Marriage and Gender Stereotyping

Many couples today are in marriages that are tethering on the brink of divorce as a result of strict gender stereotyping.

The African society from time immemorial has provided a laid down manual for man and wife to follow. It has been made clear to us over and again, even more so while growing up. The duties of a girl child are centered around house chores, cooking and cleaning, while the boys are allowed to play football and outdoor games, but are taught quite strictly that they had to be strong, fearless and almost emotionless to equip them for their role as the protector of and provider for their families when they grow up.

Alas, times are changing, a good number of people have refused to embrace the flexibility that comes with change. Some have accepted some bits of the change, while holding on to some of the old ways, while others have fully accepted the change.

Some men for instance still insist that their wives must not work, they hold strongly to the belief that they ought to be the sole provider, while she stays home to take care of the entire family. Some women also believe the same.

Now, regardless of whether the man is literally breaking his backbone to support the family, the rigidity of their beliefs and mindset does not accommodate the possibility of the wife supporting even if she has a stronger business and financial acumen.

Some other men on the other hand believe that their wives ought to support them financially but see no responsibility to reciprocate and support the wife domestically. Talk about eating your cake and having it. Likewise, some women also feel their husbands should never touch domestic chores but see nothing wrong with providing financial support to him.

Other couples on the other hand have embraced flexibility. They both contribute financially and domestically. There is no rigid demarcation of who does what. Their aim is to ensure that they achieve their goals as a couple.

For some couples, even if the man brings home the bacon, if the wife is more financially savvy, the handling of the finances is left entirely to her. If the man enjoys cooking, he can take it upon himself to cook for the entire family.

There are no his and hers roles for such couples and for such arrangements to thrive, mutual respect is a MUST HAVE between the couple. Respect for each other’s strengths and weaknesses and allowing each one to play to their strengths.

Regardless of the arrangement, couples who work well with each other are the ones that have an AGREEMENT as to how the roles should be played.

I see nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be a domestic goddess and having her husband provide financially, what is more important is that both parties are FINE with the arrangement.

I also see nothing wrong with a man being the domestic one, while the wife provides financially, as long as they are in agreement.

Things go wrong when there is no agreement and square pegs are being put into round holes.

A home where a career oriented woman is forced to be domesticized, or where a man who believes he should never go near house chores is forced to do so, is a  home where resentment, hurt and dissatisfaction thrive.

I advise those who are currently in a relationship or engaged to have this very pertinent conversation with their intended in order to understand very clearly where each party stands. Even after verbal discussions, please observe the individual in his or her comfort zone, because he/she may verbally communicate one thing, whilst having the polar opposite in mind. Open your ears, eyes and be very wise. There’s no point going into a marriage where every day is a Mexican stand off.

My personal opinion is that a couple stand to benefit a lot more when they embrace flexibility. The home front is stronger for it because they both play to their strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses as it pertains to the situation. That is what I believe marriage should be about.

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