ERP 338: How Gender Equality Is Good For Us All — An Interview With Dr. Kate Mangino

By Posted in - Podcast September 20th, 2022 0 Comments

The majority of women due far more housework than men (in heterosexual relationships). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women spend 47 minutes more on housework on average than men each day. This translates to roughly 5 ½ more hours each week, which doesn’t include childcare, grocery shopping or errands (which women do more of as well). This gender gap has an effect on everyone. 

In this episode, Dr. Kate Mangino discusses what she learned from interviewing 40 men in equal relationships to show how gender norms can restrict one or both partners in a relationship compared to what it looks like in equal relationships.

Kate Mangino, PhD is a gender expert who works with international organizations to promote positive social change. She has written and delivered curricula in over 20 countries about issues such as: gender equality, women’s empowerment, healthy masculinity, HIV prevention, and early and forced childhood marriage. She brings her lens of social change to her debut book, Equal Partners, which addresses gender roles in the American household.

In this Episode

5:51 Promoting social change as an expert and a parent.

9:14 Taking the gender equality conversation into the community.

14:02: How gender norms create inequity and limit the potential of one or both partners.

23:29 An illustration of how partners’ tasks are typically divided.

37:42 What exactly is the EP40, and what did Dr. Mangino learn from them?

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Rather than forcing your partner to change, emphasize how his or her behavior is limiting his or her full potential.
  • Always engage in inclusive conversations with your partner.
  • Be open to the various roles and identities that you and your partner may take on.
  • Find support from your family, friends, the community, or professionals, because you are likely not the only one who feels the way you do.

Mentioned

Equal Partners: Improving Gender Equality at Home (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Websites: katemangino.com

Connect with Dr. Kate Mangino

Twitter: twitter.com/manginokate

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Dr. Kate Mangino, thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me today. I’m thrilled to be with you.

Yes, and I have such regard and love being able to share in conversation with somebody that’s done such a wealth of research and has developed themselves and is in the arena, especially in psychology, to be able to talk on topics that relate to relationships. 

We’re going to be talking about gender norms, what that looks like in homes and domestic life, and how that impacts the relationship. I feel like you have so much to offer, so I’m really looking forward to this conversation. For people who are not familiar with you or haven’t read your book, Equal Partners, are you open to sharing a little bit about you and what got you interested in really focusing on this topic? 

Absolutely. I work in gender. I work in international development, and I have done my whole career so about 20 years now. I do social change around gender. What that means is that various organizations hire me, nonprofit organizations, to go overseas and to work with groups of people to tackle issues around gender. 

For example, I spent some time in Zambia working on HIV prevention. In Indonesia, I spent some time on women’s empowerment. In Malawi, I did work around early childhood marriage. What it always boils down to is working with a group of people, whether they’re parents or religious leaders, or health workers, and talking through gender norms that might be harmful and might be preventing women and girls from reaching their full potential. 

And so, for all these years, I was having these very sophisticated conversations about gender around the world with all kinds of fantastic people. And then, I became a parent. My kids are now 11 and eight. So, this was some years ago, but I started to become frustrated that as the expert, I could have these great gender conversations with people outside of my country, but in my own community, at the playground, on the street from our apartment, or with friends and family, I was having very antiquated conversations about gender and gender roles. I didn’t have an entry point to change that. And so, I know that’s where the seed for this book came from. It was sort of a way to bridge two worlds.

I can just resonate, as you’re describing this entry point, with that open space to engage in this topic in a different way that can be confronting or can feel difficult. I’m just curious, even before we pivot to the topic, and as you’re mentioning this personally. Has this given you more openness or an entry point into these conversations? In the US, more specifically. 

It has. It has. I think the whole process is just being involved in the research. And so, being able to talk to people about what I’m doing helps me find ways. I’m still the expert, and I realize people are still going to maybe give me more leeway than the average person because of what I do and what I write about. 

I’ve been actively looking for ways that everyday people, whatever your profession or your day looks like, can find those entry points. And so, I think that’s also helped me as well because I have plenty of relationships with people that have no idea what I do for a living and don’t know how important gender is to me and, you know, then I need to look for those sort of everyday entry points. So yeah, it absolutely has. It has helped.

