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April 26, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

So Tiffany Dufu has written a book about a topic – why women can’t “have it all” – that was discussed at length in the 80s and resolved. Of course the adults among us, men and women alike, always understood the basics of everyday life and so were not a bit surprised that neither sex could devote their full time to a career plus be a full-time parent. No one’s life consists of two “full-times,” and no sensible person wishes it did.

So Dufu doesn’t just come late to the party, it’s long been over and everyone’s gone home and to bed. But here’s Dufu anyway, claiming to be a victim of an evil “society” that supposedly tells her she’s woefully deficient for failing to be fabulously successful in her career and, at the same time, “gracefully managing” her home (The Independent, 4/18/17).

I don’t know about you, but I read a lot of current-events-type articles, blogs, etc. I’ve done that for years, and never, never have I read anything to suggest that anyone anywhere faults women for doing what everyone else does, i.e. placing emphasis on one side of the work/family coin or the other. Indeed, many commentators have pointed out that society is easier on women’s choices than on men’s. Who complains about women working for pay? Who complains about their opting out of paid work to care for their kids? Oh, a few perpetually aggrieved feminists still believe that childcare by mothers is the work of Satan, but no one takes them seriously, so truly, it looks like Dufu is bemoaning a non-existent problem.

As usual with books like hers, the entire premise is that, if something’s a problem for the writer, it’s a big problem – a society-wide problem – for the rest of us as well. That sort of self-centered nonsense passes muster only with the truly weak-minded, including, yes, those who think that women don’t understand that they can’t “have it all.”

Dufu’s book is entitled “Drop the Ball.” That refers to her exhortation to women and men to drop their traditional sex roles or at least some part of them. At first I figured that meant that women should do more paid work and men more housework.

“I was on Stepford Wife auto pilot,” she explains. “There was always this disconnect that I hadn’t come to terms with, because as modern, empowered women, we don’t want to admit we are not in the driving seat of our own lives and we have succumbed to gender norms.”

But no. Apparently it just means women need to do less of everything.

Dufu decided to cultivate all her realisations about dropping the ball in a book when she noticed a pattern after all her public speaking engagements. After speaking up for the rights of women and girls on important topics like equal pay, affordable childcare and flexible working hours it would almost always end with personal questions by women in the audience, the most common one being: “How do you do it all?” She would respond time and time again with the same reply: ‘I expect far less from myself and more from my husband than the average woman.’

In case that doesn’t impress anyone, Dufu lets us know that it certainly impresses her.

“The woman [the audience] were seeing on stage was a very evolved woman – the new and improved Tiffany – after I had gone through my own struggle with figuring out how I was going to be successful in life… I’m able to have it all because I don’t do it all,” she explains.

I’m going to guess that last means something, but unfortunately I can’t guess what. Still, I’m glad to know that Dufu graciously awards herself the title of “very evolved woman.” If I ever meet her I’ll remember to go down on bended knee to make sure my head isn’t higher than hers.

This view of Dufu as simply better than the rest of us is apparently shared by her husband, Kojo.

This continued for a long period until Dufu decided to drop the ball at home, let up a lot of the micro-managing she had been doing, and call on her husband for his help in their domestic life as well as their financial life. This involved extending practises from her job into her home life. So, as she had assigned her juniors tasks at work, she later divvied up chores like cleaning the bathroom sink and vacuuming between herself and Kojo…

It’s interesting to see where the concept of gender equality applies in our VEW’s world and where it doesn’t. To her, Kojo is subordinate to her – her “junior” – who takes orders from her and doesn’t complain. Far be it for such a VEW to do anything as normal, civilized and considerate as, say, expressing her concerns to her husband, asking him what his thoughts on the subject are and trying to come to an agreement about how to meet both of their needs. No, she’s the boss and his job is to say “yes ma’am.”

Dufu wants to abandon gender roles within her little family, but, when she gets down to cases, takes on that of a patriarch.

And, speaking of equality, does her husband get to do what Dufu did, i.e. drop the ball at work in order to spend more time with his family? Nope.

In the book, she tells the story about when Kojo worked abroad in Dubai and was trying to get a job in the US partly because he missed his family. However, when he explained that he wanted to return to the US to prospective employers and peers he said it was because his wife was “nagging” him. When Dufu confronted him about it, he responded: ‘Am I supposed to tell people I miss my family? That I want to take my kids to school? That I’m tired of my toddler thinking I live in a screen through Facetime? I can’t say that.’”

Two things. First, Kojo can in fact say exactly that. He may lose his job and maybe his career if he does, but he can take that stand. If he does, he can get another job, one that fits better with his need to see his kid more. It almost certainly won’t pay as well as his present job, but he can make that sacrifice if he chooses. So his position that he “can’t” deviate from his role as resource provider is simply wrong. Plenty of men do exactly that.

Second, he apparently didn’t do that. Kojo seems to have stuck with the job that kept him working long hours and travelling excessively. But he also acceded to his wife’s demand that he do more of the cooking, cleaning, etc. So, for whatever reason, Dufu’s “dropping the ball” at home means less work for her, but more for him. She never acknowledges the fact, but her own words describe exactly that.

Both the linked-to article and apparently Dufu’s book are so bad that I haven’t yet done them justice. So, more on this tomorrow.

 

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#sexroles, #work/family balance, #feminism

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