Men and Women: Complementary, Not Competitive


One day in high school, a friend of mine didn’t dress for PE. I asked her what was the matter, and she pointed out that it was “that time of the month.” Oh. Hmmm … I had one of those every month, too, but it never really altered what I did from day to day. I mean, I cannot even imagine his reply if I’d have said to my dad on one of those 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls, “Oh, I’m sorry. I cannot go out and milk the cows this morning because it’s ‘that time of the month.’ Seriously?

Okay, I know I’ve gone on and on about my farm-girl life on Ricochet. But, it was the only life I knew, and it totally shaped everything I was, and am, and will be. For instance: I just didn’t understand the Women’s Rights movement when it began to rock the world as I was becoming a woman myself. I didn’t know that women needed to be liberated. I, personally, didn’t know any oppressed women.

It may have been my naivete or my small world, but most of the women I knew were pretty much equal in power and status to the men I knew. Some of these women had a paying job — they worked in town in a business, or they were a teacher, or they owned their own business (hairdresser, piano teacher) or were nurses. The rest of the women in my world, including my own mother, were equal to the men in their lives because they were married to a farmer.

My mother graduated from high school, attended business college, and then worked as a secretary in a nearby city during WWII while she wrote letters to my dad, who was a Navy radioman on an island in the Pacific. He used to say that he “listened to the war.” When the war ended, they were married, and within six months of their wedding, they had returned to our isolated mountain valley to be farmers. They loved it — both the valley and the farming!

My mom milked the cows each night, drove machinery, maintained her chicken coop of 100 hens, sold the eggs, cooked all the meals, did all the laundry, gave birth to eight children, and kept our house neat and clean. No, I do not know how she did this. My dad was also as busy: irrigating, milking in the morning, and growing and harvesting the crops. In winter, he was feeding the animals the hay they’d stacked up during the summer, driving a school bus (so they could have health insurance as a district employee) and maintaining the buildings, fences, and, and … I can’t even tell you all the jobs!

The idea that I would beg off doing my chores because I was having “that time of the month” never even crossed my mind. I watched my mother milk cows when she was nine months pregnant. I know that my dad didn’t necessarily want her doing that, but she did it because he had other things to do that she couldn’t do in that condition. I’m sure she was delighted that, for the youngest four children, she no longer had to milk cows because we older daughters were perfectly capable of doing it without her by then.

Neither of my parents was The Boss. They both were. They worked together. My mother kept the books. My dad made fudge or oyster stew sometimes. My dad and we children did the branding each spring. My mother oversaw the done-with-laying hen “harvest” — two days of chopping off heads, plucking out feathers, and removing innards so that she could cook the birds and preserve the meat and broth in Mason jars. Or, in the case of the young heavy breeds she raised each year — get put away whole in the freezer for a roast chicken dinner in the middle of winter.

My husband has always appreciated that I was raised in a world of competency. I was not a little delicate flower that he had to care for. His family had a cattle ranch, so he didn’t know many delicate little female flowers. Neither of us wanted to stay forever in that valley, so we left for other adventures. That was 45 years, five children, four states, and several careers ago. We work together. He has skills that I don’t have. I have skills that he doesn’t have. Some of them are totally related to our genders, I’m convinced. But, I hope we’ve raised our children to understand that, just because men and women aren’t the same, there isn’t a list that is gender specific. You just work hard and do what you can, and don’t let other people’s notions of limits keep you in a box.

There are 12 comments.

  1. PHCheese Member

    You go girl!!

    • #1
    • April 19, 2019, at 6:42 PM PDT
  2. Doug Watt Member

    A like is not enough for this post. Nothing wrong with shedding a tear, or two when life is tough. Whining is a different matter.

    • #2
    • April 19, 2019, at 7:34 PM PDT
  3. JustmeinAZ Member

    Hear, hear!

    • #3
    • April 19, 2019, at 10:33 PM PDT
  4. KentForrester Coolidge

    Wonderful post, Cowgirl. You’re my ideal writer: lucid, insightful, amazing language facility, unpretentious, mature diction. Just wonderful.

    Ricochet is a home for writers because we have good readers.

    • #4
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:09 AM PDT
  5. I Walton Member

    Thank you.

    • #5
    • April 20, 2019, at 7:35 AM PDT
  6. Juliana Member

    Cow Girl:

    … just because men and women aren’t the same, there isn’t a list that is gender specific. You just work hard and do what you can, and don’t let other people’s notions of limits keep you in a box.

    I believe this was one of the main premises of the early women’s movement. The above just made sense to me and I didn’t understand what all the hubbub was about, or why I should now hate men. I was kinda/sorta on board with the anti-women’s movement in the mid-70’s (the ones who were ok with being feminine and being wives and mothers) until Phyllis Schlafly and her minions started baking bread and taking it to the Illinois legislature, with the understanding that the place for women was in the home. Soon after all that publicity she went to law school and became what she had been railing against. The hypocrisy annoyed me and I never again listened to a thing she said. I decided then to just live my life the way it made sense to me, in loving conjunction with my husband and children. Even with the roller coaster ride that has been my life, I’m sure I’ve had more peace than the screaming mimi’s on both sides that always are dissatisfied and claim to be some sort of victim.


