Where Are the Women?

Once a month or so, back in the early days of blogging, this question would be posed by a male blogger. And then, the female bloggers would respond, um we’re here, you just don’t link to us or include us in your lists. Because many female bloggers were writing about so-called women’s issues–family policy, sexism, parenting, etc.–men just didn’t pay attention. And so women were made invisible in the new economy of blog networks.

I think we’re past that now, mostly, thanks in large part to those female bloggers, who were good writers and who insisted that the issues they cared about we’re important to everyone. It took some work.

MAKE Magazine featured a where are the women story about makerspaces, written by Georgia Guthrie who runs my local makerspace, The Hacktory. I have been to many events at The Hacktory and it has always had a good mix of men and women. She’s done a fantastic job of making the space welcoming.

In the article, she talks about ways that women ar made to feel like they aren’t good at maker activities. Often, they’re deterred by teachers. I got lucky in middle and high school. My teachers would say things like, maybe you should consider being a genetic engineer. And even when I struggled, they assumed I would figure it out, and helped me and never indicated that my struggles meant that I couldn’t do math or science. My trouble began in college, when my science professor scoffed at me taking the real intro rather than the one for non-majors, so I dropped and never took science again, except the one required mom-major class.

As a teacher myself, and a teacher of girls, I am careful about what I say to girls, especially those who struggle, or who say, I’m not good at this. I always compare CS to sports or an instrument. It takes practice. If you’re in a coed environment, there are often other things you have to do. Build girls confidence and call on them when they have the answer. Praise their work. Make sure the boys don’t take over, especially in group projects. Make your classroom inviting. Don’t have posters featuring just men or that mainly represent interests for boys, like first person shooters. Consider varying your assignments to appeal to girls. That war assignment you do might leave girls cold. Try having an art or music assignment, too. Also make sure your assignments don’t emphasize sensitive issues for girls: food, body size, looks, etc. Don’t have a data assignment that requires students to weigh themselves, for example. And consider having your students do some research on the gender gap. Of course, you’ll have to be prepared for a challenging conversation about that. Some boys will insist that the gender gap exists because women are not as good at stem or that they’re not as interested. Bring in an expert if you want.

To be sensitive to gender issues in your classroom means thinking about it and examining it in everything you do. But you can improve the landscape for your female students with some small changes and perhaps gain some new students in the process.

Gender and Makered

The two things I care about most are coming together–sort of–this evening.  And I think I came to care about one because of the other.  Let me explain.

While makered is about making things, physically and digitally, it is primarily a philosophy, an approach to the world that involves figuring it out through hands-on experiences.  It is one of many ways to have a truly constructivist classroom.  It is about encouraging students to take control of their own learning, to ask their own questions and find their own answers.  It’s about getting them past simply looking for your approval and getting them to be proud of their work for its own sake.  Girls struggle with this.  Girls are socially conditioned to not take risks and to seek approval, both of which work against having a makered mentality.  I work in an all girls’ school, which is a blessing.  Many girls, by the time I get them in 6th grade, have been conditioned enough by being at our school, to be okay with risk-taking and could care less what a teacher thinks.  But there are still some who play it safe, who wait for instruction, who have no idea where to go or what to do without being told.

I just watched this morning a follow-up interview with Sheryl Sandberg, where she even more strongly advocates for gender equality, equal pay, and equal representation in top roles in corporations and institutions.  While some have argued, and I have thought myself, that Sandberg has too strongly put the burden on women to “lean in,” the truth is women do need to fight for their rights.  Men are not just going to hand it over.  Men are not going to notice on their own and fix the issues.

Now makered isn’t going to solve our gender equity issues, but, I would argue, it’s one step in the right direction.  If, through makered approaches, girls learn to take charge and to not worry about what others think, they might be more likely to speak up at a board meeting or ask for a raise or work on a pet project that no one thinks is going anywhere but which turns out to be “the next big thing” that never would have seen the light of day if she’s “acted like a girl.”

One of the stories Sandberg told in her interview was about meeting a doctor who started paying attention to how his students responded to questions during rounds.  Most of the questions were answered by men, even though his students were half women.  He wondered why and realized that mostly men raised their hands.  He then tried to encourage the women to raise their hands too.  Didn’t work.  So he disallowed hand raising and just randomly called on people, taking care to ask an equal number of men and women.  Turns out women have the answers just as often as men!

My husband, who teaches at an all women’s college but who has men in his classes from the neighboring schools, often talks about this same dynamic.  The men are more likely to raise their hands, feel overly confident about their answers, and are more likely to take charge during projects. He works hard to change that dynamic, for the benefit of both the men and the women.

