb in our bathroom ceiling fan burned out several years ago, and after nearly an hour of trying, neither of us could figure out how to open it up so that we could get to the bulb and change it. So, it was Father-In-Law to the rescue. I don’t feel terribly emasculated about that one, though, since it also took him about 20 minutes to figure out how to get the cover off the light fixture.

There was also the time that I was on the verge of calling a plumber to fix our bathtub because, after 45 minutes of hard plunging and pouring in two economy-sized bottles of Drano, I could not get the water to go down. Little did I know through that whole ordeal that I had the drain closed the entire time.

So why would I mention all of this now? Because it just took me 15 minutes to open the battery compartment on one of the kids’ toys, that’s why.


Confounding Rampant Genderism, Then and Now

July 21, 2010
Cover of "Bob the Builder: Let's Find Shapes"


Right now my 18 month-old daughter is in that stage where she wants to have the same book read to her over and over, and over and over, and over and over . . . The book of choice is Bob the Builder: Let’s Find Shapes, which isn’t the least bit surprising considering her favorite toys have always been things like dump trucks and toy construction equipment.

The book is a little unsettling, though, due to the context in which the only clearly female character in the book appears. I realize that on the Bob the Builder TV show, many of the construction vehicles have female voices, but we don’t normally watch the show, and you can’t tell the machines’ genders from the book. Instead, the only woman, Wendy, appears holding a tray of cookies with the caption, “Wendy has star-shaped cookies for Bob.”

It’s flabbergasting, considering the book was published in 2002. As bad as that is, the book isn’t nearly as cringeworthy as some of the older things we have around the house.

Take, for example, the series of 25 pamphlet-style cookbooks I somehow wound up with from my parents that were published in the early 1960s. They’re littered with such gems of statements as, “Here are 250 recipes gathered . . . to help the hostess increase her repertory and add variety to her family’s everyday menus,” and “Sunday night suppers . . . give Mother an opportunity for training the children in the entertaining of their own guests.” Throughout the series of books, the person for whom the recipes are compiled is always assumed to be a woman, a mother, and a “homemaker.”

Better yet, the recipes in question are always for things like “Chicken á la King with Ham Rolls,” “Paté de Foie Gras,” “Chicken Pie de Luxe,” pies, cakes, cookies, and even candy made from scratch, because the female homemaker and parent in question clearly has nothing better to do than spend all day cooking an absurdly complicated evening dinner. There’s even a category of “After Sports Suppers” to be made when, you guessed it, the men are all sitting around watching sports on TV. My personal favorite is a recipe for something called “Chicken Calcutta,” because adding a pinch of curry powder and a pinch of chili powder to something apparently makes it Indian (it’s part of a “Cosmopolitan” recipe section of “Oriental” food).

I can’t help but wonder what a person who helped compile that crap would think of our household today, where I stay home with the kids while my wife goes to work, and our daughter plays with toy dump trucks and rugby balls when she isn’t busy trying to wrestle her two year-old brother to the ground. To top it off, our son likes to pretend to go to work. When he does this, he says, “Go to work,” and puts on one of my wife’s necklaces, rather than a tie.

I hope that individual could withstand passing out from shock just long enough to hear me to say, “Welcome to the 21st Century, dickhead.” It wouldn’t matter if the cookbook author in question was male or female; you don’t need to have one to be one. This is the 21st Century, after all.

Topsy Turvy

May 14, 2009

My wife and I sometimes wonder whether we aren’t really of opposite genders from what our respective anatomies would suggest.

It isn’t just the fact that she’s the one who goes to work and I’m the one who stays home with the kids and does nearly all the cooking, laundry, etc. It’s also the fact that if something breaks and needs to be fixed, she’s usually the one who figures out how to do it, becuase I’m usless at that sort of thing. She’s the one who had posters of Led Zeppelin and Kiss in her room as a kid, while I’m the one who had a toy tea set. My parents used to joke that I’d make a good wife for somebody someday, and I’ve been told by numerous people through the years that I have some vaguely girlish mannerisms. She, on the other hand, is a Renaissance Faire dork (generally a very male thing, I’ve noticed) who currently counts the very guy-ish Big Bang Theory among her favorite TV shows.

For further evedince, here’s the following conversation from tonight:

Me: There’s an Ani DiFranco concert on PBS tonight.

Her: What?

Me: An Ani DiFranco concert.

Her: Who?

Me: Ani DiFranco.

Her: Who’s that?

Me: You’re kidding, right?

At any rate, now that the Ani DiFranco show is over, I will go reclaim my manhood by watching playoff ice hockey. I hope the Ducks rip Detroit apart. There, I feel much manlier now.

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