I don’t know how it actually started but just so you know the whole conversation went something like this:
At Tanjong Pagar MRT Station after our “night cap” (mocha brownie and strawberry-banana @ Pacific Coffee [Red Dot Museum]
Him: Let’s say you had to choose between two guys- a game addict or a porn addict, which would you choose?
Me: Porn addict.
Him: Really? Why? Majority chose the game addict.
Me: Kind of expected that.
He states all the reasons why people chose the game addict and porn addict.
Me: I think it is really because I can watch it with him or something. I am not really a game person anyway. PLUS, what kind of a choice is THAT? If they were the last two guys on earth, I would rather live by myself. I mean I so do not need a guy.
Him: Are you going to start on the whole feminist thing again? (grunts)
On the train. Think Him= Durkheim, Me=Feminist-Marxist
Me: What do you mean start “ the whole feminist thing again”? I DO NOT start THAT THING. Gender bias is everywhere. Hello.
Him: I still believe everyone has a role to play in society because they have attributes that is suitable or beneficial to take up that role.
Me: So you are a functionalist. But who defines what attributes are suitable for whatever role they are supposed to play? Suppose the breadwinner for example, who do you think of, or think should be the breadwinner of the family? (I am assuming a sole-breadwinner family structure here. Of course, in this era, there is an increasing trend of dual-income families however let us just stick to one variable)
Him: The men of course.
Me: Ok. So what’s the problem with the women being the breadwinner?
Him: There is nothing wrong with that. I mean let’s say this woman is the breadwinner and the man is the house-husband and the woman falls terribly ill, the man even though having been a house-husband for most of his married life would have to go out and get a job to support the family. Vice versa.
Me: So you are saying it depends on the situation? Like whoever that fills the shoes of the breadwinner is determined and dictated by the situation? It is situational based?
Him: Well. Something like that.
Me: OK. I can accept that. However, going back to your example, of the woman being the breadwinner, that kind of family structure is not very common is it? So I am asking you why, is that kind of family structure not very common and even frowned upon if it is a perfectly fine way of arrangement?
Him: It is their choice. As in when a couple gets married, they probably decided who should go out and earn money and who should stay at home and look after the children. AND majority of these couples chose the man to be the breadwinner and the woman to be the housewife.
Me: So you think majority of the people adopt this family structure solely based on their own choice which was not influenced in one way or another by some other mechanisms besides their own neurons?
Him: Uh huh. I know what you are thinking. You are going to say that the society shapes these thinking and emotions blah blah right? Why can’t you accept that it is the combination of the majority people’s choice that shape the society or something.
Me: Do not tell me what I think. Anyway, before I state my case, you have any more stuff to add?
Him: Not really.
Me: Ok. First of all, yes, I do believe that society shapes our choices no matter how hard we want to believe that we are capable of making our choices independent of any or minimal influence. Remember how I told you about how sex is determined but gender is learnt. The whole I am not a woman because I have a vagina and I am not a men because I have a penis? We learn to play the role of woman or a men. In this case, primary socialization (imparting of knowledge and teaching from the parents) would have already melded the characteristics of “masculinity” with the suitable characteristics of what is needed of a breadwinner. Together with the gender bias in the work structure, it further fortifies the whole idea of a male breadwinner. Furthermore, it even fits into the ‘rational decision making’ theory because guys earn more! Not because they are entirely more capable than woman but..
Him: (cuts in) What gender bias is there in the work structure? If more than anything, the guys lose out because they have to serve 2 years of NS (National Service) which puts you in an advantage because you have that 2 years to climb ahead of me.
Me: Do not talk to me about that as if you are sacrificing a lot more than me. You get XXX amount every month in your paycheck because you served NS. I do agree that OK, I may get that 2 years of advantage but I am faced by a glass ceiling (being able to see ahead but unable to reach it)! In no time, we would be probably vying for the same promotion. Big sacrifice. Whoopee. The whole idea of NS is just so to keep the patriarchal system intact for goodness sake.
Him: What the hell is a glass ceiling?
Me: Let’s say we assume that a man and a woman possessing the same level of qualifications, be it degree or work capability and that they are slated for a promotion, who do you think the boss would give the job to?
Him: Is this a trick question?
Me: (rolls eyes) NO. The boss would give it to the guy.
Him: You do not know that!
Walking to his house.
Me: I do so. Most bosses, note that I am not saying all have the perception that it is more “worth their while” to promote a man rather than a woman because he is less likely to leave the job to take up a domestic duties full time. Moreover, the role of woman as seen in the eyes of society would be to be a mother, wife first in which both roles lie in the domestic realm. Plus, with the biological assumption that women have a stronger and special unbreakable bond with the children because every child spent around 9 months in the mother’s body, one would generally expect that it would be more suitable for the mother to play the role of the primary caregiver. Therefore, no matter whether the woman is planning to have a child or not, the possibility is enough a reason to give the promotion to the man.
Him: The man can also choose to be the one that wants to stay home and take care of the children!
Me: Yes. I do not disagree but the fact remains that it not about who would stay home and take care of the children but the higher possibility that the woman would be the one to do that. There is a possibility of both but the boss would think that the other is more possible.
Him: But the woman has to take leave anyway when she is pregnant or post pregnant what.