Makered and computer science, math and other sciences, the things that boys are supposed to be good at are more likely to have this dynamic than other subjects.  Teachers must work against it, need to call on the girls, encourage them to take risks, support their attempts to do so, and balance the dynamic so that boys see that girls are just as good at these subjects as they are.  One thing I like about makered and one reason I’m hopeful about its potential to transcend some of these gender dynamics is the inherent creative nature of it.  Makered encourages creativity in a way that is appealing to girls.  Artistic expression, even in an engineering or electronics project, is encouraged.  Many of the early makers have used things like fabric and sewing, paint and light to create projects, something that shows girls it’s not just about robots, that this can also be for them.

I’m looking forward to conversations around these issues, both on Twitter and in person, in the coming week.  And hurray for having a snow day to spend even more time pondering these things!

Pronouns and abstract nouns matter

I’ve been reading and watching tv a lot over the last couple of days. Here are some things I’ve noticed:

  • people who work at Google are guys
  • people who work in Silicon Valley have beards
  • the tech people behind the Obama campaign digital strategy are smart guys
  • when traveling, you need your moisture wicking briefs

Do you see a pattern? I’m starting to wonder if there are any women involved in tech at all, even in tech journalism. If I worked at Wired, I’d sure as hell make sure that stories don’t leave women out. And if I was a producer for a big news network, I’d make sure pronouns and nouns that referred to gender in tech stories were inclusive. You may claim I’m being too PC, but these things matter. They are part of the way that girls are subtly (and not so subtly) told that tech careers are not for them.

Some thoughts on gender and robotics

This weekend, I participated in a robotics competition.  Like last year, I have a handful of high school girls (5) working with the boys high school down the street.  There’s one returning student, two students who have some experience from previous types of competitions and two who are new to the whole thing.  I also brought some middle schoolers, who ended up helping by resetting the field between matches.  There were 5 of them.  If you count my middle schoolers, there were 12 girls total at the competition doing something besides just watching.  That’s out of maybe 75-100 total people.  Not a good percentage.

The show is run by some well-meaning folks–a couple of middle aged engineers (both men), several college students (all men)–but I’m not sure they appreciate how few women there really are, and why there might not be more.  The organizers had a hard time accepting me as someone who could actually help.  They needed extra hands to get teams to the fields on time, but one guy said while I’m standing right next to him, “Does she know how?”  Wouldn’t ask me directly, and didn’t think I could do a pretty simple task.  Kind of annoying.

Mr. Geeky came for a while and mentioned that he thought the girls weren’t being allowed to participate very much by the boys on the team.  I didn’t see any of this because I was busy doing the task that the guys thought I couldn’t do.  I plan on talking to them about it on Monday and see if they felt left out.  He thinks I should boycott the whole thing or thinks I should encourage rules that require gender and racial diversity on teams.  I think boycotting deprives interested girls a much-needed opportunity and they might just shrug us off.  But I also am not above thinking that we should at least be having more thoughtful conversations about this issue within this particular organization.

I would also love to see some more research on whether robotics competitions are the best pathway for getting girls interested in computer science.  There are lots of good things about this whole thing, but it takes a lot of energy (and money), energy that might be better spent doing other things that increase girls’ participation in CS.

Subtexts

Penguin, brrrr
Image by lorda via Flickr

While Educon is primarily a series of conversations about the impact of technology on education (and vice versa?), like any conference, there’s an undercurrent of conversation about other things.  They’re not primary issues necessarily, but they crop up as people mill about and talk to each other.  While one could ignore the subtext, I think it’s important to address them.

The first subtext had to do with popularity, with A-lists and closed circles and cliques.  I noted this immediately, before reading the conversation at George Couros’s recent blog post.   Whether Educon organizers or attendees like it or not, there are people who are better known than others.  I noted 20 or so folks whom I recognized from blogs and Twitter who all seemed to know each other.  And clearly, people wanted to get a piece of many of them.  Over the years, I’ve been in in-groups, outcast groups, alternative groups, and in some circumstances even in A-list groups.  When you find yourself part of the “popular” crowd, sometimes you don’t even know it.  Sometimes you don’t find out you were in that crowd until you go to your 20th reunion and someone points that out.  And you think, “Damn, why was I so miserable then?”

