Author Jennifer Senior recently wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about men and women and how they experience time differently when raising children (More about how women experience it naturally). Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the article there is one phrase which I would like to point out that we think perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with her writing.
“It’s important to remember that fairness isn’t just about absolute equality. It’s about the perception of equality.”
Let’s pause a minute here so that phrase can actually sink in fully.
“It’s important to remember that fairness isn’t just about absolute equality. It’s about the perception of equality. “
Oh yeah, I’ll get to that in a minute.
One of the issues straight from the start is that Ms. Senior makes the point that even though men and women work the same number of hours on average, that not all hours and work are the same. Which is true as far as it goes and it’s good of her to point that out. However she then proceeds to go on for several paragraphs discussing only about womens work and how it is, apparently, much more stressful than mens.
Where the problem occurs in this is that at no point does she actually address the work that men do. She goes into great detail about how the childcare work done by women is stressful and harsh on them, but never compares it to the work done by men so that we can judge for ourselves which is the more difficult task. Male jobs are commonly jobs that involve heavy labour or high-risk actions. Is having to look after a six year old all day really more stressful than hauling building materials around a construction site? Is getting your son to swimming practice on time a more stressful environment than managing a business? We don’t know because these possibilities are never even remotely addressed by her.
Because, as she says, it’s all about perception.
So according to this chick, it doesn’t matter if things are actually equal. All that matters is whether or not women think that they’re equal. Most of those reading this who’s brains haven’t atrophied have already likely asked the most important question to this. If it’s simply about perception then where does it stop? There’s no limit to inequality if all it takes is for someone to feel as though things aren’t fair. Humans ALWAYS think things are unfair with regards to ourselves. That’s why we’re such a collection of ambulatory assholes. We’re all convinced that we’re getting a raw deal, no matter how good we have it. This is why we have a culture full of rich pricks who complain about having to actually pay more taxes than the former mexican doctor, turned immigrant gardener who’s mowing their hedges.
I could be spending my days lounging around in a hammock with my every need attended to by asian slave-girls in Princess Leia bikinis. Hand-fed grapes from their cleavage, while a big-breasted Nordic goddess sponges my body clean to remove the dirt (because getting up and bathing is just sooooooo tiring). Then lie back and play the newest Ratchet and Clank game while fanned and given the most sumptuous blow job ever known to man. And I would still be like, “I actually have to chew my own grapes and push these controllers buttons on my own?What the Fuck?!”
Ok, admittedly I got sidetracked a bit.
Yes…….just a bit.
The point that I was trying to get across is that life is always unfair when you don’t have to answer to things like, facts and reality.
Interestingly there comes a point just before that where she makes note of a woman who supposedly told her that her husband says she causes a lot of the stress and worry which she faces unnecessarily. Which is actually a very good possibility to point out, which is suspiciously untouched by Ms. Senior. After all, what if this true? What if the way certain mothers do things around the house are to blame for their own stress?
Apparently we are not permitted to ask that question. Though it does not look like she intends it either.
It’s no secret that women are more naturally inclined to be excitable than men. More inclined to be hyper-sensitive to the emotions and goings on of the children. You see this especially in new mothers who worry and fret over every aspect of the child because everything is new to them and they are terrified of the fact that they are now responsible for a life. Compare this to the mother who has already been around the block a time or two and knows that not every time the baby cries it’s because something is wrong. In our own case, we were raised by our grandmother. While the act of raising a child on her own was doubtless flowers and candy at all moments, she had already been through it so many times by the time we had come along it was a relatively stress free experience for her. She knew to pick battles, what to worry about and what not to worry about, that you don’t always have to drop whatever you’re doing to attend to every little thing that a child does or wants, etc.
Even when she was raising our little sisters alongside us for a time, my grandmother was a fantastic parent. A feat she managed by her own devices. Now, I am not saying that every mother should be like her, my point is merely to illustrate that one of the problems might really be the way that some women are approaching the jobs that is the real cause of the stress. It’s natural for mothers, especially young ones, to stress over all of these new responsibilities which they now have, but perhaps part of the problem really can be solved by a mother changing her methods. If so then Mrs. Senior does the mothers she’s speaking about a disservice by ignoring that possibility in her haste to place all of the responsibility on the husbands.
There’s also the matter of whether the wife actually even lets the husband help out in the first place. It’s a process referred to as “gatekeeping” in psychological terms. Simply put, gatekeeping is when one parent limits the others involvement with children or chores by putting obstacles in his way. One example of this is by asking him to do chores around the house, and then criticizing or bitching about the way he does them.
To give an example from our own life, as the other me said we were raised by our grandmother. As we got older and more independent we would often be asked to do things like the dishes, or the cleaning. As much as it sucked for us we would go and do them and put in the effort. Without fail though, Granny would always notice what we were doing and then tell us how we should be doing it. Sometimes her advice was good, but more often then not it was clearly irrelevant to the quality of the end result. It was just a matter of style as opposed to function. She wanted me to do things, but only her particular way. So I did what any other young teenage guy would do. I threw up my hands and said “Fuck this, you do it then.”
Which is a pattern that was repeated over and over, and eventually had a lasting effect on me. I would never cook or do any housework while my Gran was at home or awake. Which meant she ended up doing most of it, even though I could have been helping, just because I couldn’t stand the hassle of that nagging.
This is an example of the pattern found with women who “gatekeep”. They constantly criticize anytime the husband tries to do the housework or look after the kids when he doesn’t do it their way. Or they come along and redo a task that the husband just finished. They demean or undermine the fathers authority to the kids (every kid knows to run to mommy when in trouble cause she’s the easy touch). Looking over his shoulder while he works and delegating all of the household tasks.. So husbands do what I did to my grandmother. They throw up their arms and say “Fuck this, you do it then.”
Studies done into the process of gatekeeping show that simply encouraging the father to actually do things and encouraging and supporting him when he wants to deal with the children goes a long way towards getting him to actually help with the housework. And I mean real studies, not the stuff that Jenny is pulling from the stygian nether-depths of her puckered-
Yeah, yeah sorry. Anyways keep in mind that gatekeeping isn’t just a matter of your wife being bitchy or mean. It’s simply an emotional reaction that likely has no malice behind it, if she’s even aware that it’s happening. Of course this doesn’t exist for Jenny. It’s just guys fault.
Maybe women who feel like they’re doing all the housework should stop and seriously ask themselves why it is they feel that way. Is it true, or just a matter of your own emotions? If it is true then why? Maybe you should talk to your husband like a human being and see how he feels, rather than listen to people like Jenny who tell you that you’re not responsible and all you have to do is get hubby to do more of the work for you.
But alas, that is only a madman’s dream.