Women: Because SOMEONE Has to Kill the Monstrosity on My Wall (a stream of consciousness about gender roles)

This is actually a stream of consciousness. Read at your own risk. And don’t forget to check back this week as I write on an actual topic: why Seth Davis should just stick to sports.

Last night, when I got out of the shower, I walked back into my room and saw the biggest creepy crawly thing I have ever fucking seen on the wall above my bed. I’m usually pretty okay with bugs. I hate bees, but who doesn’t? House flies terrify me because of the buzzing, but I’m fully aware that they’re not going to hurt me. Gnats and mosquitos are just an annoyance, and I’ve already proven capable of simply ignoring cockroaches and pretending they are not there.

No, this thing was like, the size of my head.

So who did I call to kill it? Because I sure as hell wasn’t doing it myself. There are two boys living in my basement, I could have gotten one of them. I evaluated and quickly realized they would NOT have killed this thing. Instead, I screamed for the girl who lives across the hall.

After she destroyed the bug and commented on how cool it was that it was still wriggling after it was clearly smushed to death (ugh), I said, “have I ever mentioned that [said awesome girl] is a godsend?” Her roommate replied, “do you mean man? Because I think you meant man.”

No, I did not mean men. I specifically didn’t call the men because I realized that, despite being men and all sorts of masculine (sort of), they certainly weren’t going to be interested in removing the disgusting creature from my wall.

I tried to play it off without being a hardass about it. I attempted to joke around (which usually fails, with me). “You can be bad ass without being a man,” or “I didn’t call the guys up to do it.”

Instead, all I got out of last night is the following:

  1. I fucking HATE bugs.
  2. Said woman in my house is BAD ASS. AWESOME. KILLS BUGS.
  3. Men are not hygienic. A guy in our house last night informed us he’s the woman of his house because he cooks and cleans and has some semblance of hygiene.

…wait, what? Shouldn’t that just be standard

I don’t understand how it’s possible that we’re all still so entrenched in gender roles. Why is it “manly” to be dirty? I just think it’s disgusting. There are some elements of stereotypical masculinity that we can encourage others to leave behind, as there are some elements of stereotypical femininity that I would be happier to drop (my aversion to bugs, for instance).

But why is this girl suddenly a man because she’s cooler than me?

What do I do in this situation? It’s so easy to chastise people on a blog, but in reality, these are my friends, and I want to get along with them and not be a pain in the ass every time they make jokes that they seem to think are funny, but are honestly reinforcing the gender roles I’m trying so hard to dismantle so we don’t have to deal with the bullshit anymore.

How do you all handle situations like these? Do you find them funny, or do you tend to get irritated? Anyone have any suggestions?

    • Eileen
    • August 2nd, 2010

    When it comes to gender jokes, to me, it depends more on who’s telling them than what’s being said. Like you, I’ve spent a lot of time being the only girl, and you get jokes – are you one of the boys? are you the mother hen? are you the wife? – but when they’re coming from people who I know respect me as a person and don’t actually think that it is my job, as the woman, to make them drinks or clean up after them or enforce their curfew, I don’t mind. If a gender-based joke is meant ironically, it’s sometimes funny; a man and a woman laughing together at what is stereotypically expected of them. It really depends on the joke.

    As for college-aged men being messier than college-aged women, they often are (and I’m kind of a slob, but it’s still true). I don’t think it’s inherently masculine, though, because they grow out of it. I think it’s more likely that parents teach their daughters to do things – such as cook, clean the bathroom, do the dishes, do laundry, etc. – that they might not teach their sons. Although I have no brothers to compare.

    • Katie
    • August 3rd, 2010

    So I’m making my first comment on your blog to this stream of consciousness, and it’s going to be a comment in similar form. It’s funny; I encountered a somewhat comparable situation and thought of asking you about it, oh One Who is Wise in the Ways of Gender Relations (and I’m not being tart here – I’m fully confident you have some insight). See, I think your conundrum is more clear-cut than mine. I think it’s totally fine to say “actually, no, she’s not a man for killing that bug,” just casually but clearly. (For the record, I kill all sorts of bugs for my brother who refuses to go near them, and by “kill” I mean “gather them in tissues and deposit them outside, for which my brother then teases me for being girly” – make of that what you will.)
    My issue arose a few days ago. I’m visiting my grandmother now, and she solicited my help to do some food preparation, despite the fact that I was in the middle of something and my brother had been just sitting and watching TV for a while. Similar things have happened before, and it kind of annoys me. The problem is, I don’t want to obnoxiously negate any help I’m giving by complaining about it, and I do really want to help her out. At the same time, I do feel like I’m being asked to (and passively expected to) cook (and clean, etc.) to a greater extent than he is, because I’m female. So, I’m not sure what to do about that. It’s probably not a big deal, and my grandmother was raised in a time when that would be more common… but, still. It’s funny, too: I caught myself thinking the other day that it was cute that a grown man couldn’t successfully cook pasta. But then I was like, wait, if a grown woman couldn’t cook pasta, I would probably just think she was incompetent. Red flag! Similarly, about hygiene: It’s cute when a guy rolls out of bed and goes straight to do his day (culturally, at least… I agree with you that it’s gross when anyone neglects to shower), but heaven forbid that I go into public without having washed my hair, brushed and arranged my hair, shaved my legs, put lotion on my hands, powdered my nose… and I tend to feel like I primp less than the average female. But it can be as much of a stigma for men as for women: I remember that my dad told my stepbrother that it was girly for him to put conditioner as well as shampoo in his hair, and he stopped doing it. My brother once told me explicitly that he intentionally didn’t match his t-shirt with his shorts because people would tease him if he looked like he was wearing an “outfit.” A girl will probably be judged if she doesn’t look like she tried, but a guy will be equally judged for looking like he did. A guy will be called a wimp if he refuses to kill a bug, whereas in a girl it’s just cute. And I’m not totally sure why that is – archaic cultural symbolism and all that, probably, but the point is that it’s kind of stupid for all concerned. The problem is that it’s hard for an individual to do differently in the face of such widespread social norms. I could refuse to cook pasta or wash my hair, but, aside from the fact that I actually want to do those things, I would probably just be ridiculed or at least be regarded with mild distaste without making much in the way of an effective point.

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