Thursday, September 24, 2009

Roles: part 2

I have a really weird relationship with gender roles. On the one hand, I grew up in family that lauded "traditional values" and men being the head of women. On the other hand, I grew up in a family of Amazon women - career women, and women with advanced degrees, and single mothers who raised bright, well-behaved, successful children. What's more, my mom and dad separated shortly before I was born, so the necessity (or even usefulness) of men wasn't apparent to me at all. So while I heard all these lessons on the proper role of a Christian woman, and although grandma quoted Paul's admonitions to women frequently, she was a female preacher. She *did* teach men. At that time, my mom was a TA at the university where she was getting her doctorate. Eventually I figured out that my grandmother's praise of fathers/husbands was nothing more than lip service. (After all, she clearly thought it was okay for her not to submit to a husband.)

In second grade Mrs. Dempsey gave us a handout to do in class: My Christian Family. (I went to Christian school then, so keep your 1st amendment shirt on.) It was a one-sided page. After a brief paragraph on the importance of family, and a few choice Bible verses on the topic, there followed two fill-in-the-blank statements.

  1. My Christian daddy goes to work most days. He takes care of things around the house and he pays the bills. Daddy takes us to church on Sundays. My Christian daddy's name is ______.
  2. My Christian mommy stays home with me most days. She cooks and cleans and takes care of me. My mommy keeps the house looking nice. My Christian mommy's name is _______.

It was a ridiculous assignment, obviously. It was 1990, and single parent homes weren't exactly new, but they were rare in our school. My mom had apparently been required to write a letter to the school, justifying her reasons for getting a divorce, before we could be admitted. I didn't know that at the time, which I'm pretty glad about. It wasn't till a few years later that I started to feel like my family was less-than the families that included fathers.

But Mrs. Dempsey was concerned by my answers. Clearly, I'd misunderstood *something* about the questions. After all, I'd answered by saying

  1. My Christian mommy's name is Giggy.
  2. My Christian daddy's name is Mommy.
My mom and I have laughed over this story since. She's very much a father figure, not just because she was the breadwinner, but because she worked in a highly analytical, almost entirely male field (psychometrics). I'm much the same. I've always loved logic puzzles and science fiction writing and extremely geeky technology. My mom subscribed to Wired when I was a teenager, and I used to read the issues when she was done with them (and make collages out of the pretty high tech pictures.) In a lot of ways, I think like a man, but in the body of a woman. There have been times I've wondered if my ideas might be taken more seriously if I didn't have breasts (and they're not even big ones.)

In the Einstein Syndrome, a book about high IQ kids with delayed speech (like my son, and myself, and my mom) the small sample-size studies they've done indicate that boys are much more likely than girls to have this combination (9:1) but that girls who do fit the total pattern, including family history and other factors, tend to score statistically the same as the boys on all areas tested, like analytical thinking skills and tendency to like working on puzzles sand computers.

We both felt like this fit. I've always felt somewhat masculine in my thinking. This was a great social asset in high school, and I still have a few girlfriends who call when they need me to interpret something their man said or did. I find it much easier to understand a male mindset than a female one, or at least I did before my pregnancy (and mass hormone invasion). Since the pregnancy, I've felt "more in touch with my feminine side". I cry at sappy music more easily, and I'm a little better at both nurturing and nesting (which is good, because my bedroom in high school was definitely a germ breeding ground.)

Still, my hobbies and interests, my preferred style of communication and relating to people, how I bond with friends - all of it falls into typically male patterns of thinking and relating. Maybe I have more testosterone than other girls, I don't know. But I find that the older I get, and the less I care what anyone thinks, the more comfortable I am in my male/female split.