Growing up in an Italian family, the gender boundaries have always been clearly laid out. Men belong at the supper table, in front of the TV, or beside the BBQ. Women belong in the laundry room, kitchen, and nursery. As many leaps and bounds have been made so that women can vote, work, marry other women, it sometimes appears that newly immigrated families such as my own survive within their own patriarchal bubble. Although it is generally accepted that the women can and should have professions, I have one grandmother who never worked a day in her life and aunts who stopped working as soon as their husbands were financially stable enough for them to do so. Whenever law school comes up, the inevitable question is always “But you still want get married and have children, right?”. For whatever reason, the patriarchal hierarchy in my family has ruled that the man must always work and relax when he gets home and, while the woman may work, she is still expected to pop out children and do all the housework.
In the same breath as encouraging me to go to law school, my grandfather will tell me to get up and help clear the dishes. It is clear that the men are meant to merely sit around the supper table or around the TV and enjoy their leisure time as the women toil in the kitchen. At the same time, I cannot fault them for the way they think. As much as mainstream media has drifted from the June Cleaver-esque model of a woman and towards a Sex and the City/Lipstick Jungle norm, one cannot change how people react to both the teaching of their culture and religion. Recently, the Catholic church lauded the washing machine for being one of the greatest advances for feminism (see: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/268856 ). When your religion is refusing to acknowledge a woman’s rights to abortion, contraception, etc and the bounds they have made for feminism, it is not unrealistic to assume that you yourself will not be quite so openminded either.