Following on from that link before, “choose the right guy, choose an equal partner” is a piece of advice ya hear all the time directed at young women. Having been in a relationship with the same dude since I was a teenager, it’s advice that I heard heaps when I was already in my forever relationship, though young enough that people assumed I wasn’t.
I have some thoughts.
- First is – well duh. Shouldn’t this be baseline? Who is out there thinking “I really want a man who thinks I’m a lesser human”? It doesn’t count as a pro-tip any more than “chose someone you love” counts as a pro-tip. It sets the bar way low.
- But… it also sets the bar kinda high. If you’re a woman in a hetero relationship, chances are there will be aspects of the relationship that are frustrating and that arise from the fact you live with a man who grew up in a sexist culture. That’s annoying, yeah, totally. It annoys me that my husband can go days without noticing that the compost is overflowing, when emptying the compost is his job. But… I’m currently writing this post while he makes his aunt a birthday card out of one of our kid’s drawings from creche, while the oven heats up because he’s also making the little dude’s birthday cake to take to creche tomorrow, and he also just brought me a big bowl of delicious tofu peanut sesame rice noodle salad. Kinda gotta take the good with the bad, y’know? If the guy you’re with is genuinely committed to being in an equal relationship, there’s no need to create a special “deal breaker” category when he falls short of the mark. Talk about it just like you would with anything else. Don’t make a man your enlightenment project ‘cause fuck that, but on the other hand, don’t expect total perfection.
- There were a lot of guys I knew at uni who were interesting and fun to have as friends, and totally supportive of challenging the patriarchy, but would make terrible co-parents in a dual career couple because they’re too goddamn ambitious. No matter how much of a feminist your dude is, if he wants to enter politics or the judiciary, he’s going to want to partner up with someone who is keen on the primary caregiver role. And that’s actually ok too if he acknowledges the importance of that role.
- Why is it a woman’s job to screen potential partners for something as fundamental as commitment to a life of not ripping each other off, rather than a man’s job to get with the programme? As soon as you say this is something women should do, there’s a risk of blaming a woman who finds her career held back by the fact that her male partner isn’t totally on board with challenging the patriarchy all the time. She should have chosen someone who was willing to stay home with the kids! No. Take that back right now. It’s not her fault, it’s his fault, and it’s the fault of our social structures.
- Another but… Sometimes life forces unequal contributions because there are different needs, and you can’t plan for that, and if we get too hung up on making sure each person is giving the exact same amount it starts to look really transactional and not very loving. Let’s not do that.
- When highly successful women heap accolades on their supportive husbands, it affirms male power. It is a variation on the idea that your status is defined by your husband. Look how awesome I am, because my husband is a committed feminist! He looks after the children when they’re sick – why didnt you manage to find such a wonderful man?! “My husband is so amazing and I couldn’t have done it without him!” Seriously? Why are you giving him all the credit? I want to hear a successful woman say “well why the fuck shouldn’t he be the one to do creche drop off?” If you’re constantly saying that your husband is the best ever and so supportive, etc etc etc, it also potentially kinda silences people who might want to make observations about negative features of being in a hetero relationship without seeming disloyal to their own partners. Because we know those features exist. For one thing, as I remind my husband sometimes, I’m doing all the pregnanting. He is doing none of the pregnanting! For another thing, he benefits from male privilege. He benefits from being held to a lower standard of parenting and household maintenance. If people visit and the house is a mess, he benefits from the fact that they’re more likely to judge me. If he’s out with the little dude, he benefits from the fact that people cut dads more parenting slack than mums. Those things are real and I want to be able to point them out without first assuming a serene expression of grovelling gratitude towards my particular partner, who is totally awesome, of course, yeah, he’s really great, I’m like, so lucky.
- It’s hard to know what someone is like to live with until you live with them. It’s hard to know what someone is like as a co-parent until you have a kid with them. One of the cool things about having a kid with the person you love is seeing them enjoy each other’s company and do things together. This gives me the warmest fuzzies. Last Friday after I got home with the little dude, he said “Want Daddy! No Daddy work! Want Mummy and Daddy! Daddy Daybe Mabua!” (”Daybe” is how he says his name, and “Mabua” is “Mapua”, where we went camping). I texted this to my husband and he replied “leaving now” and when he got home he said “I almost cried when I saw that text!”