Me: (confused) Yes they do. So that kind of supports my point. Even if the woman is not going to stay home and take care of the children, she would still have to take leave to give birth or recuperate. And, don’t you see that it is precisely because the man can choose to take care of the children and can be persuaded not to take up the domestic role while the woman cannot deny her ability to conceive that make the favour tip in balance of the man. It is because the woman is able to conceive and so there is always a possibility of getting pregnant even if she swears she would not or do not want to and therefore the job she holds is a constant jeopardy. And being the boss, like all boss would think in terms of long-term benefits and therefore in this case, as the man has a higher chance of staying at the job, it would be more worthwhile to “invest in him”.
We arrive at his house. While taking off his shoes, he asks his dad.
Him: (in Chinese) Dad, let’s say if a man and a woman possess the same level of qualifications, be it degree or work capability and that they are slated for a promotion, who would you give the job to?
Dad: (in Chinese) They cannot be the same, they would have their own unique capabilities? Plus it would have to depend on the nature of the managerial position because there are many types. If the managerial post requires a lot of entertaining I cannot possibly give it to a woman?
Him: (in Chinese) Let’s just assume they are exactly the same. Who would you hire?
Dad: (in Chinese) The Woman.
Him: (in Chinese) (shocked) Why? Aren’t you afraid they would need to leave the job someday to take care of the children?
Dad: (in Chinese) There is a higher chance of the man jumping ship to take up a better job offer. Women are more loyal than men and would stay in their job positions longer than men.
Him: (turns and grin at me) What do you have to say to that?
Me: (smiles at his dad)(shoots my boyfriend a can we talk about this NOT in front of your dad?)
Sitting on the sofa after his dad retreated to his room.
Me: I do not disagree with your dad, what he says probably makes sense. But why is the characteristic of loyal more associated with the women than man? Socialization of “masculine qualities”, like strong, assertive and “feminine qualities”, like weak, delicate. Why is it that there is a higher chance of the man jumping ship? Because they are offered BETTER jobs! That itself is a promotion. More men would get that promotion as compared to the women. You see what I mean?
Him: What is that thing about masculine qualities and feminine qualities again? It is not exclusive to men or women what.
Me: Simple. You don’t think that qualities are gendered? Then why do you call someone a sissy or a butch? They act in a certain way that goes against the expected appropriate behaviour they should be displaying in relation with sex. That is why they get snide looks or are frowned upon. Same for gays and lesbians. Why is it that you think they get so much negative sanction? They act in a way that goes against the expected appropriate heterosexuality which is accepted by the people as normal. But why is heterosexual labeled as normal and homosexual as deviant? Because the power lies with the heterosexuals! If you go back to the Greek times or something, men probably had sex with men a lot and they were not stoned to death.
Him: Homosexuality is bad and harmful because they go against the natural laws. If everyone was a gay or lesbian, the population would stagnate and decline rapidly which would lead to the extinction of our race. They are breaking the natural cycle.
Me: Ok. So you are saying it is bad and harmful because then humans would not be able to procreate and thus would eventually die out? Well with our technology now, we can still procreate as long as there are eggs and sperms. Plus, let us assume that we do not accept them because they disrupt the natural cycle because of their inability to procreate naturally? Then why is it that we do not persecute the infertile couples or couples who are not willing to procreate as harshly as gays and lesbians? They are also disrupting the natural cycle.
Him: For the infertile couples, it is not their fault that they cannot have children! As for the couples who do not want to have children, at least there is the possibility of being able to persuade them to have children. For the gays and lesbians, they choose to go against the natural cycle and cannot be persuaded to have children because there is no way to do it.
Me: You think there is no way because you are thinking of having children the ‘natural’ way. Like I mentioned before, with technology, lesbian couples just need a sperm donor, gay couples can get a surrogate mother or even without technology, they can also adopt. Ok, let’s just put it this way, even if there is no IVF and all, if like what you said being heterosexual is part of the natural cycle thing, then you are suggesting that we are biologically built to be heterosexual? So all men should by right all be programmed to like women unless they have a mutated gene or something so are you saying that all the gays in the world have a mutated gene?
Him: OK. Since you say that power defines normalcy, imagine the power lies with the homosexuals and only by being a gay or lesbian then is one normal. By accepting gays and lesbians, it would mean accepting that monogamy is going to fail. I remember you once saying that monogamy is the best system of society or something.
Me: Why? Monogamy just means having one partner. Gay couples are two people, lesbian couples are two people.
Him: But they can don’t stick with one partner and have many partners because they think that since there is no fertilization going to be taking place, they do not have to be responsible because there are no consequences to bear.
Me: Monogamy is not going to fail because you think gays and lesbians are just going to sleep around with random partners. And by assuming that the whole world would turn to be gay or lesbian would be absurd. Just because the power lies with them does not mean everyone has to be gay or lesbian. Just like how the power lies with the heterosexuals now does not mean that everyone is a heterosexual.I did say that monogamy is the best system but I did say it is the best of the worst.
He rests his head in my lap and says, “Let’s stop. I am tired.” I ruffle his hair and say, “I’m tired too.” He mumbles, “I’m hungry.” I bend down to kiss him on the forehead and got up to cook noodles.
For further read-up on the theories and concepts I mentioned, please leave a comment and I will try to find the relevant sources as needed. I am a Sociology major I tend to lean more towards the social-constructionist sidet. I do not mean to harm or offend anyone. I probably also used ideas without proper referencing but as this is a spontaneous out of the blue conversation so hopefully I would not be breaching any copyright issues or plagiarism.