Robots, Seals, and Chivalry! Oh My!

Another piece written for Gender and Race Class:

I do not want to be a seal.

A Navy Seal, that is. When the movie G. I. Jane came out, I was really excited about it. I felt like, finally, we were being shown in a tough role that broke down barriers that were holding us back. Or down. My mom, on the other hand, felt that it was showing us trying to be like men. She quoted the Feminist saying from back in the day, “If you’re trying to be like men, you’re setting your sights too low.” She was a pacifist and anti-war protesting hippie. She couldn’t see why a person would want to be a Navy Seal or any other Special Forces. From where she sat, it wasn’t a worthy goal for a woman to have.

She felt the same way about Beauty Pageants. Why on Earth would you want to participate in something so contrived? In something that focuses narrowly on the looks of a woman and only slightly allows that they might have talents other than filling a bikini? In something that seems to be moving us backward instead of forward?

Neither do I want to enter a beauty pageant.

What I do want is the option of trying to be anything that I set my mind to and to know that if that is my passion, then I can do/be that.

We argued a bit about it. Eventually she came over to my side. It’s not about wanting to be that. It’s about being told that you can’t. Because you’re a woman and women can’t or shouldn’t do that.

This is what I was reminded of when our gentleman friend in class was questioning whether there isn’t some validity to gender roles and/or stereotypes. He wanted to know what’s really wrong with wanting to protect your woman. Nothing is really “wrong” with it. As long as you know that she’s not actually yours and that she wants protecting.

It is a challenge to balance our chivalric ideals with gender neutrality and equality. I understand that it can be a challenge for a man to figure out when it’s appropriate to protect and shelter a woman as our public chivalrous, gentlemanly code dictates he should and when it is chauvinistic.

My husband and I have assumed fairly traditional roles in our household. Much of that is due to our skill sets and preferences. Which I have to assume comes from how we were raised and society. He has a lot of “masculine” skills. He was raised on a ranch, joined the Marines, and then was a heavy equipment mechanic. He likes to hunt, enjoys sports and cars, competition and adventure/thrill seeking.

Most of that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. So I am happy to leave him to it. This means, for the most part, that I get to do the more domestic duties like cooking dinner and doing dishes and laundry. Of course, I have an eye toward one day being able to afford to have someone do the cleaning for us, so no one has to do them, least of all me.

Maybe we can change chivalry to include good manners toward men and women and loosen our gender roles enough to include everyone’s strengths and weaknesses without regard for gender. Maybe we can’t in our current culture. But, I hope that is not the case.

I suppose I’ll have to wait for robots to eliminate the need for humans to do many of the chores of daily living. Perhaps when we are freed from the “heavy lifting” of life we’ll be able to more readily turn our gaze to loftier goals.


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