Two men cannot look after a baby. Next time bring a woman.
July 11, 2018 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Sexism was the last thing I was expecting when I became a daddy. It was homophobia. (SL BBC) The lack of specific gender roles is confusing for some. Mothers I've met have asked if I am somehow the "mummy" - assuming my role as the primary carer conforms to the traditional gender stereotype of a mother. I am "daddy" and my husband is "papa" - we haven't set any ground rules other than to love and care for our daughter come what may.
posted by stillmoving (35 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
As an involved father whenever stuff I get stink eyes or odd questions I just remind myself, "this is what everything is like for women daily."
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:14 PM on July 11, 2018 [39 favorites]

To be clear: I'm not at all discounting the gay-shaming going on here.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

I was a stay-at-home-dad for both my kids until they were each 6 months old. I went to a lot of "Momma and Baby" events. I joined a lot of "{Town Name} Moms" Facebook groups and attended a lot of "New Mom" meetups. I got the occasional side-eye from an old lady who wanted to correct my technique. I listened to a lot of people quip about me being a babysitter. I watched a lot of daytime television that paints men as bumbling nincompoops who are low-grade surrogates for mom's tender care. When asked about these experiences, my response is always the same: "Yes, this single example of discrimination against me because of gender is a galvanizing force in my life, and we should definitely ignore the million examples of sexism going the other way, and instead focus on me and this tiny problem that does not impact my quality-of-life at all." Maybe this guy could use some similar perspective.
posted by Mayor West at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2018 [38 favorites]

Not to discount that the experience of being told how to parent could be worse for men, but this happens relentlessly to women I know too. Especially ones with special needs kids or kids in meltdown.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:17 PM on July 11, 2018 [14 favorites]

as a single, full-custody male parent, I have had somewhat a different experience than the one described here. people frequently tell me, without any real knowledge to back it up, that I am a great dad, I guess by virtue of the fact that I am observably around and dadding to some extent.

it's nice to hear, and I try my best, but I am keenly aware of how very, very low the bar is set for me.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:21 PM on July 11, 2018 [41 favorites]

Between my wife and me, I've probably had the weirdest experience of someone telling me how to parent (screaming at me that my baby needed gloves to be outside when she was already wearing mittens), but I get a lot more of the "wow, what a good dad!" reaction for basically existing in public with my kid.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:28 PM on July 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

I'm a single father with a developmentally-delayed daughter. I've gotten the full range, from, "You're a great dad!" to an accusatory, "Is she your child?"

I suppose that it's a personality difference, but none of it bothers me. Other people say stuff. It usually says more about them than it does about me. I'm okay with me.

I'm not sure what to think about the Moms' Group vs. Parents' Group complaint that he raises. I never bothered trying to join anything that was specifically for mothers, since, well, they were for mothers, and I'm not a mother. It's possible that my daughter missed out on some things as a result. I can understand the desire to join them, especially if you're a stay-at-home father (which I am not).
posted by clawsoon at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2018

There's no point sharing a perspective like this if it's just going to be discounted because other people have it worse than he does. He even says he's not claiming to be "the great oppressed," and that what he's experiencing is a product of patriarchy. This is a unique perspective on the challenges of gay male parenting that might not be as visible to someone, like me, who is not a parent and primarily sees parenting through different archetypes.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2018 [55 favorites]

People probably wouldn't be discounting his perspective so much if he seemed to be aware that others deal with similar problems to what he's dealing with. He writes:
It's hard to imagine a woman in the same situation being offered an idiot's guide to parenting or being asked to hand over her child to a total stranger. But I've faced this kind of everyday sexism time and time again.
I don't even have kids, but I'm well aware that mothers get drive-by parenting snarks and criticism allllll the time.
posted by Lexica at 2:13 PM on July 11, 2018 [33 favorites]

I think the situation sucks that it's leveled at him specifically instead of the jerk dad at little league verbally abusing his kid who actually needs the parenting advice, but then again it probably means that he's 'safe' enough to criticize because the 'women are afraid men will kill them' trope holds generally true even if a guy is interacting with children/physically holding a baby.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:16 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is why respect for sexual and reproductive diversity is good for EVERYONE. One of the great positives I hope we'll see come along with growing acceptance and visibility of 'alternative' sexuality, gender, and family units is that folks might start expecting and celebrating nuances for everyone. I say this as a straight guy who loves kids with a fiance who reeeally doesn't. I tend to be over-cautious when interacting with children despite my enjoyment and experience, while she feels put-upon and judged by people for not being interested. I'm glad articles like this bring these kinds of issues to the forefront.

