Gender Roles in Germany

This week, I helped Katja's grandparents build a fence around the perimeter of their backyard. Apparently, because of a never-ending feud between the people who own the properties, and the people who want to increase the touristic appeal of the location, properties need to be marked very clearly so there is no confusion.

Sascha and I drove up on Thursday morning and stayed until Friday afternoon, helping both days to measure out and install new posts and wire, while removing an old fence that marked an outdated boundary. However, what stood out to me the most about the whole implication of gender roles that I hadn't noticed in a very long time.

The first discernible gender element I noticed was an interior one - as I sawed our hammered or pulled and lifted, I realized how little manual labor I do in my every day life, whether it be at work or for my home, or my mother's home. Here I was, four thousand miles away, doing something I had never done before for people I'd known for less than a week. And its not that I didn't want to do it - it was more that I'd never thought I had the capacity to do things like that - to make things that are useful and helpful for people who can't do it by themselves.

Anyway, while the men worked away, Katja's grandmother worked inside. She was cleaning. She was sweeping. She was cooking. Not even a half hour into our work, she came out with a tray of sparkling apple juice and Coke. About two hours into our work, she announced that lunch was ready - a HOT lunch.

It was very impressive. I realized I hadn't been in a domestic gender role setting in a long time. All the families I spend time with are new families, or gay families, or families with single parents. But Katja's grandparents have been married for 54 years, and her grandfather still would blow her grandmother kisses, and they'd touch each other with affectionate usually reserved for newlyweds.

I don't know how much the love in their relationship depends upon their clearly designated gender roles. I guess there are lots of contributing factors, only one of them being gender roles, and another being potentially their mutual desire for adventure and activity. They go skiing every year. They bike. They go for "Nordic walks" along the beach every morning. However, I can't help but think that gender roles of some sort play into their love life some how. And maybe gender roles aren't such a bad thing.

I'm not saying that all women should cook and clean and all men should work outside. I'm not saying that at all. But maybe designating jobs for each partner that only he or she does could help the relationship maintain structure. If everyone can do everything, and does do everything, there is this lack of reliance and trust that can only be earned by someone always being designated a role.

I'm not sure. All I know is that I want to explore this topic, and maybe put it into effect in my next relationship. Maybe then it will last more than a year.

No comments: