“But Mom, I’m a BOY.” – The argument for why men and women need to learn a range of skills
I was in the home of a friend the other day who was cooking a meal, and she turned to her 11-year old son and said:
“Why don’t you come into the kitchen and learn how to cook this delicious recipe with us?”
He looked at her like she was crazy and said:
“But Mom. I’m a BOY.”
…and walked away. She shrugged it off but I was speechless. Completely dumbfounded.
I kept my mouth shut because I was in her home, but also because she’s a devout Muslim who has a very traditional family, and whose husband as a role model for his son, does not clean, cook or do anything in the home. She also doesn’t work. Her whole life is her home and her family.
However what he said about being a boy (and using it as an excuse) made it seem like it was a fact of life that he was male and didn’t do “female things”, which included cooking, cleaning or watching children (I am assuming the last part as he is only 11).
That’s when I realized 2 things:
1. I am very lucky to have a partner who isn’t like that
My partner is 100% not like this at all. He is the #1 person who manages the household, and by that I mean:
- Grocery shopping
- Meal Planning
- Making sure we have supplies and don’t run out (toilet paper, soap, etc)
- Planning (all sorts of planning, even vacation planning, or planning to move)
- Moving (packing all the kitchen equipment, and unpacking as well)
- Laundry (only his, because he has very specific ways he wants his laundry done, so he does it himself)
That’s just to name a bit of what he does. He also does light cleaning but hates it, so I tend to take over if I can in this area, including loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning in-depth (he even yells at me sometimes when stuff isn’t super clean up to his standards).
(His face looks like Joan Harris sometimes. LOL)
He also knows how to sew (his mother taught him when he was young), repair things, and basically be self-sufficient.
The ONE area where I take more of the control is finances, but only tracking it in detail because I’m a freak.
I pay for everything, track it in detail (he hates tracking stuff in detail), then invoice him for his half, which he then enters into his own personal tracking sheet.
With a baby to take care of now, I’m the #1 caregiver for Baby Bun, which he understands (now) is not an easy job, particularly since I don’t get a full night’s rest any more (more than 4 hours).
2. I am never going to let my children learn such gender-specific behaviours
Men and women both have to learn to be self-sufficient in all areas of their life.
I don’t really care if afterwards people choose traditional roles, like wanting to stay at home as a stay at home mom, or that guys don’t cook because they don’t like it.
Just as long as they know how to survive on their own, is good enough for me.
This means learning how to cook, sew, do laundry, clean, do minor repairs, manage their money and budget, know how to invest it, mow the lawn or do household chores, and everything in between.
Otherwise, how can you survive as a decent citizen?
Is it really fair to expect someone else to do all the work for you, or to have to find someone to rope into doing the things you never learned how to do?
What will my friend’s son do for cooking or laundry? Eat out all the time? Bring his laundry back home every week for his Mommy to do?
These are all rather shameful things in my opinion; shameful that a person would not know how to do basic tasks to survive and be self-sufficient without relying on anyone else, or paying someone else to do it.
I think everyone should be forced to learn basic life skills in school, in Home Economics for instance.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHOULD EVERYONE BE FORCED TO LEARN BASIC LIFE SKILLS?
I agree. My bf also contributes and shares responsibilities with me, we both believe that both sexes need to know basic life skills. I also laugh when people say that “cooking” or “sewing” are for “women only” because many men are chefs and tailors. My step-dad was a chef in the U.S. Navy and he didn’t see it as degrading.
Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans
I completely agree with you! The BF actually knows how to cook better than me, and he even knows how to sew (and I don’t, but need to learn)! It’s great to be in a relationship that doesn’t assume any gender roles. Growing up, my parents definitely treated my brother and I differently (he didn’t get very many chores, I cleaned, did his and my laundry, etc.) and now that we’re both grown up, you can really see how this way of parenting negatively impacted him. If I were to have kids, no matter if they’re a boy or a girl, they will both know how to cook, clean, do laundry, etc. – it’s part of life!
Emily @ Urban Departures
I agree with all your other commenters. It’s so important to be self sufficient regardless of gender. During a zombie apocalypse, it won’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy; the zombie will eat your brains and those with basic life skills have a better chance of survival.
I grew up in a more “traditional” household where my mum did the domestic work and my dad did more the manual labour. He would have helped with the housework, only my mum saw it to be her responsibility because she’s a woman. It frustrated me to no end.
In my household, the work is distributed to strengths, and by strength, I’m not referring to physical work. I cook because I’m better at it and simply because I love to cook. My husband does pretty much everything else, including most “kid” duties; he changes 95% of the diapers. We intend to teach the kiddo how to cook, clean, sew, grow his own food, wield an ax, run from zombies etc.
I agree so much with this. It annoys me so much when I’m visiting family and have to face criticisms of not being “enough of a girl.” However, I don’t think the problem of gender-roles are in Muslim families alone (referring to other comments). Mostly they’re in cultures and most people aren’t willing to accept something is wrong with their culture.
I’m a Somali-Canadian Muslim and my brothers and I have never had clearly defined gender-roles. We all did the household chores (cleaning, making the beds, washing the dishes, etc). Even now they love to bake and are always trying out new cakes, or muffins that they read off the internet. I hate cooking and only do it because I can make full meals, whereas my brothers are better at making deserts.
