Breaking up with the old patterns of gender behavior is hard? Well, duh! So is resisting a delicious chocolate muffin in front of me although I do know it is not a healthy choice and I have promised myself so many times to be strong and say no. How about those smokers that know smoking kills and still smoke, confirming their decision to bring death closer with every new cigarette? After thousands of years of learning in certain behavioral patterns and still surrounded by them how can we think it can all change simply because we realize that this is a good thing to do?
Swedish Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) in the issue for January 4th ran a piece on the results of the recent study on gender issues in everyday life. Interviews with the Swedish couples showed that in many Swedish households an attempt to question the “traditional” gender roles and striving towards equality at home could be considered by the partner as questioning the partner or the relationship itself and put strain on the relationship, increasing the risk of a break up. Many partners prefer to compromise and do what was expected of them rather than run the risk of being left by their partner. This makes unions of the couples from the Nordic couples more fragile than those of the continental Europe. Here in the north of Europe there appears to exist a gap between gender equality ideals and the actual division of work in the household which still follows “traditional” patterns despite the encouraging measures from the politicians to provide incentives to households so that men could spend more time at home with children. It appears that Swedish politicians and Swedes are not really on the same page. The researchers warn the politicians that one day Swedes might simply lose faith in gender equality politics and accept the status quo.
There appears to exist a divide in a head of an average Swedish male who on the surface is all for sharing the work load with his female partner (96 per cent of Swedes think that work at home should be shared equally between the partners) and yet shirks at home, doing only half of what his female partner does at unpaid work (according to the same stats). Are Swedish men simply not willing to do as they preach? Can it also be that women have difficulty to let go of some of the tasks? I have noticed it is much easier for my male friend to let the dishes pile up if he has no energy to do it right away, than for me, indoctrinated by my mother that a “gal has to keep the house clean”. I have to literally step back and remind myself that I am not less of a person or a woman if I let the dishes wait for a while and do something else. The dish washing bug in me might appears to be as innate as the reflex to scratch the itch after a mosquito bite and some still believe it is biologically conditioned.
Still how can the government make me believe I don’t have to do the dishes just because I am a female if I let the dish washing bug bug me and don’t even question it? Politicians can do that much but if we want to have something done we also need to be ready to actually do whatever it takes to get us there. If both partners are aware of those urges and bugs and the underlying reasons, nobody will feel threatened.