Female Empowerment And Relationships

etween the 5th-15th of every month, bloggers from around the world are open to write about rights and issues concerning women. First started by Shine and Marie, we’re hoping to bring a variety of women’s issues to the forefront to make people aware of what’s going on. For the month of December, we’ve chosen to write about Female Empowerment & Relationships. Please join us in telling us your stories, thoughts, and ideas on a monthly basis. To read previous installments, click here. To read the stimulus article for this piece, click here.

Really, read the article, it’s not long, it’s from the NY Times, it’ll take you ‘some seconds’. Not long.

So. Gender roles. I am constantly thinking and rethinking this one. One the one hand I have been out with guys who liked to insist on paying for a ridiculously large share of mutual expenses – dinner, drinks, and all the rest of it – whilst also being seemingly quite happy to drive millions of miles out of their way to get me to and from things. I would like to state right now that this behaviour, in P, pleased and flattered me hugely. After all, those sort of basic monetary gestures are a pretty clear sign of liking someone quite a lot (or being scared of them) – I certainly felt valued, and in a very positive sense.

On the other hand, I have been on dates with guys who wanted to take me out and pay for everything and all the rest of it and it seemed hugely out of place and obsequious and cloying because I sensed that they were doing it simply to get my approval, and I didn’t like that at all. I think it partly depends on (yet again) confidence; and ability to pay. As a spectacularly impoverished and notoriously Micawberish student, it is perfectly true that there have also been times in my life when pretty much everyone I knew was richer than me, and, bluntly, if I hadn’t been going out with someone who was happy to pay for all my drinks and food and to drive me about, I wouldn’t have been able to get to places and I wouldn’t have been able to do anything, eat anything or drink anything even if I got to said places. Therefore whether this chivalry was principle or just well-disguised tact on the part of the Monied Male I shall never know, and for the sake of my own dignity I don’t plan on asking. Said Monied Male would never allow me to pay for anything for him, and very little for myself. He also lent me vast sums of money when things got really bad, so I think that’s part-proof, there. Or perhaps he felt that allowing me to pay for his drinks on occasion was somewhat like taking sweets from a small child.

But dates with Unmonied Males, who wish to seem rather richer than they are, have been deeply uncomfortable simply due to my own awareness of our similarly straitened capabilities. And I can’t stand that. I’m not a thing to be bought. As students, by and large, we’re none of us terribly rich. So for one it seems deeply unfair to ask someone who is as poor as I am to make me feel special by delving into his overdraft for my glass of wine.

Furthermore I have been out with men who wouldn’t even dream of paying my way as well as theirs, not out of churlishness or personal poverty but simply because it wouldn’t strike them as right. I’m not some kind of cosseted princess, I know the value of money, and why on earth should I be treated as though I am somehow above money? And this attitude, too, makes me feel good about myself. I pay for one round, you pay for the next, I pay for the next…and you pay for our taxi home. We have both treated each other, and we both feel good, and I feel like an independent, interesting woman, and not some kind of trophy.

Now that I do have a little more money, by and large, and orders of magnitude more self-respect than I used to have, I’m not sure that I’d be happy about regularly having everything paid for for me by the man that I was with. As I believe Shine once suggested, I think the best solution is that, on a date, whoever did the asking does the paying. After all, settling up after dinner is about the least romantic thing in the world.

There’s very little I can say with respect to what it’s like out in the real world – dating as someone who has a salary and is therefore likely to have noticeably more or less money than her partner. But I do wonder if we, the younger generation, are quite lucky in that I think by and large our expectations and opinions on the subject of female earnings as compared to male earnings are significantly different to the attitudes held by many in our parents’ generations. There’s a small but loudly optimistic part of me that thinks that, because we’re all still young and we’ve been brought up in a society where ‘we must all be equal’ is at least the public face of What Is Thought on this front (does that make sense?), by the time I’m actually out in the world of work, and actually considering settling down, none of these things are going to be problems any more. I’m moving into a world of work in which it is at least assumed that women ought to be as good at any given job as men are, and that there is no reason a man should be any better than a woman at being This, That or The Other. And since my peers are also moving into the same world of work, and making the same assumptions, they will surely also be aware of the fact that their partners may earn more or less than them and either way that’s OK.

On the other hand it’s worth wondering if, now that Mr Cameron is in power, we’re in very great danger of heading backwards. Social attitudes may influence the society that holds them, but they are also formed by the structure of that society. As it stands, more women work in the public sector than work in the private sector. And as it stands, there are huge cuts heading, year on year, for the public sector. Which means that women are therefore more likely than men to be losing work and losing money, and therefore we are more likely to be earning less or working part time or becoming housewives simply because we’re not given the choice. And if that becomes the status quo, then the likelihood is that attitudes will follow, and once again it’ll be expected that women stay in the home and bring up the children – and that women therefore earn less and do work that is less important than that their partners do.

We can only wait and see.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Female Empowerment And Relationships

  1. Mia

    Hey Jenny…I think that entry’s copied within the entry, if that makes sense…xxx

  2. Jenny

    So it is! Will sort out later. Out – on phone – ATM! Thanks for pointing that out 🙂 xx

  3. Mia

    No worries. 🙂 xx

  4. Jenny

    Fixed! I think.

  5. “As it stands, more women work in the public sector than work in the private sector. And as it stands, there are huge cuts heading, year on year, for the public sector.”

    Remember that the private sector has had “cuts” enforced upon it since 2008. Lots of private sector workers lost jobs (me included!), or had to reduce their hours. The public sector are now being forced to catch up.

    Which makes me wonder about the validity of this:

    “[women] are more likely to be earning less or working part time or becoming housewives simply because we’re not given the choice”

    Maybe. Or will women be joining the (mostly) men who lost their private sector jobs and are earning less or working part time or are unemployed? Or in a couple of years will there just not be any difference, as people start to (hopefully) become employed again (although arguably, those with experience in the private sector may find it less difficult to gain employment again. Perhaps).

    Hm, anyway. My point is that I think the last paragraph perhaps simplifies things rather too much. And starting with “now Mr Cameron is in power” ignores that we would probably have been seeing much of the same if Mr Brown was in power (as I recall their deficit reduction plans weren’t all that dissimilar, from the little information published prior to the election).

  6. Jenny

    Except that the private sector is and will continue to recover, whereas cuts in the public sector are not likely to be reversed or made up for any time soon – because of the way the Big Society is being designed.

    I think there *will* be a difference – and a widening one at that – in a couple of yeras when the private sector is picking up and the public sector is far smaller than it used to be. I also think this will lead to poorer public services. And as you say, it may well be easier for those with experience in the private sector to gain employment. So arguably I think we’re in trouble.

    And from what Mr Brown was saying about the economy, Labour were not planning of cutting their way out of the recession, at least certainly not to this extent.

    I’m happy to admit I don’t know a lot about this and my grasp of economics is all but non-existant, but from what I understand, this is the argument I’d make.

  7. “Except that the private sector is and will continue to recover”

    So there will be plenty of jobs for those from the public sector! :-p

    Irrespective of the economic situation, many would tell you that the public sector was too big anyway, e.g. I think the NHS staff bill for managers was higher than their bill for nurses. Whichever way you look at that, it’s fucked up. If cuts can get better value for money, then I’m all for that (as an aside, I’d also like to see a radical rethink of some public services. Free schools are a welcome step in that direction; I’d love to see similar applied to hospitals).

    As to the gender issue, if I’m honest I don’t really see why capable people would be unable to get employment elsewhere. Maybe we will see women generally badly hit by the shrinking public sector (although in actual fact it’s not shrinking all that much), but I’d really be surprised if there is a lasting effect. I think many of the people predicting doom and gloom are really going over the top, but we’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

    “And from what Mr Brown was saying about the economy, Labour were not planning of cutting their way out of the recession”

    Alistair Darling said that Labour cuts would be “deeper and tougher” than the cuts Thatcher’s government initiated in the early 80s. They most definitely were planning on cutting spending. They were going to go slightly slower though, although the difference between Labour plans and the Tory plans amounted to something like 0.5% of GDP. Not much at all, then.

    I feel slightly bad because I’ve only really commented on the last paragraph of your entry, which I guess wasn’t really the point you were trying to make by writing it! I pretty much agree with the rest though (and it’s more fun to talk about the things we disagree about!), so don’t really have much to say. Except, picking up on this:

    “There’s a small but loudly optimistic part of me that thinks that, because we’re all still young and we’ve been brought up in a society where ‘we must all be equal’ is at least the public face of What Is Thought… none of these things are going to be problems any more.”

    Yeah, I think you’re right. I like to think it’s iterative over each generation; our generation hopefully has gender roles less entrenched than our parents’ generation did/does. The next one will then be better still (because they’ll grow up in a more equal society, hopefully), and so on and so forth. I don’t think it’s possible to get a fully equal society overnight, it needs time for collective prejudices to die away.

  8. Pingback: Femme Writes – Female Empowerment & Relationships « Femme Writes

  9. I think this piece is great, and highlights the internal struggle we have when we really think about things (as opposed to just going along and not really giving things much thought at all). I’m late for my own party for many reasons, but I will be writing about this soon.

    And I just wanted to say that I think I like this Dickie (and I don’t mean that in any kind of condescending way, I recognize that he’s probably not on pins and needles waiting for my approval!). He seems rather more thoughtful than I originally gave him credit for, and I value his input on things like this, because it certainly forces me to remember that there’s always another perspective.

    Thanks to you both!

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