    • #6
    • April 20, 2019, at 10:14 AM PDT
  7. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl Post author

    Juliana (View Comment):
    I was kinda/sorta on board with the anti-women’s movement in the mid-70’s (the ones who were ok with being feminine and being wives and mothers)

    I went back to college when I was in my late 30’s so I could have a “real” job to help finance that super expensive time of our lives when the children were all teens. I was in a women’s studies class (required) with the rest of the students who were just out of high school. The teacher was a semi-famous Women’s Lib celebrity, and she had her first child a couple of years before; we were within a couple of years of each other in age. One day, the younger students started talking about how the women’s movement was all about choice: you could go for a career, or you could be a stay-home mom. I objected, and pointed out that when I was newly married, (at the time I was in the class I was probably 40) that it was considered “wrong” to stay home and take care of your own children, and depend on your husband’s income. The girls all turned on me and disclaimed my assertion. Then, they looked to the instructor. And…she said, “No, she’s right. We did that. We did say that the only thing was to go out and get a career. And I’m sorry for that. It wasn’t right.” Or something that meant all of that–I wish I had a recording. It was amazing!! I got an apology from a Women’s Lib leader for being dissed by The Movement for choosing to stay home and raise my children. Cool…

    • #7
    • April 20, 2019, at 10:40 AM PDT
  8. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl Post author

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Cowgirl. You’re my ideal writer: lucid, insightful, amazing language facility, unpretentious, mature diction. Just wonderful.

    Whoa! That is a major compliment from a person who studied and taught literature. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I do love to write.

    • #8
    • April 20, 2019, at 10:42 AM PDT
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    I just want to know—did you tell her to cowgirl up?

    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the April 2019 Group Writing Theme: Men and Women. There are plenty of dates still available. Tell us about your favorite couple, witty or tragic observations between the sexes, or perhaps the battles and truces. Or do something entirely different. Maybe a musical or dance post! Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    May’s theme will be blossom midway through April’s showers.

    • #9
    • April 20, 2019, at 5:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Profile Photo Member

    I seem to have read someplace a while ago that way, way back in the day before a majority of women could afford to “stay at home” and bake cookies in the modern middle class sense, women did and were expected to do chores alongside men, not the same back breaking chores of men mind you, but reasonably hardworking chores nonetheless. Those times were probably tough on all concerned but women were probably ‘liberated” in the sense that they knew they were contributing to their family and were “equal’ to their men in their own way. 

    • #10
    • April 21, 2019, at 8:47 AM PDT
  11. The Reticulator Member

    In Elisabeth Wayland Barber’s book, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, it is explained that in early societies, such as those 20,000 years ago, women’s roles were constrained to things they could do while tending children. (I doubt this insight was original with her, but she explains it clearly.) Spinning and weaving was something that fit the bill, so that became women’s work. In many early societies, agriculture was women’s work, because tending the fields was compatible with watching children.

    Barber’s book doesn’t mention Native American societies of my part of North America, but there, too, agriculture was done on a moderately large scale. It was a social activity undertaken by women with their young children nearby. Men would help, too, rather than have the family go hungry, but a high status woman was one who didn’t need her husband’s help, and who let him take care of other demanding business such as hunting and the killing of enemies, where it was not helpful to watch after children at the same time.

    Later, in societies where animal-powered agriculture was developed, it was not so compatible with watching children and it also required more brute strength, so it became men’s work. But there was plenty of spinning and weaving to do, so that was women’s work for a long time.

    When I was growing up, different subcultures were often evaluated (in judgmental fashion) according to whether women helped with field work or not, and according to which types of farm work they helped with. I knew women who enjoyed helping out with farm work, and I knew a couple of them who wanted no part of it in any form. It was something they usually worked out with their husbands. But this was in the days when a family was still an economic unit. A few years ago I asked whether L, the wife of my mother’s cousins, had grown up on a farm in the area, because I remembered seeing her all sweaty and dirty from farm work. “Oh, no, I was told. She was born and raised in Chicago, and met F (her husband) when he was at the Great Lake Training Center during the war.” And I’ve heard of many others with that kind of background who did the same in those days. It isn’t so often these days that a family operates as an economic unit, not even farm families. We don’t need each other like we used to.

    • #11
    • April 21, 2019, at 11:16 AM PDT
  12. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    What a great way to grow up, Cow Girl. I really never get tired of reading your detailed descriptions of a life style that these days is more and more extra ordinary.

    How parents treat their daughters in terms of their abilities and their place in the world is a gift or a detriment. My mom grew up in such a tiny town in Northern Minnesota that all the kids were needed on the local school’s hockey team. So although she wanted me to be the total girlie girl, she couldn’t protest my playing sand lot football with any vehemence.

    My dad’s mom was a phone operator back in the Nineteen Teens. So he felt women were essential to the work place and that they should do whatever work they were capable of and that they felt would be fulfilling. He never allowed for any discussion of “Women just don’t do that.”

    The one big hole in my childhood was that my mother’s mom was killed by horses when my mom was only four. So I was never allowed to ride horses.

    I made up for that by learning to drive cars from an aspiring race car driver. All things considered, my mom would probably have had fewer worries if she’d given me the childhood summers at the camps with horse riding lessons that my girlfriends experienced.

    • #12
    • April 22, 2019, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • 1 like