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What Dads Don't Need for Father's Day
June 19, 2005 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What Dads Don't Need for Father's Day: "A team of psychologists headed by Dr. Toni Zimmerman from Colorado State University analyzed the top-selling parenting books. Using a feminist perspective, they trawled the books for hidden gender messages. In findings published earlier this year, they concluded that the two mega-best sellers, John Gray's Children Are from Heaven and Laura Schlessinger's Parenthood by Proxy: Don't Have Them If You Won't Raise Them are filled with stereotypes, formulaic advice and information that does not conform to research findings." Both books scored low in a feminist analysis of best-selling parental advice books. Kathleen Trigiani also wrote a series of essays on John Gray entitled "Out of the Cave: Exploring Gray's Anatomy".
posted by jenleigh (49 comments total)

 
No, you don't say?? Gender stereotypes and unscientifically valid but supposedly "factual" advice about parenting and gender roles from cultural conservatives?? I'm astonished!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:33 AM on June 19, 2005


Thanks for this, jenleigh. Good, thoughtful stuff for fighting back against the thoughtless stereotyping that continues to do real damage in crap pop psych books (and elsewhere in popcult land). And, Tryptophan-5ht, grow up. Stop posting the first snide crack that pops into your oh-so-cynical little head. It couldn't be more obvious you didn't bother looking at the links in question, so why are you posting?
posted by mediareport at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2005


What on earth is a "feminist analysis"?
Not trying to be snarky here, but does this simply mean that the analysis was done by feminists, or is there some methodology involved that distinguishes it from a non-feminist analysis?
posted by sour cream at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2005


sour cream: methodology.
posted by Jairus at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2005


Jairus/sour cream: I'd say starting assumptions will differ too in feminist analysis.
posted by mediareport at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2005


we went out to dinner last night (really good, at sakura fusion - turning into one of our favourite eating places in santiago) with a couple of friends. one long topic of conversation was having children, the gender roles involved, and how that affects the existing relationship between the parents.

we're pretty set against having kids, but our friends are seriously considering it. one thing they had found helpful was finding some people as role models - people who had not let children dominate their lives and had managed to find a more equitable balance of responsibilities. they really seemed to think it would be possible to have children without (1) turning into paranoid risk-averse obsessives or (2) the male partner orbiting the mother/child like some kind of distant planet. it was the first positive, hopeful conversation i've had about raising children in a long time. i really with them luck.

meanwhile, back at home, we've got one friend who was left on her own - well, apart from two children - just after the birth of her second and another couple who adopted just as the husband changed jobs - he's finding it hard going and she's saying things like "well, i've always got my baby". what a mess.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:04 PM on June 19, 2005


andrew, your friends should have purchased the Guarantee when they had their children. My wife and I did. It really helped when our firstborn was diagnosed with both autism and bipolar when finances (and hopes and dreams) headed south. Not santiago south but you get the idea. The peace of mind can't be beat, especially as rough as it all was with all hell breaking loose.
posted by hal9k at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2005


And from the FAQ on Trigiani's page, we loop straight back into an older topic. Of course everyone's known for years about Dr. Laura. Always figured self-help books were bunk...
posted by dilettante at 1:10 PM on June 19, 2005


Who gives a poot what dads need? I got what I want, namely an outing to Batman Begins, a meal cooked by my kids, and hugs all around.
posted by jfuller at 1:52 PM on June 19, 2005


my point, apparently lost on hal9k because, was that, despite efforts in some places, the evidence is that traditional gender roles are still dominant, especially when things go bad.

but, yet again, people with kids see something i write and start making snide and agressive comments that have nothing to do with what i was trying to say.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:56 PM on June 19, 2005


Laura Schlesinger's advice always struck me as about 50% common sense, and 50% batshit craziness. About the same as all pop psychology, though the flavor of the shit differs.
posted by LarryC at 1:58 PM on June 19, 2005


True enough, but isn't it a little worrisome that popular, well-selling child care books contain a number of ideas that are, well, batshit crazy? Such as, according to the article, telling parents that fathers are completely unable to care for children and will forget to drop them off at child care and instead leave them in the car all day? Although day care apparently results in death according to the book, so maybe that's for the best anyway.
posted by kyrademon at 2:12 PM on June 19, 2005


I don't know that my parents read any childrearing books. My father is the best parent I could ever ask for.
ymmv.
posted by Radio7 at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2005


John Gray's Children Are from Heaven and Laura Schlessinger's Parenthood by Proxy: Don't Have Them If You Won't Raise Them are filled with stereotypes, formulaic advice and information that does not conform to research findings.

