There are often culture wars between the north and south in the U.S. in ways that can’t be anticipated. But Redditor u/southernculturetw really didn’t anticipate having one in her own marriage. Her southern husband seems to have turned into another person overnight, and he’s blaming it on “culture.”
She asks in her post on r/AmItheA**hole, “AITA for telling my husband that his culture is garbage and I won’t ‘compromise’ by incorporating it into our family life?”
She says they currently live in the northeast of the U.S., where she was born and raised (though she says elsewhere she lived in the south for a while and is familiar with it).
Her husband John has been there for a number of years and recently his parents and his childhood best friend Dan moved north with his wife as well. For the first time since the pandemic, the group of them got to meet, having a “distanced picnic” at the OP’s house.
John sat down 2-3 minutes after I did, as he was settling our kid into his pen in the yard with us. Dan and my FIL immediately started to “jokingly” rip on him for being “whipped” and doing “my” job of parenting our child while he was supposed to be “allowed” to just catch up with the two other men. I was trying to politely deflect when it turned to how “mean” I was for not “fixing him a plate” and serving him before serving myself. (If I thought a certain dish would run out before he got to it, or if he had asked me to, I of course would have!) Dan and FIL continued to brag about how their families “do it right”, where they handle the “outside chores” while their wives handle the “inside chores” (including the care of Dan and his wife’s two children). I think it’s important to note here that both currently live in rented condos that by their nature do not have “outdoor chores”, and both their wives have always worked full time, as I do.
Emphasis hers, not mine. The convo sort of set the tone for the meal. Soon after, John went for a walk with Dan and his dad, leaving the clean up to the OP as well as the responsibility of looking after their kid. And when he got back things got worse:
I expected John to apologize when he returned hours later, but instead HE got at ME for “making [him] look bad” in front of his friend and dad. He brought up how “a traditional division of labor” is “a huge part of southern culture”, and how I was being “disrespectful” to his background by “forcing northern culture” onto him and his family. He said he’s been building up a lot of “resentment” the past few months that I “make” him do half the chores and childcare, since in his “culture”, women do the chores and hands-on childcare, and men do the fun parenting, the discipline, mow the grass, and bring in the cars for oil changes when need
The OP says she was really stunned and ultimately told him exactly what she thought about “southern culture”:
I saw how “southern hospitality” is reserved only for those in your in-group. Deviate from the norm–be queer, non-Christian, a POC, a liberal, a non-traditional woman–and they turn on you viciously. Does every single person act like that always? No. But it’s the culture.
John is livid and says his “culture” is just as valid as that of other global regions, religions, and ethnic groups, so I am the bigot by not “compromising” with him here and incorporating aspects of his culture into our family life the way I would if his “culture” was “Islamic or Asian or whatnot”.
The OP doesn’t even end her post by asking if she’s the a**hole, maybe because she obviously isn’t. Just in case it needs to be said, lots of folks from the south chimed in to say that this is not what “southern culture” means.
A bunch of them also pointed out how this gendered division of labor was based on a very different set up than what we have in modern times.
In the 1950s, a man could work full-time outside the home and earn enough to support a stay at home mom. I’d still say a woman doing all the housekeeping and child-rearing is an unfair division of labor in a family, but the OP works full-time, too!
And if you were to take it even further back to the actual rural life of pre-industrial farmers, “outdoor chores” meant a whole lot more than mowing the dang lawn. If you’re not out in the field all day, what exactly are you doing that’s keeping you too busy to vacuum on the weekend?
I don’t see how this issue will resolve itself when it only takes an hour of time with his dad and buddy to undo all of his history as a parent and household partner. Maybe start with no more “distance picnics” and see if the pandemic helps.