Saturday, April 21, 2012

"I want to cut my hair but he likes it long."

“I would love to cut my hair, but he likes it long.”

I am not much of a feminist (though I feel guilty about that) but this sentence brings out a fiery passion in me… I hate this sentence. Over the years it has been uttered by countless women in my life and I cringe every single time I hear it. In fact I credit this phrase and the real meaning of this phrase with creating and reinforcing my general distrust of relationships and my loathing of gender roles.

To me that statement sort of epitomizes the role that I see so many women take on in relationships. The man is in charge and she feels the need /pressure to comply with his wishes… In so many ways women in my life have given themselves up when they entered relationships. They gave up jobs. They gave up careers. They gave up friends. They seemed to morph into these other people for this man that they were in a relationship with. The idea behind that statement seems to be that love is conditional upon her compliance to his wishes.

The church certainly seemed to reinforce it to a great degree… The first time I went to the temple and was asked to bow my head and say yes - pledging to obey some future husband - was definitely something that rushed me a few steps closer to the door out of Mormonism.

When I was a call center manager there in Utah I saw countless women come in with their long hair, their lack of job skills because they stayed home for him, and their new divorces… They were in positions where they had given up so much for their relationship that they now had to find a way to support themselves and often children on $8.50 an hour…  (Very, very often they would come to work one day a few months later with their newly cut short hair…)

As I said I think that my general distrust of relationships came from seeing these things happen. If that was the role of women in relationships it was not something I wanted or needed. It ingrained in me a strong sense of needing to take care of myself.

I find myself right now in the middle of a really incredible relationship and though the relationship is still relatively new I just don’t see these sorts of things happening. We do nice things for one another. We complement each other. We do things as a team. We make space and time for one another without compromising ourselves… Things are incredibly equal.

I find myself breathing huge sighs of relief that the relationships I've seen around me through my growing-up years are not ones that I am bound to repeat... I can do things differently. I can make better choices.

I find myself wondering if this new type of partnership/companionship/equal relationship that I find myself in is partially because we are lesbians and by both of us being women our relationship is not defined by nor tied to gender roles that are thrust upon us? Do heterosexual gender roles for men and women in relationships actually add strain and pressure that should not be there for heterosexual couples? Or is mine and Leigh's relationship different and equal simply because we have chosen to build it that way and because of who we are individually... Our individual personalities and characteristics just mesh in way that things are equal? Whether for lack of gender roles or just because of our personalities I find that I am grateful that there is no script other than the one we are writing for ourselves. 

10 comments:

  1. I think one reason guys adore long-hair is mommy issues. Maybe a bit too Freudian of a theory...but I sadly think straight men associate long hair with youth...and mom.

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  2. LOL, as soon as I read the first couple of paragraphs (and before getting to your question) my first thought was, "Well, that's one of the advantages of being gay..."

    I feel like I have a very good, egalitarian relationship with my husband. However, we end up falling into traditional gender roles a lot of the time. I have a successful career myself, however, we've definitely fallen into a his-career-comes-first pattern when it comes to life decisions like moves and child-care.

    Every relationship has some give-and-take, and people have to make choices and sacrifices, etc. But in a straight relationship, I end up second-guessing all of these choices through a gendered filter: eg. Did we make this decision simply because I'm the woman? Did I make this other choice just for the sake of bucking gender roles? In a straight relationship, there's simply this "traditional gender role expectations" thing sitting in the middle of your intimate space all the time, no matter how good/happy your relationship is.

    I haven't been in a same-sex relationship, but I imagine that it wouldn't have quite this same problem...

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  3. Comments like that make me crazy. Although, I'm very aware it isn't just women who do this... So many people believe that being in a relationship means they "own" the other person, or are "owned".

    A friend of mine JUST posted on facebook yesterday, "I'm sick of (husband's) shaggy hair. I have decided if I get 20 likes, he has to cut it."

