On Shoveling Snow and How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too

Today I did something I’ve never done before. I shoveled snow. No, I didn’t grow up in the south. I grew up with snow. I just never shoveled it. My brothers did. Yes, I’ve been grown and gone and married for years now, but my husband and I live in an apartment where the handy men shovel the walks. And so, somehow, I’ve made it to my mid-twenties without shoveling snow.

It is often said that patriarchy hurts men too, but I don’t think this is emphasized nearly enough. My brothers were expected to do all of the outdoor chores while we girls were assigned the indoor chores, which was especially handy in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. My brothers didn’t want to shovel the snow, and they thought it most unfair that we girls didn’t have to. Similarly, my brothers were pushed to choose careers that they could support a family on, and discouraged from pursuing the arts or humanities.

There are lots of other examples too, when you zoom out to the societal level. Women aren’t required to sign up for the draft, for instance, a relic of the patriarchal idea that men are to protect women. Pointing out that patriarchy has often bad for men is of course not to negate that patriarchy has always harmed women more drastically than it has harmed men. After all, patriarchy has always been a system in which women are expected to remain under men’s authority – kept safe and protected, perhaps (at least in rhetoric), but without the ability to make their own decisions. Still, though, the harm patriarchy has always dealt boys and men should not be ignored or minimized.

Feminism is not and must not be simply a women’s movement. Instead, it’s a movement dedicated to destroying patriarchy, including both the aspects of patriarchy that benefit men and the aspects that benefit women. And so this afternoon, as I shoveled a driveway alongside my husband’s relatives, I told myself that the work and the cold were just one more step toward truly dismantling patriarchy in all of its forms. 

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Korou

    Bravo! As a man, I’ve often thought that although in many ways societal scale are weighted in our favour there is a lot that we are restricted in, and it’s just as unfair as sexism against women.
    There’s a blog that illustrates this very well – “Raising my rainbow” – a mother’s story of raising a little boy who loves “girl” things – pink and purple dresses, jewellery and Barbie dolls. It’s very sweet, but heartbreaking how he can never let anyone at school know about it.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Oh, that blog is so awesome and sweet. The story of the first time he draw himself as a boy is heartbreaking.

  • smrnda

    This reminds me of something I see on buses a lot (I ride mass transit everywhere in at least a few cities a month.)

    A (young) woman walks into a bus. Even in this day and age, you’ll see men get up and offer a seat at times, but I never notice people reacting so quickly when say, an older man pushing a walker gets on the bus. It’s nice to know some guys sense of good citizenship has been so distorted by ‘chivalry’ that they’ll give up their seat for a young, able bodied woman and let an 80 year old man stand. In a lot of ways, the ‘men protect women’ erases older, less able-bodied or disabled men from the picture at times.

    The other thing is that it can often create resentment of women and girls by men and boys. Boys get pissed that their sisters get out of certain jobs they don’t like, and then feel that women get an easy ride and they have to do all the work. How does this work out later in relationships, where a man feels obliged to make sure he’s doing all the ‘manly tasks’ but when he secretly feels like he’s being screwed? It seems designed to create conflict between genders, probably to the advantage of the super-manly man who can pay a servant to shovel the snow for his stay at home wife who doesn’t have to work since he’s got plenty of $$$.

    • Azura

      My experience on transit is somewhat different, being a 22 year old disabled woman. I find middle-aged people or older never stand up for people with canes unless they’re told to or the disabled person is older than them. Teen girls never stand up period. If they aren’t on their phones, thus not noticing you at all, they stare at you blankly. Teenage or 20-30 year old men are the only ones who have ever offered me a seat voluntarily, other than one grandmotherly old woman who would have had a harder time of it than me if I took her up on the offer.

      My theory on this is that I think the concept of chivalry not only affects men, but also women and girls. The ones who take it to heart or whatever end up very entitled. I get that middle aged + people might think I’m more able than them, but it really urks me when a woman my age is sitting in the chair reserved for the disabled in yoga pants with a gym bag.

      PS. Sorry for the rant, but I work at a mall, and today was not a good day to require a cane :P

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I actually had this same annoyance on the bus when I was seven or eight months pregnant. Usually people stood up to give me a seat, but sometimes they didn’t, and watching perfectly fit college students sitting comfortably while standing very uncomfortably due to my condition is not a recipe for happiness! In my opinion, able bodied people should stand and give up their seats for elderly, disabled people, pregnant women, and parents with small children. Gender shouldn’t play any role (except, of course, for the fact that only women can get pregnant), but compassion should.

      • Judy L.

        There are, however, many physical maladies that aren’t visible, so it’s not entirely fair to assume that everyone who looks fit is so.

        But yes, as good citizens and riders of public transit, we should be aware and considerate of the people around us.

