I overheard the following during my daily two-hour stint in my residential college’s dining hall:
A girl is saying that she’s thinking about med school, and her male friend says:
Male friend: The medical profession is very attractive to women because you can work a nine-to-three.
Male friend #2: So you can pick the kids up from school?
Male friend #1: Yeah, I mean, somebody‘s got to raise the kids.
To her credit, the girl in question replied that both her parents worked, and she thought she turned out okay. But honestly! I’m sure that if questioned, the guy who said that shit would deny that he was being sexist, that he was just telling it like it is, that a lot of women really do prefer a work schedule that accommodates their children’s schedules. Statistically, that may be true. But I know that all the female doctors I’ve had have been strong, intelligent career women, and I’m willing to bet that their circumstances allow them balance their careers and their families to a degree that doesn’t mean sacrificing one or the other. I’m willing to bet that they have spouses who are willing to allow that men are capable of caring for children. I bet they’re not stuck in the way outdated notion that women need to sacrifice everything in order to be there to pick the kids up from school.
Yes, okay, I’m waxing hyperbolic. But I am so angered by the terribly blinded people around me who persist in this outdated gender-roles paradigm. Personally, I do want to have (well, adopt) children when I grow up. I am very invested in the notion of helping to raise the next generation. But I’m not willing to do it at the expense of all the other things I want from my life, at the expense of my desires, my ambitions, or my passions. I know that I can balance all those things with a family—or, at least, I’m not going to have one if I can’t. It infuriates me that some people still seem to believe that women’s only appropriate role is to raise children. Raising children is, of course, a critical aspect of keeping our society going—but so is equal rights.
Oh, and the kids who had that conversation? Now uninformedly trashing Moby Dick.