Sunday 24 March 2019

Ciara Kelly: 'I have often thought I'm just like a bloke... in a 'couldn't care less about tidying the hotpress kind of way''

Forget flowers and chocolates ... today's women want a lie-in

Ciara Kelly

Last week we saw the passing of St Valentine's Day. Yes, I know it's a strange one. Many of us profess to think it's rubbish, a hallmark holiday designed to generate sales of greeting cards, petrol station bouquets and put perfunctory bums of couples on restaurant seats mid-week. And, whilst that may all be true, there's a certain recognition that if you don't do any of that stuff, it could be perceived that your relationship isn't even worth a gaudy pink card and a pair of scratchy lace knickers from Tesco. We're sort of damned if we do and only slightly more damned if we don't.

I've enjoyed the humorous insights being shared online, and in print this week, by women eschewing the traditional Valentine's romantic gestures and expressing instead a longing for someone who'll put the bins out, or allow you to have a lie-in.

But that doesn't chime with me either. I recognise that, in large numbers of relationships, women 'pull the double shift'. As in go out to work during the day and come home and then shoulder most of the domestic duties too. But I think the reason that happens isn't as simple as 'feckless men'.

And I think the reason men express themselves with forecourt flowers instead of filling the dishwasher is equally complex. I think it boils down to values. And we're brought up with largely different sets of them.

Women are brought up to value domesticity. We give toddler girls baby dolls to play with so they practice minding a baby, when they're still a baby themselves. We give them miniature kitchens, sweeping brushes and irons. A more woke generation might say we groomed them. We don't do this to boys.

So is it any wonder that they place less importance on what the house looks like? The positions of the scatter cushions, the cleanliness of the downstairs loo (in case somebody calls). Whether or not the children have the right size clothes on. We instilled in girls, from an early age, the importance of these things. We intrinsically linked them to how a woman might be viewed - or might view herself.

We made these things almost invisible to boys, but are disappointed if they don't see them and do them to our often exacting standards. And when I say we - I mean society. It wasn't only men who raised kids with these gendered roles. We call it the patriarchy but women were architects of it too. They raised their daughters to pretend any cake they served was baked by their own fair hands rather than purchased in SuperValu. They instilled domesticity almost as a birthright.

Boys were taught to focus on the world outside the home, almost like we were raised to exist in different spheres. They were also taught that girls like romance, that we want to be swept off our feet - rather than be told to put our feet up. They were told we like jewellery, not a sparkly bathtub. And perhaps many of us do.

The truth is, we're all different whilst gender roles are a big influence in our relationships. Personality is another one. There are many relationships that don't follow traditional lines - where women aren't constantly beavering in the kitchen. I know this, because I've lived it. I was brought up by a mother utterly bored by domesticity, so I was never taught its value. Mine told me to "Do something interesting and always have your own money." I was asked by a teenage visitor to my house recently where we kept the hoover - something had spilt. Truthfully, I didn't know.

I cannot long for someone to put the bins out, because I have never put them out. I adore my kids and I'm a pretty good cook, but I can barely use my washing machine.

I have often thought I'm just like a bloke. Not in a transgender way, but in a 'I couldn't care less about tidying the hotpress kind of way'.

What is more interesting is I've never met a man who had a problem with that - oddly lots of them seemed to actually like it. It was something we had in common. I don't know what any of this means, apart from maybe it's OK to down tools girls and just be who you want to be. Maybe some of the pressure is self-imposed.

@ciarakellydoc Ciara presents 'Lunchtime Live' on Newstalk, 12-2 weekdays

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