    • Sue Blue

      I was just wondering today if the burdens patriarchy places on men to always be strong, capable, and the sole support of a family is one of the reasons there seems to be so much outright nasty hatred toward women out there. I used to just chalk it up to a feeling that their manhood and comfy social roles were being threatened by “uppity” feminists; they were just afraid that having hanging genitalia wouldn’t mean they were specially ordained by God to be superior anymore. They’d have to ask nicely for sex and a cold beer instead of expecting it as their hereditary due. But men who have been married for decades to submissive stay-at-home wives can be some of the worst spewers of sexist bile. Just the other day I was reading some shockingly abusive comments on another blog. Men of all ages – but especially some older men – were referring to women as “cock sockets”, “cum-dumpsters”, “bleeders”, “brain-dead whores”, bitches, cunts, twats, slits, skirts, and cows that couldn’t drive worth a damn, change a light bulb, or manage even the simplest tasks without male help; that they should all STFU and get back in the kitchen, that women had no business having sex, wearing pants, driving, running businesses, or holding political office. It was a tirade that seems to go on endlessly all over the web. I never see even the most strident feminists or women who’ve been beaten or raped talk about men in such terms. Why all the hate? What causes it, when they’ve held all the power for generations, and women practically none?

    • Sue Blue

      I was just wondering today if the burdens patriarchy places on men to always be strong, capable, and the sole support of a family is one of the reasons there seems to be so much outright nasty hatred toward women out there. I used to just chalk it up to a feeling that their manhood and comfy social roles were being threatened by “uppity” feminists; they were just afraid that having hanging genitalia wouldn’t mean they were specially ordained by God to be superior anymore. They’d have to ask nicely for sex and a cold beer instead of expecting it as their hereditary due. But men who have been married for decades to submissive stay-at-home wives can be some of the worst spewers of sexist bile. Just the other day I was reading some shockingly abusive comments on another blog. Men of all ages – but especially some older men – were referring to women as cock sockets, cum-dumpsters, bleeders, brain-dead whores, bitches, cunts, twats, slits, skirts, and cows that couldn’t drive worth a damn, change a light bulb, or manage even the simplest tasks without male help; they should all STFU and get back in the kitchen, that women have no business having sex when they want to, wearing pants, driving, running businesses, or holding political office. It was a tirade that seems to go on endlessly all over the web. I never see even the most strident feminists or women who’ve been beaten or raped talk about men in such terms. Why all the hate? What causes it, when they’ve held all the power for generations, and women practically none until now?

  • Notreligious

    Patriarchy is horrible for the average man; that its worse for women doesn’t negate this.

    After being the sole earner in my family, with DH staying home with our son, I got a taste of what its like to be the only financialqaa provider. It sure is stressful! Knowing that everyone depends on you for everything is hard, even when you like working. Any little screw up can cost your family everything, and you are aware of it at all times. I do understand resentment and it works in both directions under patriarchy: man resents women because she doesn’t have to suffer employment, and woman resents man because he doesn’t appreciate all she does at home, and because she is trapped and dependent.

    Some men just aren’t great at earning money, and even those that are still like some of this pressure taken away. We have so many dual earning families not just because of economics, but also because it is more secure to share the burden.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      And a lot of dismantling patriarchy is about having each gender take some of the load off the other. More men helping with laundry helps their females partners, and likewise for women shoveling snow. (An aside, I sometimes wondered if I would have been treated differently if I’d had a brother. Would I still have spent time fishing or doing woodworking with my father?) And it lets people work more to their strengths, rather than having the guy build a bookcase just because he’s male when his wife is perhaps just as handy with tools.

      • pat

        Totally right.

        When men will realize how much patriarchy manipulates & harms them, they will join forces with women to overthrow it. This will require aslo a change in economical systems as capitalism if often closely tied to patriarchy.

        My grand-father was destroyed by exploitation in mines and by ww2 (he was the sole survivor of a company and suffered huge emotional damage). I still don’t understand how come men have not realized that wars kill many of them for Patriarchy.

  • Isaac

    This, this, this!
    You make a brilliant point that I’ve seen ignored too often in mainstream narratives about feminist discourse. Patriarchy hurts men too, and although it always does less damage to men in general than women, substantial harm happens regularly to men because of patriarchy.

    Much is made over what patriarchy expects of females; and rightly so, since it amounts to denying human nature, personal liberty and thoughtfulness in favor of baseless, rigid behavioral archetypes which have oppressed half the human species for a very long time.

    But men can suffer from the exact reverse of what patriarchy expects of females. I did. My development as an individual was hugely affected by patriarchal expectations of what a male should be, and to say this was harmful is to put it mildly.

    I’m not suggesting that men have ever suffered the way women did. The way that men suffer in partriarchy is distinct from the way women do, given that males are always in a different (and usually superior) position. But opening this dialogue could be immensely helpful to the movement as a whole, and in philisophical terms helps to raise consciousness about the perpetual cycle of abuse which patriarchy is based on.