My dad taught them that it was normal for a family to take care of the house together and it was not the responsibility of women, but of the whole family. I remember one of my brothers refused to wash the dishes because it was “a girl’s job” and my dad told him he’d be washing it for the next month. My cousins, on the other hand, have clear roles in their household and it baffles me because we all grew up together and yet we’re so different.
I have a lot of feelings and opinions on gender-roles, and fully agree that everyone should learn these basic life skills. That being said, I never really learned how to cook and my soon-to-be husband takes care of all the meal planning and cooking. We grocery shop together and he seeks my input, but that’s about as much as I contribute to it.
I wouldn’t even consider it being “forced” to learn, to me it’s just a requirement for survival, period! 😛
But, yes, culture does play a huge part, and sometimes it takes generations and even a change of location to change people’s attitudes.
Even in our Westernized culture, we still do the boy/girl designations (just look at the blue/pink color schemes for babies!) and it’s sad how those gender roles are drilled into us from the day we’re born. I think our generation is a little more sensitive to that though and we’re making better progress.
I agree, I love the Like a Girl ad campaign, and showed it to my co-workers (I work in mining with 90% males) to get their opinion. I have to add though, it happens absolutely everywhere, regardless of where we are from.
I agree with Louise that Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a great book, but by no means does she represent Islam. She is from Somalia, where her experience came from a fundamentalist point of view. My father was raised Muslim, and from Africa (Lebanese), and this isn’t representative of the faith. They do coddle their kids, both male and female, however the new generation aren’t quite the same. Again, it happens everywhere I go, these gender roles. Half of the guys at my work buy lunch, and why? ‘Because their wives didn’t make enough leftovers the night before for them to take’.They also expect the females to clean up the kitchens regardless of our positions and answer the phone if our receptionist isn’t around, because, and I quote ‘that’s a female’s job. PS: We’re all under the age of 36 here and live in Calgary! I’ve seen this attitude repeatedly at companies I have worked for!
I think everyone should learn the basic life skills to be independent and self-sufficient. I am lucky my husband is quite independent himself – able to take care of himself, so I don’t have to worry about him. I am always aghast at how my sister takes care of her BF like she is his mom!
I agree, don’t understand how this is still a question. People don’t (generally) live at home until they’re married any more, so at some point they should learn to be self-sufficient.
My fiancé does laundry, can cook (simple, but complete) meals, can clean – all the domestic “women’s work”. I can shovel snow, cut grass, do small home repairs – all “men’s work”. I’m cool with getting rid of gender roles for sure 🙂
I considered myself quite lucky to have T, because he moved out and lived on his own for 5 years before we met, he was quite self-sufficient. He still does help a lot with cooking and cleaning and he does his own laundry as well. No matter what gender of child(ren) we have, we want them to learn all the basics of “living”, taking care and responsibility for yourself, and learning to live in an equal partnership.
I have a male co-worker who is even older than I am, lives on his own (owns his own house) but still has his Mom or sister make all of his meals for him, he’s of the same culture as your example above.
I totally agree, everyone needs to be self-reliant and self-sufficient, regardless of what gender they are. I couldn’t live in a very traditional household like that just the same way as I wouldn’t pick a partner who values those roles. We are very lucky that we don’t have to settle for that!
Louise @ Good Financial Choices
It’s scary how much conditioning we put into children and how much society influences them into these gender specific behaviours.
Having a home life like your friends does really set her children apart by their gender, I wonder what their futures will hold? Will they follow this path into adulthood, or will they rebel and see their childhood as strict and strange?
An interesting book about growing up as a Muslim woman(and thus being the family cook/cleaner whilst brothers played) is Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a great read if you are interested in this sort of thing.
I don’t mean this to come off sounding critical of *you* or this post or anything … but I just don’t even see how this can be a matter for debate. No brainer.
Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way
During our few months of marriage, my hubs was totally naive when it comes to household work except cooking because he really loves cooking. 🙂 I think my in-laws didn’t teach them when they are kids because they are “all boys”, but for me, even if you’re boy we should teach them a basic life skill.
I loved reading this because living in the generation we are in today, there are so many gender roles placed. I recently watched a video ad on Youtube that was about “Like A Girl” and all these younger girls were asked what like a girl meant, and their answers were so innocent and pure. The older people were asked what “Like A Girl” meant and their answers were so negative.
I agree. It’s just practical, unless your friend’s child is a trust fund kid who only needs to worry about how to manage his money to pay for the cook and maid :).
BTW, I like how you argue it’s about being self-reliant. I often see that people argue that men should learn to do x, y, or z task that’s considered feminine because it’ll make their future wives happy. That’s just riddled with problems.
Anne @ Money Propeller
I would also be dumbfounded. My spouse came from a family where it wasn’t so much about gender (though it was in part), but more about the responsibility that each parent had being passed down (stay at home mother, long hour working breadwinner father). My Dad found himself lacking in a lot of basic lifeskills when he went to university and vowed that any kids of his would never have that problem. I am so grateful to my parents for that. Both my brother and I can cook, clean and fix things. We never had explicit chores, we were expected to contribute to the household.
The perpetuation of such gender stereotypes makes me really mad, in fact.