Also, here's to positive, funny role models for paternal masculinity, like Darryl from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:21 PM on July 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

I'm very present in my son's life, and worked from home for his first year, frequently take him to the playground, etc. Never really got any shit, but in part it's because I'm fairly a-social and am willing to take precisely 0 shit from random strangers and think it kind of shows.
People do frequently scold me for not zipping up my backpack, for some reason.
posted by signal at 2:21 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

What bothers me most about the piece is that he calls it misandry. That he's dealing with sexism because he's a dude, rather than dealing with one of the unfortunate male consequences of misogyny and the patriarchy as a whole.

Sure, he briefly name drops the patriarchy. But his ire is pointed directly at the moms making him feel like an other.

I've always joked that I've long supported gay rights because I was sick of falling for gay dudes who would flirt back because coming out was dangerous. It's true that homophobia makes the world worse for straight people, but it's a joke *because* it's absurd to center that argument as comparable to the injustices queer people have to suffer.

I noticed a similar realization when one of my best friends got married and adopted a daughter. Sure, he was always a feminist. But being the primary caregiver, and rarely believed as such, he could tangibly feel how his quality of life is hampered by the lack of progress feminism has made. It's unpleasant. And there's a real risk that people might not believe his child is his if they were to be separated. But being unable to exist fully in realms dictated to women is really so small compared to the injustices women have in being seen as less than men.

This should be an article about how a dude realized that feminism matters. Instead he frames it as women needing to treat him better and let him into the clubhouse.
posted by politikitty at 3:04 PM on July 11, 2018 [94 favorites]

Damn, politikitty. You summed that shit up. I hope the author ends up hearing this perspective and taking it on board.
posted by agregoli at 3:12 PM on July 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

As a father who was able to take about three months of paternity leave for BabyPiano (I staggered my leave with Mrs. Piano), I found it an incredibly isolating experience - most parenting Facebook Groups were theoretically inclusive of any gender, but it felt awkward to be the only male in a lot of these spaces and meetups.

I also recognize, like many have pointed out up-thread, that this is a symptom of the patriarchy and generally nonexistent paternity leave policy in the USA.

I look to Sweden to see how things could be with generous parental leave rights, a mandate for gender equality, and strong incentives for both parents to use their family leave benefits.
posted by WedgedPiano at 3:47 PM on July 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

It's hard to imagine a woman in the same situation being offered an idiot's guide to parenting or being asked to hand over her child to a total stranger.

Oh, bless.
posted by Jilder at 6:14 PM on July 11, 2018 [37 favorites]

The intersection of being a gay SAH parent in a world of primarily straight moms is alienating I get it and I feel for him, that said if he would take the time to talk to new moms about how they are treated instead of making assumptions he would find a lot of common ground to build bridges on.

I think there is a tangible difference between straight cis men and gay cis men and I don’t place them in the same realm of privilege, so while I think he could have have a better take on his situation, I also hold more space for him than I would a cis straight man writing an article like this.
posted by nikaspark at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I always make an effort to befriend SAHDs at stuff specifically because of this -- its hard being a SAHM, but it's way way harder being a SAHD. People are freakin' jerks about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:47 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a single Dad I used to get weird looks when my son was an infant. Now that he's 8 I don't get that as much.
posted by KingBoogly at 7:47 PM on July 11, 2018

Well, OK, I'm not on the "well but moms have it worse" barge even though they do because part of the reasons moms have it worse is because we've built a system that discourages men from taking care of their own children. In order for it to get better for moms as a class, we need to build a more inclusive system that takes into account all parents of all genders: single, gay, trans, disabled, of a different ethnicity from their child...

The isolation of gender-specific language and assumptions that men "can't" take care of children allows many dudes to skate by without taking on their share of the labor, and often makes that labor invisible to ostensibly egalitarian dudes who have been encouraged by our labeling of parenting as women's work.

Also, women are 100% capable of enforcing patriarchal norms about which gender can and should be responsible for childcare. Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug.
posted by storytam at 8:52 PM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's worth reading the comments. Some are quite dismissive, but there are orhers that are really substantial and have nothing to do with "who has it worse". E.g.:
I went to change my baby son's nappy at a local country house and found the only changing station was in the ladies' loo. The staff offered to move the mat on to the floor in the disabled loo. I kept calm - though I was shaking inside - and insisted on waiting until the ladies' loo was free. This worked and the women who came in while I was changing my son were very understanding. I went back soon after and they had a changing station in the disabled loo - so, a victory of sorts!
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:47 PM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

You go girls !

