Opinion: Reversing roles

Neville Hardman is a sophomore magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.  Contact her at [email protected]

Neville Hardman

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s easy to want to get close to your significant other and watch a movie, but consider your selection carefully. Every romantic movie ever has a tired plot line: girl and guy meet. Girl and guy fall in love. Tragedy strikes and the former lovebirds are torn away from each other. In the end the guy winds up chasing after the girl, winning her heart entirely, and it’s onto the next movie choice for the night.

But what would happen if the woman chased after the man for once instead? We seem to have it ingrained in our brains that pursuing someone is a one-way street. Winning over the girl has become the man’s job, and the woman just has to wait for him. If a woman wrote 365 letters to a man, we’d write her off as clingy and desperate, instead of a hopeless romantic like Ryan Gosling as Noah Calhoun in “The Notebook.”

Among American married couples, gender roles remained stagnant for decades. The husband worked while the wife stayed at home to raise the children, look after the house and cook meals. Fortunately, household tasks are starting to become more of an even partnership.

 A 2012 Employment Characteristics of Families Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the share of married-couple families with children where both parents worked at 59 percent. That number is probably even higher now, as women become less limited in their marital obligations.

It’s also more common for a man to be a stay-at-home dad than it was 20 years ago, and it is becoming perfectly normal to see a father driving his kids to school and picking up after the house. Wives get a chance to be a provider to help the family prosper. Marital roles have indeed become more diverse with time, and less restrictive in deciding which person gets to do what.

However, all of that great diversity seems to have provoked a problem in the bedroom. A New York Times article suggested that husbands who cook, vacuum and do laundry have sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those who do not. As someone who is comforted by the disappearance of routine gender roles in marriage, this disturbs me. It contradicts the equivalence going on and makes it seem like a bad thing. No one should be punished with less sex because they perform tasks that are “outside their gender role.”

This statistic is detrimental to the idea of diversity, but we have been taught to be more physically attracted to the person who does the opposite of what we do through every movie and sitcom ever. It has created a stalemate in the bedroom, but the increasing number of American couples defying gender roles will perhaps spark an important notion: women who work a day job and grill are still women. Men who fold laundry and make dinner aren’t any less manly. It’s time to put gender roles to rest and start appreciating a refreshing dynamic in modern couples.