Gender Equality

The Prime Minister, Theresa May has attracted some criticism this week after her appearance, with her husband, on the One Show.  In a discussion about their marriage she said that ‘there’s boy and girl jobs you see’, referring to the fact that her husband takes the bins out.  Reactions have been interesting and varied with some being horrified that we still speak of gendered roles in the household and some suggesting that there really are more important things to discuss in the run up to a general election.

 

Personally, I think Mrs May was careless to say what she did and it is unhelpful.  Mostly because I really don’t think it is true.  In my own marriage there are certain roles that I fulfil and certain roles that my husband does.  Some of them may adhere to gender stereotypes or ‘tradition’.  For example, like Mr May, my husband always takes the bins out.  He also cuts the grass.  However, he also does all the ironing, washing and some of the sewing on of buttons, amongst other things.  We do these things, not because of our gender, but because of our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our strengths and the way that these things fit in with the rest of life.  Family units, work patterns and social ‘norms’ are many and varied, and the ways each of us make this work are as well.

 

My generation of women have mostly not had to fight for gender equality in the way previous generations did and we do not face the awful things that many women across the world do, but we constantly have to deal with ‘everyday sexism’, these kind of comments and experiences which can seem benign and that we are told to shrug off or focus on more important things.  However, they betray an underlying culture that subtly and persistently informs people’s opinions and values.  It has been hard enough for women to get anything like equality – and we still have a long way to go – without the irony of the most powerful woman in our country talking about boys’ jobs and girls’ jobs!  If we, even jokingly or light heartedly, talk like this, we risk another generation growing up believing that there really are jobs for boys and jobs for girls.

By the Revd Rachel Rosborough, Rector of Bourton on the Water with Clapton & the Rissingtons

 

4 thoughts on “Gender Equality

  1. Aah this is what the contributor says . It has been hard enough for women to get anything like equality – and we still have a long way to go – without the irony of the most powerful woman in our country talking about boys’ jobs and girls’ jobs! If we, even jokingly or light heartedly, talk like this… now for many who were watching this was a statement that many normal married copied of several generations can easily identify with. Perhaps the contributor would always offer to change the plugs, do the techy things etc. In Marriage many see it as a complimentary approach, not a joining of carbon copies. But I accept she may prefer that it is a marriage of carbon copies rather than complimentary union, equal, does not mean the same in our marriage. a sense of humour shows your human too

    1. I do do most of the techy things in our house!

      I am not for a moment suggesting that we are, or should be, carbon copies of each other but that our differences and the different things we do are to do with who we are as people, which may include our gender, but also includes a whole lot of other things.

  2. Seeing people by their gender rather than their humanity is always going to be a step backwards. Just like valuing people depending on their race or nationality, it completely denies the brilliance of the species for the sake of [comforting] pigeonholing; for the sake of control.

    It’s such a frustration that someone in power in the UK can be as gender-sterotyped as comically out of touch characters like Trump (who I’d prefer to keep at arm’s length, if not a substantially greater distance), and this isn’t some anecdote from the 70s but current politics…

  3. I agree with Rachel that each couple should work out the division of labour that works for their skills and inclinations as people, and that “everyday sexism” about gender roles isn’t helpful to couples. I’d like to add that it’s also unhelpful to single people. In my household there aren’t boy jobs and girl jobs, there are just jobs, and as a widow, I do all of them. We need to bring up our daughters, and our sons, to be able to deal with life whether or not they have a partner with whom to discuss the division of labour at all.

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