Most young women living in Egypt know the struggle of living with a chauvinistic male. A chauvinistic male is a man who feels entitled to ask the females of the house to do his laundry, cook his meals, wash his dishes, and massage his feet. Whether you are a sister, cousin, or daughter, you’ve probably been through it.
Those who have it worst of all however are the wives. Many women in this day and age who are about to venture into marriage assume that the man they are about to marry will share equally in household duties, or at the very least will be able to grab himself a drink from the refrigerator when he is thirsty. These assumptions soon prove to be delusions, however, and either fighting ensues, or more likely, the new wife succumbs to societal pressure to be a good wife and an overall superwoman, who is able to both have a career and wait on her husband hand and foot.
Worse than the chauvinistic male, however, is the chauvinistic woman, or to be more exact, the chauvinistic mother. Mothers-in-law who pamper their sons like there is no tomorrow are for the most part the reason why today’s men expect their wives to do the same.
The problem with a man who is raised to expect the women in his life to take care of every little detail for him is not just that his wife or daughter is going to suffer from his unreasonable demands. There is a deeper problem at hand here, namely that this man will never become a whole independent human being. Sure, he might be able to work and bring in the big bucks, which satisfies both his and his mother’s egos, but what about basic self-care?
Adults should be able to take care of themselves completely. Responsible adults shouldn’t leave their socks on the floor, or wear the same underwear for two days in a row just because they don’t know how to use a washing machine. Responsible adults shouldn’t leave their dirty dishes in the sink expecting someone else to wash them for them, and responsible adults should definitely be able to open the fridge and grab themselves a drink of water without feeling resentful about it.
Chauvinistic males usually become chauvinistic fathers who in turn raise chauvinistic boys. So how do we end this vicious cycle? It all starts with toddlerhood.
The following tips are for mothers and fathers who want to raise wholesome individuals:
1- Be a good role model
If you are a father who wishes to raise an independent human being, model good behaviour at home. Allow your children to see you helping their mother out around the house. If you make a mess, clean it up. If you have a favourite meal your wife is too busy to cook, why not go into the kitchen and attempt to make it yourself? If you succeed, you will have conquered one more arena in life, and if you fail, at least you will have had fun trying new things in the kitchen.
2- Start early
Whether you have girls or boys, allow them to watch you while you do chores. As they grow into toddlerhood, ask them to help you with simple tasks like unloading the dishwasher or putting the dishes in the sink. If you have pets, ask your kids to feed them. Older children should have specific chores that they are expected to do on a daily basis. This fosters both independence and raises their self-esteem.
3- Treat your children equally
If you have a boy and a girl, avoid asking your daughter to do things for her brother. This is when the entitlement begins. Whatever is expected of your daughter should also be expected of your son.
4- Avoid falling into traps regarding stereotypes
There is a very catchy meme going around on the internet that illustrates this point quite well. It is a picture of a boy, holding a doll. The caption says “Don’t want your son to play with dolls? Afraid he will grow up to be… a nurturing father?”
Common stereotypes about boys and girls are that boys should play with cars, toy soldiers, and guns, and that girls should play with dolls and anything pink. The problem here is that boys are pushed into violent play at a very young age, and any display of affection or caring on their part is considered unmanly.
If your boy wants to play with a doll, if he wants to brush her hair, feed her using a bottle, or change her clothes, let him. Saying to a young boy that he shouldn’t play with a toy which he really likes, just because it is a girl’s toy, is quite confusing. If you have a girl who wants to play in the mud, let her! Don’t be afraid that her dress will become dirty; she can help wash it up afterwards.
5- Show your children that you can do it yourself
If you are a mother, avoid postponing all home improvement projects until your husband gets home. Allow your children to understand that both men and women are capable of changing light bulbs, fixing cabinets, and hanging curtains.
All of this is not to say that a wife who does the chores or a husband who works long hours will contribute to the continuation of gender stereotypes. Being kind, generous, and helpful is always welcome, especially if a member of your family works long hours, is sick, or plain tired.
If a woman feels like doing the housework just because she feels like it, that is fine too. The issue here is more about the family’s overall approach than who does what. Both parents need to work together in order to raise boys who are self-sufficient. Instead of the clichéd and outdated “big boys don’t cry”, show your boys that real men can take care of themselves.