    On this topic, I’ve often thought that feminism should branch out and form a distinct gender equality movement to help bring in the many good people (men and women) who have refused to engage in feminist discourse because of the old “man-hating feminist” canard. Educating people about the harm patriarchy does to both men and women, and then showing them that this perspective comes directly from feminist thought, might bolster the cause of gender equality while growing the ranks of those willing to understand feminist discourse.

    • Judy L.

      I fear the only way that ‘Feminism’ could branch off and achieve this is if Men (yes, I’m pretending that both Feminism and Men are each monolithic entities) take up the cause and make patriarchy unacceptable among each other. Unfortunately, in most circles, the Men’s Rights Movement isn’t about rejecting patriarchy, but rather asserting that the feminization of society is what really harms men and that men don’t actually benefit from supposed Male Privilege. But let’s examine this just a bit: Why is there this perception that Feminism is about hating men? Could it be because most of the things that women demanded and fought for came at the expense of mostly men and male-dominated institutions having to change their behaviour and the policies that they enjoyed and benefited from? Certainly internalized misogyny results in some women treating other women like second-class citizens, but mostly the demands of feminism are demands on altering a male-dominated society’s structure and on individual men’s behaviour: that women be treated with respect and given equal consideration in the workplace and in education and before the law, not harassed on the street, not dismissed by police when their intimate partners assault them in their own homes, etc. And I can’t imagine that men have ever liked that very much, being told that they can’t do as the please. Patriarchy certainly puts limits on what men are allowed to do as well, but if patriarchy didn’t offer more benefits to men than egalitarianism, why has it been the prevailing social organization in practically every human culture for millennia? We simply have never had the critical mass of men not getting enough benefit from patriarchy and fed up with the expectations and oppression they feel within that structure. And I can’t imagine that men who do suffer under patriarchy, who feeling dominated and subjugated and straight-jacketed by the system and by other men, feel supported when feminists talk about the Male Privilege that those men enjoy but are oblivious to (I know a lot of men who don’t actively flex their male privilege, but the smart ones acknowledge that it exists).

      I don’t think that it would be so difficult in the more general and secular social world for men to shake off patriarchy, even without really needing to understand feminist discourse – they just need to stop being horrible to their fellow men, stop being so competitive and always jockeying for the alpha position, stop regarding women (and women’s work) with so much contempt, and stop believing and perpetuating the idea that they’re entitled to sex. (And women have to stop being horrible to each other too.) But again, this is about men changing their behaviour and their attitudes, and why would men who are happy with the status quo want things to change, particularly when it would require them to stop doing some of the things they enjoy or feel entitled to or that they feel expected to in order to maintain their social status? You can see how this is a complicated issue even without religion playing a part.

      Within the religious world, I can’t see patriarchy ever being successfully challenged and dismantled. Without doubt, the overwhelming bulwark against egalitarianism and respect for women in the face of modernity and the recognition of human rights is patriarchal religious fundamentalism that entrenches misogyny and female subjugation. Many men would surely benefit a great deal from being freed from the formalized expectations and oppression of fundamentalism, but patriarchy will persist until they no longer believe what their holy books preach or no longer claim that the practice of their religion allows or demands that men subjugate women.

      • Seda

        if patriarchy didn’t offer more benefits to men than egalitarianism, why has it been the prevailing social organization in practically every human culture for millennia?

        Riane Eisler addresses this question in “The Chalice and the Blade.” Basically, the reason is conquest, war, and hierarchy – in a word, power. Patriarchy benefits the men at the top a lot – and they use that to extend social control over men who are not. The greater strength/size/body mass of the average male relative to the average female justifies their higher rung on the social ladder, because they are usually better warriors. And that being so, they are trained to enjoy violence. *Most* men would benefit more from egalitarianism/feminism than patriarchy; however, because of cultural myths and manipulation, most men (in my experience) don’t understand that.

        At least, that’s what I understand from what I’ve seen, experienced (in both male and female genders), and learned. I’d enjoy if someone more versed in feminism has more to add.

      • Twist

        “Unfortunately, in most circles, the Men’s Rights Movement isn’t about rejecting patriarchy, but rather asserting that the feminization of society is what really harms men and that men don’t actually benefit from supposed Male Privilege.”

        See, sometimes MRA-types do say things that have some ghost of a point, such as it being unfair that child custody is disproportionately awarded to women, the fact that men are disproportionately killed and injured in the military, the fact that men overwhelmingly perform hard, physical work etc., but every single MRA point that has any validity to it at all, they don’t seem to understand, can be cured by more feminism!

