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Going the Distance

There's an interesting piece in TAPPED, the group blog for the American Prospect, about long-distance relationships and gender expectations. A fairly high profile couple recently announced their engagement. She's the D.C. Public Schools Chancellor and he is the mayor of Sacramento, California.
Today, DCist has an interview with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who recently got engaged to Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, CA:
One of the things that I've been hearing from people in my neighborhood and in the larger community that has surprised me, is the assumption that even if Mayor Fenty is reelected you might leave.

That's absolutely incorrect.

I've found it a little sexist, actually.

It's totally sexist! Let me just tell you this -- not a single person in Sacramento has implied that because Kevin and I are getting married that he's going to be moving to D.C. Not a single person. And it pisses me off to no end that people assume that I'm going to be the one to move, or that of course I would have to move. People say, well, her husband is there, so of course she would have to move. And I say "really?" What century are you living in?

So I am committed to the Mayor, that when he is reelected I will absolutely be here for a second term, and I'm really excited about the prospect of it.

This hits close to home. I have moved across the country three times -- and two of those moves were (at least in part) for men I was dating. At the time, I don't think I would have told you I felt pressured to move. If other people assumed I would be the one to change jobs and move cross-country, they certainly didn't say so to my face. But looking back, I am not so sure I could honestly say that there were no gendered expectations at play. Deeply ingrained sexist cues -- that women's work is worth less, that women bear more of a responsibility for keeping a relationship together -- have a way of affecting our choices. It's good to see Rhee pushing back against those expectations.
I was also somewhat relating to the interview. Three of the major relationships in my life were long distance. The first, neither one of us felt a particular pressure to move, and that may have ultimately contributed to the decline of the relationship. In the second, I was planning on moving to his city, but it was mainly because of his kids, not because of one career being superior to the other. And in the last, Graham moved to Houston, sacrificing his own career in Los Angeles to the point that it never really recovered and he's currently changing career tracks.

I think that Graham and I buck a lot of gender stereotypes within the relationship, though. I own our house. I am the primary breadwinner. He does most of the cooking, and a lot of the cleaning. I drive the car most of the time. He's the puppy disciplinarian. It's not something we talked about or specifically tried to buck the trend. It sort of worked out the way it worked out.


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Sep. 8th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
This post is timely and intersting for me because there were automatically the same assumptions made when we announced our engagement.

Wes lives about 2 hours drive SW of Houston. He works at a nuclear power plant in a well paid position. He owns a large historic home near his work. He lives in BayCity when he works and lives in Houston when he's off ( which is frequent - crazy shiftwork being what it is ). Occassionally I go to BayCity to enjoy the small town life and relax. It's my home away from home - doggies included free of charge.

My parents first question was when I would be moving to Bay City. They were shocked to find that ultimately he will be moving to us, not the other way around. Others have made mention of the same thing ... assuming the sterotypical roles.

We don't fit our gender roles for the most part. Yes- he's better educated and he makes 3 times what I do. And yes , I do a lot of the cooking. But other than that ... pretty much it's a toss up. Part of the thing that makes this relationhsip work is that neither of us are terribly attached to what other people think we "should" be doing - we just sorta do what we like ( or what we are good at ) and enjoy the hell out of it.

Thus , for the next year or so we will be dual-located, and after that we plan to live here in town ( fingers crossed that we can find the perfectly affordable bungalo cottage in the 'Trose ) ... atleast until Rowynn is a few years older. After that , there is no telling where we'll end up ...

There is a strong chance that he will walk away from that golden-goose egg job - because money isn't the most important aspect of a job , and he's not adverse to finding something different so long as it means that we can live together in the future. But there is not some burning rush to make this happen over night - there are I's to dot and T's to cross before that happens. No one needs to go running off the handle just so we can appear to "live like real married folks" do.

Sep. 8th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Every time I come across the gender expectations thing it really throws me. I mean, P changed his name to ours, and he was the one who moved across country... and that was over a decade and a half ago. It often feels like things have gone backwards or something.
Sep. 8th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
interesting concepts. when my ex and i came to the "this is terribly broken, and not fixable" decision, i knew i was the one who was going to relocte to TheEngineer. from jacksonville, florida to houston. the move itself was emotionally hard because my grown daughter is still in florida, and my teenaged son was going to live with his dad. change of plans literally the day before the move, his dad lost his job and the son went with us for the summer. (that was NOT a pleasant trip. angsting 14 year olds do not make pleasant travel companions.)

but this is Home to me. my parents live in alvin, my other relatives live in manvel or houston. the sky looks right here. the familiar reek of houston air makes me laugh while it makes me sneeze for a minute when i leave the apartment. and of course, i am loved. this is home. florida was where i lived.

i dont think its anyone else's business how a couple (or family) run their lives. if the relationship is strong enough to run long distance, go for it. breaking gender stereotypes? i've done that, been the major breadwinner, and i wasnt displeased with it at the time. if everyone is content, why try to fix what isnt broken?
Sep. 9th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
I think that, if they're married, one should move but who, well, that's a matter between them. If we're talking about the expectations... when I first started teaching it looked like I might have to move to find a spot. In fact, I was offered 2 spots in northern Virginia. My then girlfriend said she would follow me there and I got a little weirded out. After all, she'd been teaching in one district for 3 years already and was ensconced there so why move to start again at the bottom? Ultimately I found a job here but I wonder what would have happened.
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