Um... I could have told you that based solely on the title of the former and the author of the latter. My theory is that these feminist psychologists, determined to badmouth somebody in the child-raising advice field, couldn't find anything nasty to say about good old Dr. Spock and instead decided to aim for the low-hanging fruit.

(FWIW, I'm a feminist, in the sense that I believe all people deserve the same opportunities and priveleges regardless of gender. When people start using "feminism" as an excuse to wedge their own preconceived notions into psychological or literary criticism, that's when I chuck it in the dustbin with all the other political movements.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:18 PM on June 19, 2005


andrew cooke: we're pretty set against having kids, ...

Please reconsider. Kids is where you go when you're dead.
posted by sour cream at 2:21 PM on June 19, 2005


Kids are worm guts? Ick.
posted by kenko at 2:37 PM on June 19, 2005


Please reconsider. Kids is where you go when you're dead.

WTF? Having kids just to give yourself some stupid illusion of immortality is one of the worst reasons to reproduce I can imagine.

Andrew Cooke, I salute you. I am also non–baby oriented for some of the reasons you've outlined, so I'm biased, but whatever--it's pleasant to see people not just popping em out cause "that's what you do."
posted by dame at 2:53 PM on June 19, 2005


Just because something is traditional does not automatically mean it's bad.
posted by konolia at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2005


Dame, nobody said immortality. I don't think anybody will remember me or what I did on this earth 100-120 years from now. That said, I do pity you and Andrew, but hey, if you think this is what'll work out for you, more power to you.

I wonder if there are many people who think on their death bed "Gee, I really wish I *didn't* have any kids."
posted by sour cream at 3:16 PM on June 19, 2005


I didn't say that it was, konolia. But doing something only because it's traditional is really really stupid, and creating life for that reason is freaking criminal.

Sour Cream, shall we says elongated mortality, then? Because that certainly seems what you suggest. But just as you may pity me, I pity both you wasting your vital years chasing after demand-machines and the creation of more psyches to suffer through the tedium of the human condition. To each her own. And I'm sure there are people, mostly women, who regret what they might have achieved had they not had children.
posted by dame at 3:24 PM on June 19, 2005


Just because something is traditional does not automatically mean it's bad.

No, but many traditions could very well have no basis in fact and be harmful to child-rearing. If' I'm given guidelines by my grandmother on one hand, and recent study on the other hand, I tend to follow advice that has some research and results to back it up.
posted by mathowie at 3:26 PM on June 19, 2005


Laura Schlessinger, a best selling author? That darn Scaife, what does he do with all those thousands of winger books he purchases?

Take a look at "Dr." Laura's own family problems and then tell me if anyone should take her advice.
posted by nofundy at 3:43 PM on June 19, 2005


To avert the childfree argument, I'd just like to remind everyone present that a) our cultural norm is strongly procreative and is intolerant of the childfree; and b) because of this, the childfree are touchy about assertions of that norm. But to the childfree I'd ask them to consider that many childfree people make many comments that are as moralistic, self-righteous, and condescending as the procreatives. The result is that these arguments can easily be characterized by one side saying, "I pity you because you don't want to have children", while the other says, "I pity you and condemn you for your misplaced priorities and selfishness". Both statements and their like are incredibly provocative and inconsiderate.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:45 PM on June 19, 2005


If' I'm given guidelines by my grandmother on one hand, and recent study on the other hand, I tend to follow advice that has some research and results to back it up.

