I had a great conversation with my counterpart, Halyna, today during our free second period at school. As we drank our tea and waited until the манна (“manna,” basically cream of wheat) and rolls filled with apple were ready in the canteen, we began talking about gender roles in the home. Halya told me about how many Ukrainian men still act the “helpless, hungry male” part at home. If a man is hungry, he calls his wife/girlfriend/daughter and makes her prepare him food. In one instance, Halya said a man she knows was up talking at 4am, wanted coffee, so woke his wife up so she would make him coffee. At 4am! Preposterous. But on the flipside are men like Halya’s father, Andriy, and husband, Sasha, both of whom know how to prepare some food and regularly help around the house. Halya and I shared our outrage at the men who think women are their waitresses. Of course, there are still households like that in America, too, but I think Ukraine has a larger percentage. I was glad to hear from Halya that nowadays many men are able to take care of themselves, if primitively. Her stories reminded me of ones I’ve heard about young men going off to college and having no idea how to cook for themselves or do laundry, so they only eat in the dining halls and never wash their clothes or get (often female) friends to do their laundry for them.
Where are the independent men in the world? I told Halya my future husband better enjoy cooking and cleaning, so we can do it together! Maybe I was spoiled with two parents who are great cooks and who share the cleaning duties. Of course, in the U.S. the “stay-at-home dad” figure is more prevalent today as many women work full-time while raising kids. While I’m not sure gender roles are this progressive in Ukraine yet, it was heartening to speak to Halya about it today and know that she won’t be a slave to her husband for the next 60 years.