My girlfriend’s childhood friend was 30 a few weeks ago. The birthday boy hired a cottage in the middle of the countryside, and we all had a lovely weekend of sunshine and intense gender role reinforcement.
The men decided when the barbeque would be lit, then they argued over how to do it, then they decided when and how the meat would be cooked. The women made salad. The men kept cooking and piling up sausages that would never get eaten. The women cleared the plates. The men ran off to play football. The women did the dishes. The men came back, sweating and flushed, and rolled their eyes as their girlfriends nagged them about putting on jackets as it was starting to get chilly.
My girlfriend and I looked on, intrigued and horrified in equal measures.
Not all heterosexual relationships are like this, I know. Some of my best friends are straight, (no, really) and I know several gorgeously feminist blokes who would hate to live in that kind of dichotomy. But for every straight couple who share the toilet-scrubbing, there will be hundreds more who fall into the tired of pattern of dividing behaviour and work into men’s and women’s.
Along with saving money on birth control and swapping shoes opportunities, one of the great advantages of being in a same-sex relationship is that there are no ingrained gender roles to blindly accept or deliberately avoid. Who opens a door for whom does not become a political statement.
While I love living largely without a gender script, I do appreciate that other people deliberately seek out these restraints, and find them liberating. Some women revel in matching femme to butch, and it would be incredibly patronising to suggest that they only do so out of habit or to emulate traditional heterosexuality.
I have no problem with long-haired, frock-wearing girls who dream of tall handsome boys or bois to whisk them away. But I do have a problem with then assuming that with all the positives must come all the negatives. That a man’s man shouldn’t put away cutlery, or isn’t capable of deciding for himself when to put on a jumper.
Apart from childbirth, I don’t believe that there is any task on Earth that is truly performed better by men or women. And that most definitely includes barbeques: my girlfriend’s concerns that the chicken wasn’t thoroughly cooked were dismissed by the man in charge of the barbeque and she spent the night puking into a toilet.