My sense was that educators, and attendees of Educon in particular, did not want to see this whole high-school drama play out.  People that mentioned it to me–and surprisingly many did–seemed downright surprised.  And, from some of the comments on George’s posts, it’s clear that some actually felt hurt and felt not invited.   I think George’s point in the post was basically, we all have something to say, something teach someone.  Don’t compare yourself to the guy or girl who gets 300 comments on every blog post.  I’ve gotten exactly one comment on the last three blog posts, but here I am, still writing.  Would I like to be a voice lots of people turn to?  Sure.  But my worth, my value to my kids, to my colleagues, to the world at large, is not tied up in whether that happens or not.  Or in whether Will Richardson remembers me.  I had some really interesting conversations with people I’d never met before.  Some are well known.  Some not.  Doesn’t matter.  I learned something from all of them.

But I get that it’s an uncomfortable feeling to feel like you’re not welcome.  I certainly didn’t think that anyone at Educon intentionally put out the unwelcome mat.   All I have to say is try going to the MLA without a job or Ph.D. or job from the “right” place, and then talk to me about feeling unwelcome.  I don’t think Educon is ever going to be like that.  No one glanced at my nametag, saw my place of employment and walked away as fast as possible.

The other related subtext was really more on the surface, because it had its own session.  Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach ran a panel discussion on gender diversity in ed tech.  She blogged it here. I have to admit that when I walked in and saw many of the A-listers mentioned above (many of them men) sitting at the front, I had a moment of pause.  At first I thought they were just being annoying because I didn’t know they were part of a panel.   I know, a little defensive.   But the conversation was great.  There was, I thought, a good mix of men and women at our table.  And I thought everyone really was interested in the topic and interested in trying to solve the problem.

I want to add to some of the things Sheryl and her commenters have said.  I think one issue is not so much that men treat women a certain way or that women are excluded just because they’re women, but that women are excluded because they behave like women.  Let me explain a bit.  I think society tells women to behave a certain way–submissive, not “bitchy”, service-oriented, putting others first, etc.  Some women have been lucky enough to be raised by parents that encourage more assertive behaviors, but sometimes, society breaks them of that.  I have seen in myself sometimes, behavior I recognize as “female,” meaning it compromises any position of power I might have.  And while I have, as some women at Sheryl’s blog have said, felt like “one of the boys,” at some point, I decided I wanted to be me, girl parts included, but I have sometimes brought along the not-so-good parts of that.  It’s a real internal conflict.  And to go with that internal conflict are often external ones–issues around child care, household responsibilities, even parent care.  In other words, it’s complicated.

Educon is a new conference.  The edcamps that have cropped up largely in response to it are really new.  The way we’ve been thinking about education and technology is also really new.  Other fields have been dealing with these subtexts for years.  The fact that they’ve come up for this cohort of people is a good thing.  It’s out there.  We can talk (blog) about it, and maybe make things better.

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Weekly Update 3: Housework edition

There have been many, many discussions around the interwebs about housework and being, specifically, a scientist.  Mostly, the discussion has centered around the idea that women more than men worry about balancing work and life, about an equal distribution of labor in the house, and therefore they write about it a lot and articles about work-life balance are often directed at them rather than men.  Janet, aka Dr. Free-Ride, has a nice collection of links as well as a write-up of her own.

I think about work-life balance a lot.  I think about housework way more than I should.  When I think about them, I recognize the cultural norms I’ve internalized that make me care about that stuff more than Mr. Geeky does. And while I’ve become more comfortable about bucking those norms, they’re still there nonetheless.  The shift to my being mostly in charge of the house, whether I actually do all the actual work or not, has been somewhat gradual, but is also an effect of two main things: 1) upbringing (both mine and Mr. Geeky’s) and 2) the job market.

In the area of upbringing, both of us have similar experiences.  Our mothers were responsible for keeping house and taking care of children.  In my upbringing, a couple of things happened that shifted my experience away from the typical gender labor distribution.  First, when I was born, my father was in law school and it was my mother who went off to work to support the family.  My father stayed home with me when I wasn’t being cared for by paid help or friends and relatives, which during the summers, was almost all day.  Though I couldn’t bring any of the details of that time to life now, almost 40 years later, it certainly had an impact on me.  Second, my mother hated housework so that, even once she quit her job (when I was about 7), she outsourced the housework immediately.  I have very few memories of her cleaning.  She did do all the cooking and grocery shopping, but she mostly enjoyed those jobs.  And my dad, in addition to the standard yard work and taking the garbage out, would often roam around the house cleaning up clutter.  In Mr. Geeky’s house, his dad didn’t do anything (as far as I know from what Mr. Geeky has told me) outside of the standard male chores: garbage, yard work, home repair.  He did spend plenty of time with the kids as did my dad, though my dad changed quite a few diapers while Mr. Geeky’s dad never did.

