The Other Half

“Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry”
Gloria Steinem.

Now here is a powerful statement, one that can be very very easily misconstrued. I will be the first to admit that sometimes, simply looking ‘boyish’ in terms of dressing can be a little cathartic. However, neither this nor the saying above means that a woman wants to be a man, or that she is becoming one, or that she wants to be better than a man or take the classic position of a man in society. It speaks more of her personality, and her preferences as they manifest in a personal partnership. As I understand it, it means that she becomes the person she wants to be, a success story and happy ending in her own right. Naturally, she wants to see her equal in her partner, who deserves to be with her, to have her on his arm, and who recognizes her as a worthy match and partner in life. Equality, I feel a need to clarify, does not mean we are the same. Every individual is unique. We then, in addition to physical necessities have differing needs, and while it causes no harm to others should be able to have those needs met. But we need to contribute to society, and in a gender equality context, it means that we are seen as out male counterparts are in terms of our potential and actual contributions.

The desire for an equal marriage is not just true for women, it is (or at least should be) true for anyone. But it’s not as simple as a career call. I think it’s important for a woman to be educated; how far she goes with it is up to her. But she needs a sense of self-worth that is based on her own chosen convictions, her own strengths and passions, rather than an imposition of a misogynistic patriarchal society. I am not belittling the housewife either. In fact, I think a parent, whichever one, choosing to stay home as the situation allows, with a child for the first few years of their existence is a good thing. And all’s well with that picture if one truly desires the position of a homemaker, but even then you need to understand that the role you willingly accept in your relationship defines the dynamics of the team or relationship, not your own comparative value therein. You should never be better or worse than the person you’re with, and if one feels that way, both of you are doing something wrong.

That aside, there is an inherent double standard in the way we speak even. To be the “wife” means to cook and clean for her man, adhere to his every whim. A man who cares for his family, and while he does make time for friends and work, decides to go home at a decent time perhaps prompted by a phone call from home, “doesn’t wear the pants” in the relationship. Often, a man is conditioned to be dominating, and condoned when brutish. If he wants her, he wants her…and is allowed to pick her up from her chores and have her. He is conditioned to be an asshole, and women are conditioned to believe that to be the mark of a man, to “be patient” with him. He looks after her and their family, after all.

Along these lines of misunderstanding, feminism even is seen so wrongly. A strong woman needs to be out and not listening to her partner at all, she needs to stand her ground and make him play homemaker when she wants. She can now play someone’s “sugar-mama”, and he can cater to her every whim and fetish.  One of my ex-friends, after I got my first job after university and moved into an apartment in the city casually/flirtatiously dictated: “You can be my sugar-mama. You can bring home the bacon, I can walk around shirtless being all sexy”. My regrets that I ever let him into my life aside – there are three things that are immediately wrong with that statement, and then some:

1) No one (male or female) is hot enough to pull that off, please excuse the pun…
So, since I have your job, you know since you classically are the ‘bacon-bringer’, I have to support you? In turn, you simply shred off your clothing to entice me who can’t possibly be that exhausted after a day’s work? Or do I not work late, pull long hours, and perhaps go in on the weekends…all of which I already do?! I already have to deal with you, and that idea! Already exhausted! And no, you’re not hot enough!!!               

2) All of a sudden, a working woman plays a slightly reversed role of a chauvinistic man with a bimbo for private company.
Classically homebound and seen only as a man’s in some way, woman as I am, today equipped with higher education and working independently, am to have a bimbo at home? I even see you as a charge…a ward? Why would I be that ‘generous’? Why am I not allowed private company of my competence? Who would ever understand my plight out in the world, or even just my exhaustion from actual issues with work at work? Even now, I have to cater to you?! Asshole!

3) Apparently, for the hard-working modern young woman, a shirtless bimbo is a turn on.
I, who finally have some liberation, some life of my own to mould, will of course look for a partner of at least my calibre. We will grow together, and make decisions we can both support the other on. We would have something to build on. Not to mention, our genetic pool is far more favourable. But no, just a shirtless torso of a man…that suffices for me to want to copulate, risk an unplanned pregnancy and ruin my own life. I’d lose everything, because I succumbed to not even the fairer sex. Aside from ruining my own gene pool, the child will struggle with me, and that alone is mentally traumatic even if nothing else. But yes, walk around shirtless…I guess we can use your shirts as diapers!

