February 16, 2001 (Ira Pilgrim)

The Status of Men

its about wimins rites. i hev red a guid many letters rit by wimin in yur paper, and I vow things is cummin to aoffal staite when they is aloud to carri on at them raits. this cums of so much skoolin for gals. they wants to be eqil to us men.

Mark Twain

For as far back as I can remember, there has been talk about the status of women. I have never heard anyone even mention the status of men, even though the status of most men in this country is probably no better than that of their mates.

Samuel Johnson said that "Nature has given woman so much power that the law cannot afford to give her more." For at least 14 years of my life I was under the total control of my mother. When I was not, I was controlled by a school teacher, who was usually a woman. My first male teacher was in the eighth grade.

My mother, and almost all mothers, have the power to make just about anything that they want of their offspring, from a highly respected citizen, to a criminal who will end his life at the hands of the executioner. Anyone who thinks that women are powerless has never considered the power of his or her own mother.

Much of the basis for the different roles of men and women is biological. A female human has her hands full from late pregnancy through the nursing period. Successful human cultures have placed the male in the role of protecting the female and their offspring. In farming cultures, everyone, men, women and children, works and works hard . This is true of farming cultures all over the world. Power in a family is traditionally divided into two realms, one being in the charge of the man, and the other in the charge of the women. Both are essential to the success of the farm. At its best, it is an equal partnership.

Pearl Buck's book, and the excellent movie, The Good Earth paints a picture of the life of a Chinese peasant man and woman. Their lives changed when they acquired wealth which, in the Chinese tradition of the time, belongs to the man. At that point it ceased to be an equal partnership.

When I was a child living in a big city, earning a living was a full-time job for a man and keeping house and caring for the children was a full-time job for the woman. Property, at least in California, was legally shared (community) property. This is not true in some parts of the world, where property, often including the children, belongs exclusively to the man. In some cultures, women are also considered as property.

Affluence made a big difference for women. Those who could afford it could hire the out the housekeeping chores to someone else and could do what a man would ordinarily do; things like become a doctor, architect, writer and many many other professions,

The status of women who were not independently wealthy began to change radically with the industrial revolution and the advent of indoor plumbing, refrigeration, washing machines and dryers, gas and electric stoves and other time-saving appliances. Keeping house was no longer a full time job. Some women chose to emulate the idle rich and do nothing but play games, some chose a new career, and some chose drink. Particularly when the kids are grown, an infinity of possibilities opened up, depending on the ability and inclinations of the woman. The man is usually stuck in his 9 to 5 job, which could be as deadly dull as housekeeping is for the woman.

I spent a couple of years as a househusband. I can therefore say unequivocally that I HATE HOUSEKEEPING. I did, however, enjoy cooking and baking. I hate folding clothes and my wife doesn't mind doing it. My wife irons and I never have, nor do I ever intend to iron. I have done my share of changing diapers and dealing with children. I considered it my job, so I did it. There are lots of thing that I have enjoyed more; but don't tell my kids.

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