Don't let your grandmother hear you say that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:48 PM on June 19, 2005


Of course, there are child-free people who aren't childfree.
posted by kenko at 4:00 PM on June 19, 2005


Ah, Bligh, the true moderate error of assigning equivalence. Andrew Cooke made an interesting, thoughtful, and worthwhile point. Sour Cream was a presumptuous dick.
posted by dame at 4:06 PM on June 19, 2005


Eh? Presumptious sure. But how was he a dick?
posted by Stauf at 4:33 PM on June 19, 2005


The same way I would be if I walked up to a pregnant lady who had just been expounding on the well-thought reasons she got knocked up to say, "You really should get an abortion."
posted by dame at 4:45 PM on June 19, 2005


what jfuller said...except I didn't get that bluetooth headset I wanted.
I didn't read into the links: John Gray and Laura Schlesinger are polarizing figures, juxtaposed against a feminist perspective snippet, I thought I had something better to do...no bash on any of the above (it's been done already), but the FPP doesn't invite reading.

Neither would an analysis of Monsanto's opinions on GM crops from an organic farming perspective. Sorry if I am missing valuable analysis but there it is.
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:45 PM on June 19, 2005


Oh, and John Gray is a fucking idiot.
Sorry, sorry.....
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:56 PM on June 19, 2005


People are born for all kinds of reasons. I think you calling it criminal and the comments on the human condition were easily just as bad as anything sour cream said.

If some pregnant lady was bugging me too much though I might do that.
posted by SomeOneElse at 4:57 PM on June 19, 2005


What makes sour cream a dick, dame? Presumptuous, sure. But so are you.

My opinion on this whole bloated argument would be that having kids isn't immortality and human beings as a species is family enough as it is. Overpopulation is a real issue and it could be quite possible that some people choosing to refrain from having kids is instinctive.

On the other hand, I personally would want one or two kids. Why? So I can give them more than my parents gave to me. Not just physical crap, but drive and potential and trust. I think bad parents should be publicly humiliated.

Now onto the links. Yes, prescriptive assumptions about gender hiding behind some facade of reference. People read it and reinforce internal stereotypes. Fucked up, and I'm glad they are being called on their shit.
posted by Dean Keaton at 4:58 PM on June 19, 2005


I wonder if there are many people who think on their death bed "Gee, I really wish I *didn't* have any kids."

Lizzie Borden's mom and dad might have thought so. others who've been murdered, those who neglected their children into mental illness, the crazy, the drug-addled, the inherently greedy. how about those who never had enough to feed their children, or the ones who suffered the grief of loss?

so i guess it depends on what you mean by many...

i have never thought to regret my child-free status. i have seen plenty of the old and sick abandoned, or close enough, that i could never see or expect an old age attended by dutiful children. it has always seemed to me that those who expected such an ending are the unhappiest in the leaving of this life, anyway. too angry to live out their endings well.

as far as gender roles, i live with a father who is the primary caretaker of his children. he's by far the more emotionally invested one, the one with the hugs. he's worked hard to raise his children as they were made, not as he or the world might want them to be. and FWIW, i've never met a more emotionally healthy household. i am amazed at how weirded out people get, how suspicious they are (even amongst my supposedly enlightened friends) of a father who's the homemaker.
posted by RedEmma at 5:06 PM on June 19, 2005


I think you calling it criminal and the comments on the human condition were easily just as bad as anything sour cream said.

Yes, they were. I gave sour cream the same respect he gave andrew cooke, and his point was far worse and more poorly thought out. But my objection to Bligh was his trying to act like both sides were the same, when andrew was totally reasonable. I wasn't, but then again, I didn't make the "let's throw reasonableness out the window" decision.

But I didn't call having kids criminal. I called having kids for bad reasons (ie, what they can do for you) criminal.

People are born for all kinds of reasons.