Well, it occurs to me that so much of making conscious what sometimes is unconscious, or we don’t question, it’s just what we’ve lived in, that that is a process in and of itself. And when we are in casual environments and in a community setting, perhaps at a child’s sports game and talking to other parents, it can feel like broaching or introducing or getting curious or wondering with someone that that can feel like a conflict.

Yes, it can feel like a conflict. One way to help me and one way I get it when people ask me for advice, you know, how do I broach this conversation with my partner? How do I broach this conversation with someone else? I think it really helps too, and I guess we can get into this later as well, but it helps to take it away from the personal and kind of try to look at things from 10,000 feet and look at it in terms of behavior patterns. 

I had this idea for a long time of a book to bridge these two worlds. But there was this moment, and there was a night when it became crystal clear. I was feeling unbelievably stressed out. My kids were two and five. I was finishing my dissertation. I was teaching two undergrad classes. And I was the Alpha parent. I was the one that had to be flexible and on call and, you know, handle all the little things that went wrong. 

I just had a day where everything felt too much and too heavy. I came home. And I just sat on my kitchen floor and cried. I mentioned it was a kitchen floor because it also bothered me that my floor was filthy dirty. And that was part that made me cry harder because I remember sitting on the floor and thinking, “And on top of everything else, my floor is filthy.” 

My husband was trying so hard to be supportive. He kept saying like, “What can I do to help? What can I do to help?” I happen to be researching the intersection of women’s empowerment and masculinity studies. So, I had on the tip of my tongue all of these statistics and all of these behavior patterns. It just sort of came out. I told him. I said, “In different-sex relationships, women do twice as much work as men. It prevents women from reaching professional potential, and it prevents men from reaching emotional potential.” 

I said, “What’s happening out there to all these other families is happening in our household. I feel myself being held back professionally, and I see you being held back emotionally, and I’m scared for us. I want to do something about this before it gets worse.” 

He and he responded, and that started a conversation that has lasted for, gosh, I mean, since that day, so you know, almost eight years. That was sort of my impetus in that I had all of those words ready to go because I happened to be researching this topic, but I thought there were so many other people out there who are having kitchen floor moments but don’t have the words. How do they get past it? How do they move on? 

And so that was sort of I thought, that’s what this book needs to be about. I want to give people the stories and the statistics and the data and the language so they can fix their own kitchen floor issue or ideally read it before they get to the kitchen floor in the first place so it can prevent something like this from happening to other people.

Free An Elderly Couple Looking at Each Other Stock Photo

“I want to give people the stories and the statistics and the data and the language so they can fix their own kitchen floor issue or ideally read it before they get to the kitchen floor in the first place so it can prevent something like this from happening to other people.”

Exactly. And that’s part of the development as a collective is that we have these conversations and that people like yourselves are bringing research and helping educate and bringing awareness and attention to things that we might not question but feel. Right? I love so much what you’re describing. It’s something that’s palpable, and we can experience it, but we might not have the ability to identify it, recognize it, know what’s happening or even be able to speak to it in any way. 

Right. Right. And what might be happening to all of us may be very common. And there’s something comforting about that when you’re like, “Oh, it’s not just me.” There are lots of people out there feeling this way. And so, we can get through it together. It feels less lonely, I think.

No kidding. I think that the credibility that you bring, and being able to offer the research and the theory that you’ve brought through in this book and talking to other professionals, and even just the mental load or the cognitive load, I think that can be really helpful for people that are taking on more of the female coded duties that that is something that I remember when I came across that term, I was like, “Wow, that is so true.” It’s so validating. I’ve been feeling it, but I didn’t really have the ability to articulate or really mark it for conversation or just even for my own recognition.

Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you brought up the term “female coded” because these are behaviors that are not linked to our identity. And there are plenty of people who don’t identify as women who fall into female-coded tasks and vice versa. 

I’ve followed this conversation for the last ten years and followed it into the future. I think one of the most important things we need to remember is to continue to be inclusive and understand that there are plenty of people that we want to include in same-sex and queer relationships. Oftentimes, a female partner will do the male-coded role and vice versa. So, we just need to be open to all those different roles and identities.

Free Man and Woman Kissing Each Other Stock Photo

“I think one of the most important things we need to remember is to continue to be inclusive and understand that there are plenty of people that we want to include in same-sex and queer relationships. Oftentimes, a female partner will do the male-coded role and vice versa. So we just need to be open to all those different roles and identities.”

