Last night, David and I had a conversation that went something like this:
K: So if your boss is coming to dinner tomorrow, we should probably talk about what we’ll be having. I have class immediately before, so how about I make something in the slow cooker?
D: That sounds great.
K: Which of these two recipes do you prefer? I’ve made them both in the past.
D: Definately that one.
K: Great. I have a lot of reading that I need to get done tomorrow, and you’ll have the car all day. If I give you a specific list, could you run to the store in the morning before you head to the conference?
D: Yeah, I can do that.
K: Thanks… By the way, I know that *Boss* is your friend, but I’m still feeling a lot of pressure about tomorrow night. I have several generations of women behind me telling me that my role in dinner is really important.
D: Well of course it is; if you make a bad dinner, I won’t be able to marry you.
K: … Wait! What?!
D: Kidding!! I’m kidding.
Together, we found this conversation funny, particularly in light of the discussion my class earlier in the day had had about the impact of feminism on the study of art history. I also asked David if I could share the story with my Gender and Material Culture class the next day, should it be relevant, and he readily agreed. Afterwards he posted an abbreviated version of the conversation on Facebook.
This is where it gets a little weird. Some of our friends responded to his post as if David had been serious. David took the post down, because we have a lot of friends who are gender-sensitive, but it got me thinking.
From the outside, our relationship really seems to conform to traditional gender roles. David takes out the trash and provides for most of our financial needs, including the cost of our wedding. I do the laundry, take responsibility for most of the cooking and the state of the kitchen, and I’m planning our wedding.
Sometimes I help David with the trash. Very occasionally he’ll switch up a load of laundry for me. My student loans help with our expenses. David makes me dinner when I’ve had a particularly trying day. Often he’ll do the dishes. Still, though, our roles are fairly set, and we often hold each other responsible for them.
Here’s the thing, though. None of this arrangement is accidental.
While our division of labor looks like a male-female division, it’s actually a David-Kate division. All of the assigned roles outlined above are the result of discussion and negotiation. I love to cook. David likes to cook. Left to our own devices, my typical alone-in-the-house meal involves chopping, cooking, and arranging. David’s typically involves pouring granola into a bowl. I can’t afford our lifestyle. Sure, my student loans help with our expenses, but the bulk of our financial responsibility falls on David’s income. I’ve committed to getting as much out of graduate school as I can because it’s the best thing for my future and our future. David has a great job that allows me to be in school without having to juggle a full time job as well, so yes, I cook him dinner. And I’m proud to do it. By cooking dinner for both of us, I ensure that we have delicious, healthy food, and I facilitate David’s long working-hours so he can take care of us, too.
What does this mean for dinner tonight? It means I’m going to work damn hard to impress my husband-to-be’s boss, and I will continue to be a feminist even as I do it.