        Get rid of the widely held assumptions that child care is woman’s work (and therefore degrading, less worthy, less important) and that a ‘real man’ doesn’t cook/clean/take care of babies etc., and get rid of the assumption that woman=nurturing=primary caregiver ALL THE TIME, and the child custody problem goes away. Get rid of the assumption that women are somehow less capable, weaker, less suited to the military or to physically demanding jobs, and those problems go away too. Lose the idea that men have to be older/taller/richer/cleverer/better educated than the women they date or they are somehow emasculated. Lose the idea that any man who isn’t the primary breadwinner in the family is somehow emasculated, and the idea that any woman who is the primary breadwinner is cold, heartless and doesn’t care about her family, and both men and women are more likely to be able to pursue the things they really want to do with their lives without being constrained by their gender.

      • Isaac

        I agree with your analysis completely; but that’s why I think we need as much outreach as possible. The MRA is a good example of confused people who don’t like what they see as feminism, whatever that may be, and instead of pathetic, even when occasionally does attempt to address real issues it ends up whining about the “feminization of society” instead of the patriarchal root of the problem.

        In a broad sense, feminism IS egalitarianism, but I’ve known many people who will not accept this because of the stereotypes left in their head by mainstream popular culture. There’s got to be some way to make these people realize that feminism is on their side too.

  • Merbie

    Love this! Since I left my childhood social circle where complementarian roles were pushed as “right,” I’ve had to stop myself from getting offended sometimes when my husband (who was not raised in the same circle) treats me as an equal instead of as a fragile being, because that lifestyle was so engrained in me from childhood and on. Why does he have to open the door for me? Why does he have to carry the grocery bag when there is only one? Etc., etc. It’s nice of him to do those things, but it’s also nice for him when I do those things. And on the other side of the spectrum, it’s still wonderful for me to walk into the kitchen and find the dishes done (you know, a “woman’s job”) without me ever having said a word about them. “That’s normal life,” he says. I love it!

    And I love shoveling snow!

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    This reminds me of a recent tift I had with my mother-in-law. She wanted my husband to come over and help his dad build a fence. My husband had worked 12 hour shifts the past few days, and he was quite exhausted. He needed some down-time to recover, and understandably did not want to help build a fence on the spur of the moment. I understood this and offered to go over in his place. Instead of graceously accepting this offer, she called my husband and completely blew up at him, despite his protestations that I was capable of building the fence and fine with the arrangement. The whole thing was completely ridiculous.

    As a somewhat related aside, my mother-in-law also wants to get a hope chest for my daughter, to fill with dishes and quilts for when (not if) she gets married. I continue to insist that if she gives such gifts to my daughter, she should give these things to my son as well. And I also explain that the gift should be given regardless of future marital status. Thankfully, she hasn’t yet started filling a cedar chest for either child.

    The worst part of all this is that we live next door to my inlaws, and these gender issues come up more frequently than I would like in everything–from the incidents mentioned above to allowing my son to play with dolls. I can’t escape her judgmental patriarchal scrutiny.

    • machintelligence

      Just curious, but would your father-in-law have accepted your help graciously or would he have been just as irate? He was the one who needed help, after all, and should have been the one to make the decision.
      Sometimes the ones who matter don’t care and the ones who care don’t matter.

  • Judy L.

    I think the old mentality about men fighting in war and women staying home isn’t so much about chivalry, but rather a practical matter: A population’s ability to keep its numbers up is far more dependent on the number of women than the number of men.

    Libby: Your post raises an interesting point about feminism, work, and dismantling patriarchy. Women have done a really good job the past 60 years or so asserting their ability and rights to do the same work as men and be valued the same for it both financially and socially. The challenge, however, has been, and still is, to get traditional ‘women’s work’ (generally the unpaid labour of keeping house, cooking, care of small children and elderly family members) recognized as having value and getting men to do it. It’s made problematic because of the perception that men debase themselves when they do work that millions of women do by default (stay-at-home parent/housekeeper) or work in ‘feminine’ professions like nursing or childcare. Traditionally, ‘women’s work’ becomes something respected and valued only when done by a man in a professional setting that has a certain social status, like being a Chef, and he gets paid to do it. And so we have this a tension between wanting to have such work recognized as valuable, wanting men to do it, but not wanting it valued only when men do it. When women do ‘men’s work’ it’s considered empowering, but when men do ‘women’s work’ it’s considered a step down for them. Why can’t we get the majority of men who don’t feel this way themselves to stop maintaining the lie that a man doing the family laundry (and being good at it and even enjoying it!) is a threat to the masculinity of men everywhere?

