Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gender Bender

One of the most beautiful aspects of my relationship with my husband when we were dating, was that there was no gender aspect. He cooked for me, I got rid of the pigeons/lizards in the room, I am not a baby-person, he gushes over kids he sees on the street, etc. He was the shy one and I was all for sexual chemistry and experimentation. There were no gender-defined roles that we 'had to' or 'started to' play.

I remember distinctly the first time I'd 'felt like a particular gender' - the day my budding breasts got mauled in the bus. Till then the fact that I'm female had played no role in my life, other than ticking a particular box while filling forms. When pregnancy happened, things started to change even more. Nino was an unplanned child - and I had hoped to depend a lot on my husband's parenting skills when we decide to go ahead and have Nino. But biologically, differences were seeping in. Not just the physical changes, but even later, when it suddenly became a 'given' that I would spend more time with Nino, doing his chores. Not that I minded it - but it gave me an uncomfortable feeling that my family, including my husband - who by the way is the least chauvinistic person (not just male) that I know - were closet chauvinists in a way. Today, there is a vast chasm between my parenting responsibilities and his. A lot of this is self-brought-upon thanks to my relentless guilt syndrome - but quite a bit is also socially defined.

I'd never planned to marry - and I'd never planned to have children. Both happened in a way that I'd little control over. And in spite of being armed with a list of what-I-won't-do, I've found being a mother, a very fulfilling experience. I'm not perfect, but Nino makes me a better person. He gives a sort of purpose to me and my choices - but I'm not entirely sure if that is a good thing. I am not very good at hypothesis, and it would be difficult for me to say what life would have been like without having a child. But I would not have regretted it, either ways.

Now there's this research that says that only babies can make women truly happy.
"Money, promotions, the corner office, social status, and political power are what make men happy (as long as they win, of course, but then dropping out is by definition a defeat). Spending time with their children is what makes women happy," says Satoshi Kanazawa.

Using 'science' and 'genes' as weapons against 'feminists, liberals and the like', psychologist Kanazawa says we're happiest when we play the pre-defined roles that society - or to use his exact language, 'evolution' - has set out for us. Which means a work-from-home-daddy will never truly be happy. And which means that a successful career woman, who manages to juggle work and parenting well, but is a blooper in the kitchen, will be unhappy at the end of the day.

The author hopes to raise generations to be herd-thinkers, and warns individuals who think differently from society, to be ready to be 'not happy'.

There is much that is wrong with this article - and much that infuriates me, but I will admit that I've made plenty of 'gender' decisions based either on social dictates or guilt induced from only seeing a world that functions in a particular way. And by the end of it, I'm sure Kanazawa's a little fuddled himself:

"Teach boys and girls that they are different, not the same, and that it’s okay (nay, wonderful) to be different. One is not right and the other is not wrong. Stop telling girls that they are inferior versions of boys, as feminists have done for the last half century, or, as has more recently been the case, stop telling boys that they are inferior versions of girls."

"Live as you feel like, not as you think you should live like. Your feelings are seldom wrong, because you are designed to feel certain way by millions of years of evolution."

Does this mean that because I've not a single motherly/nurturing bone in my body, I qualify for the wrong gender? And that all my professional and personal achievements including being a mother, aside, the fact that I'm a miserable cook should, rightfully, make me miserable? And the fact that I do derive the greatest joy from being with Nino make his generalisations true?

I've plenty of friends who don't have kids - either due to medical reasons, or because they've chosen not to, or because maybe they're not ready to be parents yet. And barring those who have not been able to conceive because of medical reasons (and especially because they want kids badly), none of these women are unhappy. In fact, a few of them are the caring/nurturing kind - the kind you attach a visual image of a couple of kids with, but the lack of a offspring has not driven them to question their biological existence or definition.

But maybe, just maybe, this generalisation may be a good thing:
"Men are happier with money, while women find greater joy in friendships and relationships with their children, co-workers and bosses, a new global survey reveals," Reuters said.

"The online survey of 28,153 people in more than 51 countries by global marketing and information firm Nielsen found that as the world grapples with a recession and financial markets remain volatile, many people are reminding themselves that money can't buy happiness."

Reminds me of this really silly quotation I once read:' When women are bored, they go shopping. When men are bored, they invade countries.'

This study puts all my theories of nurture against nature to dust : but at the least, it make us women sound noble. And because we're so different from the guys when it comes to what makes us happy, I will now conclude that women are happier marrying women.


Nits said...

I have a similar husband - not shy so much as unencumbered by definitions of machoism - he is very handy with his toolbox and I do all the cooking but those are our default skills. Everything else he does just as much as happily so. However, I too wonder if I bring gender definition upon myself. For instance, it doesn't occur to him to do laundry until he's down to his last pair of underwear and the stereotypical wet towel strewn around exists. If I mention the above, he will rectify right away. But it does leave me wondering if we'd be starving in dirty clothes endlessly if I didn't interfere.

Nino's Mum said...

Nits - exactly my point: when do the lines between individual choices and gender conditioning blur?
on an aside - when can I add your new blog to my blogroll? get writing, girl!

Nits said...

oh bah i discovered i can get on my soapbox through the comments section of other blogger friends, no efforts needed :)

maybe it'll be my new year resolution if you help me come up with a name!

mg said...

Every now and then these studies come out and make my blood boil...I mean nature and nurture exist in such a complex relationship with each can they arrive at these reductionist conclusions?

Nino's Mum said...

nits - okay, brainstorming, now!

mg - so articulately put!

Parul said...

Shit, my husband will be truly heartbroken when he hears of this. It is his heart's ambition to quit work, stay at home and spend every single moment with our toddler. Oh well.

Nice blog, first time here. Hello.

Nino's Mum said...

parul - LOL! Please tell your husband that it is the exceptions that prove the law.

OrangeJammies said...

Ever since we bumped into each other, I've been wanting to tell you how lovely your blog is. Now I have. Over at my blog. :0)

Henri said...

I admit I didn't read this post completely. Simply because it said (not your words, the research) that only babies make a woman truly happy...I think a liberating partner is what makes a woman truly happy. That partner needn't be a spouse, it could be a parent or a child or a dog or a friend or a book. A woman (of course my observation) is at her best when she is in good company - animate or not! Babies are least judgemental or likely opress their mothers, so it is likely that women bloom in motherhood :) And with just the right amount of interference, even this can be taken away from her :) So it is freedom that makes a woman truly happy! A freedom to be who she is.