This is also true. Some of them are even good.
posted by dame at 5:13 PM on June 19, 2005


I'm a women who don't want children, either. There's nothing wrong with that, just as there's nothing wrong with anyone wanting to have children. The point is to understand what you want out of your own life, not cave into society expects or doesn't expect from you. People who don't want children and don't have them are doing good by everyone; the world doesn't need children who are resented and unwanted. On the other hand, people who do want children and are good parents are doing good by everyone; our society needs those good parents. I can't imagine ever having children, but I know a lot of people who want them or have them and love it, and I'm glad there are people in the world who can raise kids well and with enthusiam.

Also, and this is serious, not sarcastic: if Dr. Laura is so big on "traditional family values", why does she have a PhD and a job?
posted by fossil_human at 5:36 PM on June 19, 2005


I thought she wasn't really a Dr. at all.
posted by kenko at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2005


I got a little coupon my 5 y.o. son made, redeemable for "help washing the car".

*sniff*
posted by Scoo at 6:32 PM on June 19, 2005


I've seen equivalent behavior, I know these threads easily degenerate into both sides acting equally badly. My comment was very explicit that it was aimed at possible future behavior in this thread, not what had already been said.

But I get the impression that dame thinks her side is only ever reacting to the other side's bad behavior. That's pretty much her entire life philosophy.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:42 PM on June 19, 2005


I wonder if there are many people who think on their death bed "Gee, I really wish I *didn't* have any kids."

I guarantee there are lots of people on their death beds who say: "I wish I had gone to medical school", "I wish I had seen Nepal", or any of a thousand other things that people sacrifice in order to have kids. Not that you can't do both, but for lots of people, it ends up being the tradeoff.

To avert the childfree argument, I'd just like to remind everyone present that a) our cultural norm is strongly procreative and is intolerant of the childfree; and b) because of this, the childfree are touchy about assertions of that norm.

Really? I constantly see the opposite. Even in this thread. Why do parents think that childless couples need children? "Please reconsider." WTF? Compare to couples without the wedding band, compare to single parents, compare to singles who have no intention of making those commitments. All should be equally valid, but for the most part, it's the traditionalists who either pity, scold, or show suspicion of these choices. I think you have it backwards. Note what RedEmma has to say about stay-at-home dads.

Thanks for your comments, andrew cooke. Insightful and not at all deserving of the defensive bluster they drew.

As for taking this story seriously... Dr. Laura? Come on.
posted by dreamsign at 8:42 PM on June 19, 2005


Fuck you, Nanny Bligh. Actually, if you'll notice, I have argued that being an asshole because other people are assholes is a bad plan. (Generally in war threads.) But this one really gets me. And when people aren't dillholes about it, I'll leave it alone, in the interest of keeping my rancor in the black bitter heart where it was born. Today, not so much.

Either way, for someone who claims to be against petty grudge matches, you never seem to miss an opportunity to shut the fuck up and stop assuming stupid things about me, do you?
posted by dame at 10:00 PM on June 19, 2005


You might look at the thread above and see who critically adressed whom first. You're also the person who's said "fuck you".

"But this one really gets me." So? What makes you special? Everyone has things they are particularly sensitive about. And, you know, this topic is something that many people are particularly sensitive about...on both sides of the issue. Which was my point about everyone being considerate of each other on this topic. But there's that nasty fallacy of moral equivalence again. Hmm, in your case, I think it might be satisfying to forego such a comparison and simply decide that your sensibilities and sensitivies are of no importance, and worth no consideration, merely by virtue of being yours.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:59 PM on June 19, 2005


"[quoting me] 'To avert the childfree argument, I'd just like to remind everyone present that a) our cultural norm is strongly procreative and is intolerant of the childfree; and b) because of this, the childfree are touchy about assertions of that norm.'

Really? I constantly see the opposite. Even in this thread. Why do parents think that childless couples need children? "Please reconsider." WTF? Compare to couples without the wedding band, compare to single parents, compare to singles who have no intention of making those commitments. All should be equally valid, but for the most part, it's the traditionalists who either pity, scold, or show suspicion of these choices."