    I’ve always had difficulty articulating this concept (because the issues of gender and power are so nuanced and there so much variation within sub-cultures and communities of varying socio-economic status), but I think the best way to illustrate it through a Western cultural lens is ‘Pants vs. Skirts’. We’ve gotten to the point where most people think it’s fine and natural for a woman to wear pants (at least professionally), but a man in a skirt and heels is still unacceptable in the workplace and an image of ridicule just about anywhere. Many years ago, once it was no longer scandalous and a threat Christian civilization: a woman wearing pants signaled independence, sexual confidence, ‘pluck’, and little girls who liked to do ‘boy stuff’ were tolerated or affectionately referred to as ‘tomboys’. A man in a dress, however, has never been anything other than comedy or camp, and little boys who liked to do ‘girl things’ got called degrading names like ‘sissy’. Patriarchy will never go away so long as misogyny exists*, so long as men believe that the worst thing they can be is ‘like a woman’, when the most degrading epithets a man can receive all compare him with femaleness or suggest sexual vulnerability: Bitch, Pussy, Sissy, Girl, Faggot, Homo, Queer.

    *Patriarchy and misogyny are in fact inseparable. They’re like nature and nurture: only theoretically could one exist without the other.

    • Nurse Bee

      I tend to find it interesting that nursing is still a “pink-collar” profession. I quite literally deal with blood and guts (among other bodily fluids). My husband sits in an office. I have the more dangerous and also more physically challenging job.

  • sara maimon

    In my neighborhood, whenever it snows, high school age boys begin roaming the streets offering to shovel snow for cheap, and most households hire them. Economic opportunity for boys.

    • Rosie

      We don’t get a lot of snow some winters where I live, but there’s always money to be made mowing lawns in the summer. Unfortunately, as a girl, I wasn’t taught how to use a lawn mower and was expected to babysit if I wanted to earn money. I never cared for dolls or kids and I HATED babysitting. I wasn’t any good at it either. I was called “lazy” for that, though if I’d had the experience to be confident with a lawn mower, or if I’d been taught how to work harvest, I would have been happy to earn money that way.

      Even now, I’d rather be the one outside building something or working cattle, coming in stomping the snow off my boots to have a hot meal waiting, rather than the one stuck indoors cooking all day. Gender essentialism sucks.

    • Tracey

      @sara. Really? Send those teenage boys my way. In my neighborhood, my kids are the only ones outside when it snows. The parents of teens and grown “children” in their 20s and 30s are the ones outside mowing lawns, shovelling snow, washing the cars. There are a whole lot of boy-children with their own SUVs and cellphones living the high life.

    • Seda

      Economic opportunity for girls, too, if they’d like it. Just like babysitting is economic activity for boys – and we’ve hired a boy for just that before. No big deal.

  • saramaimon

    twist these are some of the things thar turn.women away from feminism

    • Twist

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean? Do you mean that some women think that they deserve to be disproportionately awarded child custody, to not be expected to perform physically demanding work, or be drafted into the millitary simply by merit of being women? In that case, I’d say that these women aren’t feminists, at least not feminists as I understand the word.

      Let me clarify – I don’t think anyone should be compelled to do physically demanding jobs if they don’t want to, just that it should be an option for everyone, and no little girls should be told that they can’t be mechanics or soldiers or other traditionally male things if they want to be, same as no little boys should be told that they can’t be nurses or other traditionally female things if that’s what they want. For the record, I previously mentioned the draft – I think compelling anyone, regardless of gender to serve in the military is a dreadfully immoral thing, although if in the future we were ever to face anything like that again, I wouldn’t want to be exempted simply for being a woman. That wouldn’t be fair. That wouldn’t happen in an egalitarian society.

      It’s like people who bemoan the death of chivalry, without stopping to think about what chivalry really meant. Being treated as the social and political equal of a man means that men aren’t going to hold doors for me or whatever, just because I’m a woman, and that’s fine. That’s good. I’m perfectly capable of doing that for myself and it’s insulting to suggest otherwise! If losing the tiny benefits women have under a patriarchy is turning some women off feminism, that’s their problem, not feminisms.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        Those stupid chivalry things are stuff people should do for each other independently of the gender of the other person. I hold the door open for my boyfriend and my male friends all the time (because I tend to be the first one to get there), my boyfriend and I divide the bags equally so it’s not as bothersome to get all the groceries to our flat, … And I can’t believe anyone would give up their rights for things that people should do simply out of politeness.

        Feminism fights for equality of all genders and to end patriarchy and that means bettering conditions for men where they are wronged too (custody rights, …). If you choose and decide only to fight for what affects you, you aren’t truly fighting for equality as Twist has said so well.

        Also, I’m all for professional armies that admit people of all genders. In Spain we have a pretty decent number of women joining the Army and it’s growing every year (I had two of my girl friends working on one of the Spain’s biggest military boats or however they are called) and this is supposedly the country where the word “machism” came from, it shouldn’t be so difficult to surpass us XP

  • http://allweathercyclist.blogspot.com/ JethroElfman

    My kids did some turkey-catching at a local farm. They are the same height and close to the same age. My daughter, however, could only hoist one bird at a time while the boys were all doing two. Her brother plainly had greater strength. It was suggested to her that if she came back, her pay would be cut since her productivity was so much lower than everyone else. This natural strength differential means that there will always be plenty of jobs that are mostly taken by men. I can totally understand that pre-industrial agricultural communities would assign the brute-force driven outdoorsy tasks to the men, and the indoors dexterity tasks to the women.