I so appreciate you naming that. Thank you. Thank you. I also feel very moved by what you described a moment ago in the interaction with your husband on the kitchen floor, and that these gender norms impact everyone and that it limits us. And so, the recognition and the acknowledgment of that, and then really inviting something, and inviting growth, and also the vulnerability that you shared, and that your concern that you shared, so you didn’t necessarily attack or blame or criticize your husband, you really spoke to the overwhelm and the vulnerability and the challenge that made that probably much safer for your husband to respond to.

I wasn’t doing that to placate him. Some people perceive it as that, and I can see that perspective. But I’ve come to learn in my work that gender norms truly limit everyone. And stereotypes limit everyone. It can be very suffocating. And you can feel trapped in any gender identity that you’re trying to perform. And performing masculinity is very stressful and very hard, especially if you don’t fit that sort of stereotypical manly man, you know, in charge, emotionally distant kind of persona. 

The more men I talked to, the more I heard that, yes, they feel trapped, and they feel frustrated, and they feel pigeon-holed. I think just as much as other people do, women. I also think it’s a stronger argument. I mean, there is a justice argument. You could come out of the gender and say, “We all need to make a change because it’s better for women and girls.” That’s very valid. I think that’s a great argument. I think there’s just another argument to say it really is better for everyone. 

I find that when you try to say to someone, “I want you to change your behavior because it’s better for someone else.” Okay, that could definitely motivate some people. But when you say, “I’m asking you to change your behavior because what we’re doing now is limiting you too.” then you have personal buy-in, and then everyone’s like, “Oh, I don’t want to be limited. I don’t want to be restricted from anything.” And so, I think that that can be a very nice inclusive conversation.

I also want to acknowledge, and you did mention this, that when we can point to the action and the behavior, I love your ability to even bring in the research that it depersonalizes in a way that almost ironically allows somebody to relate to it personally. Do you agree?

Yes, that’s a perfect way of putting it, yes.

Okay, so let’s turn towards that because I think it is really important to name the discrepancies when we look at domestic life and household duties and what that entails. What would you like to say to just help people recognize what you’re really illuminating in the way of gender norms as it relates to home life?

Let me go over three terms or three concepts that I think summarizes where we are now. And when I say we, I mean broadly, right? Sociologists have started to use the term Neo-traditional to describe the Modern Family construct. 

In a traditional family, we often think of a working dad and a stay-at-home mom. That’s a bit outdated. And so, a Neo-traditional family construct is two people together. It doesn’t matter what their gender is. They both work. They’re both adding to family income, which might be a choice, and might be an economic necessity. But the vast majority of household work falls on one over the other. And it usually falls into about a two-thirds 1/3 split. 

So, if that person, and it’s the male coded tasks that fall into the 1/3, and the female coded tasks that fall into the two-thirds, and if you think of it, you know, it doesn’t sound too bad. Maybe at first thought, but when you think about it, it’s twice as much work, right? So, if that male-coded person is doing 10 hours of housework a week, then his partner is doing 20. And if you add that up over the course of a year or five years, or the life of a relationship, we’re just talking about hundreds of hours that he has that his partner does not. 

He can sleep. He can see friends. He can have hobbies. He can dig into work and hope that he gets promoted. He can take a second job and bring in more income. There are just so many options and flexibility that then his partner does not have. So Neo-traditional is the most common family construct in 2022.

The intention might be that we have equitability. All though it is equal, more or less.

Yes. Yes. Yes. And so, let me offer some more words that I think further confuse people because we have a division of labor. Female-coded tasks tend to be indoor, and they tend to be routine, and male-coded tasks tend to be outdoor and intermittent. That’s how sociologists describe them. 

And so, people, I think, are led to think, “Oh, we have a delegation of tasks. We all have a job to do.” Even Steven, right? We’re doing okay. But those routine indoor tasks are far more relentless and require much more cognitive labor than those intermittent outdoor tasks. 

Routine indoor tasks: the washing, the shopping, the cooking, the laundry, the childcare, the pet care, the elder care, the scheduling, the family and friends. That all happens, you know, sort of inside the walls of the house. It’s very hard to get away from that, even for a day, and it follows you on vacation. It follows you when you visit friends. It’s all-consuming. 

