“I call it broken wing syndrome,” I explained to my friend, another mother of sons, who was telling me about how one of her sons always seems to find girlfriends who “have just gone through a bad breakup,” or are “having a hard time at home” or are just a “hot mess” as we say in the South.
“And it is its own form of misogyny,” I continued.
“How so?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.
I shared with her what I shared with my own son who used to gravitate towards the broken winged girls near him. “If you are drawn to a damsel in distress, it is because you can’t tolerate an independent, strong woman.”
I get it. That’s how the world worked for most of its history. The biggest decision for a woman was who she would marry, because every other part of her life flowed from that decision. His income determined their economic status, his views determined their politics, he spoke to the mechanic and the HVAC person. She just needed to find herself the right man.
Not so much, anymore.
This has created quite a shakeup for the children of the 60’s and 70’s, my generation. Most of us grew up in households where there was a stay at home mom who did all the household work, the raising of children and whose career was captured in the title “homemaker.”
You would think this model wouldn’t fit in today’s many two career homes, but because it involves women sacrificing, it actually does fit in a great number of homes. How many full-time working women, if they asked their spouse, “how about we switch household responsibilities for a couple years?” might expect an angry reaction?
Why would that be? Could there be inequity in household chores, and could it possibly be a gender related issue? Are women granted an open vista of opportunity in the workplace but their home lives still resemble the 1950’s?
I give tremendous credit to my husband and all men like him, who although they grew up in more traditional homes, are equal partners in this two-thousand and seventeenth year of recorded history. They didn’t have role models for this new way of doing things. They may be the truest innovators of our times.
It takes a lot of strength for a man to be with a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need him. He has to have a well managed ego to give equal value to her thoughts and opinions. It is much more challenging to have an equal partner rather than a subordinate. You can probably measure a man’s strength by his ability to tolerate a woman’s.
It certainly makes sense that some women are more comfortable with the old model where their man takes responsibility for them and any problems they may be having. It’s what most of us watched during our formative years. It makes sense that some men have internalized these images of being the one in charge, making all the decisions while their wife prepares dinner. Men and women were a good match—women were raised to be supportive and subordinate. Men were raised to be strong and authoritative in their home.
Then all those uppity women went burning their bras and stuff, and things changed forever. Well, in many ways they did.
Women are still going to have problems, their broken wings, but they have learned how to reset the break themselves, although someone being there to give them Tylenol and some soup is really nice. Men can now lean on their partner for support and advice. They don’t have to hide their worries and maintain a stiff upper lip. In many if not most cases, they also don’t have to carry the entire household finances on their back, which has to feel good.
There will always be the broken winged among us. Just take them to the hospital. They probably need professional help more than they need a boyfriend.