We all know the “good old days” weren’t really that good, but, at least as far as gender roles are concerned, life was a lot simpler for our hunter-gatherer forefathers thousands of years ago.
Division of labour
If you were a man, your role in life was to protect the clan and hunt wild animals for food, while women gathered fruits, roots and nuts, looked after the children and kept the cave clean. At the risk of oversimplification, the reason for this division of labour is obvious – men tend to be physically stronger and faster and therefore better suited to the rigours of hunting.
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But things change. About 5,000 years ago the first agrarian societies were founded and animals were domesticated, which meant that hunting was no longer strictly necessary for survival, and the value of brute strength and fleet-footedness declined. Men still waged war, but generally speaking, the reasons for the division of labour were not that compelling any more.
Jumping ahead another few thousand years, our lives have changed almost beyond recognition. Hunting has become a sport for the elite, food is easily available all year round, and life is almost boringly safe for the majority of people. This has also had an impact on gender roles and, nowadays there’s hardly a job that cannot be done by both sexes.
Women still can’t father a child and men can’t give birth, but that’s more or less where it ends.
The short end of the stick
But wait, there’s an area of our lives where things haven’t changed that much – the domestic front.
Logic dictates that if both partners have day jobs, chores like cooking, washing, cleaning and taking care of the children should be shared equally.
However, unless you’re living in Scandinavia, the United States or Britain, dream on! That’s just not the way things work. In countries like Australia women still get the short end of the stick. In an article from the Syney Morning Herald the author claims that “Sheilas” struggle to find a husband who is willing to help out around the house.
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In a 2009 Oxford University study, author Dr Almudena Sevilla-Sanz, “marriage and cohabiting rates in developed countries can be linked to attitudes towards the roles of men and women, and views on who is responsible for doing the housework and looking after the children.” Both sexes indicate that they would be more inclined to move in with a partner who is willing to share housework and childcare.
Based on questionnaires, Dr Sevilla-Sanz drew up an “egalitarian index” of 12 developed countries and found that Norway and Sweden were the most egalitarian, followed by Great Britain and the USA. Countries that did not fare so well were Japan, Austria and Germany – with Australia bottom of the list.
The freedom of choice
One of the advantages modern women enjoy is greater freedom of choice. If for whatever reason a woman living in a “developed” country feels she doesn’t want to follow the traditional route, she may do so without raising too many eyebrows. If she doesn’t feel like getting married, having 2.5 kids and cooking, washing and cleaning for the extended family, she can stay with her own family, get her own place or even shack up with another woman.
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While this is good for women, generally speaking it is bad news for men. Traditionally men were more or less guaranteed a wife who would cook and clean for them and keep their bed warm – all for free. And if a man couldn’t find a wife with his inherent charm and good looks, his family would find one for him.
While it is true that there also men who are relieved not to be forced into marriage and procreation, many men are struggling to find a woman who is prepared to marry or shack up with them. If you’re short, ugly and fat, unemployed and have an unwelcoming personality, let’s face it, women are not going to be queueing up.
The mail order bride to the rescue
But all is not lost and where there’s a will, there’s a way. Many men (and women) are finding partners on the internet and some concentrate on making themselves more attractive to the opposite sex. Companies like Pick-Up Artist South Africa (PUA SA) that aim to teach men how to successfully connect with women have sprung up all over the western world.
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If all else fails, and you realise that for whatever reason, you’re just not going to land yourself the kind of spouse you desire, you can cast your net wider and see what’s on offer in other parts of the world. Websites offering hook-ups with beautiful, exotic women abound, and South African men seem to be particularly attracted to Russian and Ukrainian women, whereas Dutch and German men like what South-East Asia has to offer.
All that glitters is not gold, however, and the mail order bride route is full of pitfalls. Many agencies are not legitimate and take your money with no intention of sending you the goods, and the woman you meet at the airport might not look anything like her photos on the website – but in most cases the prospective husband is allowed to meet his prospective bride and her family.
It’s after the wedding that the problems often start. The woman got married not for love, but to escape poverty, and once she’s become a citizen of her new country she might divorce her husband and start off on her own.
In many cases, though, it’s a win-win situation. The woman is grateful for a comfortable life and spoils her husband rotten, and the husband is equally grateful to have a loving wife unencumbered by the “impossibly” high standards of local women.
Life is all about compromise, as the saying goes, and with a bit of give and take on both sides there is no need for a “war of the sexes”. A marriage is a partnership which includes the things that have to be done around the house. And guys, vacuuming the lounge while your wife’s doing the dishes isn’t going to make you any less of a man!
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Image: Woman hitting lazy husband from Shutterstock