Ditch the Label Ambassador, model, activist and writer, Jessica Megan shares her thoughts on why gender roles in relationships are complete rubbish, and 5 ways we can stop doing it.
Since the times of hunter and gatherer, humans have categorised one another. Pregnant people needed to be protected to decrease prospects of extinction, whilst the physically able must go out and hunt. But now we have iPhones. We have gummy bears. We have fluorescent yellow coats and pugs. Times have changed, and so have our roles in relationships. The problem is, there is a BIG, vomity, existential crisis hangover from when these roles actually mattered.
We are still expected to implement and uphold these boring and very restrictive notions about what it means to be a “woman” or a “man.” Aside from the hugely problematic fact that this manner of thinking does not take into account our non-binary, intersex and trans siblings, I repeat, IT IS VERY BORING AND VERY RESTRICTIVE. There isn’t much fun to be found in constantly being expected to play roles.
Women are often expected to nurture, empathise and fix. Not just this, but now women are earning their own dollar, and they’re using it to prove their financial independence. Problem is, we already get paid 79p to every £1 a man earns, on top of the emotional expenditure we are expected to provide. So now we are poorer and more emotionally drained thanks to the role we are trying to upkeep in our relationships. On top of this we are also expected to remain hairless, thin and somehow not have a spotty bum.
Men have a whole other struggle. They are expected to be strong, brave, and determined at all times in relationships, perhaps never discussing how they really feel. “I feel like a waste of space in comparison to my girlfriend, who has tonnes of drive and determination.” Says O. “Rather than celebrating her achievements and ambitions like a good boyfriend should, I internalise her success and punch inwards. She notices and then feels like she has to dilute her success to make me feel better.”
The key in every relationship is communication. If you can’t be honest with your partner about your concerns and fears, this leads to an erosion of trust and can have a huge impact on the way which you approach future relationships. Of course, there will be bumps, trips and great big sheer drops along the way, but we are trying to be a little better behaved, right?
Here are 5 key ways to stop gendering your relationship
1. Be honest.
Honesty is not a well that that can dry up if you take too much from it. Emotional bonds are vital because it means honesty can travel between them. If you allow those bonds to decay, its harder for the words to get there. Bathe in it like a gorgeous bubble bath. Say what you’re feeling, say if you’re feeling jealous or sad.
Be constructive with it. Be honest there and then and not later on when it’s built up like a big wall and now it’s too much. Say things like, “I feel safe with you and I want to say something that’s bothering me…” “talking about this makes me feel vulnerable, but it’s important to be honest…” Take their hand and look at them while you speak. Engage, be honest, and build something amazing.
2. Don’t use words that are gender stereotyped.
Words like “crazy” for women and “pussies” for men are harmful and perpetuate dead stereotypes. Women are not “crazy” or “hysterical” when they are emotionally honest and men are not “pussies” for choosing not to comply with rigid emotional rules. When your partner is feeling sad, listen to them. Ask them if they need space and if they’d like to talk. Remind them that they are in a judgement free zone. Respect their needs.
3. Don’t follow scripts
This one is not for our asexual friends, but we still see you!
When you begin having sex, it can be easy to copy what you’ve seen online, in porn and in films. But with a partner you trust, you can fall outside these scripts and explore each other in a healthy, consensual way. There is a wealth of beautiful and fun ways to explore the body. Sex is a gorgeous, bouncy, sweaty thing that we get to do in relationships, so make the most of it!
Your sex life has a huge effect on the person you are outside of the bedroom. Great sex can relieve loads of mental ailments and even if it doesn’t go as expected, it can still be turned into a hilarious naked escapade where you both end up with jam on your bums (this happened to me once). But bad sex (sex without proper consent, sex in the wrong headspace, sex when you’re not ready) can diminish your ability to know when you don’t want to have sex. If we cannot tell our closest when we are not comfortable, this will make it harder to create boundaries outside of the bedroom.
4. I’m a woman, does this mean I shouldn’t clean or make dinner for my boyfriend?
It’s not a case of should or shouldn’t! These words suggest there is a set of rules to play by based on whats between your legs. Just do what you feel like doing. And don’t date people that don’t do their fair share or don’t bother making the effort. You are worth making the effort for. It is not your responsibility to raise your partner and clean up after them.
5. Who wears the trousers?
As we unanimously agreed earlier, pigeonholing people into masculine and feminine roles is boring and tacky. And yet, same sex couples often find themselves the target of inane questions such as this. “When I’ve dated girly girls I find myself feeling more masculine, inclined to hold the door, pick up the check more, etc,” notes H. “I think gender roles are similar to sexuality,” said M. “It’s fluid and can change based on the person you are dating at the time.” Ask instead, “who wears the pleather catsuit in this relationship?” If neither then you must all go and purchase pleather catsuits immediately. Because everyone looks great in a pleather catsuit.
There is a bit in comedian Daniel Sloss’s show ‘Jigsaw’ which went viral recently and caused over 7000 breakups, including divorces. It’s something I say to everyone. It’s something we should all consider.
“If you only love yourself at 20%, that means someone can come along and love you at 30%. You’re like wow, that’s so much. It’s literally less than half. Whereas if you love yourself at 100%, a person that falls in love with you has to go above and beyond the call of duty to make you feel special.”
Above all, you must love yourself and know your worth. This is the best thing for a communicative healthy relationship with others. Put yourself at the forefront every time.
For more from Jessica, check out her Instagram @jess_megan_