I've been reflective about marriage and relationships lately. We celebrated our four year anniversary last week (I really. Really. Really liked Burn After Reading, by the way) and the election has brought up some gender stuff... And I've been pondering, with kind of obsessive intensity since I conceived, about the essential nature of femaleness- if there is such a thing. I've intuited that part of the parenting differences between Bu and me is maybe biological. It feels biological, the need to nurse the baby*, to wear or carry her in my arms, to encircle her at night. I think his bond with her is significantly different.
I know that I can't define this as globally female, of course, as many women don't feel that motherhood has anything at all to do with their bodies. Given the obvious need for heterosexual reproduction in our species, however, I'm sure there must be something to my feeling that ancient evolutionary forces are at work in my interaction with my daughter.
So, I'm thinking about things that are innate, and things that are learned, and how we really can't empirically decide which are which because we've learned to assume so much unconsciously. It's naive and weird to imagine that there aren't fundamental gendered attributes, so I don't think that I'm questioning that. I'm also not drawing any conclusions about what our differences are. Just sort of an ongoing musing... but there is a thing that's sticking in my craw, and that is this:
Why, when we discuss commonly accepted men's traits and accepted women's traits, do we always discuss it in such a way that men are the default. Like this article on CNN via Oprah, where wives are told to stop talking out problems, because it makes those poor husbands all uncomfortable. If we assume that women communicate better (and I do operate under this assumption even as I question its biological root, based on my relationships) why don't we say that men have a deficiency here, and here's a nifty little how-to guide to help them interact better? (I'm tempted to use this catchy little pop phrase and tell these doods to Man Up and zOMGoddess just talk to their wives.) Why, when we discuss women as "too emotional," don't we worry about men's diminished ability to feel deeply and emote? Why, instead of worrying about whether a (*cough* qualified) mother can be a great politician, don't we ask why we should trust men- who aren't traditionally the family's counselor, mediator, and nurturers, and schedule coordinators- to lead nations?
This is a weirdly amorphous post poured unfiltered out of a nonlinear, wandering mind, but I'm bothered by this. I do it myself some, and I'm just sort of placing it here for consideration. So, um, consider.
*But possibly, not anymore? She hasn't nursed in a few days- lost count, and that thing where moms say you won't remember the last time you nurse is in my head being all sentimental and sniffly while also I'm relieved and happy and proud of my big girl. And by the way, I've noticed that I call her "pretty" and 1,000 times more than I do "smart" or "strong" or any other actually meaningful praise. I'm going to try to stop, but she really is the most gorgeous creature I've ever seen, and so it's difficult. My daughter. I don't think I'll ever fall out of love with that phrase.