In those intermittent outdoor tasks: lawn and yard, fix-it projects, car maintenance, finance. They don’t happen every day. They happen once in a while. They’re very important, but because they don’t happen every day, there is flexibility in the schedule. If you don’t mow your lawn for a weekend, you might annoy your neighbors, but it’s not going to be the same as if you just don’t feed your kids, right? There’s just a different level of necessity that goes along with those two sets of chores.

Absolutely. I love it, and this might get to the third thing you want to name here. I love the analogy that you reference about the CEO or the person that’s doing the managing versus the person that’s doing some of the tasks. Would you like to describe that? Or does that fit here?

Nope. You hit the nail on the head. That was exactly where I was going, so thank you for reminding me of that. Yes. So, a lot of other couples divide or distribute tasks along the lines of the manager and the helper, right? That might also seem fair at face value because you each have your own tasks and lists of things to do. But we all know if you would put that into a professional context, supervisors make a lot more money than hourly employees for a good reason because they’re doing all the cognitive labor that comes along with being a supervisor. 

They don’t clock in and out hour-to-hour. They are managing personnel and perhaps purchasing and cash flow. And there are so many things that that manager has to take care of in a workplace. An employee just sort of, comes in and says, “Oh, what’s my list of things to do today? Or what am I supposed to do today?” And then, you clock out, and you go home. 

And so yes, it is one way to delegate tasks, which works great in a professional sense. But in a household, it’s definitely nowhere close to parity. Making a list of things to do, like telling your partner that takes work, it’s the work to come up with a list of things to do. It’s work to keep following up to see if they’ve done it. It’s work to think about when you’re free, what you can do, and what you’re willing to do. That’s all work. So the parody is when both people are doing cognitive labor for the house.

And the responsibility that goes in, there’s a different level of responsibility that someone who’s overseeing or managing, and I loved the example that you used about the couple.

Frieda, Breda, and Miriam. They’re a female-coded role and the male-coded role, but I wanted people to see that it didn’t have to be a heteronormative couple. So I made them both women, and it was sort of a composite couple, based on several different interviews that I did to just sort of illustrating or demonstrate how that happens. 

Oftentimes, it’s the person who’s earning more in the relationship that falls into those male-coded tasks. It’s funny how I’ve talked to many same-sex couples, and I’ll say, “How did you determine who’s going to do what?” And they’ll just say, “I don’t know. We just fell into these patterns. There was never a discussion. We just seemed to know who was going to do what?”

I remember there was a story about this couple where Miriam’s parents were coming to visit from out of town, and Frieda did all of this work and the difference there, so I think that is helpful for people to listen to or read from your book. But the point I want to make around this is you had spoken about the responsibility and if one is holding the more managerial role then if things are subpar, or if you want to help somebody feel really cared about and make an impression if you will, then that responsibility is going to be very different for the one that’s overseeing it all versus the one that’s perhaps.

Absolutely. And I think that gets it. This is a big topic to fall into, but you just sort of got it to sort of how much each partner values that kind of cognitive labor. So, for example, the story in the book was, yes, it was Miriam’s parents who are visiting from out of town, and they’ve only been married for a year. And so, Frieda very much still wanted to impress her in-laws. It was important to have a very clean home and a home-cooked meal and create this cozy, inviting space to make a memory and have a good time, and get to know each other better.

The cleanliness and the food were all part of this bigger picture that really led to emotional bonds and relationship. She was the one who was doing those female-coded tasks. That’s how she viewed that interaction. Her wife didn’t see that. She just thought, “My wife’s going overboard. She’s cooking too much. She’s cleaning too much. Why don’t we just get pizza?” 

She just didn’t understand. She didn’t value that work. And I think that’s where a lot of arguments happen with couples when one person is doing all of this invisible labor and feels like they’re not being thanked for it. And the other person is thinking, “Why are they doing all of that work for nothing? They should just be hanging out with me.” So, I think there can be frustration on both sides when you don’t talk those things through.

This is just incredibly important for every person to consider. What we perhaps might fall into, as you just described with Marriam and Frieda or a new couple, and how do they arrive at these divisions? And that sometimes we just do without thinking.

