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Women's Bodies

The Ways Women Take Care of Men — Part 1

1.  Heterosexually-partnered women continue, as their foremothers did, to take care of men and boys by doing far more than their fair share of the housework, childcare, cooking and other household duties (buying gifts, preparing for holidays, sending thank you notes, organizing family get-togethers).

2.  Heterosexual women sexually service men and boys.  They have sex they don’t want to have and they have babies they don’t want to have.

3.  Huge numbers of women still spend hours and days and years of their lives on their appearance with the goal of taking care of men’s objectification-of-women agendas.  They diet, develop eating disorders, have cosmetic surgeries, tan, pluck, shave, wax.  They wear makeup, uncomfortable clothing, uncomfortable shoes.  Their taking care of men in these ways also takes care of the men who run the beauty and fashion industry.

4.  Women take care of the men in their lives by keeping men’s secrets.  They don’t disclose or challenge male use of pornography, attendance at strip clubs, participation in the prostitution of women, sexual harrassment, objectification of women.  Sometimes they do not disclose or challenge sexual molestation, incest, and inappropriate sexual behaviors.

5.  Women take care of the men in their lives by cleaning up the messes men make– all kinds of messes:  physical messes left in the house and yard; emotional messes which result from neglectful or abusive parenting or abandonment of children; social messes which result from ignored or neglected invitations, birthdays, holidays, failures of communication; financial messes created by irresponsible buying or failure to keep records.

6.  Women take care of men by cleaning up the messes men make in their friends’  or other women’s lives: by sheltering battered women, comforting and counseling raped women, taking responsibility for putting the broken lives of women back together again.

7.  Women take care of men by making the lives of men easier, even when it causes them grief.

8.   Heterosexually-partnered women take care of men by making excuses for or making up for their failure to care for their children, grandchildren, and other relatives.

9.   Women take care of men by laughing at their sexist, racist, classist, homophobic jokes or statements or just ignoring them.   They take care of men when they make excuses for these words and statements, when they tell children or others their men didn’t really mean it, they are really nice guys, they don’t know any better, it’s not a big deal, they “really love them,” or when they justify the unjustifiable in other ways.

10.  Women take care of men by flattering them, flirting with them, and putting up with them when they are being obnoxious.

11.  Women take care of men by allowing them to win in competitions.

12.  Women take care of men by grinning and bearing it when they, or other women, are insulted or mistreated.

13.  Women take care of men by deferring to them, moving out of the way on the sidewalks and in the grocery aisles, and by allowing men to take up too much space in the room.

14.  Women take care of men by supporting male participation in war, business, church, and social organizations which maintain the patriarchal status quo.

15.  Women take care of men when they support or patronize establishments which actively oppress and subordinate women:  Hooters, strip clubs, publishers of pornography, or organizations which advertise in or support the above.

16.  Women take care of men when they pay for men’s mistakes.

17.  Women take care of men when they bail men out.

18.  Women take care of men when they suffer sexual harrassment in silence.

19.  Women take care of men when they pretend what hurts and offends does not hurt and offend, and when they make peace the number one priority at their own or others’ expense.

20.  Women take care of men by tolerating men’s presence where men are not invited or wanted.

21.  Women take care of men by shielding them from their own anger and sadness over injustice in the world.

22.  Women take care of men when they put the men in their lives first.

It’s right to support men, boys, all people when they are being treated unfairly, when they are suffering unjustly. It’s also right to reach out to battered, abused and raped women, even though it is cleaning up huge, horrifying messes men have made; these women’s needs have to be a priority.  If we don’t support them, they will have no support.  It is also completely understandable that women would take care of men at other times, when it isn’t right, when they are not suffering unjustly or being treated unfairly.  Our stake in the system is our complicity with the system.  But so long as we continue to take care of men at our own expense or at the expense of others, so long as we protect men and cover up the messes they have made, the world won’t change, won’t be a better place for women.




17 thoughts on “The Ways Women Take Care of Men — Part 1

  1. “But so long as we continue to take care of men at our own expense or at the expense of others, so long as we protect men and cover up the messes they have made, the world won’t change, won’t be a better place for women.”

    This is why Hilary Clinton disappointed me so, when her philandering cheating husband had affair after affair, and she came out and defended him rather than calling him out on them and then leaving. What a powerful statement it would have been, to get a picture of her walking down the White House steps with her suitcase in her hand, with the philanderer peeking out from one of the windows, watching her leave.

    That woman would be President today if she would have done that!

    But what does she do instead? She gets on national television talking about some sort of conspiracy against her husband and defends him. For the good of the male-dominated party and the patriarchially-domineering country, don’tcha know.

