Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On Gender Roles and Unanswered Questions

A few weeks ago, my consistent tendency to (without trying) defy people's expectations came up again in conversation, and examples were given: I can't ride a bike, but I can pack, light, and smoke a pipe. D found this fascinating (and declared that I had to teach him to smoke once it's warm enough), then pumped me to find out more traditionally male skills or tastes I have. It's always a fun conversation for me, because, like most people, I enjoy being the center of attention for a bit among my friends, and I also like it when people appreciate things about me that set me apart from the crowd.

I don't recall how it came up, but this weekend at brunch, C referred to a comment D had made that night, which was something to the effect of: "A woman who smokes cigars, drinks scotch, and likes sports: How are you not married yet!?" C's private remark to D's public compliment is nothing I haven't heard before: "That's precisely why; guys don't want to marry their smoking or drinking buddies; they want to marry a woman who will run a good household for them..." Her comment was made in full charity, but it drives me back to a familiar train of thought, something I've grappled with many times.

Man and woman are different, complementary. Thus there is a reality to men's roles and women's roles. You all know this. But what part of those roles are inherent to my nature as woman or his nature as man, and what part are more societal/cultural?

I'm sure this is like the nature vs nurture argument: It's a both-and, but good luck to you figuring out where the line lies. So I return, time and again, to my amateur self-psychoanalysis.

The first question is always Why? Why do I like to drink scotch, for instance? That's as simple as I like its taste. Why do I like to smoke cigars or pipes? Because it provides a special occasion for conversation that's just not quite the same any other way (it helps that I treasure certain memories of events and friendships celebrated over cigars). Why do I like to play sports? The physical exercise gets those endorphins running, and it's just fun! Why do I like to converse with men? It's about the common interests we discuss and the charming personality traits they display, and everything else that other friendships are based upon. I just happen to like a lot of things that a lot of guys like. The Why is never Because I want to be like the guys, or Because I want guys to like me, or Because I don't like doing girly things, so I tentatively set aside the question of Why and move on to Is That Okay?

If I only liked these guy things, then I might be worried about my balance. But I like plenty of "girl things" too, and am very pleased to be a woman. And besides, I know plenty of stable-seeming guys who like things that are seen as more feminine (e.g., the arts) without leaving behind their masculinity.

But that's not a logical argument; that's appealing to personal experience and comparing myself to others, and when personal experience is what you're trying to evaluate, it begs the question.

In the end, I don't have an "answer". I don't have a reason why it's okay for me to like these things, to do these things. All I know is I'd be willing to give them up if it ever came to light that they were bad for me; I just don't expect that to happen.

Not everything in life has an easy answer, and sometimes an inner peace about something is hard to explain, but that doesn't necessarily mean it defies reason, nor does it change the fact that I have such an inner peace.
So much for all the effort I put into trying to be a nonconformist earlier in life. Had I only known how easily I would fall into it, and what trouble it would sometimes be, I could have saved myself plenty of growing pains... :)


  1. Anonymous2:31 PM

    love you, clairbear! :)
    you will meet someone who i think will be extremely attracted to the empathetical interests you have. i don't know that men are any more attracted to a woman who is uber-domestic than one who is the next eowyn. when you make that certain man feel a certain way, he will be glued to you like white on rice. and if he's a man of God and the Lord is calling him to you, he will not want to delay. God bless and see you tommorrow! :)
    oxox, the little bird

  2. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Ok, so I probably shouldn't really be reading through your old blog posts right now, but it's kind of fun. That being said, I'm positive this entry is about my very first memory of you and that's really nice. *Sigh*

    I love that "the little bird" describes your interests as emphathetical towards men's. I cannot think of a kinder, and in many respects more accurate, way to express your desire for cigars and scotch.

  3. Anonymous3:30 PM

    I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing


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