Yeah. You had some guests a few weeks ago that talked about the importance of going from unconscious to conscious, and I 100% agree with that. I think that more than half the battle is just recognizing gender norms and recognizing patterns. And maybe you’re okay with doing gendered things. For example, I think I said this in the book. I love wrapping presents. I love it. I have a whole wrapping place in my closet. I love pretty bows and pretty paper. And that’s absolutely a female-coded task. That doesn’t bother me because it brings me joy. 

So, if you do things that are coded for your identity, that’s absolutely okay. I’m not suggesting that we do anything other. It’s more about self-reflection and cognizance and thinking through, you know, am I choosing to do this because it makes me happy and it’s what I want to do, and it’s helping the health of my relationship, or am I falling into a pattern simply because it’s been role model to me in the past. I’m in default mode.

Free Couple Sitting and Holding Hands and Arms Around Each Other  Stock Photo

“If you do things that are coded for your identity, that’s absolutely okay. It’s more about self-reflection and cognizance and thinking through. Am I choosing to do this because it makes me happy and it’s what I want to do, and it’s helping the health of my relationship? Or am I falling into a pattern simply because it’s been role model to me in the past and I’m in default mode?”

Thank you for offering that distinction because I was just going to ask you. Some of this can be so insidious that we might not even recognize the impact and why we’re doing what we’re doing. It sounds like just even the simple question and the reflection around what’s in this for me. And do I feel like I have to do this, or this is the expected thing, or the good role or good partner behavior because of what I’ve been brought up to believe, or it’s been part of what’s been normal?

Absolutely. For example, I’ve heard lots of men tell me, “Oh, my wife is just better at, fill in the blank, multitasking, logistics, family relations, whatever.” “She’s just better at that.” And I always say, “Why is she better at it?” Is she better at it because she wants to be, or is she better at it because we raise girls to value domestic work, and she’s become good at it as a coping mechanism for what society was expecting her to do? So let’s not just default to what we’re better at because sometimes, that can be gendered, too, because we raise boys and girls differently.

We have more experience or perhaps just the mindset or the hat that we put on. I loved your just acknowledgment that perhaps there is someone that is in their profession exercising skills of multitasking and planning and all of these same tasks that don’t translate to the home life. And they somehow have amnesia, or think that they’re not good at it or, you know, it’s just the set and setting.

Right. Well, it’s different when you’re not getting paid for it. Right?

But I mean, it might not even be deliberate or intentional. 

Oh, for sure. That is true. 

That it just somehow is like, “My partner got this, and they’re all over it, and I don’t need to think about it.” It’s just, again, that the default mode is so strong.

It’s really strong, right, but just you would never say to your boss, “I’m just not good at multitasking. Can you give that to so and so?” You just would never say that. It’s humorous when you hear it in an intimate setting.

And again, I just want to emphasize, again, how much I appreciate the experience of coming into contact with some of what you’re providing and the education because I don’t know that it’s something that like, “Oh, this is a fun topic.” or even mention that. This is not something we’re necessarily like, “Oh, super feel-good.” And it can be super empowering.

It can be super empowering, and it can be super uncomfortable. 

Yeah. And there was something in your book. I know you’re referencing another researcher, psychologist, or sociologist. I don’t know. You can help here. Is it empathy?

Oh, Hympathy. I love Hympathy. This is Kate Manne. I’m a big fan of hers. She has two books out. She’s a philosopher. Down Girl and Entitled are her two books. Hympathy is sort of that extra empathy we have for men. We raise girls, and we encourage women to put the needs of men before our own. It’s why I do it too. It’s why I still feel a little bit uncomfortable or guilty when I want my husband to do something inconvenient because it benefits me. 

We see a lot of this, I think, in older generations to have like grandmas sort of tiptoeing around grandpas to make their life more comfortable. There’s just this unspoken cultural expectation that women should sacrifice their own happiness and comfort for the men around them.

