The other night, I was cruising through the Netflix tv series catalogue, trying to find something to watch. We just finished all of the seasons of Breaking Bad and had started watching season 2 of Californication, but the thought of those shows and other shows were just making me grumpy. I turned to my boyfriend and said:
“Frankly, I’m sick to death of watching irresponsible men as the central plot. Why don’t women get to get away with being irresponsible?”
And so I thought I’d try out Weeds. This seemed promising. Drug pushing suburban mom. But no…she was pretty sensible for a drug dealer. How about Nurse Jackie? Oddly enough, the drug addicted, philandering nurse is doing some pretty awesome work. It seems that even women who behave badly are, at base, incredibly solid. The only exception to this rule I can think of are my favorite duo: Patsy and Edina as AbFab. Drunken, irresponsible, shallow, selfish…everything most women aren’t portrayed as in mainstream movies and tv.
But I’ve always been miffed by the way the male population is pretty much given a free pass on bad behavior from the time they are young. “Boys will be boys,” is the lame excuse I heard muttered time and again from mothers. Blew up the garage? Haha. Boys will be boys. Got in a fist fight? Oh my. Boys will be boys. The same behavior from a young woman is still not tolerated in the same way.
And it continues through life. I often hear stuff like “a man needs his man cave” and other eye rollers for grown men. People excuse the inability for a man to be able to find laundry soap in his own cupboards because his wife or girlfriend takes care of that stuff. Meanwhile, women are taking on the same responsibilities outside the home while we remain stewards of the home. Breaking Bad was a series that started out promising and slowly turned me into a Walter-hater. I cheered a little each time Skyler, who is brilliant and badass herself but wasn’t given near enough of a role in the show, acted out. Still, she held everything together at the end of the day.
One particular scene I could watch over and over (sorry for any spoilers) was in Season 4 when Walter decides to buy their teenage son a sports car and Skyler tells him to bring it back because it would draw too much attention. Her words echoed my frustration at that very moment:
“Once again, he’ll blame his bitch mother for taking away what his loving father gave to him. Thanks for that. But you know what, Walt? Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.”
I think it was the only time in the whole series I cheered out loud. A quick check online shows that Skyler’s character is highly UNpopular for many of the fans of the show. I know why. She keeps stopping the fun. That’s the big rub in all of this. Not only are the women expected to clean up the mess left behind from their irresponsible, reckless men, but they also get labeled buzzkills and bitches when they complain about it.
I’ve listened to the stereotype of the man who ‘settles down’ and is both taken care of by a woman and ‘whipped’ by a woman all of my life. Why is growing up a bad thing? Why do men get to rest on some sort of biological imperative to act out while women who act out are characterized as out of control wrecks (see Lindsay Lohan, Tara Reid, etc)? It’s not super natural for me to be the responsible one, but I’m judged more harshly when that truth comes out. A bad father is a bad father. A bad mother is a bad person.
This deserves more than a post, but I wanted to rant it out a bit before too long. If there is any reason that women get angry at men, I think this may be at the root of it.
I’m fortunate to have a man in my life who doesn’t see responsibility as something that is against his nature. I think we’d both agree that he is the more responsible one of the two of us. At times, he gets resentful about my lack of attention to the home and living and I need to step up and contribute. He has every right to resent my blase attitude towards the basics. It puts more pressure on him to take care of things. We need to share responsibility. That is the only way that both of us will be able to thrive. Boys will NOT be boys. Girls will NOT be girls. We all have needs and one gender isn’t more deserving than the other.
Let’s not be irresponsible at the cost of the people who love us.