The Office of First Year Experiences is starting this cool new program called Trading Laces. The point is to learn about other people's perspectives, as I am sure you have heard the old saying about taking a walk in other people's shoes. In my effort to become a more balanced person, and because I think stuff like this is super interesting, I decided to start my journey with the gender category. A feminist at heart, I am all about hearing about women and the different roles we take in society.
For the "Solo" category I watched four different youtube videos about the media and how it portrays women and men. They show us these models that are physically impossible to attain. I think on some level we all know that and when we are reminded we are like, yeah I know. But then whenever I crack open the lastest Cosmo, or I get that Victoria's Secret catalogue I am still like, dang, I wish I could look like them. Yet, all of them are photoshopped. Plus, I am a full time student and am super busy the way it is. With my current workout schedule, I don't think I could fit any more in, yet I still look how I do and am happy with it. Subliminally, media affects me, and I know it does because when I am at the gym I always think to myself- do I have 5 more minutes for the treadmill? I don't have a problem, but the pressure society puts on both women and men is enourmous. Magazines want women to look unattainably skinny and men to look bulky but slim at the same time. Personally, I believe the advertising industry is taking things too far. Removing some acne or sunspots, sure, but reducing body fat, increasing muscle tone and changing the way a person looks is too much. Eating disorders are high enough already, we don't need them to be started at an earlier age too. Also, I think the advertising image has a huge impact on relationships. The divorce rate is at 50-50 right now. Couples can't be maintain a relationship if they aren't attracted to them. But who is setting the standard for beauty and attraction? It is hard enough to find a mate in this world, why put more pressure on the process.
This video shows Jean Kilbourne, who has been studying media effects on women for nearly 40 years. Check it out.
To go above and beyond, I even attended an event revolving around gender. I went to a panel put on by the Department of Sociology where Amanda Miller talked about "Great Expectations? Cohabitor's preferred and actual divisions of housework." Not gonna lie, when I walked into a room (5 minutes late- dang B bus) of only 6 or 7 people around a table I backed out and then made sure I was in the right place. I was, and luckily there was free (good) pizza. But that's not why I went. I actually find it really interesting how housework is split because of how I grew up. My mom did a whole lot and my dad was the "breadwinner" but from my perspective, I don't think it was an equal split. Miller and an associate did a study on cohabitators (people living together), and how their happiness depended on their housework split and compared it to their socioeconomic level. Here are some points that I found interesting:
- In order to make it an "even split" women can only decrease their housework so much. Men have to bring their level up, or otherwise both will be living in a pig stye.
- Men clean by a sense of fairness, rather then their sense of cleanliness. This means, they know they should clean, but they don't actually feel that it needs to be cleaned right then.
- Women feel more responsible to clean for guests. If the husband's parents are coming over and all of his stuff is lying around, it reflects poorly on the wife because she will be seen as a poor homekeeper, rather than the husband being seen as sloppy. I thought this was interesting because it reflects on society's mental schema for housework. It is always the woman's job, so even if it is all the man's belongings laying around, the negative feel will still be attributed to her.
- Economy of gratitude does not go both ways. In a round about way- this means that if a man does some sort of chore, he thinks he deserves more gratitude than the woman who cleans the house all day long. And if she contributes to the bills, it is not nearly as important as his contributions. I would Google it if you want to learn more.
- Socialization in childhood may play a role. For example- boys are encouraged to go outside and play and get dirty, while girls may be encouraged to play house- cooking and cleaning.
- I found it interesting that one of the members there said that his wife had once asked his dad if he could teach her how to change the oil in her car. He was very resistant to teaching her such a masculine skill, and would always address her husband when teaching them. Could it be that the older generation is only prohibiting our society's trend towards equality?
- Middle class women tended to be more assertive or empowered in relationships. If they wanted their men to help them out, they would tell them straightaway. Working class women said they had tried that, but working class men were more blunt at stopping these types of conversations. The dynamics and differences between socioeconomic groups were very interesting.
- Often times, the division of housework did not stay equal unless they had a plan. Like the man does the dishes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the woman takes out the trash on those days, etc. Even then, it is an unequal division because the woman had to manage the divisions.
- One of the main things I got out of it was- Attitudes match your behavior. If you desire a conventional split and both of you are happy with it, then there is nothing wrong with that.
I know this was a longer post, but I got a lot from Amanda Miller.
If you are interested in learning more, there are 3 other gender lecturs coming up after Spring Break!
Peace, Love, and Equality