No kidding. Or even that there could be this backdrop and where this comes from, I have no idea but like, “Oh, part of being in a healthy relationship, or that this is part of my partner being happy.” I’m in a heterosexual relationship, so I’m talking about my husband here. I have felt, at times, there are things that are very female-coded that I very much enjoy and love doing. It’s not always the same thing all the time, but I just can feel my nurturing aspects of me come out, and I really enjoy it. And there are other times where I do feel a little uncomfortable or less so now, but maybe in the beginning stages, where he would be doing or carrying the load about something that would be much more female-coded. And I’m like, “Is this okay? Is this healthy? Is he going to resent this?” These questions, right? Again, it’s so insidious. I don’t know that I would ask if the gender norms weren’t so established. 

This is a great place for the community to step in and take this conversation out of a nuclear partnership and into a community with friends and family, and neighbors. If you hear a friend or a sister, or a mom or whoever, they’re unlikely, let’s say to use the word Hympathy because it’s pretty specific. 

But if they’re just, you know, saying, “Oh, I’m supposed to go on a work trip, but my husband can’t do XYZ, and he’s going to have to stay home with the kids. And I feel bad that he has to give up his whatever.” You know, to recognize that and to say, “Oh, actually, what you’re feeling is something that has been written about in sociology, and it’s a very real feeling because we raise girls to protect the feelings and the comfort level of men. 

So, I totally understand why you’re feeling it. I felt that way too. But I think it’s really important you go on your work trip. I hope that that doesn’t change your decision. You might feel a little bit of guilt but work through that guilt and make that work trip because this is a great opportunity for you. I think that that’s one way that women can help other women work through those uncomfortable feelings.

Or anyone can help someone that’s female-coded, right?

Exactly. 

It’s supporting the expansion that when we’re constricted and limited and maybe there’s fear that emerges based on whatever training and shaping we have, that it says give permission. In your book, you also mentioned a personal story about you and your husband approaching a crossroads where you both had professional opportunities and how you saw it console from your internetwork. I was so touched by how much we needed each other to, again, expand the terrain a bit. Do you want to share a little bit more about that? 

Yeah, we were both offered job opportunities and professional growth opportunities. Oftentimes, you can make it work so you can both do it at the same time, but ours were geographically tied. And so we didn’t want to be in two places at once. We made that decision. We wanted to stay together. And so, we had to choose. 

It made sense for me to take mine because there had been times in the past when I’d let him take the lead. And it was sort of my turn. I think we both knew that. Even though I sort of knew that deep down, it felt wrong. And usually, my first point, the first person I reach out to is my mom. And so, I did. I reached out to my mom. She was like, “You have to do this. This is a great opportunity. This is once in a lifetime.” But she’s my mom. She’s my cheerleader. So what else is she going to say? 

Then, I go to a friend. I heard the same thing. And then I went to another friend. And then I went to my neighbor. I even went to one of my husband’s colleagues, who’s become a friend. I heard over. It probably took about a dozen people that kept giving me the message, “You’ve sacrificed for him before, and now it’s your turn. You don’t need to feel guilty about this, and you need to just go for it. And even if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. That it’s enough that you have this opportunity.”

It helped tremendously to have so much support from my community. I felt so good about my decision. Would it change my mind if they had said something different? I don’t know. But it would have been a heck of a lot harder.

No kidding. And even just to hold the possibility. I remember this being mentioned that he isn’t likely not going to resent you, but he might resent you if you don’t take it and that this is a gift that you’re offering him to be able to show up for you and support you that this is another possibility to hold that this is actually healthy for the both of you for you to take that opportunity.

Absolutely. And that translates into some of the stories that I heard from the men that I interviewed for the book that we haven’t even talked about them yet. When I asked them, sort of motivation, like why are you living as an equal partner? What motivates you? 

One of the things that come back time and time again is, “Because when my partner succeeds, I feel genuine accomplishment. I feel proud. I feel that when my partner succeeds, I succeed. That it’s not a competition. I want to help her be the best that he can because it just makes me happy that I was part of that success.”

No kidding. Well, let’s talk about EP40. What is the EP40?

That is my silly nickname for the 40 equal partners that I interviewed for the book. I just didn’t want to write the 40 equal partners over and over, so I ended up naming them EP40. It kind of reminds me of the Star Wars droid, so that made me laugh. 

EP40 is just this group of men that I identified and interviewed for the middle section of my book. I just wanted to take an appreciative approach. And I thought, instead of focusing on what men do wrong, let’s focus on the ones who have figured it out, the ones who are Equal Partners. 