    Posted by LearningOne | May 9, 2006, 11:54 pm
  2. YES.

    LearningOne, I felt exactly the same way. I remember a reporter doing a puff piece on Lewinsky’s knitting bags asking me if I’d buy one, and responding that no, I was waiting for the Hilary Cliton Divorce Papers Attache.

    Fantastic post, Heart, as always. Just fantastic.

    Posted by Heather | May 10, 2006, 3:16 pm
  3. In light of the Jeffs’ FBI situation…

    23. Women take care of men when they are belittled, disrespected, and assaulted by polygamy forced upon them “in the name of God” and perpetuated through a patriarchal status quo of ignorance and fear.

    Posted by Amanda | May 10, 2006, 10:31 pm
  4. I had to think about this one for a couple of days. My last thought was also my first thought: Why do we do it?


    Posted by Kristianna | May 11, 2006, 3:20 am
  5. Kristianna: I don’t know why we do it. Sometimes I despair because I have actually felt guilty at times for calling my partner out on things. I’m not entirely sure why I feel guilty – perhaps because I love him deeply but at the same time, I feel that I have to be true to my feminist beliefs. Maybe it’s just our capability as human beings to care for other people: I think feminists are some of the most caring people I know/have met because they refuse to hate men although it would be perfectly acceptable if they did – they continue to care even when things have gone utterly wrong. Perhaps its faith that things WILL change one day. I’m not completely sure!

    Posted by Liz | May 12, 2006, 2:18 pm
  6. All I can say is wow. I stumbled upon this post via the parenting tag at wordpress. I have to say, right off, so you know where I am coming from, “I am not a feminist.” I am feminine, I hope, but not a feminist. But please don’t stop reading, just because I don’t agree with that ideology.

    Though women can and do “take care of men” to such a distorted extent that they (men) are shielded from taking responsibility, that does not change the fact, that we as women are happiest and most fulfilled when we are nurturing and caring for others. When we embrace, rather than fight, our role as our husband’s helper, not his leader, we are free to truly succeed at what we are best at. But only to the extent that we stop taking the man’s role. I used to treat more marriage in a more “equal party” fashion, I found that I was always frustrated with trying to make things work the way I felt was best. I often was very upset with my DH for not doing things my way (the best way of course!), and I nearly always challenged his decisions. As a result, he withdrew from making any decisions and became like a boy who responded to me as a mother. This of course made me even more frustrated and unfulfilled in our marriage. I did not marry him to act as mother, but I married him to be his wife and partner in life.

    Lucky for me, I have learned much over the years, and I have changed my ways. I now strive to support my husband’s decisions, not only in public but in private, no matter if I agree with them completely or not. He knows I am on his side, always rooting for him, helping him succeed. I am more peaceful and happy in this role than I ever was before. The responsibility for the decisions now falls on him, not on me. I honor him by serving him, caring for him, anticipating his needs and meeting them. And I do this with joy — real joy, not the pretend kind. So he has stepped up and become my husband, not my errant little boy that I always need to correct and guide. He has returned my honor by cherishing me, providing for me and honoring my femininity in return. He is loving and thoughtful. What a glorious difference my attitude changes have made in our marriage and in my life in general! And I know it is from this change of attitude, because I, being human, can slip back into my old ways of criticism and controlling, and I find that almost immediately my DH becomes insecure, which leads to withdrawal from relationship with me, and then neither of us are happy.

    Now I understand, though this post is the only one on your blog that I have read, that my views run directly counter to your own. I hope that I have not offended you, only offered another side. I did not come to pick a fight, but to open up some discussion.

    One final thing. Men and women both make huge errors throughout their lives. There is room for accusation on both sides. But there is also room for grace. I, for one, would rather respond in grace. Then I may receive grace in return the next time I err.

    Posted by moreorless | May 12, 2006, 11:07 pm
  7. Hey, moreorless, what you've written there is a very good presentation of the views of the world I was once part of, conservative Christianity. While I won't argue with what you've said about your life or feelings, I will say that living the way you describe nearly destroyed me. I left my ex after 19 years. Throughout most of those years, I practiced the kind of "submission" and obedience to my ex's "leadership" that you describe. Looking back now after 12 years out of that world, I do not really know how I survived it. I would never go back to it. I spend pretty much all of my waking hours thinking up ways to support all of the women I know who have left that world or are trying to leave it and relationships which are structured as you describe.

