Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Mix It Up

Over my Xmas holiday, I spent a good deal of time watching my nephew open and enjoy some presents, but even more time sitting around with friends and chosen family, mostly eating. I had a lot of good food (but not too much, strangely--I managed to avoid that way-way-way-too-full feeling this year), all of it pretty much prepared by other people. Sure, I did some slicing and salad making, but mostly what I did was dishes. This is something that comes directly from my upbringing--my mama taught me, if you're a guest and food is made for you, you help to clean up. (Exceptions can be made at homes where guests aren't allowed to do such things, by virtue of their guest-hood, but they are few and far-between.) I have extended this to a general rule that I clean up, since I don't enjoy cooking very much at all, and I even kind of enjoy cleaning up.

It's a simple thing, but with my non-chosen family and even friends from the past, too often things play out along gender roles, with men sitting and eating (and maybe carving a bird, or doing the outdoor grilling), but women doing most of the cooking and cleaning up. Even among people who are aware of the perils of rigid traditional gender roles, such roles reassert themselves mercilessly, and one has to keep an eye out for 'em.

One of the things that I love about my group of friends and chosen family is that there is a real effort to erase gender distinctions around who prepares food and who cleans and...well, we just all do a lot of work to make sure the meals turn out good and fun and delicious for everybody involved, and that nobody is left behind when it comes to the work of the meal, or the enjoyment of it (and, for me, they are intimately related). We also tended to choose meals which aren't that labor-intensive, so that we could hang out a bit more.

The other way men can mix it up is to literally mix up the little groups that split up during gatherings--several times I noticed that we had all broken down along gender lines completely, and a couple of times I decided to mix it up a bit. I'm happy to say that my friend group doesn't as often break down along those lines (though it does at times), and that we have enough queer-ish-ness to make some of those lines blurry from the start.

So: Little things, to be sure, but worthwhile nonetheless. Mix it up a bit, guys.
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