And I was just curious in a sort of figuring out what made them tick. Where did they come from? How did they do it? What was their motivation? And that was just a really joyful research project. It was so much fun. I fell in love with each and every one of those men in that 40 subsets.

What did you learn? What are some of the takeaways that you can share with us?

I learned a lot. What did I learn? First of all, I learned that you could come from anywhere. I heard 40 unique stories, I really thought I was going to be able to pinpoint something like they all have a sister, or they all have a single-parent mom, or I don’t know, they were all from a farm. 

I mean, I was hoping to find something, but there wasn’t. Every single one of them had a unique path. They came from different areas of the US and Canada. They had different backgrounds, different economic backgrounds, and different education levels. That didn’t matter. What mattered was that they all decided they wanted to live as equal partners, and they had made that decision for themselves. 

So, I think that one of the beautiful things that I learned is that it doesn’t matter where you come from. That gender is definitely part of our past. But with help and with support, anyone can be an equal partner. You have self-agency to live the way you want with your spouse or your partner.

Free A Happy Couple Carrying Their Daughter Stock Photo

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. Gender is definitely part of our past. But with help and with support, anyone can be an equal partner. You have self-agency to live the way you want with your spouse or your partner.”

What’s really beautiful about what I think I hear you say is these 40 equal partners made a decision, and was that even prior to the relationship?

Yes, many of them it was prior to the relationship. With the younger couples, yes, they had decided, sort of when they were still dating, that this was what they wanted to be. The older couples kind of learned it together. I think that’s simply because we have language and words and conversations now that we didn’t have 20-30 years ago when other people were getting together, and I can identify with that, too. I’ve now been married for, let’s see, 17. I do the math really quickly, 17 years. 

We talk about gender differently the way we do now than when we did when we got married. I can understand that. Some of them it was very intentional. And they said, no matter who they ended up with, they would have wanted to have been an equal partner, a few of them admitted that their partner really sorts of holding them accountable and that they probably would have backslid a little bit now and again, if they would have been allowed, but their partner was sort of like, “No, this is what we agreed to, and we’re sticking to it.” So, they have different ways of making it work, but they all make it work.

And this harkens back to, I think, some of what we talked about at the beginning of the interview, or in this talk, this conversation here, that it impacts everyone. So you know, it would be easy to assume that the person that’s in the male-coded role would have more privilege and wouldn’t want to necessarily even that out on their own accord, but that is what you’re seeing.

Absolutely. There’s a concept called the patriarchal dividend, and Connell is the sociologist who coined that term. It’s basically like, you know, men get this dividend, this extra privilege bonus. And if you turn it away, if you don’t want that patriarchal dividend, then you’re giving something up, right? What makes you want to give up that dividend? 

The interesting thing is when I started to talk to the EP40, and I would ask them about this idea of giving something up, they really came back with sort of this very strong, no, we’re not giving anything up, and that they disagreed with that language. Not that there isn’t a dividend, just they didn’t feel like they were giving anything up. They felt like they were living the life they wanted to lead because they benefited in the end. 

It was interesting to dig down into those benefits and rewards. I would ask them what those rewards are. What are those benefits? One thing they talked about is just an incredibly wonderful relationship with their spouse. There wasn’t bitterness, there wasn’t resentment, and no one was nagging each other. Of course, there were arguments. I mean, that’s just normal. That’s life. Everyone can be a jerk once in a while. But household parity wasn’t something they ever argued about, right? They just had a really good solid relationship with their partner, really close emotional relationships with kids. 

One EP 40 had an infant. I remember talking to him, and he was walking up and down the hallway with his three-week-old on his shoulder. And then I had some who had kids in their 30s and had grandkids, and the whole continuum said, “We have great relationships with our kids.” And that’s really important to me. 

Another thing that came up over and over was that the men felt like they could really be their own selves at home, that a lot of times, men are expected to perform masculinity. They’re supposed to be the strong income generator or protector, right? The guy that holds everyone together, and they’re not supposed to show fear. They’re not supposed to show vulnerability. They’re not supposed to show uncertainty. But all the EP 40 said, “I can be my own authentic self when I’m at home.” And that is an incredibly freeing thing.

