I’m engaged to a wonderful, hardworking, intelligent guy. He makes me laugh, is always there for me, and I even get along well with his parents. The only problem is that he has some misogynistic beliefs that really bother me. He’s from a very traditional culture where women marry young and tend to stay at home. (I have no personal problem with that as long as it is what the woman wants, but I don’t want that.) He believes that women should do almost all of the housework and has told me that if he ever runs his own company (his dream) he would never hire a woman because women “don’t work as hard as men and if they get pregnant I’d have to pay for that.” He believes that women should be respected, but that men will always be more intelligent, better workers and are more valuable than women. However, he doesn’t hold these beliefs towards me. He fully supports my dream to become a lawyer and helps me out with the cooking and cleaning a lot. Also, when I asked him how he would feel if a male employer didn’t hire me because I’m a woman he conceded that it would be terrible, unfair and he would be angry. I think he has trouble coinciding his culture and upbringing with how he actually feels. My question is: should this be a dealbreaker for me? Should I hold out hope that his beliefs will continue to change and become fairer, or is this a lost cause? I feel that if these sorts of beliefs and expectations were directed AT me I’d be long gone, but since they only come up in conversation I’m confused. — Too flexible feminist?
Let’s look at the issue through a slightly different lens. What if your fiancé said he believes children should be beaten when they misbehave? Let’s imagine he happens to come from a family and culture that routinely flogs children for oversleeping or wetting the bed. Would you consider having kids with this man? What if he told you that while he has no trouble abusing other people’s kids, he wouldn’t lay a hand on his own children? Would you believe that? Would you risk the emotional and physical safety of your future kids by letting this man father them? If you’re a responsible person, I’d hope the answer would be “no.” I’d hope you’d be smart enough to realize that even a man who thinks hitting a kid is OK poses a threat, not only to the safety of other people’s children, but certainly to the kids he’ll raise whose values and morals he’ll help form and foster.
Now let’s go back to this idea that your fiancé has misogynistic beliefs you feel he hasn’t completely come to terms with. Maybe it’s true that he’s having trouble “coinciding his culture with what he actually feels.” OK, fine, for argument’s sake, let’s say he’s not sure what he believes — let’s say he’s confused. After all, he’s saying that he thinks women should do most of the housework and yet he’s helping you out “with the cooking and cleaning a lot.” He says he’d not ever hire a woman, but admits he’d be angry if a male employer overlooked hiring you because of your gender (which, by the way, is illegal). So, maybe the guy really is confused; maybe he really doesn’t know what to think or feel. Well, color me crazy, but who wants to marry a man who’s as wishy-washy as this? You’re talking about creating a life with this person and he doesn’t even know where he stands on fundamental issues like equal rights? You’re planning to live the rest of your life with a man who can’t give you a straight answer on how much housework he expects you to do?
And let’s go back to the issues of kids for a minute. Are you planning to have children with this man? What values will you be instilling in them? How much of a role with your fiancé’s misogynistic culture be playing in their upbringing? Even if your fiancé tells you that the views he has of women somehow don’t apply to you, do you really want him to be sharing those views with your children? Do you want to raise a son together who’s taught that men are smarter and that women belong in the kitchen? Do you want to raise a daughter who grows up believing the only contribution she’s expected to make to the world is a clean house for her husband? And what are you going to say to them when they ask why their grandparents have such a hard time understanding why mommy has her own career?
Look, you’re not talking about differing beliefs, where you want to buy a Prius and your fiancé wants to buy a Dodge Caravan; you’re talking about huge differences in your fundamental values. Among all the little things married couples can agree to disagree on or learn to compromise over, basic core values are not among them. Those make the glue that keeps a couple together during the hard times — during the challenges of marriage and parenthood. Are your fiancé’s misogynistic beliefs about the role of women a dealbreaker? Well, if you’re a self-hating masochist, then no. But if you respect yourself — and other women — you’d be smart to run as far and as fast from this man as your legs can carry you.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.