“The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”-George Elliot
This piece was written for the Feminist Carnical of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy.
I am pro-choice. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to many of you. I’m a pinko-commie-bleeding-heart-liberal, I must be pro-choice. I think everyone should be pro-choice. Feminists, feminists thought, feminist organizations should all be arguing for the right of a woman to choose. This should be the single most important issue for women of every background.
A majority of my readers probably agree with me so far. However, I’m not discussing abortion. I’m discussing choice. Choice about everything. Feminism should focus on the ability to make your own decisions, not just about your body, but about your lifestyle.
These two articles, the first from The Telegraph and the second from One India, discuss a survey* that found a large percentage of men and women prefer traditional gender roles in a partner. 44% of men listed “taking care of the home” as their number one attribute in a partner. 38% of women listed “financial stability” as their number one attribute, which was second to “a good listener” which 41% listed as number one. Only 16% of men listed “financial stability” as an important attribute in a partner.
The F Word, a British Feminist blog, was rather unhappy with this survey. They wrote a post about the survey titled “Gender Role Research Misrepresented”. Part of their problem was with the title of The Telegraph article (“Women are happy to be housewives”) but some of their problem seemed to be with the survey in its entirety.
Unlike a number of commenters on those articles and F Word, I think this survey reflects feminism. I see nothing wrong with women seeking financial stability in a partner and men seeking a good homemaker in one. I am, by no means, arguing that society is perfect. I realize that some of those respondents were influenced by society or culture or family and their answers reflect that influence. However, my unscientific notion is that fifty years ago, those numbers would have been significantly closer to Saddam’s poll numbers; ~90% of men would want a quality homemaker and ~90% of women would want financial stability. The fact that approximately only 40% of men and women prefer these gender roles demonstrates the accomplishments of feminists past. Thanks to them, men and women have other options.
But not all men and women were created equal. Now that women have the choice, they pick varied careers. Women choose to be doctors and lawyers and teachers and rock scientists. If women choose varied careers, it makes sense they would choose varied lifestyles. A myriad of personalities and ideals dictate that women would choose different paths. And one of those paths is traditional gender roles. I enjoy a whole host of traditional gender roles.
I love to cook. I love grocery shopping. I love to bake. I can spend hours in the kitchen experimenting with cake recipes. I derive satisfaction from creating a meal that pleases my partner. I enjoy a partner who can work with their hands. I enjoy calling on my significant other to fix a leaky faucet or hang a TV. I love when my partner orders for me in a restaurant. I find that incredibly sexy. I hate driving and prefer my partner do it.
I also love nontraditional gender roles. I’ll take care of the money in a relationship. I do have a degree in accounting. I loath laundry and insist on a partner who is practically a solo dry cleaner. I loath most traditional gifts for females. I think jewelry is a waste of money and chocolate isn’t really that exciting. Oh yeah, and that whole having a career thing. That’s pretty great.
Some “feminists” would contend that I’m being a bad feminist or I’m brainwashed by society. I’m not. I know what I like and I’m choosing that. Having the opportunity to make those choices is what feminism should be about, not which choices I make.
*I haven’t seen the actual study, the data, or its questions, so I can’t speak to the veracity of it. It was completed by the Yorkshire Building Institute, an unaffiliated market research firm. I’m simply taking the results as a fairly accurate account of men and women’s preferences. A few percentage points difference on any of the questions doesn’t change the premise, that some percentage of men and women prefer traditional gender roles.