Free A Man and Woman Carrying their Daughter while Having Fun Stock Photo

Men are expected to perform masculinity. They’re supposed to be the strong income generator or protector. The guy holds everyone together, and they’re not supposed to show fear. They’re not supposed to show vulnerability. They’re not supposed to show uncertainty. But all the EP 40 said, ‘I can be my own authentic self when I’m at home.’ And that is an incredibly freeing thing.”

No kidding. I’m like, what great modeling and living in a different frame here. I mean, part of what you were initially speaking about the patriarchal dividend it’s like the math, right? It’s a whole different equation. And the math doesn’t add up, and the old paradigm and power over its being in a relationship. It’s a whole different. It’s not the same math. What comes from that is almost like people win more. It’s a different equation. And so, I love that you have real research and example as an expression of that.

One of the men I interviewed, his current partner, is his third wife. He said, “You know, I have this really great comparison because my first two wives wanted me to be someone that I wasn’t. My first wife, we got married really young.” He said, “I was in a gang, and she wanted me to be this tough gangster. I’m not a tough gangster. And so, that was horrible because I was constantly pretending to be something I wasn’t.” 

His second partner. He’s Black, and she was White. And he said, “I had to play a role around her and her family that was really hard for me.” And he said, “I know it works for a lot of people.” He said, “It did not work for me, and it was hard for us. And again, I had to pretend to be someone that I wasn’t.” 

And so, his third and final partner, who he was with when I talked to him, and they’re still together, you know, he said, “This is different. This feels very different than my past relationships, and it feels so much better.”

Wow. How liberating, how empowering and freeing and authentic to be able to relate to the essence of each person and how they’re relating to one another. I love that you’re able to crack the code on some of this.

Yeah. I mean, I think we all have to posture. I mean, we posture maybe in a work environment or in a neighborhood or, I don’t know. There are always places in our lives where we can’t be authentic. Presumably, a lot of us have that experience. But you don’t want to have to do that in your home. Right? You want that to be like a safe place that you can come back to and just be accepted for who you are. It wasn’t really until I interviewed the EP40 that I understood how important that was.

Well, I am going to put the link on today’s show notes and make sure that everybody has easy access to Equal Partners, the book you wrote. I’m curious before we transition out here. Is there anything you want to say that we haven’t talked about?

Oh, gosh. I mean, I could go on. I’m sure you could for hours. I would just say that I think that being a supporter of gender equality is something that all of us have the power to do. The policies are great, and a lot of us are advocates or decision makers for policies that are going to help equal partnership. For example, a childcare structure or paid leave for all.

I mean, there are policies that would definitely support the equal partnership. But in the meantime, while we’re waiting for those to happen, which could take a long time, I think it’s empowering to know that there’s something that we can do in our lives every day, whether it’s today and tomorrow or next week, that whether it’s in your own relationship or supporting relationships for others. I think that there’s a lot that we have the power to do. And that is gratifying.

And thank you again for laying out some of the terrains and having walked and really helped carve a path for people that maybe haven’t encountered this work as much.

Well, thank you so much for having me on and allowing me to have this conversation with you.

Yes. And Kate, how do people get in touch with you? Or what would you like to invite people to connect more with?

I tried to stay updated on all of my events on my website, which is just www.KateMangino.com. I have a Gmail address, [email protected] if you want to get in touch with me. And I’m active on Twitter. My handle is @ManginoKate.

Nice. And what might people find on your website?

I have information about my consulting work, which we haven’t talked about, but that’s my international development work. I have all of the media, podcasts, writing, current projects, and upcoming events that you can be part of. So just try to keep updated on everything that I’m doing right now. If you’re interested in a future event, you’re interested in asking a question or being part of a conversation, that would be a great place to go.

And it does sound like this is largely what you’re inviting on more of a collective scale that if we can be engaging with some of this material that what you’re presenting and how you’re giving language and articulating that this can help us up-level our conversations and our home.

Absolutely. I love to hear sort of how people are using the book and what entry points they’re finding in their own life. And if you stumble upon something, if you get stuck, if you want to ask a question, I love talking through barriers because we all come across challenges, and if you don’t talk it out with friends and colleagues, you know that’s how we move forward.

Safe Place and a bit of a hub to be able to feel supported. Yes. Well, again, thank you so much for joining us here today. I’m deeply honored for your sharing.

Thank you so much for having me.

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