Man for the field and woman for the hearth:I first came across this when I was nineteen or twenty years old--in a later British literature class taught by a radical (though not man-hating) feminist. So, of course, I was horribly offended by the implications that I wasn't fully as capable as any man.
Man for the sword and for the needle she:
Man with the head and woman with the heart:
Man to command and woman to obey;
All else confusion. --Tennyson, The Princess, Canto V
As I have grown up, graduated college (and grad school), married, and had children, my reactions to it have...changed. I don't read that stanza and automatically think "BULLSHIT!" Not any more. Not when I am half the size of most men, maybe a third of the physical strength (especially upper body), and prone, despite my best efforts, of going with my gut rather than my logic.
Yes, I am fully as intelligent as any man I have ever met (and smarter than some, even if I have less formal education than others). I am as good a shot. I am a better teacher than most of the men in the English department where I work.
Yet...yet. Yet, I'd rather not have to worry about scheduling my classes around what's in my husband's and children's best interests, wondering if splitting my time and attention--even if for as little time as I do--isn't doing them a disservice. I'd rather have all of my time, attention, and energy focused on my home, my children, and my husband (with writing and publishing being an exception to that).
I do handle the household budgeting, but I'm not the final decision maker on any of it. Odysseus is the one in charge--and that's the way I like it. I am his back up. I am in charge of the kids, and he is my backup on that.
The funny thing is that, were it not for spending all of my time in the campus library (I teach in the fourth floor classroom, and hold my office hours either there or in the coffee shop), my colleagues--feminists, all--would try to convince me that I'm wrong for feeling this way, for being happy in this, and would do their best to apply peer pressure to bring me back into line.* And the funny thing about that is that these women pat themselves on the back in self-congratulation for being such advocates for women's free choice...to rejoin the work force, since that's the only choice which fits their agenda.
But having that as the only acceptable choice is equal to giving women no choice whatsoever...the very thing they claim to fight against.
Judging by the numbers of college educated women with a masters' degree or higher leaving the work force to care for their families, I am not alone in my preferences. Nor am I alone in having the intestinal fortitude to tell feminism to go fly a kite.
However, I, and those like me who've chosen to focus their energy on their family, tend to be in their late twenties, at the youngest. We're adults. We've learned that those who tell us what we should be doing don't necessarily have our best interests in mind.
I think that the way this poem is taught--just this excerpt--by the people that teach it--radical feminists--is doing all young women a severe disservice. It's really the root of all the depression and unhappiness in middle-class women: that feeling that they're in the wrong place, and that they're wrong to want to be in the place women are designed--by God, or simply by biological evolution, whichever you'd prefer to blame.
*Peer pressure has never worked on me, and frequently makes the peers that try uncomfortable when it only makes me laugh in their faces.