    I don't have any problem with grace in relationships, I think we do need to deal with one another with as much grace as possible. And I think we have to work for mutuality in all of our interactions with one another. But mutuality. which is based on respect for the full humanity of each person in a relationship, is not possible in your paradigm. It is inherently a sadomasochistic paradigm: one partner is the top (the husband), one partner is the bottom (the wife); the wife is the submissive, the husband is the dominant. There is nothing beautiful or cherishing or nurturing, in my mind, about one person dominating and subordinating another or about the other person "choosing" to be dominated and subordinated. There is nothing truly beautiful or nurturing or cherishing about sadomasochism. This is the theory that lurks beneath all of the agony in the world; it begins with the subordination of women, proceeds on to the subordinating of children and animals, extends to men making war on other men, on people groups, on nations, to control and colonize and conquer them, it ends in subordination of the entire planet with the results we see now, the earth in travail, just as it was and still is described in my old world, but travailing for having been subordinated, travailing for the violence it has suffered at men's hands. The way back and through is real love, honest love, meaning a love that values and respects the rights of all human beings to full humanity, of creatures to their own lives, of the earth to its own cycles and seasons. Love and respect cannot function inside of the dynamics of sadomasochism, submission/dominance (called "headship" or "leadership" or "covering" in my old world). I know that women in  relationships which are like what you describe call what they are experiencing love, and I won't argue feelings or perceptions. I called it love, too. I will just say that ultimately, living this way broke me, as it has broken millions of the world's women, maybe billions, over millennia, and one day I just walked out and away. As time has passed I have wondered how I survived it as long as I did.

    I can't agree with you that women are happiest when we are being nurturing and caring for others and helping our husbands and being satisfied in taking supportive roles (although I think there is much to be said about nurturing and caring for others as it makes sense to us to do that.) I think women are happiest , all people are happiest, when we are living our own lives, by our own lights, when we take full responsibility for ourselves, and when we establish relationships built on real love, real respect, mutuality. I think that what people who advocate for the kind of relationship you describe there call "criticism and control" in women is just women being honest about their difficulties, problems and feelings, something that is usually regulated and punished in conservative Christian circles, where it is all about "obedience" and "faith" and "dying to self". And I think men get insecure and withdraw when women are honest because they don't really want their wives' honesty. They want compliance, deference, and submission, a happy face, cheerful service. When they don't get these things, they get mad and go away and sometimes much worse.


    Posted by womensspace | May 13, 2006, 1:22 pm
  8. “why do we [women] do it ?”

    for most women I guess it is that they don’t have any other viable option: either they don’t understand that it can be different, or they don’t want to deal with the (very real) consequences like violence and ostracism.

    Some individual women have the resources to understand and start to fight their own battles, but even then we are fighting against years of habits and social programming, and still undermining / lack of support from other women.

    Posted by anon99 | May 13, 2006, 9:01 pm
  9. that last sentence should read

    …and still have to deal with undermining…

    Posted by anon99 | May 13, 2006, 9:02 pm
  10. What this issue all boils down to for me, is women take care of men, on top of giving the respect each man may deserve for his intelligence, talents, and actions, in all the ways women defer to men, including voting for men. It might be possible to reconcile taking care of men if men would reciprocate, but that will take a revolution in male consciousness I think will take a long time to take hold, even after men lose their privileges. There may be the rare exceptions, but until men have to learn how to live with equality and all that implies, I expect those exceptions will grow too slowly to notice. Meanwhile women take care of men in all kinds of expected but unnoticed, undeserved, unappreciated, or unreciprocated ways, such as Heart has listed, and suffer greatly for it. A true believer may not notice how she suffers from deferring to males, but for me such ignorance is not bliss, but blindness. If limiting her potential does not bother her at all, I might expect such a response, but I think she recognizes the compromise she is making. One day she may connect the dots and rebel, one never knows.

    Posted by Aletha | May 15, 2006, 6:04 am
  11. Why can’t men support women? Why can’t they help women or be our backs in a time of need? I wasn’t created to be the helpmate of any man, I was created as his equal and we support “EACH OTHER.” I do not believe that quote “Behind every great man is a great woman” because I believe in order for this man to be great his woman was LEADING him the whole way!

    Posted by Woman is Queen | November 22, 2006, 3:32 am
  12. I will just say that it is very hard… I was molested at a young age by male cousins. The same of which I now, at family functions, laugh with and smile with and talk to…. why? Because that is what you are taught. That is what is “normal”. My mother did not encourage such behaviors but to expose HIM would be to expose ME and it would be my word against his anyway.