    In today’s job market it has become the norm that wives work. This depresses overall wages since a household with two income earners requires less to be brought home by each of them. That economic incentive is doing more to reduce wage disparities and patriarchal workplace attitudes than any feminist demands. The standard of living of a quiverful-style household can’t compare to what you get when both parents work and there’s only two kids to provide for. That is going to be what drives the practice out of favour.

    • Tracey

      @Jethro: I think you’re confused. Women have always worked, even in that aberrant time just after WWII when GI benefits, strong unions, and higher taxes on the top-earners created a tiny bubble where women were expected to sit alone in their suburban tract houses (highly medicated by Valium or alcohol so they could tolerate that kind of existence). Even in that Leave-it-to-Beaver timeframe, women worked as nurses and teachers and secretaries and shop clerks.

      By the 1960s, however, women who had seen their mothers go quietly insane as caged birds started to demand more for themselves. Women with college educations began demanding to be able to use their brains to do more than pick out the latest flavor of Jello at the weekly supermarket trip. The bad economy of the 1970s caused many women to go into the workforce for their family’s economic survival, and despite the push-back from a patriarchal society that was threatened by the idea that women have actual brains and talents, persisted.

      As for your daughter unable to hoist turkeys; talk to the many, many, many women who grew up on horse farms and dairies. Girls are indeed capable of doing work, particularly if they’re raised to do it. After puberty they are not as strong as boys, but they’re not boneless, spineless, helpless weaklings capable only of lifting a sandwich to submissively bring to their fathers.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        And that really touches on the nature/nurture debate in an odd way. Girls are not pushed into physical activities the way boys are, so it’s natural that on average they’re weaker than boys, even at young ages. Jethro doesn’t say the ages of his children, but I am curious what activities they were each pursuing outside of turkey catching. If the boys spend their free time building tree-houses and his daughter holds tea parties with her dolls, then yeah she’s going to be weaker because she doesn’t use her muscles as much. It’s the same thing with the old idiom of ‘throwing like a girl’. Girls aren’t physically incapable of throwing a ball well, they’re just less likely to be taught that skill.

    • Stony

      Jethro, you brought to mind the woman who was my biggest adult pal growing up. A “spinster-lady” who ran her own farm. She had cows, horses, pigs and chickens and worked a part-time job. My parents were impressed that she could a hay bale in each hand for her cattle. I didn’t know it at the time, but what a great role-model she was!

    • Nea

      I can totally understand that pre-industrial agricultural communities would assign the brute-force driven outdoorsy tasks to the men, and the indoors dexterity tasks to the women.

      We shouldn’t build airy theories about what agricultural communities “would” assign to each gender, we need to look at the historical facts of what agricultural communities DID assign to each gender. This isn’t theory, it’s reality – a hard, brute-force driven outdoors reality to millions upon millions of slave women in the pre-Civil War south, for example. And poor sharecropping women in the dust bowl. And hardscrbble farm women everywhere in the world to this day.

      Gender essentialism — which assumes fiddly detailed indoor work = girly work — has always been the privilege of security and money, not a reality in any family poor enough to need every hand doing every job just to survive. Google the phrase “ain’t I a woman” sometime to truly totally understand the role of women in pre-industrial agricultural communities.

  • smrnda

    I don’t think wives working caused wages to be depressed but was more in response to declining wages for men overall. The other things is women working has been the norm for poor people for a long time; women entering the workforce was only news when it was middle class women doing it.

  • sara maimon

    women working at low paid low status job was always acceptable, people only started crying “but what about the children” when women started to aim for jobs with higher pay and status.

    • Sheena

      That’s because low-pay, low-status jobs have “invisible” employees. Nobody noticed the maid, or the cook, or the nanny, or the cashier at the grocery store (unless that person was gone/did the job poorly). And those with money and influence didn’t care that *those* women worked 12+ hour days and spent very little time with their children. The “working woman” debate only got fired up when the rich and influential’s wives, sisters, mothers, or daughters wanted educations (beyond the very basics or a finishing school) or wanted to work outside of the home.
      Now, the only “visible” low-pay, low-status employees are college-educated (mostly white). They’re the only ones worth discussing in regards to the economy. Anyone who grew up in poverty and doesn’t manage to break out of that cycle is still invisible, unless they’re an inconvenience (i.e., “welfare queens” holding up the line at the grocery store with their EBT payment for junk food and cigarettes) or it’s Christmas (when every church and social organization collects canned food and toys).

  • J-Rex

    This is something that was really getting to me the other day. It’s frustrating to see people supporting a system that hurts them, whether they’re men or women. I work at a grocery store as a cashier and a bagger and when I’m a bagger, it’s my job to push carts back inside for one or two hours. It’s not fun, but it’s simple and I am perfectly capable of doing it even though I’m not particularly strong. But people see it as a perfect opportunity to make me feel inferior. They’ll walk by and say “Don’t they have guys to do that?” “They gave the biggest job to the littlest person!” “Wow, this job must be really hard for you.” I push the same amount of carts as any of the guys. Somehow I doubt anyone would go up to even the smaller guys and ask them why there isn’t a stronger person pushing the carts.
    What really got me upset is that there’s a guy who works there with me who is constantly making a point to grab heavy things out of my hands even though it’s no problem for me. The other day he said, “It’s such bullshit that they make you go out there.” I asked why and he avoided giving me a straight answer. What’s bullshit is that he
    seems to think it would be easier for him and the other guys to have to go outside a lot more often than to entertain the idea that I might be given this job because it is entirely possible for me to do it.
    The next time someone asks me why they don’t have a guy doing the job for me, I want to tell them that there is no part of this job that requires the use of a penis.

    • Hilary

      I would love to see that exchange of comments, and the look on the other persons face! That’s a great comeback!

      • J-Rex

        If I ever say that, it will definitely be reserved for customers leaving the store so they won’t complain about me…
        And yes, it’s a great comeback. The best ones always come fifteen minutes later while you angrily shove carts together.

    • Judy L.

      J-Rex: That is the perfect thing to say. :)

      Just a note on the unsolicited comments: As you said, “Somehow I doubt anyone would go up to even the smaller guys and ask them why there isn’t a stronger person pushing the carts.” This really illustrates that it’s not an issue of you being little or perceived as not being strong enough for the job. People (both men and women) make these comments to you because it’s regarded as socially acceptable to say whatever the hell you want to women and girls. Men, mostly, say things to women they don’t know that they would never dream of saying to men (lest they risk getting punched in the mouth). This is why if you tell a man that, as a woman, you’ve experienced men you don’t know out in public telling you to smile (and other things I’m sure), the man will think you’re making it up, because he’s never experienced that. It really is an issue of people thinking they’ve got a right to say whatever they want to people whom they deem inferior and/or they think won’t or can’t fight back. Often this means racist or sexist comments, comments about people’s size or appearance, and sometimes it’s just comments made by clueless people who think they’re being considerate or looking out for your best interests (e.g. “Don’t they have guys to do that?”).

      • Tracey

        @Judy: arrrrgh, men telling you to smile! A few years back I got a call that my grandmother had died suddenly and unexpectedly. This was the woman who kept us kids in the summers, who taught me how to do many things, who was my cheerleader as I was the first member of my family to go to college, etc. etc. You get the picture. I was just devastated. On the metro on the way to the airport later that afternoon, some jerk got right in my face and commanded me to smile. Then he told me, “a pretty girl without a smile just ruins my whole day.” One of the few times in my life I had a comeback at the time of the incident (thank you feminism), I said, “I am not responsible for your feelings.” He was OFFENDED that I, a strange woman, was not catering to his precious fee-fees. This is what patriarchy teaches men.

      • Twist

        And it is always men as well! Anecdotally speaking of course, never once has a strange woman told me to smile. My grandmother has, on occasion, but when strangers do it it is always men. The most infuriating comment is “you’d be so much prettier if you’d just smile!” as if that’s meant to be a compliment or something. I don’t owe anyone pretty. Or happy. I don’t have to carefully avoid displaying my emotions on my face in order to avoid offending someone who thinks that women are ugly if they’re not smiling. My face, like my body, is not public property and anyone who thinks otherwise is likely to get a rather rude response from me.

      • Tracey

        @Twist: yes, I’ve never had a strange woman tell me to smile, but a number of strange men have told me this at various times. There’s a country song with a woman wailing about how when she had her ups and downs (in other words, a normal human being), no man wanted her, but then she started pasting on a smile and “ain’t nothin’ as pretty in the world as a happy girl”. In other words, women aren’t allowed to even have their own feelings; they must always be performing for men.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        Not exactly similar but this reminds me of one famous childhood song: http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=2108&c=71

  • Hilary

    That’s the good ole’ Patriarchy for ya – “If that’s your gender, here’s your box. If you don’t fit, break yourself until you do.”

    I am quite willing to open a door for a man, because he is a human being and that’s respectful, rather then have a man open a door for me because I am a ‘lady’ and he has a manly obligation to a lady. I will happly walk through a door held open by a man who respects me as a fellow human being.


  • Annie

    Last night my husband ran to the store for some groceries. We has A LOT of shoveling to do (we live in Alaska) and he was dreading it. I started while he was gone and got a fair amount done. I was totally in the zone of shoveling, even though I was dreading it, and wanted to continue until the area I was working on was done. My husband made an awesome dinner while I finished up. It was great, and I am glad our (yet non-existant) kids will be able to see fluid gender roles……except then, after we cleaned the kitchen, he went back out and finished up while I read for a while. Oh, well. He just couldn’t handle leaving an 80% completed job undone.