So Mr. Geeky, while being a feminist, had as his learned experience within a household, the idea that the woman does the housework and the man goes to work and takes out the garbage.  Intellectually, he knew this was not always a fair arrangement, but from a practical standpoint, his muscle memory doesn’t automatically move him to do the dishes or laundry.  That said, when we were a young couple without kids, we did almost everything together–cooked, cleaned up afterwards, laundry, cleaning when friends came over.  It was only when kids got added to the equation that the work load got redistributed, and that’s where the job market comes in.

Everyone knows the humanities job market sucks and that was the market I found myself entering about a year or so before we decided to have kids.  Almost before I could plan a career, my career died.  There were no jobs for me.   And while, as I’ve said many times before and it’s the story of many an academic woman, I could have gone off to another place to pursue a different career, I opted to maintain my relationship with Mr. Geeky, take “just a job” and play it by ear from there.  Partly, too, because my career fizzled out, I was sort of adrift trying to figure out what to do.  I didn’t have enough information about my future to make any good judgements.  Many of the conversations I see that say, well, you (woman) should have put your career first or on equal footing with your spouse’s.  Well, if you don’t have any idea what career you want to pursue, that’s kind of hard.  Like economics, many of the judgements people make about careers and relationships and work-life balance assume completely rational behavior.  I’m only now becoming slightly more rational.

Individual couples make all kinds of different arrangements to make dual income situations work.  It’s true that sometimes those arrangements place more burden on the women than the men.  In our house, I stress way more about the housework than Mr. Geeky does.  I’m certain that some of that is internalized norms about judging a woman by the state of her house.  It is what it is and we just have to figure out a way to manage that.  Currently, this whole FlyLady thing is really working.  It requires no more than an hour of my day.  Because things are more organized, it’s very easy for me to delegate work when I need to.  It seems corny, but it’s true.  When I started doing this, I told my family, but didn’t expect them to do much of anything to contribute unless I asked them.  Here’s what’s really helping:

  • I keep the sink shiny, which means no dishes in it.  And when your sink is shiny, you feel like the counters need to be, too.  It just happens.  Mr. Geeky and the kids do kitchen cleanup after I cook and I’ve noticed a real difference in the quality.  When it starts out nice, no one wants to mess it up.
  • Unload the dishwasher every morning.  I do this while waiting for my coffee to brew.  It takes five minutes.  It means that I can stick dishes that accumulate throughout the day in (so they’re not on the counters).  If I’m not around, it means the dishwasher is empty and awaiting dishes from dinner, cutting down the work the kids and Mr. Geeky have to do.
  • Put in a load of laundry every day.  I do this after I’ve showered, which I now do shortly after Geeky Boy does or when he leaves at 7.  I put the clothes in while my second cup of coffee brews.  So far, there’s only been one day out of 14 where I haven’t had a full load of laundry to put in.  That should tell you something about the amount of laundry we generate.  I’m also able to easily ask someone else to throw a load in.  It’s great not to be doing six loads on the weekend and feeling like a martyr.
  • Fold and put away a load of laundry every day.  I do this as I’m getting ready for bed or have one of the kids do it.  Again, not having to fold and put away 6 loads or more over the span of a day or two makes it seem much less burdensome.

While I’m doing most of these things myself right now, it’s not burdensome, and it’s easy to delegate.  Things I’d like to delegate in the future include grocery shopping and cooking.  From my past experience working full time, I know that there are some nights that I just don’t feel like cooking and though I don’t mind grocery shopping, it would be nice to alternate.  So my hope is that we can come up with a plan so that at least a couple of nights a week, someone else is cooking and that Mr. Geeky makes every other grocery trip.  Aside from that, I really feel like the housework is manageable.  I took this on because it’s me that suffers most when things are not in order.  It was something I wanted to do for myself and it’s spread to the rest of the family and I will keep spreading it until I feel like things are equitable.  Philosophically, everyone is way on board with all of this.  Do I wish that Mr. Geeky was as passionate about making sure the house runs smoothly as I am? Sometimes, but I’m happy that he doesn’t work ridiculous hours, spends a lot of time with me and the kids, and does a reasonable amount of work around the house.  Nothing is perfect.  We do the best we can and when things feel out of whack, we renegotiate–and I am usually the one who has to initiate that since it affects me more.

