Women, Equality and Straddling the Fence

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I kept laboring over
a title for this piece and wondering if I should even write it. From my recent experience on social media, I know it will put me in the proverbial hot seat. In the end I felt this is a topic that too relevant to ignore. Remember this is my opinion. I respect that yours may be different. 

From a young age I often felt like I didn't fit in with others of my female species.  Somehow my genes just didn't express themselves the same way. While they were into pop stars and athletes and dances and clothes, I was worried about the Vietnam War, which of my friends might be drafted, world hunger, the outing of gays and their treatment in the media.  

In my fifties I finally found my tribe and it grew quickly.  Women in business, women entrepreneurs, authors, artists, speakers, coaches, activists - these women were strong, creative, well-spoken and our conversations full of depth. I learned so much from them.  I had high hopes that we as a gender were coming into our own. It was exciting. Then came a post last week in an women's entrepreneur support group.

The post was simple - something like if I am asked out on a date, who should pay. That they would post a question like this in this group surprised me. I followed the comments in the thread with interest. Some answers made a lot of sense.  The person who asked for the date should offer to pay was one I could understand, and I loved that it didn't specify the gender of the person asking.  Another I thought worked was the thought of sharing the cost on a first date as you don't know if you'll hit it off. I know one friend who met someone for coffee for a first date, each on their own dime, so if it was a bomb, they could each exit quickly.  There were other answers I felt were just as thoughtful.

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What surprised me the most was the highest percentage of answers were old school. The guy should ALWAYS pay. It's only respectful. It's how you should treat a woman.  I raised my sons that way.  The traditional expectations in a relationship are still the best.  Then there was one member's reaction to my post supporting sharing costs, or perhaps letting them take you out but then reciprocating - either a date you set up or a home cooked meal and movie night on your dime. Her response was a shockingly nasty, vile public shaming of both my opinion and myself as a woman. WOW!  

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If this had been a general post on a public feed, I don't think it would have hit me so hard. But this was a group of women who had supposedly stepped out of the traditional role by creating their own businesses. They wanted equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity to thrive in the business world. But when they walked away from their business, they wanted to tuck right back into the traditional role of a man taking care of them.  I ended up leaving the group as I didn't feel my goals were aligned with most of theirs

When I met my husband of 37 years, he and I were both in tight financial straights. We let go of any traditional expectations as to what a relationship should be. No money to go out, we stayed home.  Whoever was  little more flush bought the groceries. He always had my back and I his, and he supported my strong independent streak right down to my keeping my name after marriage (something I am sad to see has waned, but that is for another post).  I am so grateful I wasn't tied to societal dating expectations. I would have missed so much.

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If you want a traditional relationship, that is always totally your choice and I will respect it.  What I struggle with is when there is waffling with a foot in each world.  To push for equality with men, then not offer them the same equality isn't being honest.  Men deserve to step outside traditional roles without shame. Once prime example are those men who chose to be the stay at home dads and rock it. In the end, it is unfair to ask men to give you something you are not willing to offer in return.

Let's each embrace the path that makes our heart sing and, if we want a life partner, find one who matches our relationship desires no matter what they are.  Let there be no shame, no judgement, just an acceptance that diversity is a good thing, even in relationships. Each to their own.