Last month, I wrote about how chivalry encourages men to take responsibility for maintaining feminine virtue. Of course, once men assume ownership over the actions of women, women are encouraged to police themselves in order to avoid embarrassing the men in their lives. Endless cycle, no?
Let’s take a look at how this collaborative gender policing works when the roles are reversed. Who is to blame when a man doesn’t act masculine enough when fulfilling his traditional role in a heterosexual relationship? According to traditional gender role expert Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the woman is always at fault (also, she’s a mouthy, feminist prude).
Andrea writes in to Dr. Laura for some advice about her husband. Apparently, Andrea is a bit concerned about his tendency toward sissiness on one particular issue:
“My friends and I, who are stay-at-home moms, would love to have you address how we can help our husband be strong fathers. We’re doing our best to be great wives (we’ve read your books)”—-good—-“who support and respect our husbands. Yet, we think feminist concepts still influence us because we tend to entirely take over the discipline of our kids. Our husbands seem to be more gentle and compassionate than we are! We can’t use that old line ‘wait ’til your father comes home!’ We didn’t marry wimps. These are men who bravely and patiently put up with our occasional crabbiness. They provide for their families, listen and care. Are we doing something wrong?”
As far as traditional gender roles are concerned, Andrea and her friends are fulfilling their responsibilities as women. They’ve rejected careers in order to stay home to care for their children and husbands. They’ve read Dr. Laura’s books on how better to cater to their husbands’ desires. They work to appear gentle and compassionate and allow their husbands to assume the domineering, disciplinary role in the household.
But their husbands aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. They’re acting like women when they need to be acting like men. That’s the deal. These women are doing everything right. . . or are they? Schlessinger responds:
On a prior YouTube, I was asked about a three year old who says “shut up,” and I was telling the person who asked me the question that probably they’re saying “shut up” and that way the kid is learning to say “shut up”. So here I am, being a total hypocrite: Shut up! When your husband starts disciplining the kids, even if you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, think it should be done a different way—-leave it alone.
You are emasculating your husbands by judging and critiquing what they do and taking over, just because what they do is different. I am here to tell you, kids don’t do well in a house without an alpha male. And if you emasculate your husband so that he’s afraid to express himself because he’s going to get garbage from you and no sex, he’s going to seem like a wimp. He’s not going to be an alpha male and that’s going to hurt your kids. And frankly, a guy who’s not an alpha male is not very horny, even for a feminist. So, what I want you to do is, “Honey, they did ‘such and such’. Could you take care of it?” And afterwards go, [takes a deep, sensuous breath] “I love when you handle things that way”.
Interesting. So while chivalry encourages men and women to police female behavior to shoehorn women into traditional roles, the policing of men in these backwards heterosexual relationships functions much differently. For good housewives like Andrea, a man’s failure to embody the “alpha male” role still reflects her own personal failure as a woman. But the solution, unlike with chivalry, isn’t to encourage her man to be more masculine. The solution is to pretend that he’s more masculine than he is, and to put out more.
According to the Dr. Laura model, a woman is required to fulfill her role—-no excuses. But if a man is uninterested in fulfilling the traditional male role—-hey, maybe he’s just not into yelling at and/or hitting children!—-no problem. We don’t want to inconvenience a man—-but we also can’t just let his effeminate behavior slide.
So we place the full responsibility for the husband’s more feminine qualities on his wife. She needs to (a) pretend that her husband is “alpha,” even when he doesn’t really want to be; and (b) privately focus on fulfilling her own role better, regardless of what her husband does. In Dr. Laura’s world, that means offering herself up for sex more, remembering to always let out “deep, sensuous breaths,” and intensifying her feminine performance in order to make her husband appear more masculine in contrast.
And if her man doesn’t want as much sex as she’s aggressively offering him? That’s the woman’s fault, too. Perhaps she should try offering even more sex! Nevermind that aggressively pursuing sex is traditionally considered a pretty masculine thing to do—-if this shit actually made any sense, it would make it a lot harder to indiscriminately blame women for everything.