Monday, 4 July 2011

The death of the gentleman and other notions

I can paint my own walls, check my own car's tire pressure and oil, hang up my own paintings, drill my own holes... Basically, I think I can do everything a man can do (except pee while standing. And even that can be arranged, somehow). If I do not know how, I will ask. I do not want to be some damsel in distress, afraid of chipping a nail. I want to be able to build a fire ( hah! That one can be checked off the list), fix the car, make a bookshelf and rewire a lighting fixture. I want to know these traditionally male things, because until now, I have done it on my own. I have learnt to fix what is broken by myself. Why would I want to learn these things? Because when you are a woman, car sales men tell you where you can put your lipstick and not about the fuel consumption, the engine strength, etc. When you are in Builder's Warehouse, the employees assume you are there waiting for your husband/boyfriend/father and do not help you. When you want to fill up your tank, you are expected to stay seated and not check everything yourself. Tss. I know these are generalisations, but one must admit that quite often, there are subtle discriminations in the everyday.

However, there does come a point where I think the loss of traditional gender roles is lamentable, and that is the way of being treated like a lady. No one opens doors any more. No one goes for a traditional date of dinner and a movie and is satisfied with a kiss at the doorstep. No one sends flowers. I think the art of being a gentleman has been eradicated by the insistence on instant sexual gratification of my generation.

It can be argued that this is perhaps our own fault: female emancipation and the notion of gender equality has relegated men as quite useless. With enough sperm, we could eradicate men completely. Perhaps women are "doing it for themselves" too much and men feel threatened by this intrusion into "their" world. I don't really know what it is. But I think most women still want to fulfil the role of mother and wife ( or partner or whatever you want to call the person you are committed to). Most women still want to make the salad and rice for the Sunday braai. Most women still want to stay at home and pack lunch boxes.  But I think many women also want to feel a sense of personal achievement : no one applauds the wife for an excellent dinner party, children see only their father as "working" and one gets kitchen utensils for one's birthday. When one has a job that is not housewife, there is competition, reward and aspiration. Is there also a sense of pride in one's work that one does not feel when one is "only" at home? I know raising children and keeping up with the household is a full-time job, but sometimes one needs to be able to talk about more than one's husband and children.

I believe our society has been conditioned too much by materialism: all that matters is what car one drives and where one buys the groceries.  Even days of appreciation like mother's day, father's day and Valentine's day are a consumerist festival.

I say forget all those "tokens". Opening the doors, randomly bringing flowers or just cooking dinner once will already make a girl feel like a lady, like she is worth the effort. Maybe that is the crux of it: one wants to feel like the other does value one's existence, that one is important somehow, that one is more than a pair of breasts.

Nowadays one can organize a quick hook-up over sms or BBM, one can go home with a random person and do the walk of shame the next morning. I say if that is what you want at that point in time, do it. But the next morning, the next week, the next year, one will probably think: "Hmm, maybe that was not the wisest decision." It cheapens one's own self-worth, it makes one feel like all that is desirable about oneself is the body and not the brains.

Maybe this way of thinking is outdated in a high-speed world. Maybe internet dating and apps designed for booty calls are the future. But somehow, I am still a lady. I might not always talk like one or look like one, but in essence, I am still a woman (maybe not yet?!) of worth and need to be treated accordingly.


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