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Why Do Feminists End Up Stuck in Gendered Marriages?

Or, how do you make sure you both know you're worth supporting, too?

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I am a heterosexual woman married to a heterosexual man, and we have one kid. We have a lot of the same nit-picky fights and heated conversations that other families who are similar to us have. By this I mean that we frequently “discuss” money, raising a kid, and household chores. But we also discuss our identities within and without of our various relationships (with one another, with our child, with our entire family). We talk about my work and how important it is to me, we talk about how to make more room for me to continue to do what I do. We also talk about my husband’s work, and we each make a lot of concessions.

Frequently, I ask my husband to prioritize me and my goals, because everyone else will prioritize him and his. Frequently, he agrees.

Am I lucky? Maybe. Do I fight really hard for it to be this way? Yes.

Nobody gets a trophy for being a decent human being

When I married my husband in 2007, I did so fully expecting him to do half the household chores. Fully expecting him to also equally contribute monetarily to our household, and fully expecting him to have an equal role in raising any children that we might have. I have never once bragged about him to my friends for doing something as simple as getting the toddler out of the bathtub, something as easy as being as invested in my work as he is in his own, or something as banal as getting dinner ready for our entire family. I appreciate all of this, sure, but I don’t go out of my way to celebrate it or make a big show because guys? These are the most basic expectations I had for a partner.

keep shouting about what matters

It turns out that even the most open-minded, progressive, won’t-even-kill-bugs kind of man (I mean, I met my husband in a Sociology class called Gender Studies) needs a little bit of gentle prodding and sometimes even some shouting to get him to open his eyes to what it might be like to be the female half of our relationship.

I once read that the most important things in life are worth shouting about over and over and over again, and I believe it.

Our biggest fights have never been about the stuff you’re “supposed” to fight about—they’ve all started when I introduced a perspective that violates the status quo. They’ve started when I’ve answered a request that I wash the dishes with, “No, I can’t do that, because I’m at work“—even when my office is the room right next to the kitchen. They’ve started when he says he’s not feeling like doing the laundry tonight, but suggests that maybe I can do it in the morning “because I’ll be home” when the reality is that sure, I’ll be home, but I’ll be at home with our child and the mountains of photos waiting to be edited and articles screaming to be written.

don’t put yourself in a corner

I’m not saying women should have to teach men how to men how to be feminists and how to support the women in their lives, but I’m not saying we don’t have to, either. For instance, I inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) cringe every time a female friend comments that her male boyfriend/partner/husband would never “let” her do something like get a tattoo or wear a certain style or, you know, get a job. Because seriously: fuck that. I love my husband, but the gendered baggage that comes with male-female relationships has got to go.

Feeling like you can’t bring up your own perspective because it will “stress out your husband” or “it’s not what people expect” from you? Girl, you don’t have time for that.

how do you keep gendered expectations balanced in your marriage? What are your struggles? how important do you think it is for women to “teach” men to be feminists—or should we even have to?

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