    He replied with, "Doesn't matter what you decide. MY hair. I decide how I wear it."
    Followed by several responses like this one, "Marriage is all about compromise and sacrifice!!!! If you aren't willing to make sacrifices to make (your wife) happy, you shouldn't have gotten married!!!"

    He responded, "If that's the way (my wife) feels, then I'll be happy to go and she can find someone else to be her possession. I did not get married because I wanted to be treated this way."

    In my current friendship/roommateship/whatever the hell it is that we are... I would never dream of telling him how to wear his hair, what to wear, who to be... I love him because he is him. I want him to be happy... And the reason I CAN love him just as he is, is because he treats me with the same sort of love and respect. If he started telling me what to wear (just as an example), for my own sanity, I couldn't keep hanging around him.

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    1. I guess my thought is, it's not just a feminist perspective. It's a way that people think about relationships. If you think of your partner as YOURS, it is impossible to treat them with respect.

      And if you think of yourself as a possession, it is impossible to treat yourself with respect. For a long time, I thought women were just a possession, so I acted accordingly.

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  4. I may just be really desensitized because the military has women with long and short hair both...but I find it a woman's choice completely, and agree wholeheartedly that the control underlying it all is quite an issue. That said, I do agree it goes both ways, and Mormonism tries to capitalize on it to try to get either gender to comply (although it is more severe, or at least more long-lasting, for men toward women). The pressure for a YW to marry a return missionary kept me relatively date-free during my time at BYU, among others who were also at BYU. (Yes, I met my wife during that time, but she was not going to BYU and didn't think you had to know an RM to say yes to a 2nd date.) It worked out perfect for me, since my wife is so awesome and I love her so much, wouldn't trade her for the world -- but the pressure is there in the reverse as well. That said, I do agree it is worse in the case of the woman pledging to be subservient to the man in the temple (as one example, and there are others). To me, the Endowment had horrid parts besides that, and really weirded me out so even in my days of trying to make it all work, I didn't really have much desire to go back to the temple and relive that experience much. (Instead, I focused on genealogy, so I could say I was doing my part without actually going through that mind-numbing ceremony.)

    Anyway, I'm rambling so I'll stop...but my point is, you are awesome and bring up a great point, as usual. Nobody "owns" their spouse, and the attitude as institutionalized in Mormonism is very damaging...and they do it both ways to try to get maximum advantage.

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  5. The studies I've read show the homosexuals do tend to have more egalitarian relationships than heterosexuals. Often they are measuring sharing of household tasks though so it might not translate into power dynamics. Although, if both people take turns scrubbing the toilet I'm guessing it would be more equal in other ways.
    I feel like I lost a lot of myself when I got married, not because of my husband, but because of social pressures. Its getting better, but I am at home doing unpaid work most of the time or working for less than a living wage. I hate being a dependent but what can I do? i did just recently cut my hair short. Love it.
    Prairie Nymph

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  6. I want to buzz my hair but my wife likes my hair long. ha!

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  7. I think there are healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships, regardless of the sex of the two partners. A healthy relationship, be it gay or straight, is one in which two people are equal partners and share trust, respect, warmth, and common ground.

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  8. Great responses, all of them!

    I always struggled with the part of gender roles when I was married because in my mind, if laundry, or cooking or whatever needed to be done, it didn't matter who did it as long as it got done, but lots of people found it odd (maybe it was just a cultural thing). I never expected my Ex to be the subservient wife with long hair who had my slippers, paper and cigar ready when I got home from work. Granted she also worked so that wasn't even realistic if I had ever wanted to go there.

    I'm so close to be moving in with my partner next month and we're talking about how we might divide household chores and duties and things like that but not because one of us may be more inclined to do one or the other, still things just need to be done, but for some reason this time around I don't struggle with that anxiety I had with my ex-wife, so in that sense there are no expectations of gender role, and it helps answer the question of who is the boy and who is the girl?: Of course we're both boys!!

    I've rambled too much, this comment is probably not making much sense now. Love to see you discovering all these quirky life discoveries sweetie!
    Hugs,Miguel

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  9. Great questions at the end of your post.

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