Josh struck a nerve with his post on Friday, Comical Misandry and the Involved Father; How Not to Screw up the Conversation About the Modern Dad. The piece was picked up by one of our favorite websites, The Good Men Project, and it was spread far and wide on the various intertubes. Lisa Duggan, co-founder of the terrific new website, The Parent du Jour, sent in this thoughtful response and agreed to let us post it here.
This is my husband, Frank Linkh, responding:
My wife made me look at this video; she was clearly annoyed by it. But I just thought it was a case of the media controlling the message. This is not a format for serious discourse — we know at a glance that this is going to be a “catty chat.” Adam is in on the joke, and he’s not going to break form. So be it.
I’m not mad, I’m amused. Men can’t handle logistics? Step off, sister. We mastered logistics long ago — so we could have our many, intercontinental wars.
I agree with my husband, everyone here is sticking to a pre-determined script. Adam too, which I think is unfortunate, because he’s selling himself, and the involved-dad community he’s part of, short. One listen to Adam & Josh Becker’s Late Night Parent Show will reveal how important parenting is to them both. They may not take themselves seriously, but they do take their jobs as fathers seriously.
Like many contemporary dads, neither one of these men need or asks their wife’s permission to have a relationship with their kids.
Amy and Victoria’s remarks remind me of the way other women spoke to me when I first had my daughter and was staying home with her. A derogatory remark made about their husband, or dads in general, followed by a knowing sigh or eye-roll.
I was supposed to nod and sigh in agreement, and at first, I did. But eventually, I stopped. I realized that it was only natural that I was better at taking care of Alice—not natural, as in biologically predetermined—but as in you can’t become good at something you never get a chance to practice. I spent way more time with Alice than Frank did, therefore I knew her better and was better at being her parent.
I decided that the only way Frank would become as ‘good’ a parent was for me to get out of his way. So when Alice was two I took a trip to see a friend in Chicago. Nobody died. I learned that my husband and I were interchangeable as parents.
That wasn’t easy for me to accept, but the alternative was a life of owning the entire responsibility for her emotional health and physical well-being, along with a lifetime of resentment against my husband for not knowing her as well. We differ in style, yes, but we’re both equally able to take care of Alice. The bond he and my daughter made that weekend continues.
Perpetuating stereotypes may be comforting—it’s easier to assign blame to a group, rather than deal with individuals—and it certainly makes great TV.
But we’ll never move the cause of women’s equality —or the equality of all people—ahead if we continue to perpetuate and promote negative stereotypes about fathers and men. Would iVillage have aired a show whose topic portrayed women in a negative, stereotypical light? (Like, “Stay-at-home-Mothers: How Much of Their Husband’s Money Can They Spend?”.)
Here’s something else. When I became a mother just eight years ago, staying at home was still predominantly a woman’s game, even in our “progressive” community. After a lifetime of working alongside both women and men, I was suddenly, almost exclusively, surrounded by women. At the store, at school, in Starbucks. I was soaking in estrogen. My friend Betsy called it mommy-world.
It was a lopsided world. I missed my male friends and colleagues. I didn’t understand why, once I became a parent, these men — who were funny, smart, competent and great to work and play with — had become the enemy. I thought it was sad that more of them couldn’t follow me home; we would have had a ball together, tackling the challenges of parenthood, just as we once worked together to get a newspaper out.
I’m glad to observe that more and more men are able and choosing to stay home, either part-time or full-time and that even those that work traditional full-time jobs are intimately, actively, involved with their kids’ lives. In fact, my current business partner is a stay-at-home father of three. (He tells his story on our new website.)
It’s great to be able to talk openly to both men and women about being a parent. There are so many benefits to having a variety of points of view at hand; more resources and more solutions. Chief among them is how it frees women to excel and engage in other areas, and to not exclusively shoulder the blame when the kids turn out bad, too.
If I could, I’d tell Amy and Victoria and the rest of the iVillage to take another look at their husbands, and the fathers they know. Are they really that one-dimensional, or does it serve you to continue to think of them that way? I’d ask them to think about the example they are setting for their little boys when they speak about dads in this way. If you start with the notion that boys are less equipped for parenting, you’ll raise them to fulfill that promise.