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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Stereotypical gender roles and cooking

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Author Topic: Stereotypical gender roles and cooking
Member # 17839

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I have what may be a silly question. My boyfriend is considering moving in with me (we live in different countries). I will be working while he looks for a job,and I will be taking care of most rent/expenses until he gets one, which I am ok with. We were today joking around and talking about sharing responsibilities when he gets here. He said he'll happily take care of things like getting groceries/cleaning/washing up since he'll have more time than me. However he said he would like me to cook. Not that he would *never* cook for me (he is quite a good cook), but that he would just prefer me to be the one to cook, on an everyday basis. He said it just felt very nice to have me cook for him. (Well sure)

This made me feel quite uncomfortable. I have always had issues with gender roles and assuming I have to cook for someone just because I am a woman. I come from a family where my mum was expected to do absolutely everything, groceries, cleaning, cooking, 24/7, both when she wasn't employed and when she was, jut because my father wanted it that way - he was he one bringing most money home so that's the way it should be. I cannot help but see the gender role at play - if my mum had been the only one working, I don't think he would have happily agreed to take charge of house chores.

I explained all this to him and he insisted it has nothing to do with me being a woman - he doesn't believe in stereotypical gender roles -, just that having a partner - and in his case, his partner happens to be a woman - doing that for him makes him feel very loved. He said he didn't mean to upset me, but that if he was honest with himself, he would feel frustrated in a relationship where his partner didn't want to cook for him knowing that he sees it as a loving, important thing. I told him I wasn't sure, and that I would be much more comfortable playing it by the ear - today I feel like cooking, tomorrow it makes more sense that you do, etc -, but he is not a play by the ear kind of guy. He needs a certain structure and organisation in place, and then once that is in place he will be happy to make exceptions and improvise every once in a while, but overall he likes structured things. So he didn't really agree to what I said. The conversation just died there.

Am I totally overreacting if I feel "funny" and "constrained within a gender role" just because my boyfriend expresses he would like me to do this for him? I would similarly like him to do certain things for me sometimes, and it's not like he's saying he won't share the house chores. I feel like I need to resist this or like I cannot be ok with this. I don't even know. I just know it makes me uncomfortable, but I want to understand if there is a relationship-reason for this, or if this is totally normal and just has been ingrained inside my head by my family dynamics/society.

I would appreciate any input...! Thanks!

Posts: 80 | From: USA | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 95598

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I can see where this is a tricky situation for you. It can be very difficult when a partner likes structure and the other one doesn't need it, per se, but even beyond that, I get where you're coming from, and it's perfectly reasonable that you feel the way you do. (Just like it's reasonable that he feels the way he does.)

Have you entertained the idea of rotating chores/household duties every week, or something like that? For instance, you both take on the amount of chores you can, but say, you cook and take out the garbage one week, then you rotate to taking out the garbage and vacuuming the next week, then vacuuming and buying groceries the week after that, and so on? I wonder if that would give your boyfriend the structure he wants.

In terms of his seeing you cooking for him as a sign of affection, I don't think you can or should change that, but you might remind him that it's also a sign of affection for him to cook for you, if it is. If not, I would just reiterate that, because of how you grew up, not because of of his intentions, being the one who cooks all the time is something you associate with being unhappy, and so compromise is probably the best route here, since it's clear that neither of you would be happy if the other had their way completely.

That's just my thoughts, though. I hope you two will be able to reach some sort of agreement.

Posts: 81 | Registered: Apr 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Hi Kotori,

I'm wondering if it would help to take the "gender roles" thing out of the equation (although I totally get where you're coming from on that, and I'm absolutely not saying that it shouldn't be important) and just focus on the point that You don't feel good about what your boyfriend is suggesting. He has every right to feel however he feels about something, but he doesn't have the right to expect you to fall into line with how he feels. If someone genuinely cares about us, it's fair to expect that they'll care if we're very unhappy with something, and he doesn't seem to have taken on board yet that this is something which clearly isn't ok to you.

I wonder if it's worth pointing out to him that if you Did cook most meals, feeling as you do, it absolutely would not be an expression of love for him because you wouldn't be doing it lovingly. The way you talk about it, it's sounding to me like it would be a chore surrounded by unhappiness and resentment. I hope he doesn't want his meals cooked as an expression of resentment?

I wonder if it would possible to find a compromise. If it wouldn't be an expression of love from you for you to cook most days, I hope he wouldn't want that from you, because that begins to sound a bit selfish and lacking in empathy. When you think about it, just for you, how often do you think you could cook for him and have it be an expression of love? Because if that's truly what he's asking for, then that's what you have to offer. From there, you could both plan out which days you will each cook, to satisfy his need for structure.

Most reasonably secure adult people should not feel less loved by their partner's not cooking every day. Perhaps with Never cooking, or rarely cooking, sure: but if he gets to experience this particular expression of love fairly often, and other expressions of love as he needs and that work for you, he really shouldn't fall apart by not getting it every day. You're not doing him out of anything by not wanting to do this every day.

You're also not overreacting. You have the right to feel however you feel about something your boyfriend is asking of you. Also, if it helps, I rather think I would feel very similarly, and for pretty similar reasons.

The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
moonlight bouncing off water
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Member # 44338

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Hey Kotori,

You're definantly not over-reacting. I personally think that cooking is a HUGE job sometimes, especially on an ongoing basis. Pile that on top of the associations that you have with cooking and that makes for one awful chore, and a daily one at that.

How often do you want to cook, not considering what your boyfriend wants?

This really needs to be something you're happy with, and feeling like you have to do something everyday if it isn't something you want to be doing seems pretty darn restricting.

EDIT as an aside, at my house, my parents (a mom and a dad) split the cooking up prettu evenly based on who has the energy that night. If course, My sister and I help too sometimes. So, despite the traditional gender role, rest assured that not every household conforms to that stereotype!

[ 02-10-2013, 09:51 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]


I am ME and that is the only label I need.

Posts: 864 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 17839

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Thanks a lot for all your input and your advice, I don't feel like I was being irrational about this anymore. But this sitation has actually brought to the spotlight how we have more issues to deal with as a couple than just cooking turns. Hopefully we'll be able to work things out and then we'll be able to apply some of your suggestions from here... thanks
Posts: 80 | From: USA | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Just to add something extra in, I wonder if you two might not also be able to talk about how most people tend to feel how he does. In other words, most folks will tend to feel loved and cared for when someone cooks for them.

And in relationships where only one person ever does it, that means that person doing the cooking doesn't get to feel that way.

I think that's why a beautiful and easy solution to this is for people who live together to go back and forth OR cook TOGETHER as much as possible. In other words, cooking WITH each other is an expression of love and care that's nicely mutual, on top of being something that can be fun to do together, a way to talk after a day apart and reconnect, a way to take care of each other and your space together. And that way, everyone wins. [Smile]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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