    I, at a young age, decided I would wait till I was married to give my body to a man. Throughout my dating years I was pressured and coaxed to let my “hair down..” to “relax nothing will happen” with the men I had chosen to date and when I refused I was met with pouting… anger!!! Cheating and more… I want to know what gives these men the idea that it is ok for them to treat a woman this way… if we chose to be virtuous and be kept women till marriage or our choice time of “relaxation” we are playing hard to get and just doing it so that we wont have given in so easily.. honest they really feel that NO means I’m scared or I’m playing……..

    I am currently engaged to my prince charming. My first my last my everything. We discuss this all the time and he shares my rage. Respected my wishes to wait until I felt ready which I had never experienced with any man I had ever dated before. I wont be soo ignorant as to say it is his race (He is white, Polish decent) though prior to him I had only dated black men and never received the respect and honor that I have now. I think its all in the way a man is raised, though we all n know that culturally there are diferences, it is in what is taught that determins the outcome.

    I want to agree with the final commant rom Woman is Queen. This is something my fiance tells me constantly. I know that I am jumping around here, sorry ladies just thinking of many things at once and writing them. But really how do we change the dynamic’s of male female relationships in which women are respected…

    How do we stop black men from feeling justified in abusing white women, how do we stop men PERIOD from seeing women as only a woman…

    Posted by Divine Purpose | February 2, 2007, 7:41 pm
  13. I am having a very hard time commenting — this will be my fourth try.

    Divine Purpose, I wish you and your beloved all the best. I hope you can find the support you need as a biracial couple. It can be hard, as you well know.

    I think you might enjoy something Allecto posted a couple weeks back, based on your comments: Raped Down to Almost White.


    Posted by womensspace | February 2, 2007, 8:19 pm
  14. wow, how about the ment hat work hard so the women can have all she wants. then the women just gets up and leaves the kids and everthing and moves in four states away with a guy her children’s age. Don’t say this doesn’t happen there are four guys I work with who have had this happen to them.
    we just carry on taking care of our kids the best we can. We don’t go whinning to the goverment, or friends and relatives for help and sympathy. Look around these aren’t the guys you find in bars and strip clubs. These are the guys that work all day then you see at night in the store buying food for their kids.

    Posted by pin | March 21, 2008, 10:57 pm
  15. pin, if it is any consolation, I think women who do what you describe — leave their husbands for guys their kids’ age — will live to regret it. If I were in their lives, I’d do everything I could to talk them out of it. What in the heck are they thinking of. Give the guy a few years, he’ll get tired of them, give him 10, 15, 20 years and he’ll need some young woman so he doesn’t have to face his own old age, and then where will your and the four other guys’ wives be? Well, they will be pissed. And maybe then they will become feminists at last and if so, that will be all good.

    I’m glad you don’t go to bars and strip clubs, I’m glad you’re taking care of your kids, going to the store at night, buying food for them, doing all the things women have traditionally done because it’s the right thing to do and children matter. Go you. You’re doing something really good and valuable and I hope all goes well for you and for your children. It does my tired heart good when I hear about men out there who are working, and stopping off at the grocery store after work, buying food, going home to their kids, instead of immediately taking up with some other woman and moving her in pronto so she will do all of the caretaking, and instead of asking woman relatives to care for them, especially your mom. So many grandmothers, so many women my age, raising their grandkids! It’s not right. As we age, we are powerful and need to be dedicating ourselves to revolution and changing the world, and it’s so hard to have to step in and become the parent again because our kids can’t, or won’t, take care of their kids. It encourages me to see men loving their children and doing what has to be done when it’s really hard. This is what women have traditionally always done and it’s hurt us, it’s been so hard, and often, we have been invisible.

    Fwiw, two of my grown sons have kids, my grandkids, and they are great dads and completely dedicated to their kids. You young men, your generation of dads, is the legacy of my generation’s feminism, and you do us proud. We changed the world, and you are the evidence. So again, go you.


    Posted by womensspace | March 22, 2008, 3:43 am
  16. P.S., one more thing: I think if you need to whine to the government, friends or family, do so! Get the help and support you need, including from other men. That’s how, as women and mothers, we have survived. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. You can’t do it all. None of us ever could or can. We all need help sometimes.

    Posted by womensspace | March 22, 2008, 3:45 am
  17. And women take care of men by, well, this one is hard to twist into this sentence because I think men do this in a sneaky way – it is this: women and girls get winter clothing that is less warm than for men and boys. The boots arent as warm. The wind blows through our coats. It leaves us hollering to go back inside when its cold out. Recently I looked for womens snow boots and the warmest were rated to -20 while the warmest for men was rated to -40. I had to special order Canadian boots.
    I guess the point is, if we cant stay outside like the guys, were inside baking cookies for them…

    Posted by Margaret1 | October 7, 2012, 4:04 am

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