Friday, May 26, 2017

Does Your Partner’s Gender Affect Your Art?

Some time ago I asked online how people felt gender roles played into the amount of support shown for their artistic endeavors. The question came from some anecdotes by other writers and the different ways their partners encouraged and helped them. Or didn’t.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how much emphasis men tend to put on finances. Even when they’re saying, “I don’t write for the money!” it’s obviously on their mind. Women can share this sentiment, but typically in a very pragmatic sense. “Stop pirating my books! I need to pay the light bill!”

Men are more likely to ask me how much I make from my artwork and writing. They are more likely to ask why I’m doing it when I reveal that I’m not getting a profit from a project (like the literary journal I ran for five years). They are also more likely to worry about being successful in a monetary sense, or ostentatiously reject the importance success in a monetary sense. Many guys will be the first to say they will feel like failures if they’re not making enough money period where women are more likely to evaluate their credibility via other means. Men, it seems to be agreed, feel an intense pressure to be business savvy.

This has two outcomes. I find that male writers tend to be more polar in their success. They tend to push themselves harder and end up with more to show… or they quit completely.
There are far, far more female novelists than male. For one thing, men tend to be drawn towards screenwriting over books, it seems. I imagine this is possibly because of the higher rewards, also possibly because men tend to be more visual. But I also have noted, anecdotally, that male peers are more likely to disappear off the face of the earth. They are also more likely to go balls to the wall, submit, publish, and self-promote in a speedier and more aggressive time-frame. Women are more likely to grow slowly and keep at it. They are more likely to continue their career for many years despite not yielding huge rewards.

These are all generalizations, of course, nothing you can count on. But it does beg the question of how much gender plays a role in your morale. I started to hear stories from men who were mostly worried about how their writing career couldn’t sustain a family, what would they do if they couldn’t make it? Male writers seemed to be on their own, not considering the possibility their wife could do the heavy lifting financially.

When I wrote about a woman who didn’t like her boyfriend’s work, I received a response from an older man who suggested she should just break up with him. The blog described her confusion about how to handle his decision to pursue his dreams when he wasn’t that good of a cartoonist. He had some savings, they were completely financially independent of each other, and he was going to really try to make it work. My thoughts were that she should be supportive as long as he’s not screwing himself or her over. My older reader’s were that she shouldn’t waste her time with him.

How would it be if the genders were reversed? How many men (or women) would tell a guy to break up with a girl who decided to become a starving artist instead of an accountant?

Funnily enough, my Facebook post on gender roles did not illicit this complaint on financial support at all. All the male writers who responded interpreted it as a question of gender roles in the home, talking about how equal their household chores were, while all the female writers knew exactly what I actually meant.

While men didn’t seem to question or praise the amount of support their wives gave them, the women felt like men were disinterested in their passions or hobbies (some women went out of their way to explain, “I know it’s not that important but…”).

This was pretty accurate to the complaints I was getting beforehand. I’ve never had a boyfriend read my work. They all offered, of course, but never went through with it. My first relationship ended because we worked together on a play and he was so disrespectful I could never see him in the same light again. My last ex would correct me on things in condescending ways, like when I said that I would be finished with this one book by a certain point, he asked, “How can you be finished with something?” in order to remind me that real art is never done! You know, instead of hearing my actual point.

It’s interesting that men don’t seem to acknowledge both the amount of support or the lack of it from their partners. From what I’ve read, people of all genders often feel underappreciated for the work that they do in a relationship (it’s a major cause of divorce). I mean, a lot of the emotional maintenance that women do is pretty subtle, but why don’t men noticed when they’re not getting something that they would offer up themselves? Do they not notice? Not care? Perhaps they don't know how to identify and verbalize what's missing? Or, do they not feel they have the right to talk about it?

Over all, I do feel like the quintessential female when it comes to my boyfriend’s work. I go out of my way to read what they write, see what they’re in, help them learn lines, give feedback, encourage their enthusiastic conversation, and I haven’t yet found someone I considered to be a good team player when it came to my projects. On the other hand, up until recently, I never truly concerned myself with being broke because I figured by the time kids rolled around, we’d be a two-income household; he would likely make more money than me and my lack of business intelligence would be less relevant. Now that I’ve recognized and accepted the possibility of never getting married or having a family in that way, I’ve grown more fixated on money myself, making a living off of my work has become more important.

How much does gender play into your decision making? The expectations of your partner? From them?

I’ve learned that being around supportive and caring people can drastically alter your mental state and even your level of inspiration. Regardless of your gender, there’s a good chance that some sexist expectations are being forced on you and are truly hurting your ability to create. Financial responsibility on men or the absence of cheerleading for women are some of the biggest pratfalls of any artist’s relationship.

Does the gender of your partner affect how much support you get? Probably. Even if you’re very content with the situation, it might be useful to sit back and reflect. You might realize that they’re offering you far more than what most people would expect. If that’s the case, do something nice for them as a way to say thanks. You might realize that they’re not doing what you need and that you can, in fact, change it. You also might come to the shocking conclusion that you aren’t being as helpful as you could be, or are neglecting them unintentionally.

I’m interested in hearing more about people’s experiences. If you have a rant, an argument, or an insight, please share it! Email me at, or comment on Facebook with your experiences with your artistic endeavors and relationships.

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