I have never been in a position where I felt I needed to identify or characterise myself as a feminist. However, I do know how fortunate I am to live in a social environment where I feel equal. And if pushed by commentary or controversy, without hesitation I would thank all those women before me who fought for gender equality and gave me the life of options and equality I so readily enjoy today.
Realistically…. if it weren’t for the successes gained from the feminist movement, I would not have the voice that I do, to air my thoughts and opinions about a person’s right to sleep where they want every night to avoid a disruptive partner.
In my reading, research and general consuming interest in sleep and sleep choices, a topic often discussed is gender and sleep. In this space, and adding separate sleeping to the discussion, there’s a topic that’s a bit challenging. (Well, I find it challenging and worked hard to present the facts about gender and sleep in a non-judgmental way when writing my book.)
The topic of which I speak is that IN GENERAL men are more disruptive to share a bed with than women. It’s a fact. It’s backed by clinical research. It’s not MY opinion.
Henceforth my argument/justification/sharing of the facts about men and their sleep behaviours
A 2007 study titled Sex differences in the reactions to sleeping in pairs versus sleeping alone in humans reported more discernible differences in the impact men have on women when they share a bed (apologies, but I cannot link to the contents of the study itself – you will need access to a site such as a university, or similar professional library).
Also, here are some links (not the only ones – there are more if you want to spend a little more time on Google) to support that:
- men tend to snore more than women. National Sleep Foundation Exploring Snoring SnoreStop
- men move around in bed more than women. Reported Research
- men sleep deeper than women and fall asleep faster Best Health
AND YES! There are women who keep men awake due to their snoring, movement, teeth grinding, television watching habits etc, etc. In fact, the loudest recorded snorer recorded to date is an English woman named Jenny Chapman.
So I do not think, for one remote or rarefied moment, that women are squeaky clean or free of sleep-deprivation blame when it comes to bed sharing.
However, I have often engaged in many robust discussions with members of both sexes about separate sleeping and can report that MOSTLY (but not always), men want to sleep with their female partner and females would like a bed to themselves because they are kept awake by their male partner.
(AND I DO feel qualified to say this as I have spoken to in excess of 60 couples and so many individuals about sleeping together and apart, I have lost count.)
Now back to why feminism and separate sleeping are dancing around the boxing ring, sizing each other up
The issues of feminism and separate sleeping ran head long into each other in a recent HuffingtonPost article written by Helen Croydon and titled “Snoring is a feminist issue”. The piece attracted a vicious response and I was caught up in said viciousness, accused of being a ‘man hater’. Not happy about that! I kind of like men. I kind of really like my husband.
I agree with Helen Croydon’s observations in the article. In fact, I think the piece was a good read, somewhat entertaining, and simply truthful.
However, those choosing to leave comments didn’t agree. I genuinely couldn’t get my head around the backlash. It was disproportionate to the opinion being shared. This wasn’t a ‘man bashing’ or ‘man hating’ article, it just illuminated a gender difference. Men disrupt more in bed than women. It’s just the same as pointing out that:
- IN GENERAL men are physically stronger than women
- IN GENERAL men are taller than women
- IN GENERAL women are more nuturing than men
- IN GENERAL women are more inclined to show their emotions than men
The point is – there are generalisations. We know they aren’t a complete or completely accurate picture of a group or individual, but generalisations ARE generalisations, because there is some truth in them.
As well as the research about disruptive sleep behaviours presenting more in males, there is ‘Part 2‘ of the problem, which is the social pressure for couples to share a bed to show that they are…… a couple (insert infuriating noise). I’ve written much about our socialised ways of proving we’re in a successful, functioning relationship – and one of these is to share a bed. And the greater portion of the social pressure to share a bed falls on the shoulders of women.
Research by Jenny Hislop and Sara Arber (UK) show that women are more inclined to sacrifice their sleep for the sake of continuing to share a bed with their partner. I wrote about in more detail on RoleReboot – please, take a read for further enlightenment (but be gentle with me…. I didn’t choose the title!!!!).
Simply, the fact that women are more disturbed in bed each night by their male partner is simply THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM. It’s not a feminist rant.
So am I a nasty, chest-beating feminist who hates men because I am standing up for the sleep deprived folk of the world – the majority of whom just happen to be women?
I don’t believe so.
It’s easy to dismiss an uncomfortable truth with a cheap ‘slap down’ (in this case ‘man hating’) – and I think this happened to Helen Croydon (and then to me in comments).
Serendipitously, I can across this video commentary on Upworthy while writing this piece. It’s another opinion piece that discusses an issue faced IN GENERAL by women, rather than men, and how this issue sits with a feminist label. I think Steve (the commentator) does a great job at capturing the ‘uncomfortable truth’ about another issue that faces mainly women, and says “we just have to accept that this situation places women at a disadvantage more so than men”.
As a society I think we are fooling ourselves if we think that gender equality will ever be truly attained. I believe the problem with attaining this is that:
- women and men and fundamentally different creatures – physically, emotionally, physiologically
- not everyone’s definition of equality is the same
- not everyone wants complete equality
- cultural/social changes will always impact on how we perceive ourselves, our relationships and our society
What I do believe very strongly is that EVERYONE, regardless of gender should have the choice to determine their ‘life’. And these choices shouldn’t be constrained because of perceived or enforced behaviours that are dictated by a society’s definition of gender-based behaviour.
If that makes me a feminist then so be it.
HOWEVER, I have the same passionate belief that men who have a disruptive partner should be able to sleep separately without judgement or guilt. So if that makes me a masculanist – then so be it too.
Personally, I’ll label my self as a healthysleepist. That’s sure to catch on.
(Itch is scratched.)