I know several great girls and boys (now fine, warm adults) who were raised by a single Dad. So I'm guessing ... twice as good is a possible!

"Two men can't ..." Talkin' 'bout reverse sexism. Where are we, the 20th century?
posted by Twang at 11:05 PM on July 11, 2018

Single Dad to a teenager here and when I get the "you're amazing, how do you cope" question I reply "Oh, I just pretend I'm a woman"
posted by fullerine at 11:27 PM on July 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

The patriarchy hurts everyone. Burn it down.
posted by mosessis at 5:27 AM on July 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

I was a SAHM with our daughter for almost two years and my husband has been SAHD with our daughter and now also our son going on two years and counting, and yeah, the author is a little optimistic in his assumptions that moms don't experience drive-by parenting advice from total strangers, but the SAHD life is definitely harder, in some ways, than it was for me as a SAHM. Staying at home can be incredibly isolating, and the framework women have built up for themselves is supportive in a way that simply doesn't exist for dads. There are so many "kids and moms" things where it's really not clear whether dads are welcomed, and yes, as someone who did one of those exercise classes targeted at post-partum moms, I'm grateful that there are some spaces that are women-only, but the default language is definitely exclusive and it doesn't have to be that way. (Plus it's always a gamble if you ask organizers that you might get a rude response about intruding on women-only spaces) The struggle around change table availability in men's rooms is definitely real. And it half annoys, half amuses him when people act like he's a superhero to be out and about with two kids all the time. (Even my own mother told me that just before I went back to work from maternity leave, she had a momentary panic about "how will he deal with two kids all day?!", until realizing if it had been me staying home she wouldn't have had that worry at all) The patriarchy really is a hell of a drug, and so many women are just as bad as men in reinforcing all the stereotypes of gender roles.
posted by olinerd at 1:30 PM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

politikitty: "This should be an article about how a dude realized that feminism matters. Instead he frames it as women needing to treat him better and let him into the clubhouse."

This is an extremely uncharitable way to look at this situation, and I honestly think it is part of the problem. Before transitioning I had more or less the same experience as him, with cis women being consistently condescending, rude and overtly exclusionary. It made parenting hell - I had very little support network in comparison to the cis women around me, and very often the resources I needed to parent my child effectively were physically locked in spaces I was forbidden to enter. The fact that you've decided to nitpick his choice of words rather than focus on the substance of what he's saying about his life and his experience is disappointing. Opening up the "real parents" club beyond cishet women is absolutely a problem. It's an exception to the usual rule, certainly, where it's mostly men that need to work harder on eliminating discrimination against women, but this one isn't all on cis guys to fix.
posted by saltbush and olive at 1:18 AM on July 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't doubt that his experience is entirely isolating.

Privileged people experience genuine trauma all the time.

As a white-looking, straight-acting woman from a fairly wealthy family, I am very familiar with the privileged baggage. And I did a lot of self-loathing where I thought my privilege meant I didn't deserve self-care, and I couldn't matter until the more marginalized people in my life experienced equality.

That kind of thinking is really common among white folks in leftist circles, and also completely bonkers, since it just makes us super shitty allies.

Of course I matter. I have to take care of myself. But when my baggage comes from my privilege I unpack that privilege among friends and occasionally my therapist. I try really hard not to look to privileged groups to take on my trauma. And I use the word try, because there's a lot of bleed between my privileged points of identity and my marginalized points of identity: being a woman, being fat, having mental health issues. So there are moments I don't realize I am centering myself in a conversation that's not about me - and I can only grapple with that if marginalized people step up and remind me that I'm hurting them. So it's important to create a space where they feel safe enough to tell me I'm reverting to learned, hurtful behavior or language. Also important have a strong enough sense of self that I don't internalize that as an attack. But that's what the therapy is for.

I'm perfectly on board with dealing with the internalized misogyny of women and unpacking gender norms so men can more freely take part in spaces traditionally dominated by women. But framing matters. So much of the white nationalism happening in the US is in lockstep with violent sexism. When you go into the public sphere and talk about how sexism is hurting gay men, there should be a high bar that your words are not framed in a way that emboldens men's hatred of women.

I didn't say that he was wrong. But I think it's a reasonable criticism that his word choice is being read by men who hate women as justification for that hate. It would be uncharitable if I thought he was a terrible person and wrote him off without giving him the chance to say "Oof! I'm so sorry it sounded that way. Let me clarify that I don't think feminism is teaching women to hate men, which misandry implies. I want women to work on their own internalized sexism, which is misogyny."
posted by politikitty at 12:01 PM on July 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

try really hard not to look to privileged groups to take on my trauma.

