My husband and I were talking yesterday, and I expressed chagrin at feeling like I had "something to prove" every time I ventured outside the stereotypical behavior for my gender, and at feeling sometimes like any misstep I made was going to be attributed to my gender as a whole, not to my bad day, or flawed humanness, or specific ineptitude. More specifically, in my observation women, particularly those who either call themselves feminists or egalitarians or who want to be socially and professionally on an equal footing with men, are under a good deal of pressure. If a man does something illogical, people say "wow, he did something illogical." If a woman does something illogical, people say "wow, women are illogical." As a woman, I am very uncomfortable expressing certain emotions or opinions in public because to do so would earn me a pat on the head and a "well, women are just like that. What do you do?" I really, really hate being patronized or having my gender as a whole dismissed because I, only one of millions of different incarnations of my gender, said a certain thing or behaved a certain way. Then, of course, if I appear too cold and calculating, people are turned off and repulsed by me because I am flouting an order of gender roles people find familiar and comforting, and in some cases a prerequisite for True Christian Womanhood. So, I feel that I must always be perfectly logical, correct in my opinions, in complete control of my emotions, sensible, rational, and measured in everything I do or say- (Which is really what I tend to be anyway, being as INTJ as I am; I don't like being put in a box, though!) and also nice, charming, and non-confrontational. What's a girl to do? :)
My husband, I learned as we chatted, often feels the same way, though in different areas. People expect him to dump a lot of the childcare on me, to need an excuse when he wants to hang out with his friends, (he doesn't- if he wants to play poker with the guys, he'll say "Hey, babe, I'd like to hang with the guys. Do you have to work that night/do we have any prior plans I'm forgetting? No? Ok, cool. I'll be back later." You know, like two grownups who love each other and want each other to pursue friends and interests outside our marriage would normally talk to each other.) want time away from me, be terrible at housework, and generally incapable domestically. Well...... that's just not my husband, and I love that about him. I love that I can take a flying trip or a weekend gig out of town, leaving him to parent solo, and not worry about the kids being neglected or the house getting totally trashed. Also, my husband feels the same sort of pressure I mentioned above when he steps out of his traditional role- when he is the one to cook a dessert for an extended family potluck, or bake a wedding cake, or when he's the one who has more culinary skill than I do and I defer to him, in public, in kitchen-related things. When he cooks or bakes, it has to be just right- if a woman bakes a cake and messes something up, it's because she had an off day or whatever, but if he messes up a dish, well..... "men are just not as good at/geared towards that."
I really, really wish our society could find it in our collective hearts to end this "divinely created gender role" nonsense, once and for all. It doesn't help those who fit the stereotypes, and it hurts those who do not. God did not use two cookie cutters, one blue and one pink, to create humanity. God made us like snowflakes- no two exactly alike. Can we generalize, based on physiology or hormones or statistical tendencies? Sure..... but 1. I question the accuracy of much non-physiological data, because it is so hard to define, report, and accurately quantify, and 2. A statistical probability does not equal a moral certainty or even a scientifically provable norm. I, at 5'2" and not terribly athletic, absolutely fit the "physically weaker than men" stereotype. But.... guess what? I am not pursuing a career in the military, security, or as an athlete. This does not mean that my gender is incapable of those things- it means that I am incapable of those things, or at least not geared towards them. I am generally a rational, logistically proficient, practical person. That does not mean that all women are that way, or that all men are and I'm a factory reject as a woman and less of a woman because of those traits, or that all cats are pink or that testosterone makes you turn orange or any other inaccurate statement of causality. Really, when we as Christians or as American society in general check our critical thinking and data evaluation skills, unpleasant things happen. Simple, predictable causal relationships and easy lists to check off simply aren't reality, and that's a fantasy we should really collectively retire.