I’m not a relationship person. I’m 30 years old, and have been in one relationship.
I’ve dated, or at least attempted to date outside of that one relationship, but most of those situations have been unmitigated disasters, the most recent of which was my then housemate and her boyfriend setting me up with his housemate who turned out to be a disgusting, misogynistic creep. It was an awful experience. So, I’ve removed myself from the dating scene for now. Frankly, aside from emotionally, I’m also not geographically in the right place to find the type of person I would like to date.
Something that I keep hearing from African men is say that “a woman is supposed to cook.” A woman is unmarriageable if she doesn’t cook. And to be fair, it’s not only the men that say it- women perpetuate these gender roles. I was with the a couple of diplomats this week, and they said that “no Ghanaian man would marry me” and that “as a woman, I have certain gifts that enable me to cook” and that my husband “pays the bills, so I have to cook.”
Obviously, I did not react well. Aside from the assumption that my greatest ambition is to have a Ghanaian husband (WTF?), men also have hands, and if a man has managed to make it to the age of 25 or 30 or 35 without me cooking for him, why on earth would I suddenly be responsible for his nourishment? I have a Masters degree, and I work- and I… don’t pay bills? Is my money not good enough for bill paying because I’m a woman?
I’m sure this will come as a surprise to no one, but I’m not interested in being in a relationship where my partner doesn’t view me as a human being. I’m certainly not interested in being in a relationship where a partner expects things from me- cooking, cleaning, making less money than him, shaving my legs, being a SAHM, wearing makeup, an engagement ring, or skirts, changing my last name- that he wouldn’t even consider doing himself. I do not believe in “letting the man lead.” And I’m certainly not about to have a man “teach” me that I’m should be submissive to him, because why on earth would I listen to the oppressor telling me that I’m meant to be oppressed by him? I’m aware that I’m limiting my choices in partners by doing that, but I’m damn sure not about to limit my choices in life to please some man’s sexist preferences.
I am interested in a relationship where someone’s expectations of me aren’t based on stereotypes and restrictive roles- one where he would expect me to treat him with respect and compassion, and he would do the same for me.
There was an episode of Sex and the City where Jack Berger was hanging out with Carrie and Charlotte, and said “So basically, guys are just fucked?” when Charlotte said she hated carnations, and Carrie said she loved them- and that Carrie would dump a guy for wearing boat shoes, but Charlotte thought they were cute. A guy is only screwed if he views women the same way humans view dogs- as creatures that universally love having their genitals scratched and eating their own feces, rather than people with distinct preferences, flaws, and strengths.
This metaphor is getting away from me.
My point is that men and women should view each other as equals.
There aren’t a whole lot of models of feminist relationships out there- so when I look at who I would like my ideal relationship to be modeled after, I look to the most egalitarian society that I know of: The emperor penguins.
Admittedly, I am no relationship expert. But I do know what I want in a relationship- and that is a partner, not a master or a dependent. The emperor penguin is the most non-sexist animal species I know of. (There are some matriarchal animal species as well, but I’m more interested in the idea of sharing lives than one sex being subordinate to another.)
I think these arctic birds are a pretty inspirational model for how to treat one another. Before sex, the male bows to the female and she bows back. When she lays the egg, the male incubates it for the winter while she goes off to feed herself- laying an egg takes a lot out of you. He takes care of it for over two months! If the penguin hatches before the mother returns, the papa takes care of it, feeding it with a liquid produced in his esophagus (the penguin equivalent of breast milk) and keeping it warm.
When the mama comes back, she takes over the childcare responsibilities, while the male penguin goes to sea to regain his strength (childcare is exhausting stuff).
I get that penguins are not humans, and that there are physiological differences between us that make certain things impossible- we’re mammals after all, and women gestate fetuses until birth, and men don’t produce breast milk. Still, I don’t see why we can’t take a cue from our tuxedoed cousins and split things more equally– both men and women putting in the work (even the not so fun stuff) to make their lives run smoothly, instead of arbitrarily gendering responsibilities and calling it a day.
So unlike Monique, I’m not looking for a king to whom to submit. And I’m not looking to be treated like a queen. (What does that mean, anyway?) In all honesty, I’m not looking for anything right now, but when someone the time does come, I will be ready for my emperor.