As several people mentioned in the posts around the blog world, attitudes surrounding parental leave and household chores really need to change before there will be real equity.  Society still looks at housework and childcare as women’s work and that makes men reluctant to take it up wholeheartedly, even men who are in many respects, feminists.  Those societal pressures are bigger than all of us.  Equal pay for women would go a long way to make it possible for people to outsource housework and childcare.  Flexible work schedules, too, without repercussions, would be helpful as well.  And those are things that can be done politically, both at the national and local level.  And if men don’t want to blog about these issues, they can certainly vote and serve on committees and generally advocate for change.

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Gender and Blogging

Last week I hijacked Jim’s blog, bavatuesdays, by making a fairly innocent comment about how his top commenters were (or at least seemed to be on the surface) all men. I was not trying to claim Jim was sexist or anything (as I think Jim knows), but it’s a pattern I happened to notice and, quite frankly, that I notice quite often on many male-authored blogs.* I’m not accusing anyone of anything, really. I’m just trying to figure out why this pattern persists, and why it seems to persist in the technical world I tend to inhabit. I’m not sure I can say anything more intelligent here than I did there and I’m concerned that I’m re-enforcing gender stereotypes by even pointing out these habits. I know lots of women in the technical world, but it does seem to me that they participate less in these informal conversations than the men I know (and I included myself; I’m a lame commenter). What are the implications of that, if any?

I know this blog is random and all over the place, which doesn’t lend itself to being read regularly by people who are interested in specific topics. I personally like the randomness of it, even while I recognize that it means I don’t get linked to by others as often. And I know that randomness is typical of many women bloggers. Although not true of all women, of course, women tend to mush the different parts of their lives together more than men and that tendency is reflected in their blogs. Except Jim’s blog is random, too, but it’s random in a different way than mine. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him post about his kids or his family or personal life, really. His topics may shift, but they never drift to the personal. Maybe men shy away from the personal, both in their reading and posting habits. Maybe women are drawn to the personal and so are not drawn to male-authored blogs. I don’t know. I do know there’s research out there and I do wish I knew more. Please do comment on this issue if you have thoughts and can point me in different directions.

*For the record, I just want to note that I know that we don’t always know what gender a blogger is, nor do we know what relationship their gender has to their biological sex. And further, I also recognize and appreciate that gender is not a category that can be easily divided into male-female. But I do recognize that people tend to do that and that certain patterns related to gender identity seem to emerge and I’m interested in those.

The Gender Gap

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve been working a lot lately. The beginnings of school years often show pretty clearly how much or how little either one of us does around the house. When the work hours bleed into the home hours, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get done. It’s not like Mr. Geeky comes home at 5, picks up the paper and yells into the kitchen to ask what’s for dinner. In fact, our post work hours are somewhat of a whirlwind of negotiating who’s dealing with what kid. I do the cooking, and it’s actually a refuge for me. The kids go off to their own corners and Mr. Geeky finishes up whatever he was working on when he had to leave to do the daycare pickup. After dinner, the kids and Mr. Geeky clean up. In theory, there’s much more housework to be done, but neither of us does it, relegating most of it to the weekend. Instead, we either have work to do, or we choose to spend a couple of hours relaxing. God forbid we relax!

The thing I keep returning to, though, is that I do wish our house were more organized and that we weren’t rushing around half the time to get enough laundry done or to sign papers or whatnot. The only way for this to happen in our current situation is for one or both of us to give up leisure. And that’s just not going to happen. We both value that too much. After spending the weekend trying to catch up on such things, this article in IHE was just the thing I needed. I’m reading through the first part and the whole time I’m thinking, “It’s because the guy doesn’t do housework; that’s why women leave these jobs.” And then, they finally get to it.

While universities and other employers have some of the responsibility for helping women advance, so too may their spouses. Preston cited a survey of married male and female scientists (not married to one another) in which each were asked what share of household chores was performed by their spouses. The female scientists estimated that their spouses performed an average of 34.7 percent of chores, while the men estimated that their spouses perform 65.1 percent of chores. Even assuming equal levels of honesty (and some women in the audience had their doubts about the men), that’s a gap that would have a significant burden on the women not faced by the men. (And the gaps are larger for childcare responsibilities.)