Yes, really. Because I said exactly what you said: traditionalists are intolerant. The difference between what you said and what I said is that I added that because of the traditionalists' intolerance, the childfree are touchy, quick to go on the defensive, and sometimes feel completely justified in making similarly condemnatory value judgments about traditionalists' lifestyles. I didn't make any claims about the proportions, overall, of one insensitivity to the other. If some people didn't nurse their grievances so much, they'd not jump to those sorts of false conclusions about what I, or someone else, writes.

Anyway, it's like anything else. Without question our culture is intolerant of the childfree, explicitly or implicitly. But within certain subcultures the childfree have parity, or an advantage, in influence. In these contexts, the procreatives are often treated badly, I think. The majority of the social contexts I exist within, online and in the real world, are such subcultures. MetaFilter is, or is close to, being such a subculture. I think here at mefi we're just as likely to see someone on either side being a jerk.

In my first comment, I didn't claim that one or the other side had already acted badly. I'm not saying that no one didn't, either. I avoided that issue because it wasn't the point.

My point was that each side is very sensitive and prickly on this subject, and for good reason. I don't think it's much to ask that we be considerate of these sensitivies even if we don't agree with them. For many, many people, the decision to procreate or not to procreate is a core portion of their identity and values.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:17 PM on June 19, 2005


Fair enough. And equally possible that, on the grass-is-greener motive, the childless are sensitive about missing out, too.

It's not the arguments that bug me, that someone may be missing out, it's the defensiveness. It can't be ok for this person to do X, because I did Y, and I turned out just fine. Blah.
posted by dreamsign at 11:50 PM on June 19, 2005


> you never seem to miss an opportunity to shut the fuck up

Dame-o, if you were surrounded Alice, the cookies are for after lunch. by a sea of happy little faces No, Benjamin, the kitty doesn't make kittens the same way she uses the cat box. as you ought to be, you maybe Frederick, please put the stick down, you almost hit Sally. wouldn't ejaculate garbled phrases I know the fruit is wax, Jennifer. I know it doesn't taste good. Now please spit out whatever you have in your mouth. that parse to a meaning opposite Frederick, put the stick down. I mean it! to the one you intended. Or Rachel, don't use that paint for face-painting. It's epoxy. if you did, you'd have a better In the trash, Jennifer, not on the floor. excuse than mere black Frederick, If I have to come out there and get that stick you're in big-league trouble. rancour of the heart. Excuse me, I have to go take care of this stick business.

Love, the house-Patriarch. Aka DAD
posted by jfuller at 5:02 AM on June 20, 2005


I got camping gear for Father's Day. I'm happy.
Scoo: That's a great kid you got there.
posted by Doohickie at 5:20 AM on June 20, 2005


Howsa 'bout this? An individual, with the financial and emotional capacity (and the boredom to match) may want to have children, and another may not. And we live in separate caves and don't share.

/me salutes fellow CFers!

I used to make my mom coupons for special days. I bet now at 20 it wouldn't be so heartwarming.
posted by sian at 6:05 AM on June 20, 2005


Jfuller, okay, Dad, the mistake was worth that performance.

Bligh, I'm not special. I lost my temper and you decided to generalize it to my philosophy of life--incorrectly. And yeah, I used "fuck"--for something that had nothing to do with the childfree argument but everything to do with your inability to let people argue about what they want and your logic-blinding hatred of me. I took reasonable exception to your point and you countered with a blanket insult (though I guess it was reasonable because you didn't use fuck), an insult that has everything to do with your twisted projection of how I'm like you or what you could have been had you not chosen verbose pomoposity as a way of life.

Anyway, why I am arguing with you when I have tabasco-coated bamboo to stick under my fingernails?
posted by dame at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2005


sour cream: I wonder if there are many people who think on their death bed "Gee, I really wish I *didn't* have any kids."

The ones who get killed by their kids?
posted by axon at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2005


Scored low by feminists? It must be good then.

It's like suggesting a book on freedom was scored low by Kim Jong Il. I'd hit it.
posted by shepd at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2005


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