The Dark Side of Gender Equality
Jess Iandiorio
273

Ok, I have to argue about the “chivalry” explanation you just laid out. When we talk about chivalry, we seem to use it as shorthand for men taking care of women. But that’s not what the word means. And this is an invitation for women to pursue equality by taking up chivalry, which is just looking out for others. It is acknowledging privilege as a duty. There’s a great (plz excuse the title) article laying all this out:

But that’s only half of the issue you raise. The other thing you bring up is the division of labor in your family. And I think it is actually harmful for you and your husband to impart this “gender equality begins at home” idea the way you have. The trouble is, when you find a partner and create a home together, some things will be inherently unequal. My husband couldn’t be pregnant, for example. And when I chose to stay home with the kids, it wasn’t only because I was a woman, but also because he is the higher earner with the better job.

This wasn’t an arbitrary choice, but “gender equality begins at home” implies that I should have gone back to work while he stayed home with the kids. Or that both of us should work as a way to symbolically champion equality. But those choices would have been bad in terms of creating a safe, comfortable home for us. So while I think it’s really important to recognize ways in which we may thoughtlessly reinforce gender stereotypes in our lives, most of our choices are not made in a vacuum. And as individuals, it is ok to construct our families in ways that may not be socially progressive, because our lives are not just statistics to show gender or racial equality. We still need to live them.

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