I really appreciate the comments on yesterday's post. It helps to read other people's examples and reactions. As the mother of sons, I am constantly in that Penelope-Telemachus position, even with my sweet-tempered, good-hearted boys. The repetition of "don't leave your breakfast dishes on the table put them into the dishwasher yourself" morning after morning after morning is both comic and disturbing. As a young daughter, I was constantly aware of tasks, present and future; constantly aware that childhood was somehow practice for womanhood. My sons, though they have complex inner lives as well a strong awareness of the politics of equality, have never had this shadowy female backstory of apprenticeship to a life of duty. Paul does't leave his dishes on the table because he expects me to clean up after him. He leaves them on the table because he doesn't care if the table is covered with dirty dishes. I'm the one who cares, the one who is trying to train him up to pay attention to my needs, which have been molded by my learned expectations about good housekeeping and tidy homemakers.
That's a complication, yes. And then, as Carol pointed out in her comment, there's this other frustration: the blanket urge to condemn, to sweep away the masculine referents of our language, even of our affections--as if mentioning a male chickadee in a poem makes the poet complicit in feminine subjugation.
I have no answer to the conundrums. But I am watching as we live them.