An Unintended Lesson In Gender Roles

This morning I took my four-year-old daughter shopping. At the first shop we bought a worm farm. Despite the name, a worm ‘farm’ isn’t the great hulking thing you might imagine — it’s a couple of plastic boxes with some knick-knacks and an instruction booklet inside.

My daughter watched me lift one off the pile of worm farms at the shop, and manoeuvre it into the trolley. “Be careful, mum,” she said. “That’s heavy.”

“No, it’s okay,” I told her. “It’s large and awkward, but it’s not heavy.”

Next stop was the hardware store, where I bought two 20 kg bags of chicken pellets. The young woman at the counter asked if I needed help getting the feed to my car. I’d already lifted the feed from a low pile on the ground and up into the trolley, so I’m not sure why she thought I needed help pushing the trolley to my car. I accepted that it might be store policy to ask, but wondered whether they would’ve asked me if I were a strapping lad.

Right outside, the Lions club was frying up sausages and bacon. I’d parked next to their caravan. With no imminent customers, a man in his 50s or 60s asked if I needed help with my chicken pellets. I politely declined. And at this point I’ll emphasise that I appreciated the offer. If I’d been ill, or 80 years old, or if I’d strained my back I would have been very glad of the offer, and if I’m lucky enough to make it to an advanced age, I hope there’ll be volunteers about the place to help me with my pellets, because they only come in 20kg bags. There’s no 5kg alternative.

On the other hand, if a healthy woman in her mid-thirties can’t lift 20kg, she’d better get weight-lifting, because with a 10 percent natural decline in muscle mass over each decade of life, the chances of her being able to lift herself out of the bath when she’s 80 are looking slim. Is a man in his late middle-age really that much more conditioned than a woman in her mid-thirties anyway?

I thought no more about it until I pulled into our driveway at home, and realised my four-year-old daughter had been watching everything, because she said, “Mum, you take in the light bags. I’ll run inside and tell Dad to lift the heavy ones.”

I made a point of hefting the goods myself, saying loudly, “Look at me! Aren’t I strong!” I think I even said, “Women are soooo strong!” at one point.

Still, she looked skeptical. I think a gender lesson has already been learnt somewhere, and reinforced today.


Related: Girls Lift 3000 Pound Tractor Off Dad.