Insults can be gender neutral, too.
A female friend recently posted a meme on Facebook that said, in essence, “Girls with houseplants make good girlfriends. Because they’ve learned to care for something that sits around all day being fucking useless.”
In the comments, women commiserated about the apparent truth of this sentiment. Apparently, they felt it applied to the men in their lives, both past and present.
And I get it. My first inclination was to giggle along with the rest. Haha, boys are useless. That’s so funny!
But the thing is: It’s NOT funny. The implication that all the men in our lives, and in particular the men with whom we choose to get romantically involved, are useless is sexist and damaging?—?for both sexes.
From the highest levels of government all the way down to your local coffee shop, sexism against women is pernicious. We march, we strike and we stay home from work to draw attention to the the gender inequality that’s still so pervasive in our culture.
So why do many of us self-identified feminists feel comfortable lumping all men together under one reductive umbrella in the same way we ourselves have been stereotyped?
In our culture, there’s only one acceptable way to define a real man: A man must be tough. A man must bring home the bacons. A man must fix up the house and take out the trash and do other “handy” things.
And then there are the stereotypes that hurt both genders: A man can’t cry. A man can’t be vulnerable. A man can’t take on traditionally “feminine” work, like nursing or caring for children.
Sure, men can work and pay for the house and the dinners and the jewelry, but God forbid a man actually wash the dishes, cook dinner or vacuum. Our culture has traditionally viewed those activities as less masculine.
And women are guilty of playing right into these stereotypes.
Whether we’re in a good or bad relationship, we make fun of our men. We call them lazy, we bitch to our girlfriends about how they never help around the house, we complain about their video game habit or how it’s been forever since they took us out to dinner. How they sit on their asses and expect us to tend to them?—?like houseplants.
It happens. To be honest, I’ve been guilty of this in the past. Who hasn’t?
But it’s time for that kind of thinking to stop.
It’s time to stop stereotyping and it’s time to stop expecting men to fail. It’s time to step up our game?—?all of us?—?and expect people to treat us better.
If your partner expects to sit around all day and be taken care of without giving anything back, then perhaps you should consider whether you’re with the wrong partner.
When I met my significant other, I was so genuinely surprised by some of the things he did, I now feel silly about it. First and foremost, I had a really difficult time accepting how generous Adam was.
I was surprised (and thrilled) that he was kind and caring and honest and, most of all, wanted to build a solid foundation with me as much as I did with him. And part of that foundation was establishing a good, balanced routine at home that made us true partners in life.
For us, that meant splitting chores up as evenly as we could. Adam has his responsibilities and I have mine. The division of housework came about partly because Adam is innately kind and generous, and partly because he’s an adult in an adult relationship with me. As such, I entered the relationship assuming he wanted us to be equals.
If you feel your “useless” boyfriend or husband isn’t pulling his weight and not being a good partner to you, stop putting him into a box and expecting him to fail. Instead, expect him?—?hell, ask him?—?to rise to the occasion and do this whole adulting thing alongside you.
Women have been fighting so hard for our equality. We want equal pay, and to walk down the street without getting harassed, and to be safe and loved and respected. But we have to give the same respect back. We have to not make men into stereotypes if we expect them to not make us into stereotypes.
As Michelle Obama said during the Democratic National Convention last year, “When they go low, we go high.”
If you’re a self-identified feminist but take every chance you can to stereotype the opposite sex, then you’re just playing into the broken, sexist system. Instead, demand and expect better.
And who knows? You might just be surprised when the men in your life break out of the lazy box you’ve placed them in and show you that it takes two to make a better world. A world in which we can all expect to be treated fairly, respected and loved.
A world in which men aren’t houseplants, but humans.