4) i. Yes there is a 4th!
     ii. I can’t speak for every woman, let alone any man, but I want my equal!
And why wouldn’t I. The idea of equality is not to ‘flip the tables’, it isn’t to subjugate men. We know what it’s like, and that’s not healthy. We’ll punish you, as is lawful and in self-defence, but that’s it. We want to grow as we should, compete healthily with comrades at work and genuinely be incorporated into society. Our role as a human resource should’ve never been downplayed, and now that we can contribute, we look for that in partners in every aspect of our lives.

5) And while we’re at it, yes I am offended fool!
Or am I not allowed? It was just a bit of fun? I’m being too emotional? Well, yes I am and you instigated it, so deal with it! It’s the law! Harassment is a thing, you know…and it is an offense. Wanted a reaction? Well, you got one. Now what, tough guy?!

Pardon the redundancy, please; not only does a woman not want to become a man in a literal or figurative sense of the word, it really is a whole different sexual and biological issue altogether if she did, she certainly wouldn’t want to be the warped version of one who’d marginalise her into practically a masturbation tool. She does not want a “pretty young sexy play thing” at any stage of her life. In the event that she does “want it”, it is the same as a man “wanting it”, and they should be treated the same. One is not more or less okay than the other and if you claim to be traditional, go ahead…but don’t use it as a way to justify or explain or claim empathy for your double standards. It doesn’t make sense, and no it isn’t trauma, it is bigotry. What more, more often than not, she actually wants to be loved and cherished by her partner, a.k.a. her other half…not better, not lesser, just other half.

In fact, why even marry someone if you feel inferior or superior to them? Sounds like a set-up for domestic abuse. Or is it more like a masochist-meets-sadist love story? I fathom the willing subjugation as a mental illness. As I have said above, even the homemaker should to be an equal party to the marriage. How we value a person may surpass the obvious profit and virtue of their contributions to others. Overly romantic as that sounds even to me, I can respect that in a healthy household.

Why marry at all? Not everyone is inclined to it, but when they are it is a need for company for the long term. In most cases, it is tied to continuity of both bloodlines, although perhaps not thought of exactly in that way. Practicality wise, it’s complex and not just because of the more emotional aspects. In reality, sharing a space with another is always a risk. Things will change, and in time normalise to suit a new dynamic, as desired. We see this for ourselves when we get housemates, even. The paperwork covers most grounds, but in a marriage the risk is more eminent especially because it is at least aimed to be longer term that standard home leases. Now, the paperwork seems debatable. The splitting of assets aside, there often are children to be considered. As much as their own preference is sought for judgement, it’s hard to treat them as adults and the parents’ role as their guardians and ‘attorneys’ in a way, is restricted since they are the negotiating parties.  

Now, what happens in a relationship? In a family even…what do we look for in a friend, or a comrade? Yes, it is that simple and it’s the other way that I hear Miss Steinem. We want support. We want someone who will fight with and for us, who will stand up with us for motivations we believe in and agree on. Yes, this can go the wrong way and hit ‘honour amongst thieves’, but I really am discussing gender equality here. Steering it back, we want men who see us as people of our own accord. Men who won’t mind being nurturing, and even equally domestic here and there when we really need a time out because they truly relate to us. Yes, there are different kinds of marriages, but I really can only speak for ‘some of us’. Perhaps I am expecting too much from a man, that ‘motherly touch’ is supposed to be mine after all, even in professional settings…this drives me insane. Personally, in those instances I wonder if I can’t in fact pee straight standing up on heels without even touching ‘it’. Perhaps that’ll help with the professionalism, along with the little equality thing.

All said, I am not too sceptical of relationships. But it’s never the case that “you never know”, and there has to be an active wilful involvement of both parties to make a marriage, or any partnership for that matter. There has to be almost a continuous assessment of everyone’s emotional state who’s involved, otherwise we’d just be dragging each other down. When we fight for ourselves, we need to be able to present our worth. In a relationship as personal as a marriage, the integrity of our separable lives aside, what we brought to the others’ and how we made up for their insufficiencies truly weighs in. It’s amazing to me how much most days. In a marriage, we fight for an investment less materialistic and therefore harder to qualify objectively, let alone actually quantify. Yes, you can just cover therapy sessions in the settlement especially if it includes children. But again, it is never that simple.

So, do we need to become the men we want to marry? I believe in equality of the genders, all the same in a marriage. Hence, my verdict is a strong affirmation. Yours…?

National Geographic Piece on Miss Steinem

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