I’d say in our situation that I’m doing 40-50% of the housework while Mr. Geeky does 20-30%, leaving a gap of at least 20% and up to 40%, which sounds about right to me. Childcare is another story. During the year, it’s 50-50, in the summer, Mr. Geeky takes on most of it, so I have no complaints there. If I wanted to ramp up my career in any way, the house and possibly the kids would suffer unless Mr. Geeky stepped up to the plate. And he might, but he has his own demanding career; there’s only so much he could do even if he wanted to. We already have household help. I suppose we could increase that. I think this somewhat accounts for the doctors not having as many problems balancing things. They can afford help. Your average academic can only afford so much.

Another area that I find interesting that explains the gap is the difference in competition between women and men. In a test to measure how competitive women and men are, researchers found that men are definitely more competitive.

Women are much more likely to prefer the non-competitive approach and men gravitate overwhelmingly to the competition. Women are more likely, some studies have found, to go for the competition if it is single-sex and they are competing against other women.

Niederle noted that there could be logic to these choices if men did better on the mazes, but they don’t. The gaps in risk-taking are as much from men who overestimate themselves and figure they will win (when they don’t necessarily stand a chance) as from women who could win, but avoid the competition.

Some fields are full of competition, academe being one of them. Locally, one is often competing for resources, which is sometimes based on one’s success in “national” competitions for publication. What if one is just curious, interested in exploring different issues, sharing those explorations with students and, when appropriate, on a national stage via conferences and journals? Or what if one simply wants to read other people’s explorations and teach? Academe seems to have become a one size fits all operation. The beginning of the article stressed that different women want different things in terms of balance. When an industry only has one path for success, that can severely limit who chooses to take that path.

Disorganization gender related?

I can relate to this article on how boys have trouble getting organized and how it affects their school work. My organization struggles are not something that truly interfere with my daily life. I find it annoying, yes. I know I could be more efficient, yes, but I function just fine. Geeky Boy, on the other hand, struggles and it means his work suffers. In a school system that values neatness and deadlines over almost everything else, a disorganized student is bound to suffer. It’s too bad the article didn’t tackle that issue. While it’s true that GB should be more organized and that it would be helpful to him, it would also be good if missing a single worksheet didn’t have such a huge effect on grades or that neatness wasn’t a huge part of a project grade. I’d certainly like for him to be more neat and organized, but I can’t force it, and I’m not the kind of mom who’s going to do it for him. And, I don’t have the means to hire tutors and whatnot to help him either. I just don’t see the point when I know he’s a bright kid who’ll get his act together eventually.

Gender roles

Sometimes I look at my role within my family based on the tasks I’ve taken on and see that it’s pretty traditional. For example, I do the cooking and the laundry, both tasks traditionally taken on by the “woman of the house.” Mr. Geeky takes out the trash and mows the yard, typical “man of the house” jobs. I often wonder if our children will fall into these roles themselves. They may, but I think we share enough household tasks that the few that are gender-specific may not matter that much. Geeky Boy and Mr. Geeky are responsible for loading and unloading the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen after a meal, something I know both my own mother and Mr. Geeky’s did solo. I also do a fair amount of work in the yard. Mr. Geeky will often do laundry and I ask Geeky Boy to do his own fairly often as well.

A lot of couples we know and hang out with have reverse gender roles (not to mention the same-sex couples we know). For example, the man does most of the cooking even in households where the woman stays at home with the kids. I often joke that every man I dated before Mr. Geeky was a cook and I married the one guy who had no desire or skill in that area. It’s okay, really. I love to cook and Mr. Geeky makes spaghetti and breakfast once a month or so. Geeky Girl did comment during our Top Chef-watching days that she noticed that moms did all the cooking in “real life” but that there weren’t many female chefs on the show. That was a tough one to explain.

I’ve been a feminist pretty much my whole life. Certainly my view is that we should pursue equality for all people, and mostly I’ve focused on how women and their roles are devalued and I’ve worked to rectify that. But with a son, I’ve also started thinking about definitions of masculinity as much as definitions of femininity, and I find them to be just as confining and problematic. I’ve done a fair job of breaking down my own restrictive views of femininity, but I haven’t thought about masculinity as much except in recognizing that I find traditional views of it distasteful. I think Mr. Geeky and I try our best to break out of traditional molds of these definitions, but it’s hard not to fall back into roles and reactions that break down along gender lines. I continue to be amazed at how much our culture insists upon traditional views. I think I’m more aware of these at the holidays when home and hearth are central to the celebrations and the woman is central to the keeping of traditions. At least that’s how it’s portrayed in the movies.

Readers, how do you deal with gender in your household? Do you worry about the roles your children will fall into or how gender will affect what they pursue as a career or their relationships with others?