“Just because you have a penis doesn’t give you the right to not clear up,” I yelled at my husband as he sloped off to the couch after dinner.
He thinks I have penis envy. What I have is power envy. At the heart of it I’m a feminist who demands equality and I will not conform to what’s expected of my gender. So, I’m challenging his deep-seated beliefs about the roles we play as man and woman, husband and wife.
We used to have an Italian neighbour who would say, in all seriousness, puffing on his Marlboro lights as he watched his girlfriend clean the flat that “cleaning was not his thing.” I don’t think it’s anyone’s thing yet let’s face it, most women in a heterosexual relationship, even when both partners are working full-time, still do the lion’s share of domestic chores and child care. It’s enough to make me weep. I wonder what happens with gay couples? Does one partner take on the feminine role or is it more equal?
As a young girl I was a tomboy and a sports fanatic. My physique was so strong and muscle-bound at seven years old that my male friends were scared to arm-wrestle me! I guess some things haven’t changed except now I wear dresses, lipstick and sometimes, occasionally, heels. But I find myself dressing in a more androgynous way these days, partly as a way of not conforming to gender ‘rules’ to make me more attractive and feminine, but mostly because I just want to be comfortable.
I don’t want to smear toxic chemicals and animal innards onto my face to look prettier nor do I want my back, knees and hips to hurt from wearing heels. The backlash against the sexism of high heels is heartening – with women reportedly banned from Cannes Film Festival for refusing to wear them, celebrities such as Emily Blunt championing the flat shoe and demanding equality in dress code, and even Victoria Beckham is swapping her trademark heels for sneakers.
But what about Magic Mike? How does my feminist status reconcile with going to see this cheesy film about male strippers? It was all about the dancing. Kind of. The dancing was pretty spectacular but the main attraction was clearly the male form, which was, of course, staggeringly beautiful. Apparently, at my age that makes me a cougar— that’s OK, I love wild cats. In fact, Channing was so alluring that my friend, due to give birth the following week, spontaneously went into labour after the film! And, no, she didn’t call him Channing or Mike.
Just because we admire Channing Tatum’s body does not mean we have to play out the subordinate feminine role in our relationships. My feminism is not about the diminishing of men. It’s about celebrating strong men and strong women.
So, if I could just stop getting leered at by men with their simmering patronising aggression while I’m riding my bike that would be a good start on the wobbly road to equality.