Wednesday, 5 August 2009

He man. He work.

I've never really thought about women in the workforce. That was such a last-century-feminist issue. I thought these days, nearly all women work, apart from the occasional stay-at-home mom who goes back to work when her kids are old enough. In some ways, it doesn't seem like a bad idea: the mum stays home with the kids, and the dad goes out and is bread-winner.

And now I'm working in a store where we deal with a lot of tradesmen. One of our customers is female; all the others are guys. The only other women I interact with are other "office ladies".

Most of the tradesmen at work are married. And none of their wives work.

Not that these guys have a conscious problem with this. They talk indulgently about their wives, like they would about a naughty puppy.

One man was complaining about his "missus" spending $250 at the supermarket the other day. "What does she find to spend this money on?" he said, and the other men around him clucked and shook their heads and added their own stories of their wives' wastefulness.

Dan and I easily spend $250 at the supermarket; and this guy has two kids. I asked him if he ever went with his wife to the supermarket.

"What? No, of course not," he said, and you could see the very idea was strange. He man. He work. She woman. She shop. She cook. She clean. She look after kids. She complain for no apparent reason. Silly woman.

I couldn't believe it. These women are still living in the 1950s, and they're keeping their husbands there with them.

Two of the men have wives with part-time jobs, and when they mentioned this, everyone else was surprised. Working women are the exception, not the rule, in this world. And even then, the wives who do work, only work part-time while the kids are at school. These men know two types of women: office ladies (or girls who aren't yet married); and wives.

I never want to be one of those women. I never want my partner to regard me with fond indulgence, and complain affectionately about me at work to his working buddies because he doesn't know what his "missus" does with all his money, or what she spends all her time doing, or why she gets so crabby with him when all he asked was why she didn't clean the house today. I want to get married one day, and I want that to be an equal partnership, with both people pulling their weight. I've never been much of a feminist; the world I've worked and lived in has always been pretty unsexist. But there's no way I ever want to conform to those stereotypes.

No comments: