'Men from my country are such gentlemen, holding doors for you, treating you like a princess. You never have to do anything'.
I listened carefully as my friend reminisced on her recent return to her home after years abroad. Her perspective could've been perceived as a slight on culture she lived in. My interpretation was that her statement was idealistic; and in reality she just wanted all men to have more traditional values. She confirmed that I was correct in my observation. And so the debate began...because this topic has caused more blurred lines than a Robin Thicke song.
Ironically, my friend is an advocate of independence; believing she doesn't need a man for anything; paying bills, raising children, sexual gratification etc. Of course, there's nothing wrong with choosing such a lifestyle unless the woman blurs the lines by wanting to be completely 'independent' one minute and then demanding a 'traditional relationship' the next....Note: these are a few examples. Some women want respect and equality but are content to stay at home whilst their partner is the sole breadwinner. Some want dating parity with men yet still refuse to approach a man for said date, failing to acknowledge that times have changed in terms of dating attitudes, values, vernacular and expectations.
And what of the man that complies completely with these traditional desires. Will he be able to escape the inevitable discrepancies that accompany the concept of traditionalism? Is he likely to be perceived (or behave) as chauvinistic, condescending or controlling at some point or will he be championed as a man of principle, integrity and uniqueness?
A recent internet thread on 'who should pay the bill when out for a date' addressed this point perfectly as the comments were so contradictory and tautological that they soon became boring with its lack of conclusion. In a nutshell, it seemed to me that the women wanted to live a traditional life but have unrestricted leeway enabling them to be independent whenever or wherever they decide, regardless of any prior situation, circumstances or statements to the contrary.
However, before I am throttled in public for such a statement, I obviously do not mean all women. I know numerous examples of women who perfectly marry the two. However, it is also true that some women want their traditional cake while they independently eat it.
Maybe this is because, in the 21st century, traditional gender roles in western cultures are romanticised, seen through rose tinted glasses by many women, (and some men actually), as the 'correct' manner for courtship and relationships. However, these do not complement the society we live in today that encourages the independent individual; nor are the 'traditional times' that people refer to the garden of utopia that many think it was. Those times were a product of a segregated society of male dominance and stereotypes that both genders now cognitively fail to recognise...or choose to conveniently disregard.
In the context of human history in western cultures, female independence is a relatively new concept; traditional values reigned in a time when women had little independence. Women fought and died, to renounce tradition in favour of independence. But perhaps, not all modern women have psychologically embraced the shift to mental and societal liberation. Not everybody likes change.
It could be argued that 'internalised sexism', (a process where sexist views of a society unwittingly form an integral part of the woman's thinking), causes a bigger problem in modern relationships. Perhaps acting as a safety net; a psychological comfort zone based on tradition, protecting from the harsh realities when independence isn't working in their relationships the way they'd hoped.
Could it be that some women are not mentally ready for true independence? The female writer Suzanne Venker alludes to this when she says 'Feminism didn't result in equality between the sexes, it resulted in mass confusion. Today men and women have no idea who's supposed to do what.'
Now I'm not saying this is completely true.
However it's easy for women, (even some feminists), to unconsciously succumb to this internalised 'male' point of view; especially, when their biological clock ticking loudly. This may seem cynical, but many independent women's views on traditional gender roles have swayed under such pressure. Furthermore research by Szymanski et al suggests 'internalised misogyny' in women is linked to a passive acceptance of traditional gender roles. There is also a link between sexist events and increased psychological distress in women.
So if traditional gender roles in relationships are perceived as sexist, (as many feminists see them), then a consequence could be more psychological distress for women. This undoubtedly will have a knock on effect with couples. So according to some psychologists the constant to-ing and fro-ing, between independence and traditionalism, not only creates relationship confusion and disharmony, it could actually cause women more long-term psychological health issues they are unaware of. I've even had female friends, who I respect immensely, saying the struggle of managing the two can take its toll.
However, as I told my friend, women are not stupid, and many are cannily aware that they're picking and choosing when to play their tradition or independence cards. Behaving in such a way, (based on whether it suits her hedonistic desires), she may blatantly ignore, (or just not notice), when a man has made concerted efforts to combine both. However men, are not innocent either and have been lead singer in the double standards band since forever. Bearing this in mind, maybe it is time for us all to take responsibility about really initiating equality and equity into our modern relationships and quit blurring the lines.