I feel like a hillbilly who's just making his first trip to the big city - I can't believe the amazing things I'm seeing.
In this case
what I'm seeing is Andrea Doucet taking down Slate
's Hanna Rosin for her altogether blatant misandry and anti-dadism (Huffington Post
, 2/25/11). Doucet's nice about it; she's careful to list all the things she likes about Rosin's article and to list them first. But a takedown by another name smells as sweet.
Rosin, it seems, is intent on continuing the myths that, (a) while women are working and earning more than they used to, men haven't picked up the housework/childcare slack. A necessary part of (a) is (b) men are layabouts.
Now, I've written plenty about those misconceptions. The simple fact is that, from a wide variety of sources, we can learn that men and women actually do almost identical amounts of what Dr. Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics calls "productive work," i.e. behavior that's not sleeping or leisure activities.
A casual glance at the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey makes it clear - men do more paid work and women do more housework and child care, and when paid and unpaid work are combined, men and women do about the same amount.
Now, there are surveys that reach the conclusion that men do less "productive work" than do women, but they use a curious but effective way of doing so; they exclude much of what men typically do around the house.
Indeed, the National Survey of Families and Households done at the University of Wisconsin has been relied on for years to make exactly that point, and sure enough, its list of household activities included many typically performed by women and left out things like household repairs and maintenance typically performed by men. Here's
my piece on the NSFH.
If that's your approach, you can prove just about anything.
I inquired about why the NSFH survey was conducted the way it was and received a very nice reply. In a nutshell, the woman who responded said that mistakes had been made and she didn't know why that information had been excluded from the survey.
Rosin, it turns out, takes the same approach. She too is conducting a survey that's faulty in a number of ways. One is that it's entirely voluntary on the part of Slate
readers. So it surveys only a narrow demographic segment of the population and only those motivated to answer.
But more importantly,
One quick example is the way her survey defines and measures housework contributions. Rosin's survey includes only two items on housework: First, "Which of you does more housework -- tidying up, doing laundry, making beds, etc?" And, second, "Which of you does more cooking?"
So Rosin gets an accurate look at housework in all those households in which "tidying up, doing laundry, making beds, cooking, etc." is all there is to it. But in those in which yard care, auto repair and maintenance, household repair and maintenance, etc., occur, she doesn't.
Doucet cites sociologist Scott Coltrane for exactly the point I'm making.
Coltrane, an astute sociologist, looked more closely at the studies and found that they excluded what fathers did on weekends, as well as tasks such as shopping, household repair, painting and even driving children to activities and playing with them.
She then makes the obvious point that "it matters how we define and measure these things." Indeed.
What's more remarkable to me though, is the fact that these many researchers, Rosin included, so blatantly refuse to acknowledge what men tend to do around the house. Why construct studies into what activities people perform that ignore many of those activities?
Unless these researchers are just stupid, which no one suggests is the case, it's hard to rule out a misandric agenda, a desire to make men less than we are and women more.
Coincidentally, Doucet's next topic is Rosin's take on men which, unsurprisingly, is derogatory.
There are only four kinds of men mentioned in this piece. There is that slow-moving man. There is also the stay-at-home dad who gets startled looks when he is in the classroom... There are only two other men in this story: the part-time mechanic whose wife calls him a loser; and the man who spends "all her money on dress socks" while also subscribing "to every damned sports channel and why will he never clean up after himself?"
Just as an aside, I'd like to mention that the word in that paragraph that jumps out at me is "her." "The man who spends 'all her money on dress socks..." Now, just how it's possible to spend all of anyone's money on socks mystifies me, but notice how, according to Rosin, the money the woman makes is "her" money, not "their" money. It's a point of view that's worth remembering and one, I'd argue, that fits very nicely with ignoring what the man does in the way of housework and child care.
Doucet does more than criticize Rosin, which, after all, is just shooting fish in a barrel. She's been observing male-female relationships in the context of work/life balance issues for many years and what she's learned is that it's a very dynamic area that's not amenable to easy description.
Not only are men and women changing roles at least to an extent, but each encounters mixed cultural messages about what those roles are. Women are at once told that they need to work and earn equally, and that their highest calling is motherhood.
Men are simultaneously told that women can do anything men can at work, and that fathers are uninterested in and dangerous to children.
And, as people will do, men and women are negotiating the demands of earning a living, raising children and getting along with each other, all against the backdrop of those conflicting cultural messages.
It's not easy and people like Rosin, with their pre-packaged answers, don't make it any easier. As Doucet says,
What I know from my research on breadwinning mothers and caregiving fathers over the past two decades is that, while a small revolution in gender roles has occurred, men and women continue to be in a process of transition around issues of breadwinning and care.
It's a relational dance, it changes each day, each week, each year.
And an approach that pits women against men cannot get at the rich relational processes that underpin these 21st century stories, and our understanding of them.
Equality of parental rights will require equality in the workplace and neither is served by demonizing one sex or the other. Attempting to understand the behavior of each and the cultural context in which that occurs will be necessary to move us toward the type of equality of opportunity we rightly aim for. Andrea Doucet is doing her part.