  • Noelle

    A patriarchal culture may be more detrimental to boys and men than it is to girls and women. The strong-willed tomboy of a girl and the self-sufficient woman who overcomes tough obstacles are staples of literature and movies. Sure, they may get comments and some disapproving glares along the way, but overall people root for the girl taking on what tends to be perceived as a boy’s role.

    A boy or man with “feminine” qualities or appearance, on the other hand, faces a world that does not support him. It’s accepted and even encouraged to physically beat and berate boys that don’t fit the preconceived gender role. It’s also a staple of literature and movies for a boy to be beaten up for any sign of weakness or girlishness. Toughen him up. Turn him into man.

  • TheSeravy

    Excellent post Libby Anne! especially love that comment about how patriarchy works out so men and women resent each other; it’s no wonder so many are resistant to change. Men definiately need to be more involved in deconstructing patriarchy; can’t have equality if the other party doesn’t participate. It’s just sad that discussion about how patriarchy hurts boys and men are often seen as another “feminist” tactic to feminize and emasculate. Not to mention some of the more sensitive topics that many people don’t want to acknowledge or talk about like male-rape, violence. I really look forward to the day when the kitchen and sandwich jokes are done with.

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    wow, I come from a homeschool and Christian Patriarchy background, but my parents, mother especially, loved to give us girls outdoor chores. We didn’t have snow, but in the rising 100 plus degree humid heat of the summer, she’d make us get up early to put in work in the garden.

  • PostPatriarchalMan

    “See, sometimes MRA-types do say things that have some ghost of a point, such as it being unfair that child custody is disproportionately awarded to women”

    I am a man who is interested in challenging patriarchal gender roles for both women and men, but has found feminism exceptionally hostile to my interests. Twist’s point about child custody is a good example. It is historically illiterate to claim that “patriarchy” has resulted in the maternal bias in today’s family court. Until the mid 19th century, patriarchy meant that the father always had custody of the child. It wasn’t until the proto-feminists started lobbying for maternal custody that the “tender years doctrine” was invented and maternal custody became the rule. Now, I’m not arguing that the patriarchal paternal custody was fair or desirable, but neither is the maternal bias that exists today as a consequence of 19th century feminism.

    So putting history behind us, does feminism support equal shared parenting today? The answer is no. Whenever shared parenting legislation is introduced in the U.S., it is consistently opposed by two groups – feminists and divorce lawyers. The former oppose it because they want to retain maternal privilege, while the latter oppose it because they gain financially from an unfair and adversarial system. Take a look at an organization such as fathersandfamilies.org who support this type of legislation to see what feminists actually do. It’s often much different than what they say on sites like this one.

  • hypersapien

    Feminism will always remain a purely womens movement that cares nothing for men for as long as it is called FEMinism, and for as long as it slaps a distinctly masculine name on the cause of gender issues: patriarchy.

    The fight for equal gender rights can not come from a philosophy named after only one side.

    I believe in gender equality, that no one should be discriminated against OR in favor of because of their sex. For that reason, I refuse to call myself a feminist. I am an egalitarian.

  • Molsen

    Today you performed a simple task that my sister could do when she was 5. Are we supposed to pat you on the back and say, “smash that evil patriarchy!!!.” There is no “patriarchy” in Western Society. No well adjusted person in the Western world believes that they are “oppressed.” The patriarchy doesn’t hurt men. Sexist laws pushed by Feminist lobbyists, like the VAWA and Title IX, hurt men AND rob women of any agency that they might have.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    It seems like the MRAs found the article XP With them, everything is always the feminists fault, no matter how obvious it is they fight against the stereotypes that maintain the conservative-minded judges from awarding the custody to fathers. Talk about ignoring reality. Whatever, back to sudying for me.

  • Nebuladance

    I’ll never forget the winter we had christmas at my parents when something went wrong that required shovelling underneath their house. I had a six month old baby at the time, and it was initially expected that I would stay with my children inside while my husband, my Dad and my brother crawled under the house the work. What ended up happening was that my brother rocked the baby while my husband, me, my Dad, and my sister worked under the house. It was great. My brother hates stuff like that. He’s an academic and emotionally sensitive and very good with young children. I love hard physical work. So why should I not help under the house while he sings to my baby? I think my mom privately looked down on my brother for not being a real man and helping out, but I never did. I feel like he’s been made to feel like less of a person for years just because he doesn’t ‘love’ all that manly work stuff. But somehow people applaud me when I join in, like I’m some sort of super-mom just because I can dig a trench AND change diapers. But when he teaches a classroom of rowdy students all day then comes home and changes a diaper and sings his son to sleep, he’s being a pansy? It drives me nuts.

  • Joe