Since yesterday I have been really bothered by something. It seems like a small, inconsequential thing, but I realise it speaks to something so much bigger.
My husband is sick with a cold/flu bug. On my way home from work I stopped off at the chemist to get him medication. The chemist assistant asked if I needed anything and I told her that I needed cold pills for my husband. “Man flu?” she laughed. “He’s probably dying” I joked. And that was it. Just a couple of passing comments in the course of a day. Nothing to worry about.
But it is bugging me. I realised afterwards that I had talked about my husband like he was a big baby that was overreacting. He isn’t; he hardly ever gets sick and when he does it is usually pretty rough. I don’t think he has a made up flu or is looking for sympathy. I don’t believe he can’t handle sickness as well as I can. In fact, I don’t believe ‘man flu’ is anything but sexism.
If my husband talked to another man about how emotional I was being because I was on my period, or how I was overreacting to something because I was an emotional woman, I would be absolutely furious. I would tell him that he was perpetuating stereotypes. I would explain how simple jokes speak to something bigger in our society about how women should be viewed and treated. He would never talk about me this way, so why did I make jokes about him?
Our society has taught us that men are big babies. They get ‘man flu’, ads tell us that men can’t look after their own children properly, that they are slobs if women aren’t there to tell them off. We have relegated them to useless, stupid, uncaring children that need contestant supervision.
And so we eye roll and laugh and make jokes, and never once think about how much we hate it when men do the same to us. And then we are surprised when men in society accept that role and become dead beat dads, uncaring and thoughtless. Can we really complain about it when we don’t expect and ask for better?
so to my amazing Luke, I am sorry I laughed. I am sorry that I didn’t turn to the lady and say “actually my husband is sick, not faking or complaining”. I am sorry I perpetuated a stereotype that treats you as less able than your wife. I will try and do better. I will try and speak of you only as I see you and know you. I will speak of you with the same respect that I would want you to speak of me.
I demand better of myself.
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