Granted, Gilbert was speaking to a predominately female audience, yet her words are equally relevant for the men who date these newly independent women. They don't have role models, either. Men don't have past generations of males who can guide them in how to act and respond to shifting cultural milieu. There aren't dozens of male figures throughout history who were married to women that made more money than they did—women who were the primary breadwinners of the household. As Gilbert mentioned, this is new territory we're embarking on, and men and women are all in it together.
So, what can we do to help each other out?
Perhaps a good starting point for this journey is resisting the urge to lump anyone of the opposite sex into one, single category. Not all women are radical, male-bashing feminists, just as not all women are born romantics with an appreciation for old-fashioned gender roles. The spectrum is wide and long, and each woman falls at some varying degree. How Feminism Harms Women
When the male reader commented on Birch's article, he addressed her as though she was a male-bashing feminist—yet she is far from it. On the contrary, Birch takes pleasure in relying on men for certain things. She says as much: "I want a guy to court me a bit... Grand gestures are wholly unnecessary. I just want someone I can count on. I want him to do the little things to make me sure he is the real deal." She wants the men she dates to be leaders, and doesn't mind foregoing some independence if it means that she gets to feel special and taken care of as a reward.
Does this also mean Birch wants to turn back the clock and live in a time when women couldn't make their own choices in life, or have a voice in determining the political state of the world? No. Probably not. And that's the key. We don't live in that world anymore.
I think there is a primary distinction between wanting independence from men, and wanting equal rights. In the 1960s and 70s, the feminist movement couldn't see this distinction, because it was men who ran the world. Men were the ones in positions of power. They held government offices, owned major companies, and ultimately decided everything; therefore, they were the ones holding women down. They were the enemy. The Backlash of Feminism
Today, this is not the case. We're on a much more level playing field, which makes it easier to revert back to gender roles in some instances, especially in romantic relationships.
Some may disagree and argue that women still need to continue fighting for equal pay and various other opportunities. To those women, I give the same advice I gave to men: resist the urge to lump anyone of the opposite sex into one, single category. It's true that some men are misogynistic and are prone to sexist power trips, but it's also true that many more are not. And even the nicest, most romantic of men have been listening to all our anthems of independence. They've seen us wear t-shirts that claim, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Can Powerful Women Find Love?
And then we wonder why chivalry is dead.
Yes, I do understand where that male reader was coming from when he said we couldn't have it both ways, but also understand this: If the guy I am dating wants to open the car door, lend me his jacket, or fix something broken at my house, I'm sure as hell going to let him. Why? Because that's what real freedom and equality is. Real freedom means I no longer have anything to prove, so I'm free to allow myself to be taken care of once in a while—especially by men who are only doing it to be thoughtful.
What do you think? How was the shifting nature of gender roles impacted your relationships?