Hard Wired for Traditional Gender Roles

A light went on over my head the other day.  My boyfriend and I have had various conversations over the years about what might take us to another city.  I suddenly realized my general assumption was if he took a job elsewhere, that would be where we move.  It never occurred to me that were I to come face to face with an opportunity elsewhere – we’d move there!

My initial question was, why? Why did I assume it would be a move for him and not for me?  There are two possibilities: 1. As he is the main breadwinner, we go where he gets paid, or 2. He’s the man, so we follow his career.  As I thought about these options, I realized it put my career in an interesting holding pattern with either option.  So, to look at it another way – were I to become the main breadwinner, would I look at this differently?  I have no idea.  I’ve also never assumed I’d ever make that much money, following a career path in the non-profit world.

While I pondered all these things, my boyfriend assumed my reaction was due to option 2, which led to him telling me gender roles are overrated.  I have a hard time believing that is where my brain was coming from – we tend to go against most traditional gender roles in our relationship, the best example being I prefer not to cook, and he loves it.  Is my brain really so hardwired to these gender roles that I’ve never actually bought into, or fit into, for that matter?

I always remember being told I could be anything I wanted, go to any school, study any subject.  It makes me wonder what other things my brain has been hardwired for that I haven’t realized yet.  There are certainly days I wish I could be a stay at home wife, but my boyfriend has those days too.  At some point doesn’t everyone feel so busy, so crunched for time, that it would be nice to have some one take care of you while you stay home, run errands in the middle of the day, sleep in regularly?  I have that – and then I remember how bored I would get!

In my search to better understand what people think of as traditional gender roles, I found articles about how to sell homes to a modern couple, how giving girls Barbies teaches them the woman “ideal,” how dressing boys in blue and girls in pink, or switching that, can thrust them into those traditional roles or confuse them.

I played with dolls and cars when I was a child.  I was a tomboy and a sorority girl.  Is that the modern version of gender roles?  Pick a little from each, as it makes you happy?  I was too young when I was put in hand-me downs from my brother to know or take offense that I was wearing “boys” clothes.  I detested the color pink in elementary school – now I want everything in pink.

Does it really go back to what toys you played with as a child, or is society still trying to say the man is more important?  As much as things have changed even in my lifetime, many traditional gender roles are still in front of us everyday, even if we don’t notice it.  It’s in books, on TV, in movies – we just don’t realize it because it is “traditional” and normal to us.  And breaking away from that makes you “modern,” or so my searches have told me.

Originally appeared on Fem2.0


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