Friday, December 13, 2013

The Personal vs. the Political

There's a concept in sociology that there is a difference between individual problems and issues.  Problems, the theory goes - are more personal in nature.  Social issues are when a similar experience happens for many people.  I don't fully understand it myself and may not be able to articulate it clearly.  It's just interesting for me that some experiences can be very common for people in similar cultures and with similar backgrounds.

For example, after all these years of reading former mormon stories, blogs, posts on the internet, there are definitely many things that people have in common after leaving the mormon church (even leaving fundamentalist religions).  The experiences are not universal, but there are many hallmarks that are typical and not unusual.

I read this article in the atlantic some months back.

I am not surprised that chores are a good indicator of marital satisfaction. It seems so basic.  It also seems  incredibly obvious.

This quote from one of the participants in the article was interesting:
Personally, I don't have a life. My life is my family because whatever their needs are they always come first before mine and I can honestly say that. He—and I think it's great—he does his golfing, he does his bike riding, and it doesn't take a long time and he needs that. I don't get that yet. I don't have that yet. I don't have the time or the luxury. That for me is like a huge luxury that I don't see happening in any time in the near future.

What's surprising for me is that this experience is common.  It really shouldn't be so shocking for me.  We still live in a patriarchy. While American society doesn't have the same strict gender roles that mormonism does, strict gender roles still exist.  Discrimination against women still exists.

When something goes wrong with kids, society still (often) looks straight at the mom.  Was she doing stuff for herself?  Was she putting herself first?  And is it her responsibility to negotiate all this stuff with her husband because ultimately she is responsible for the marriage, for maintaining the family?  Some of these ugly beliefs are still out there, and still often referenced consciously (or sub-consciously).

What surprises me as well is that for me and my husband, despite being two college educated individuals, both self-proclaimed feminists, we still have run into this issue (negotiating about who does what).  Truthfully, it's a bit embarrassing for me, because I've read "The Feminine Mystique".  I've read lots of feminist theory and I thought my relationship(s) would be different.  

It's difficult to be co-parents.   It's tough to work and raise kids (and maintain a home). And it's not that one of us should stay home, or that one of us is shirking our duty.   It's that these negotiations are hard.  Being equitable is not easy.  It has to be conscious.  And it can't be assumed - it's a continuous process.  Both of us grew up in families where this negotiation either failed or wasn't equitable - despite at least one set of parents being feminists.

The space between idealism and reality is larger than I'm comfortable admitting.

And it's not just about who does the dishes, but about who plans. Who picks up the slack.

For me, I appreciated the article because it's nice to know that this negotiation is not just me.  This is not just my relationship - a personal thing between me and my husband.  This is a societal trend that many people struggle with, some more than others. And being aware that it exists and admitting it can help promote change.

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