MARGINALIZED. NOT PRIVILEGED. Too much editing, not enough proof-reading.
posted by politikitty at 12:26 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I dunno. I feel pretty uneasy with the idea that the single most favourited comment in this thread is a critique of his word choice.

Look at the actual situation being described. It's one in which a cis man is being systematically discriminated against (and mostly by women), in a domain (parenting) where women are socially presumed to be competent and men are not. Instead of being sympathetic, we've managed to turn it around and centre our hurt feelings. I understand feeling a little vexed at him not choosing the best words, but that's seriously not the main point of the article and it's not great to focus on that rather than the concrete situation at hand.

It comes across to me as implying that we're looking for excuses to ignore bad behaviour rather than address it. I was never on board with guys centring their hurt feelings when I lived as one, and I find myself no more willing to accept it now that I've transitioned to living as a woman. Nitpicking word choice rather than focusing on substance is almost never a helpful or considerate way of engaging with someone describing their own experiences of discrimination.

In my own experience as a late transitioner who now almost passes for cis, I'm astounded at how much better I am treated as a parent by virtue of the fact that I'm perceived as a woman, and this is almost entirely driven by the fact that cis women are no longer gross to me about parenting. I don't know why this happens but it does. I think it's something we ought to engage with honestly rather than complain that gay men aren't using the exact words we would prefer.
posted by saltbush and olive at 2:22 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

gay men aren't using the exact words we would prefer

I'm genuinely interested if you are equally ambivalent about pronouns.

During the early aughts, I was furious with Ralph Nader for using the phrase "equal rights for equal folks". Outside of political context, it's benign enough. But at the time, it was absolutely a dogwhistle to mean that gay men had the right to marry or adopt a child with a woman. (unpacking the fact that gay men were the face of marriage equality to the erasure of other queer people is a whole thing I'm not going to touch here)

Men are literally committing terrorism because women aren't being accommodating enough to men. Misandry is their dogwhistle. If gay men aren't aware of the baggage that comes with that word, they should be open to being corrected.

Word choice matters. It's the way we signal the approval or disapproval of violence done by others. To let that slide is to ignore a very overt way the current political system is normalizing white nationalism and sexism.
posted by politikitty at 3:30 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what question you're asking. If you're asking about my own pronouns and misgendering, I tend to be pretty relaxed about it unless I think someone is doing it as a deliberate act of transphobia. Otherwise I mostly shrug and try to let it slide or (if the context seems appropriate) gently correct it. Compared to the more serious concerns I have about violence and discriminatory practice, it's really not that high on my list of priorities. I mean, when I compare how I feel about getting misgendered to how I felt about being sexually assaulted, they aren't really in the same universe.

And I guess that's kind of my take here. He's clearly not dogwhistling to MRAs or white nationalists, he's just frustrated at bad behaviour directed at him and his frustration is not unreasonable. Word choice matters, I agree, but not so much that it ought to be the focus of the discussion here.
posted by saltbush and olive at 3:53 PM on July 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

No one creates one focus of discussion's all free form. I personally wish he hadn't used the word misandry, which borders on the ridiculous for me, and undermines his argument. That doesn't take away from his larger point, but it's disappointing, and I appreciate the unpacking that happened here.
posted by agregoli at 5:35 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

That's a reasonable take.

I am often too conciliatory of problematic language in personal spheres, and hope a gentle nudge will eventually dissolve unconscious bias. But with public spheres, particularly in this political environment where we are seeing a dissolution of social norms by the highest people in power, I am terrified about providing an ounce of social capital to Incel types.
posted by politikitty at 10:39 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

If we focus on whether we might be giving social capital to Incel types, we let them dictate the terms of the conversation without ever being a part of it. If that means a conversation doesn't really play out without perfect rhetoric, then it shuts down a lot of conversations that could be an effective counterbalance to Incel-type forces in the world. It's valuable to be aware of problematic language, but it feels like too often I'm seeing stuff just get dismissed because it could be taken the wrong way by the wrong people, when there might have been a more productive path to take.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:13 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maybe women enforce patriarchy around Coates because it is one of very few areas where women are assumed any credibility at all, and they guard the scripts zealously. The idea that this isn't men's problem because women are the face of it also seems alarmingly ignorant, or worse, about the extent and functioning of systemic sexism
posted by Salamandrous at 2:56 AM on July 18, 2018

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